Meantime Stratford had long passed the line of differentia between a country village and an important manufacturing town. Bad roads or a small representation of farmers' wives or daughters no longer means a conspicuous depreciation of business. Prosperity for her does not rest on wealth produced in the townships surrounding, but in that great amalgamation of skill and labour found within her own limits. This work of deft hands is now sent to almost every corner of the world in manufactured goods.
In 1870 the Grand Trunk workshops were opened under the management of Mr. Thomas Patterson, whose son, Robert Patterson, is now master mechanic of this immense establishment. Locating these workshops in Stratford resulted from that policy persistently carried forward by her public men for many years. A concentration of railroads at this point led to construction of the mechanical appliances necessary to their economical operation. During 1888 these great buildings as they now exist were completed, and became a centre of industry within whose noisy wails 800 workmen earn a comfortable subsistence for themselves and families.
Next in importance to these great mechanical works is a large furniture factory erected by the George McLagan Furniture Co. Mr. McLagan, who appears to be a person of great administrative ability, had operated a similar establishment for many years, which was destroyed by fire in 1900. The present building is an imposing one of white brick, within whose walls are employed about 200 hands. Manufactured goods from this establishment are shipped to every corner of the world.
The Macdonald Manufacturing Co. was established in 1876 for constructing threshing machinery. This business has been a successful one, and is still carried on by one of the original founders and his two sons, P. A. and J . R. Macdonald. Large brick buildings were erected in 1901 to accommodate an increasing trade. About 50 men are employed.
The Stratford Mill Building Co. is another large and important industry, employing over 100 men. This establishment is operated by Mr. William Preston, present proprietor, who manufactures mill machinery of every description.
The Startford Bridge and Iron Works were founded in 1892 by Mr. W. W. Cowan, and are now operated by Mr. Thos. Halliday, with Mr. Cowan as superintendent. This industry constructs steel bridges, windmills, grinders, force and lift pumps. Improved roads has created a great demand for steel bridges, which in old days did not exist. This factory employs about 50 men.
The Whyte Packing Co., organized by John Whyte in 1899, while a source of wealth to Stratford, is of great importance to the agricultural districts surrounding. This establishment is well equipped, and affords employment to a large staff of workmen.
One of the oldest industries in Stratford was that of Thomas Orr & Sons, originally a planing mill. In 1884 this factory was enlarged, and the manufacture of sideboards introduced. It was subsequently acquired by the Canada Furniture Co., by whom it is now operated, under Mr. V. Knechtel as manager, employing about 50 hands.
David Easson's planing mills and furniture factory is another thriving industry. Interior house furnishings, office and bar fittings are principally turned out. This business was founded by Scrimgeour Bros. over 30 years ago, and now employs about 45 hands.
The Anchor Wire Fence Co. was assumed by its present owners in 1900, and is engaged in manufacturing farm and ornamental fences and gates. This business is controlled by Messrs. James Esplen and Robert Frame, and goods are largely sent to Manitoba, where an excellent market has been obtained.
The firm of which Mr. E. T. Dufton is head has been in existence for over 30 years, and engaged in manufacturing woollen goods. Over 40 workers are employed, and their fabrics are sold throughout all Canada.
The Perth Flax and Cordage Co. was organized in 1895 by Mr.
John Hogarth, and incorporated in its present form in 1897. This firm manufactures twine, cordage, binder twine, rope, and flax. About 75 men are now employed under Mr. A. H. Raymond, as manager.
Another useful industry in Stratford, under Mr. E. T. Dufton as president, is the Stratford Clothing Co. This establishment manufactures the finest grade of clothing of all kinds, and employs a staff of 50 hands.
Messrs. Thornton & Douglas are also engaged in manufacturing men's clothing, and have branch stores in Guelph and Chatham.
The Emperor Cycle Works were established in 1893 by Kalbfleisch Bros., for making and repairing bicycles. Woodworking machinery is also made by this firm, which employs a number of men.
Ruston Bros. planing milks have a large trade in builders' supplies, employing at present about 35 hands. Doors, sash, blinds, and house furnishing goods of all kinds are manufactured and sold. These, with a great number of smaller industries, give employment to thousands of people at remunerative wages, and are really the conduits through which pass the life blood of Stratford's commercial greatness.
At present other manufacturing establishments are being erected. The Globe-Wernicke Manufacturing Co. have in course of construction a large brick building, where high-class office and other fittings will be made, which will employ from 100 to 150 hands.
Excavations are also being made for a large building, where manure spreaders will be made (the pioneer factory of this kind in the Dominion), to be operated by the Kemp Manure Spreader Co.
A Company is also being organized to be known as the Mooney Biscuit Co., for manufacturing biscuits, which will employ hundreds of workers.
A great amount of capital has been and is being invested in promoting and carrying out these enterprises, which are of vast consequence, not only to Stratford, but the surrounding country.