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Manufacturers Index - James Smart Manufacturing Co.

James Smart Manufacturing Co.
Brockville, ON, Canada
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery

Last Modified: Apr 12 2016 10:44AM by Jeff_Joslin
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This maker can trace its genesis back to 1854 through its predecessor, J. A. Smart. James Smart Manufacturing Co. lasted until 1967.

From 1869 Ontario Gazetteer and Directory

In 1912, James Smart Manufacturing Co. was merged into a newly created organization, Canada Foundries and Forgings, Ltd. Also part of this merger were Canada Forge Co., Ltd. and the Canadian Billings & Spencer, Ltd., both of Welland, Ontario. Canada Foundries and Forgings acted as an umbrella company, with the three founding businesses continuing to operate under their original names.

Product Line

This company made, among many other products, a solid-chisel mortiser; this product was added to their line with the purchase of Smart & Shepherd. There are a fair number of surviving examples, so the mortisers must have been commercially successful.

An 1895 source gives a partial list of products made by this large and successful firm, "one of the most prominent concerns of the kind in the Dominion [of Canada]." Stoves, ranges, and furnaces; lawn mowers; steel butts; builders', carriage and cabinet makers' hardware; iron castings; pumps; hollow ware; house furnishings; "and hundreds of other classes of goods". In that year they employed 250 to 300 hands, and operated 7 days a week. The directors were John M. Gill, president and general manager; John H. A. Briggs, vice president and secretary treasurer; Allan S. Ault, Edward Davis, and W. H. Comstock.

James A. Smart and Investors

From 1856, James Smart operated the Novelty Works on Kincaid Street in Brockville. In about 1880, Smart was joined in the business by John McLeod Gill and Robert Gill. In 1881 they incorporated as James Smart Manufacturing Co. According to a family history, the partnership did not work to the advantage of Smart. The Gills put in an amount equal to the then-estimated assets of the company, and received half of the stock in exchange. A subsequent valuation put the value of the incumbent assets at twice their previously assessed value, which meant that the Gills got quite a bargain. Furthermore, no value was put on Smart's goodwill, which must have been substantial as it was a well-established and thriving business.

The partners' relationship suffered, and Smart reduced or eliminated his involvement with the company. Shortly after the reorganization, a Mr. Hodgson of Montreal invested about $20,000 in the business, and was then bought out by the Gills; it turned out that Hodgson was an associate of John M. Gill. Buying Hodgson's share gave the Gills more than 50% ownership, and some time afterwards the business stopped paying their 6% dividend. Smart had his money locked up with no liquidity or income. Dividend payments resumed when Smart completely withdrew from the company. Smart realized only about $30,000 for his shares. This was some time after 1886. Smart, who was about 55 at this point, became the county sheriff, a job he needed for the income.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Beginning in the early 1870s, Smart's nephews, Elswood Smart and B. C. Shepherd, operated a rival business, Smart & Shepherd, in adjacent premises. In 1886 Smart Manufacturing Co. took over Smart & Shepherd. In 1893 they purchased the Chown & Cunningham foundry in nearby Kingston, and all the stock and plant was relocated to Brockville. In 1894 they took over the Brockville Wringer Works. At this point the Smart works covered over 2.5 acres of buildings.

Information Sources

  • Special thanks to the Brockville Museum, which provided virtually all the information here. The specific sources they used are listed below.
    • The 1875 Dominion of Canada Atlas lists James Smart as a hardware and stove founder on Gourley Street in Brockville. It also lists Smart & Shepherd: the first known reference to that firm. Smart & Shepherd was not listed in the 1867 or 1871 Fuller's Directory.
    • The 1881 Dun & Bradstreet directory lists both James Smart Manufacturing Co. and Smart & Shepherd.
    • The 1882 Lovell's Directorylists "Smart (James) Manufacturing Co., Limited, The, Robert Gill president, John M. Gill, vice-president; J. H. A. Briggs, secretary-treasurer; James Smart, managing director, manufacturer of stoves, general hardware and railway supplies, Gorley".
    • The 1882 Lovell’s Directory also lists "Smart & Shepherd (Elswood Smart, B. C. Shepherd), hardware manufacturers, Gorley".
    • An 1884 union directory lists Smart & Shepherd.
    • An 1884-02-29 article in Brockville's The Evening Recorder lists James Smart Manufacturing Co. as a maker of "stoves, pumps, lifting jacks, trakcs, lawn mowers and general hardware." Smart & Shepherd is listed as a maker of "pumps, lawn mowers and general hardware."
    • An 1895 business directoy gives a history of James Smart Manufacturing Co., and many of the names and dates relating to acquisitions come from this source.
    • A history of the Smart family, written by a child of James Smart, provides the story—from the Smart family perspective—of how Smart fared when he took on business partners.
    • Trade unions in Canada, 1812-1902, by Eugene Alfred Forsey, mentions that Smart’s Novelty Works locked out its moulders in December 1874 with the ultimatum, "Leave the Union or leave the shop!" The Union won after a long struggle. In March 1879, four men were locked out by Smart & Shepherd for being loyal to the union. The Molder’s Journal reported that the strike was badly supported.
  • 1940 Canadian Trade Index.
    Canada Foundries & Forgings, Limited, (James Smart Plant), Brockville, Ont. Hammers, lawn mowers, pumps; hardware; tools, etc. Branch offices, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver. Forging plant, Welland. For. Reps.: A. L. Ashley, P.O. Box 768, Cape Town, S. Africa; Norman Baker & Longhurst Limited, 50 York St., Sydney, Australia; W. A. Johnston, Auckland, N.Z.; J. C. Pratt, Box 866, St. Johns, Nfld. Cable address, Smart. Codes, A.B.C. 4th, Bentley's, Western. Brands, "Smart's", "Endurance", "Diamond G", "Thousand Islands".