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Manufacturers Index - John Bertram & Sons

John Bertram & Sons
Dundas, ON, Canada
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery & Metal Working Machinery

Last Modified: Oct 1 2018 5:48PM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

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.

From April 1900 Canadian Magazine

Beginning within a few years of their inception in 1864, McKechnie & Bertram manufactured a broad line of woodworking machinery, including planers, matchers, molders, tenoners, shapers, scroll saw, and lathes. This line continued until at least 1888. Over time, the woodworking machinery products were gradually dropped in favor of the company's metalworking machinery line. This process was essentially complete by 1901, when their products were "machine tools, machines, and pulp and paper machines". The company made a broad variety of machine tools, biased towards the larger sizes, especially for use by railways and by other machine tool manufacturers.

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.

Do you have more information?

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.

Information Sources

  • 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 former Southworks Mall in Cambrdge was 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".
  • February 1905 Canadian Machinery & Manufacturing News.
    Large Machine Tools—John Bertram & Sons Co., Dundas, are turning out some unusually heavy work from their shops at the present time. This includes a lead screw thirty feet long, four inches in diameter for a 25-ft. planer for Goldie & McCulloch Co., Galt; a 60-inch boring and turning mill, direct connected to a variable speed motor, with speed control from 260 to 1,048 revolutions per minute, and a 32-inch lathe, motor drive, for Canadian Westinghouse; planers for new G.T.R. [Grand Trunk Railroad] at Brantford, one 14 ft. by 48 in. by 48 in., and three 10 ft. 36x36, all motor driven; four 24 in motor-driven lathes and two vertical boring and turning mills, 42 inches, also electrically driven, as well as a tire-turning lathe of 42-in. swing, to turn 67 pairs a day. They have also in course of construction for the Hamilton Steel and Iron Co., a motor-driven punch for punching fish plates, the weight of which is 75,000 lbs., and a rotary planer, 60 in., motor driven, for the Dominion Bridge Co., of Montreal.
  • September 1905 Canadian Machinery & Manufacturing News has an article on negotiations between Niles-Bement-Pond and John Bertram & Son, Ltd. N-B-P already owned a controlling interest in Bertram. "One result of the negotiations is that Niles-Bement-Pond tools will be made in Canada in the Bertram Works", which would require doubling the size of the already large Works. Machines imported into Canada from the US were subject to a 25 percent duty.
  • 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.