By Lucie Paquet
Library and Archives Canada is proud to announce that it has acquired the archives of The Steel Company of Canada, more commonly known as Stelco. These archives are now part of our national heritage. They include more than 100 metres of textual records, thousands of photographs, technical and architectural drawings, and over 200 film and sound recordings. The Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) fonds, currently in archival processing, documents all aspects of the evolution of the steel industry from the beginning of its mechanization in the 1880s through to the 1980s.
The Steel Company of Canada Limited was formed in 1910 as a merger of five companies that had previously taken over some 40 smaller ones, operating in various areas of Quebec and Ontario: Hamilton Steel and Iron Company Ltd., Montreal Rolling Mills Company, Canada Screw Company, Dominion Wire Manufacturing Company, and Canada Bolt and Nut Company. Each one had its own speciality, from the primary production of steel for the rail, agricultural and marine sectors to consumer products. This new, large company enabled the Canadian steel industry to keep pace with strong American and European competition.
The account ledgers, correspondence, management minutes, patents and photographs provide a detailed account of the beginnings of this industry, its development and its challenges.
The archives not only document the company’s expansion, but also the development of several entire cities, towns and neighbourhoods.
Cities like Hamilton quickly became major industrial centres referred to as “steel towns.”
In the mid-twentieth century, the plants attracted many immigrants and the population in urban centres doubled in just a few short decades.
The Stelco archives bear witness to the working conditions of men and women who spent their whole lives in the plants.
Stelco and its workers had important responsibilities during the First and Second World Wars, responding to the demand for military materiel from the Canadian and British governments and contributing to the Allied victory.
But success did not stop there. The phenomenal growth of urban centres during the 1950s, real estate, energy resources, means of transportation and various consumer products created strong demand for steel.
There followed the creation of large industrial complexes and the introduction of a high-tech research centre, which enabled Stelco to develop new steel products and increase operations and production in all areas, both residential and commercial.
The Steel Company of Canada Limited (Stelco) exported its products worldwide, becoming one of the largest steel companies in North America. As an example, it was actively involved in the design and construction of the Expo 67 Steel Pavilion.
Over the coming months, we will introduce you to the world of Stelco—its plants, directors, employees, operations, innovations, products and challenges, as well as its social, sports and cultural activities.
Lucie Paquet is an archivist with the Science, Governance and Political Division of Library and Archives Canada.