McKechnie & Bertram was founded in 1863 in Dundas, Ontario; their manufactory was known as the Canada Tool Works. The founders were Robert McKechnie (1836-?) and John Bertram (1829-1906). McKechnie & Bertram was a major supplier to railway companies, especially the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1872 they had 150 employees.
McKechnie & Bertram became John Bertram & Sons in 1886; the Canada Tools Works name was also used for many years. In 1901 the name became John Bertram & Sons Co., Ltd. to comply with Canada's new Companies Act.
Within a few years of their inception in 1864, McKechnie & Bertram manufactured a broad line of woodworking machinery, including planers, matchers, molders, tenoners, shapers, scrollsaw, and lathes. This line continued until at least 1888. Over time, the woodworking machinery products were gradually dropped in favor of the machine tools. This process was essentially complete by 1901, when their products were "machine tools, machines, and pulp and paper machines".
Advertisement from the April 1900 "Canadian Magazine"
In about 1908 the machine-tool line was sold to Niles-Bement-Pond Co. of Jersey City, NJ. In 1951 the Bertram family sold the rest of the John Bertram company to a holding company, Russell Industries, Ltd. of Toronto. The company subsequently changed hands several times, but retained the Bertram name. In 1974 it became Orenstein & Koppel Canada, Ltd. The doors finally closed in 1986. In 1996 their Dundas factory was demolished to make room for condominiums.
The Canadian Museum of Making has a Bertram sliding-bed center lathe in its collection.
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I am especially interested in woodworking machinery manufacturers from Ontario, so if you have any information on relevant woodworking machinery companies and products, I strongly urge you to contact Jeff Joslin.
- Some of the information here is taken from a privately-published book, The Heritage of John Bertram by Janet Bertram Brown. That book references, in turn, 75 Years with Canadian Industry 1861-1936: A History of Bertram Machine Tools in Canada, published without attribution by John Bertram & Sons, Ltd. Both of these books are out of print.
- Thanks to Ken Wright of the Southworks Mall, who put us in contact with Janet Bertram Brown. Outside the Southworks Mall in Cambrdge is a large John Bertram & Sons press that was restored and put on display by Southworks.
- The 7 July 1864 issue of the "Dundas True Banner, and Wentwork Chronicle" listed McKechnie & Bertram's products: single and combined planing and matching machines, tenoning machine, sash and molding machines, variety molding and shaping machines, scrollsaws, and lathes. They made a number of machine tools as well. The article further states, "Their patterns have all been made at great expense and modeled from Tools made by first class British and American Tool Builders." At the time, the Canadian markets were protected from American makers by hefty tariffs, and from British imports by some tariffs and the cost of overseas transportation.
- An 1888 catalog says the following: "Established 1861 / John Bertram & Sons / Illustrated Catalogue of Machinists' Tools and Wood-Working Machines / Manufactory / Canada Tool Works / Dundas, Ont. / 1888".
- The EAIA's Directory of American Toolmakers lists John Bertram of Dundas as an axe-maker who operated from 1861 to 1901. At some point between 1887 and 1892, "& Son" was added to his marking.
- Patent records provide some additional information on this company. An 1899 patent for a "boring and excavating implement" was granted to John Bertram and jointly assigned to himself and Alexander H. Bertram (both of Dundas), Samuel C. Rogers of Buffalo, NY, and James A. Stirling of Hamilton, Ontario. Rogers was originally from Hamilton, and Hamilton and Dundas are neighboring cities. We have no information on James A. Stirling. A 1907 patent for a metal planer was granted to Henry Bertram and assigned to John Bertram & Sons, Co., Ltd.; in 1909 and 1913 Henry Betram received a couple more patents for metalworking machinery and these patents were assigned to Niles-Bement-Pond Co. of Jersey City. According to a History of Pratt & Whitney on the lathes.co.uk site, Pratt & Whitney and John Bertram & Sons were among several acquisitions by Niles-Bement-Pond Co. Presumably the Bertram acquisition was limited to their line of metalworking machinery.