Expansion of the Montreal Rolling Mills Co.

By Lucie Paquet, Senior Archivist

In 1900, Montréal was an industrialized city, with numerous industrial sites. One of the largest was the Dominion Bridge Company (R5607), which built bridge and road superstructures. Another firm, the Montreal Rolling Mills Co., converted iron and steel into many different construction materials. Each of this company’s workshops was specialized. The machinery in the factories was increasingly ingenious, powerful and fast. Blacksmith artisans had been replaced by salaried workers serving machines. Employing huge engines with hydraulic conveyor belts, these labourers worked the furnaces, moved the boilers, heated and poured the molten iron into the moulds, shaped the iron, hammered it, and cut it. They struggled in the machinery’s intense heat, smoke, noise, dust and gas.

A black-and-white drawing showing an industrial complex in 1900.

Drawing of the Montreal Rolling Mills Co., from its letterhead, 1900, vol. 278, file 1 (MIKAN 4932178)

The workers produced nails, screws, bolts, saws, axes, pipes, horseshoes, railway track and a variety of items for agriculture, transportation and construction.

Colour images showing the cover and two pages of the 1908 product catalogue.

Catalogue cover and product list, 1908, vol. 252, file 3 (MIKAN 4932171)

Sales rose for the Montreal Rolling Mills Co., with consequences. The company’s growth affected how the workplace was organized, urban working conditions, and social relationships between employers and employees.

Black-and-white photograph of a labourer working on a bar of hot iron.

Photograph of a labourer working on a bar of hot iron, from the brochure entitled “The 25th Milestone, A Brief History of Stelco,” page 21, vol. 274, file 1 (MIKAN 4932172)

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The Montreal Rolling Mills Co.: laying the groundwork for the steel industry

By Lucie Paquet, Senior Archivist

As the second half of the 19th century began, Quebec was entering a period of industrial growth. Montréal, located on one of the largest canal networks in North America, became a strategic industrial centre. The expansion of its seaport, the extension of the Lachine Canal, and the use of water power attracted many investors. Seizing the opportunity, businessmen established a wide range of factories, including foundries, to process raw materials. The Montreal Rolling Mills Co., which specialized in making steel products, became one of the city’s most prosperous firms.

Black-and-white drawing showing an industrial complex in 1868.

Drawing of the Montreal Rolling Mills Co., taken from its letterhead, 1868, vol. 274, file 14 (MIKAN 4932176)

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has seven metres of documents produced by the Montreal Rolling Mills Co., stored in the Steel Company of Canada Limited archives (R15513). In 1910, this company, created by the merger of five major steel firms (Montreal Rolling Mills Co., Hamilton Steel and Iron Company, Canada Screw Company, Canada Bolt and Nut Co., and Dominion Wire Manufacturing Co.), established its headquarters in Hamilton, Ontario. Property titles, sales contracts, insurance contracts, financial statements and other documents for the management and day-to-day business of the company were archived in Hamilton until they were transferred to LAC in 2006. Most of them are textual records and technical drawings. There are few photographs, but this absence may be offset by the archives of the Dominion Bridge Company, also held by LAC.

Among the most important Montreal Rolling Mills Co. documents are account books, shareholder lists and transactions, minutes of meetings, correspondence between merchants, financial statements, and contracts for the purchase of land and buildings located along the Lachine Canal. The documents make it possible to analyze in detail the industrial changes that took place in Montréal in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

On May 8, 1868, the year after Confederation, several Montréal hardware merchants met in the offices of Morland, Watson & Company to form a new company: the Montreal Rolling Mills Co.

Colour image showing the cover of a minute book of directors’ meetings and two pages of text from a meeting held in 1870.

Cover page of a minute book and text from a meeting of company directors and shareholders in 1870, vol. 101, file 1 (MIKAN 4932158)

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