|Creating A New World: Urbanization, Technology And Immigration
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the life Canadians knew underwent a major shift. It was a result of three major factors that coalesced to recreate the economic patterns and way of life. At play were the forces of:
Urbanization: Populations in Ontario were shifting, moving from the
rural areas into towns and cities
Technology: The so-called Industrial Revolution (and even Second
Industrial Revolution) saw an increase in mechanization. Technology
was put into play in factories as it had never before. It began to replace
the old handcrafted products and, therefore, the mode of production
utilized by workers.
Immigration: The influx of new cultures was to impact life the
economic and social structure of societies in new and interesting
All three were to have an effect on how life was to develop and proceed in communities such as Guelph, Ontario.
Guelph, Ontario, Canada: The Revolution Arrives
Guelph was founded in 1827 as a planned community. It was meant to be an urban centre. By it had become a town in 1851 and then a city in 1879. During this time, the face of economic and social Guelph changed. From a place where the English, Irish and Scots were prominent, it became a home to a few Blacks, some Chinese and many Italians. The city progressed from a few blacksmiths fulfilling all the needs to several foundries - many who were specialized and “jobbed” to the local factories. Among the earlier ones were:
Guelph or Robertson Foundry – 1847 – Guelph’s first founded
by John Watt & Adam Robertson
Crowe’s Iron Works
Guelph Union Foundry
Guelph Steam Foundry
Thomas Worswick’s Machine & Tool Factory
John Kay Brass Foundry
Changes in the Workplace
During the process, the pattern of working life changed. Gone were the days of apprenticing and highly skilled and specialized workers. Factory owners with increasingly mechanized workplaces hired people with less skill and put them immediately on the machines. This was the case at:
Bells Organ & Piano
McCrae’s Woollen Mills
Raymond’s Sewing Machines
Burrow Brother’s Carpets
These and many more since have hired green and unskilled labour – men, women and boys, to perform jobs that were dangerous. They were trained but little, and then let loose to do their jobs for long hours and very little pay. Without guilds to maintain some standard in training and with machinery that was unprotected and unforgiving, accidents were waiting to happen every time someone showed up for work.
Organizing the Workers
The only response workers could and did give was to create and join unions. In Guelph, they were first few and far between. None, except the Knights of Labor addressed women’s work until later. Women were, after all, merely temporary.