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Manufacturers Index - MacGregor, Gourlay Co.

MacGregor, Gourlay Co.
Galt, ON, Canada
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery & Metal Working Machinery

Last Modified: Feb 7 2015 10:10AM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

Early History

This company was one in a mesh of woodworking and metalworking machinery makers in Galt, which is now part of Cambridge. The early history presented here is based as much as possible on primary sources (i.e., directory listings, personal reminiscences, advertisments, etc.) rather than on the mutually conflicting secondary and tertiary sources.

The name MacGregor, Gourlay & Co. first appeared in 1885 or 1886 with the renaming of Cant, Gourlay & Co. The principals were John Gourlay, Alex G. Gourlay, and Robert MacGregor, who had been in business under the Cant, Laidlaw & Co. name for about five years after Adam Cant and William W. Laidlaw had left the firm. At about the same time it seems that another business operating in the same factory, MacGregor, Gourlay & Fontaine Pin Co., was merged into MacGregor, Gourlay & Co. So far as we know, Mr. L. A. Fontaine left the business. At any rate, the pin-making business ("brass and adamantine toilet pins") continued for many years under the MacGregor, Gourlay name.

A pioneering Galt machine tool firm, Stevens, Hamilton & Co., was founded in 1886 by J. J. Stevens and R. M. Hamilton after those two men left their employ at MacGregor, Gourlay & Co. Their firm was absorbed by MacGregor, Gourlay & Co. in 1895. Stevens' and Hamilton's venture never achieved great business success but they were considered to be notable innovators in machine tool design.

At some point between 1895 and 1902 the name changed from MacGregor, Gourlay & Co. to MacGregor, Gourlay Co., Ltd. This change was most likely made in 1901 to comply with Canada's new Companies Act.

Product Lines

MacGregor, Gourlay made woodworking machinery, machine tools, and pins—the only pin manufacturer in the country at that time. Their 1902 catalog was apparently 200 pages long; email me if you have a copy you can loan out.

The Big Merger

In 1910, this firm merged with John Ballantine & Co., Hespeler Machinery Co., the woodworking machine division of Goldie & McCulloch Co., Ltd., and Sussex Machinery Co., to form Canada Machinery Corp., Ltd. (CMC). See the CMC entry for the subsequent history.

Do you have more information?

Machinery from the Cambridge area represents my personal, special interest, so if you have any information on companies and products from Waterloo County, I strongly urge you tocontact the Historian.

Information Sources

  • Thanks to Andrew Poynter of A&M Wood Specialty for loaning me Picturesque and Industrial Galt, published 1902 by The Reporter. This document provides a brief company history, a photo of the foundry and factory at the corner of Concession and South Water Streets, plus pictures a of a 17-inch turret lathe, double-end tenoner, 3-drum sander, 8-inch slotter, and a 16-inch metal shaper. The company name is MacGregor, Gourlay Co., Ltd.
  • August 1906 Canadian Machinery.
    McGregor, Gourlay Additions
    The foundations of the additions to be made to the plant of the McGregor, Gourlay Co., Galt, Ont., have now been started. One of the additional buildings, 210 x 140 feet, is to be used as a molding shop. The construction is steel, concrete and brick. This building will be equipped with electric traveling cranes and pneumatic tools. The other addition will be a three-storey warehouse building, 204 x 55 feet. These additions will allow the present molding shop and warehouse to be fitted up as an additional machine shop. The company are also installing a new electric power plant and, as far as possible the system of drive throughout the manufacturing section will be independent electric motor.
  • Thanks to John Bartley for providing us scans of pages from several primary-source documents:
    • The Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory 1869 lists John Gourlay as a machinist. There is no entry for a MacGregor, nor is there any entry for a company name beginning with "Cant" or any foundry or shop name beginning with "Galt".
    • The Waterloo County Gazetteer and Directory for 1884-5 lists A. G. Gourlay and J. Gourlay as members of the firms Cant, Gourlay & Co. and MacGregor, Gourlay & Fontaine Pin Co. The entry for Cant, Gourlay & Co. includes those two members plus R. MacGregor. The listing for the pin company includes the above three men plus L. A. Fontaine.
    • The Ontario Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1886-1887 lists "Galt Machine Works, MacGregor, Gourlay & Co., proprietors, Concession [street]".
    • The Ontario Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1895 lists MacGregor, Gourlay & Co. as a maker of woodworking machinery.
  • The University of Western Ontario Business Library has a 1967 article available online. Here is the article's version of the early history of CMC's predecessors, which is somewhat at variance with the verifiable facts:
    Canada Machinery Corporation Ltd. can trace its origins back to the first wood-working tools Made in Canada— and to one of the workers who Made them, Alex G. Gourlay, who, together with Messrs. Cant, Laidlaw and Ross, founded the business in 1864.

