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 Blacksmith artisans had been replaced by salaried workers serving machines.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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Stelco archives now acquired

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.

Black and white photograph showing an industrial complex for steel production and processing.

Aerial view of The Steel Company of Canada Limited (Stelco) mills in Hamilton, circa 1952. (MIKAN 4915715)

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.

Black and white photograph showing a mill beside a canal. Other factories and railway tracks for transporting steel materials can be seen in the background.

Saint-Henri steel mill, one of Stelco’s departments in Montreal, May 17, 1946. (MIKAN 4915716)

The archives not only document the company’s expansion, but also the development of several entire cities, towns and neighbourhoods.

Black and white photograph showing a close-up of blast furnaces on an industrial site.

Blast furnaces of The Steel Company of Canada Limited (Stelco) in Hamilton, circa 1948. (MIKAN 4915717)

Cities like Hamilton quickly became major industrial centres referred to as “steel towns.”

Black and white photograph showing men in a plant. A large number of workers manually operating the first mechanical machines can be seen in the background.

Interior view of workers at one of the steel processing plants in Hamilton, circa 1920. (MIKAN 4915719)

In the mid-twentieth century, the plants attracted many immigrants and the population in urban centres doubled in just a few short decades.

Black and white photograph showing employees packing products inside a plant.

Interior view of workers in the finishing and packing department in Hamilton, circa 1920. (MIKAN 4915720)

The Stelco archives bear witness to the working conditions of men and women who spent their whole lives in the plants.

Black and white photograph showing a group of people holding a flag with a V for victory.

Parade of Stelco managers and employees not long after the end of the Second World War, in 1945. In the foreground can be seen Stelco directors H.G. Hilton and H.H. Champ, and a military officer, among others. (MIKAN 4915722)

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.

Black and white photograph showing workers operating a machine used to roll the steel and make it into panels.

Interior view of a more modern plant from the 1960s for producing steel in rolls and panels. (MIKAN 4915723)

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.

Black and white photograph of a man in a white lab coat taking a photomicrograph.

Engineer from the metallurgical laboratory testing the quality of the steel structure by means of “photomicrography,” circa 1960. (MIKAN 4915724)

A collage of coloured advertisements. The first image shows different residential products, including a wood fireplace for the living room, the second shows the manufacturing of steel panels, and the third shows several architectural drawings for building construction.

Collage of three advertisements from Steel in Homes (1967), Stelco Plate Products (November 1969) and Expanding the Markets for Stelco Steel, circa 1970. (MIKAN 4915725)

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.

Black and white photograph showing several modern architectural structures.

In the background, the Canadian Steel Pavilion at the Montreal World Fair in 1967. This pavilion was built by the four largest Canadian steel companies: Algoma, Stelco, Dofasco and Dosco. They reproduced in miniature all the components associated with steel manufacturing. In the centre of the image, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Industry Pavilion can be seen. (MIKAN 4915727)

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.

Polysar, or the adventure of producing synthetic rubber in Canada

By François Larivée

If you were born before 1980, you may remember a picture of a large industrial complex on the back of the ten-dollar bill. An image of the Polysar (originally Polymer) plant in Sarnia, Ontario, was featured on the bill between 1971 and 1989. The company was created by the Government of Canada in 1942 as a Crown corporation, and its archives are held by Library and Archives Canada. Its history is nothing short of fascinating.

Black and white photograph showing three large spherical reservoirs and a complex network of pipes in the foreground. In the background we see a tall chimney spewing out flames and smoke as well as a building with five other chimneys.

View of pipes and three Horton Spheres storing a mixture of butylene and butadiene used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber at the Polymer Rubber Corporation plant, September 1944 (MIKAN 3627791)

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Canadian company directories held at Library and Archives Canada

There are over one million companies in Canada. They include banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and department stores and we interact with them on a daily basis. If you need information about companies’ origins or how they were organized at varying points in time, the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collection has a number of published resources to help you find what you need. With more recent information often accessible in online directories and business resources, you may find LAC’s resources more useful for historical research. This post will focus mainly on directories, a significant source of information about companies.

A company directory, whose title may change frequently in the course of its lifetime, provides factual, publicly available information that is published annually in a single resource. Directories may also differ in content and comprehensiveness. Print directories generally cover a larger time period than other formats, such as online or microform.

Well-known directories include the white pages telephone companies publish. Yellow Pages can be used to locate companies by name or line of business. LAC, meanwhile, has a historical collection of telephone books on microfilm, some dating back to the 19th century. The microfilm includes an index. A printed index is also available for consultation in the reference room on the 2nd floor of our facility at 395 Wellington Street.

Another important resource is the Financial Post family of directories, published by MacLean-Hunter Limited since the late 19th century. The FP Survey of Predecessor & Defunct Companies provides information on the status of companies including incorporation, bankruptcies and dissolutions, as well as dates and jurisdictions.

Other directories from this publisher are:

Also part of this collection is the Financial Post, later the National Post, a major Canadian business newspaper. An index for the first half of the 20th century has been published separately.

City directories include large bodies of company information and allow searches by company address, name and line of business. Names of company directors are sometimes included. Many city directories have sections dedicated to company listings and advertisements. The bibliography that follows can be used for retrospective searching. LAC has a comprehensive collection of city directories for consultation on site. Additional information on this collection can be found on the LAC website.

Other helpful directory titles include the series of directories of Dun & Bradstreet of Canada, Scott’s Directories (various titles covering manufacturing, industries, etc.), and the Canadian Trade Index. In addition, the microfiche set Annual reports and financial statements of Canadian companies includes information on both public and private companies.

If you wish to continue your company research online, helpful options include:

Furthermore, provincial company registrars, whose details can be found in the Corporations database of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada) are useful for finding information on difficult-to-locate companies.

Please note that many of these financial services companies have adapted their resources to the digital era and digitized copies of their print editions. Historical reports on the companies are also preserved and are available in both print and digitized formats.

If you have any additional questions regarding Canadian company information, we would be happy to assist you with your research!