Ten active clock companies in Canada during the 1950s

Canadian clock collectors are most familiar with the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company that closed its doors in 1941 but 7 years later a number of clock companies were alive and flourishing in Canada, predominantly in areas in and around Toronto.

It is difficult to imagine that seventy years ago there were ten active clock companies in Canada. Unfortunately, none of these companies survived beyond the late 1970s.

Could any of these companies survive today?

Here are the ten Canadian clock manufacturers in no particular order:

BRESLIN INDUSTRIES: of Toronto: Clocks were a sideline for this company run by the Breslin family, whose products were focused on lamps, lampshades, and novelties. The only clocks in existence have horses as the typical 1950s theme. The wind-up movements are the same Ingraham type used by Snider, another company on this list.

INGRAHAM CANADIAN CLOCK COMPANY of Toronto. Ingraham clocks were being made by the original American company in Bristol, Connecticut from the mid-1800s. The Canadian factory was located in Toronto from the late 1940s until at least 1980. Wall and alarm models, the latter with wind-up or electric movements, were made for the Canadian market. Representative examples of typical alarm, kitchen, and starburst wall clocks with Ingraham Canadian, Ingraham Canadian Clock Co. Ltd, or Ingraham plus Made in Canada on the dial. The novelty windup alarm clocks, The Westerner and The Mountie are popular with collectors of animated models.

WESTCLOX CANADA of Peterborough, Ontario: The parent company started making alarm clocks in LaSalle, Illinois, near Chicago, before 1900. The Canadian factory operations began in Peterborough in 1920. The new building was ready in 1923. Business was so good that additions were put on several times up to the 1950s.

Westclox peterborough plant
Westclox Peterborough plant

However, by the mid-1980s the North American Westclox factories were closing down in favour of lower labour costs from China. Westclox is best known for its millions of Big Ben and Baby Ben windup and electric alarm clocks made in various styles between 1920 and the early 1980s in Canada. The company also make wall clocks for kitchens, dining, and recreation rooms starting in the 1930s. If collecting, avoid Westclox alarm clocks made in China.

Westclox LaSalle alarm clock
Westclox LaSalle alarm clock, assembled in Peterborough, Ontario

SETH THOMAS CLOCKS of Peterborough, Ontario: This old company was founded by Seth Thomas in the early 1800s in Plymouth, Connecticut (now Thomaston). In 1931 it became part of General Time Corporation, which owned Westclox. Seth Thomas brand mantel, alarm, and wall clocks were produced for the Canadian market in the Westclox factory from 1931 to the mid-1980s. However, inferior clocks produced under the Talley Industries brand are avoided by serious collectors.

NEW HAVEN CLOCK COMPANY of Brantford, Ontario: The parent company was based in New Haven, Connecticut originating in1900. Some mantel and wall clocks were made in Brantford with Canadian wood cases, but the spring-driven pendulum movements were brought in from the U.S. factory. Most clocks were made for schools and offices.

New Haven schoolhouse clock
New Haven schoolhouse clock, made in the USA but assembled in Brantford, Ontario

FORESTVILLE CLOCK COMPANY of Toronto: Set up by Leopold and Sarah Stossel as the Blackforest Clock Company in Toronto in 1928 the name changed to the Forestville Clock Company in 1941 because of World War II, and continued in business until the late 1970s. Forestville sourced movements from England, France and Germany.

Forestville Westminster chime
1970s Forestville Westminster chime, Canadian case(?) with German movement
Blackforest shelf clock
Blackforest shelf clock circa 1939

CANADIAN NEON-RAY CLOCK COMPANY: The main product was “Bulb Illuminated” advertising clocks. this business was in operation from about 1942 to the mid-1960s In Montreal. Many companies purchased these clocks to advertise their products such as soft drinks, beer, service station items like motor oil and spark plugs, ice cream, paints, meats, and mattresses.  French-language, as well as English advertising clocks, are commonly found in Canada.

CANADIAN GENERAL ELECTRIC of Barrie, Ontario. In addition to large industrial electrical components, CGE produced electric alarm, table, and kitchen wall clocks for the Canadian market from the 1930s into at least the 50s. CGE kitchen wall and alarm clocks were produced in large numbers.

SNIDER CLOCK MANUFACTURING COMPANY LIMITED of Toronto. The Snider Clock Corporation and its successor, the Snider Clock Mfg Company, flourished for over twenty-five years (1950 to 1976). Their success is a tribute to Harry Snider and his family for the many unique clock designs that were created, to the effective construction methods developed by Harry and then Michael Snider for them, and to their business skills in promoting and selling their clocks through hundreds of stores across Canada.

Snider Clock Company
Former location of the Snider Clock Company

WALTER CLOCKS of Toronto. The main product was mantel clocks. All of the cases were made in Toronto.  At least a dozen different models were produced in the mid to the late 1930s before WWII.  During that time, both time & strike and Westminster chimes spring-driven movements were imported from Britain and Germany. The war meant that overseas movements were not available and clock production stopped.  But many more models were made after WWII, from the late 1940s through to the late 1950s. The prewar models had walnut veneer cases and hinged back doors.  The removable round door on the back of the postwar models mostly made with less expensive, stained birch wood, was unique. Production continued up to the late 1950s when the last of the Walter Clocks mantel clocks were made.

Gone forever. It is a shame. Gone is the knowledge, expertise, and entrepreneurship. Could any of these companies survive today? No, they were important in their day, thrived on innovation and some were ahead of their time but the world is a different place today.


3 thoughts on “Ten active clock companies in Canada during the 1950s

  1. Hi there – I have a mantle clock with a metal label on the inside back door of “Wolfson & Powell Watch and Clock Specialists Toronto’ and a date of April 14, 1957.
    Were they the manufacturer do you think? or repair shop?
    No other marking that I see except very small marking on the Face of clock showing a bird/eagle carrying a ball with FMS on it.
    I can’t seem to match this to any Toronto clock maker…
    Thanks kindly for any assistance.

    Like

    1. I’m pretty sure this was a retailer/repair shop rather than a manufacturer. Bearing in mind that those companies that operated in Canada in the 1950s or so were assemblers rather than clockmakers, as movements were imported from Germany, England, and France and cases were either made locally or imported. The last true Canadian clockmaker was the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company and they closed their doors in 1941

      Like

    2. I just picked up a mantle clock at auction that has the same metal label on the inside back door. Scratched into the metal is the date November 15, 1957. I agree, this was likely a retailer/repair shop.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.