    In 1872 the firm secured a new plant site, strategically located beside the depot for the then Great Western Railway. Construction of a 2 1/2 storey stone building took 4 years. It is still standing and, with many additions and modernizations, still serves as part of the company's engineering ring and administration offices.

    Shortly before the new plant was completed, Messrs. Ross and Laidlaw retired and the firm became known as Cant, Gourlay & Co.- the name that graced the new Galt Machine Works when the building was opened in 1876.

    1880 saw another addition to the new plant and another name change, to MacGregor, Gourlay Co. Ltd. Two young men working for the company about this time, decided to branch out on their own to develop some original ideas for metalworking machinery.

    J. J. Stevens and R. M. Hamilton formed their own company and started manufacturing machine tools in 1886. The machine tool industry in Galt probably had its origins in this venture and it was subsequently noted in a 1927 journal that the design of some of the machines evolved by these two pioneers was afterwards followed by all machine tool builders in Canada.

    The firm of Stevens and Hamilton was absorbed by MacGregor, Gourlay in 1895. Hamilton stayed with the company for many years to become Works Manager—with the machine tool business destined to play a dominant part in the Company's activities.

    By 1900 the firm was established as one of Galt's leading industries and it was about this time that they went into the pin business- with the only pin factory in Canada.

  • The above article and several others mention the founding in 1864 of a business by Cant, Gourlay, Laidlaw and Ross. Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory for 1871 lists Adam Cant as a patternmaker, Hugh Cant as a saddlemaker, John Cant as a carriage trimmer, John Gourlay as a finisher, William W. Laidlaw as the proprietor of a sash, door and blind factory, and John Ross as a machinist. The most likely candidate for this business is Cant, Laidlaw & Co.
  • In 1902 a MacGregor, Gourlay Co. concert band was formed. They changed its name to the Galt Band later that year to improve their chances to obtain funding from the city. In 1906 the name changed to the Galt Kiltie Band. This information is from the Galt Kiltie Band website.
  • According to a history page on the Williams Machinery website, A. R. Williams Machinery Co., Ltd. was formed in 1879, and they began as an authorized agent for MacGregor, Gourlay & Co. This predates the establishment of that name, so it seems most likely there was a time where A. R. Williams was agent for Cant, Gourlay & Co.
  • The Library and Archives of Canada has in its holdings a letter dated 1886-05-19: "MACGREGOR GOURLAY & CO., GALT, ONTARIO. ACKNOWLEDGING. BRONZE MEDAL & DIPLOMA & THAT SILVER MEDAL WAS AWARDED".
  • A 2000 posting to a woodturners email list asks for information about a MacGregor Gourlay bandsaw:
    Does anybody know about an old MacGregor, Gourlay Company. Ltd. of Galt Canada wood Band-saw. It has 31 inch wheels, a 35" square tiltable table, adout a 12 inch opning, babitted bearings, and was driven by flat belts from an overhead driveshaft.
    The poster was Tim Napier.