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Federal Wire and Cable: Wiring the World Part II
Bonnie Durtnall

Federal Wire and Cable: Wiring the World Part II

Post-War

Following the War, a well-known member of the Guelph Historical Society, the late Eber Pollard (1919-2008), also located here when he worked for Federal Wire in 1951 as chief engineer. Mr. Thomas Johnston Bell (1914 – 2003) rose from being a salesman for the company to becoming its vice-president. Under his guidance, the workforce increased to over 330, many of them women.

During the 1950s, the company also contributed to the purchase of the Cutten Fields Golf course. Other companies also adding their financial resources were: the Leland Electric Co and The General Electric Co. Although the production was now geared towards industrial components and products, the firm appeared to be in good economic shape. As the decade came to an end, this also seemed to be the opinion of a large American company - H. K. Porter Company, Inc. It acquired Federal Wire, making it a division of their conglomerate in August 1957. At this time, according to HK Porter, Federal products consisted of cable for several industries including:

·        Aluminum

·        Aircraft

·        Automotive

·        Electrical  

Wire made in the plant was meant for other industrial concerns including

·        Appliance

·         Building

·        Radio

·        Telephonic

The acquisition notice also states, “Among other products are automotive and special harness assemblies to customer requirements.”

In the year of the change in ownership, Federal Wire boasted a building of 162,000 square feet. It also had a staff of around 475. The company even boasted a “Modern Health Centre” dedicated to ensuring the physical and mental well-being of their employees. Federal Wire was one of the five largest companies of its type. Customers included Chrysler Corporation of Canada Ltd. Agencies were spread across Caranda to help increase business. J. Boyd Clarke (1925-2005) was General Sales Manager during this period. He left in 1964.

Strikes during the 1950s and 1960s

Although the 1950s and 1960s were profitable years for Federal Wire, they were also turbulent ones. Workers went out on strike 4 times. The basic intent was to ensure employees got a contract that offered them the right financial and other benefits. In two cases, a compromise was reached through using Civic Mediation and/or negotiation. This applies to the strike of July 3 to August 20, 1956 and for the one-day walk out of April 21, 1968 but not for the longer strike in June 1968.

An example of a contract-based strike is the one waged between 300 workers -members of USWA, locals 3021 and 6495, and management. The employees left work from June 7 to July 27, 1968. At fault was the company’s stalled negotiations over the new contract. They had started contract talks in December 1967, before the old one had expired in February. The company felt the strike was illegal, but Charles Pinson, agent for the USWA, declared that, by his calculation, this strike was legal. In the end, the workers won their increase and a new two-year contract.

The Company Is Sold

In 1968, Porter sold Federal Wire for an undisclosed sum of money. A year later, Federal Wire was still operating out of its facilities on Suffolk Street although talk was being made about constructing a new magnet wire cable plant in Guelph’s industrial Park. When Pirelli Cable arrived in Guelph, they occupied the Federal Wire facilities on Suffolk Street. The company tore the buildings down in August 1995. Townhouses were built on the site.

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Samuel Carter And The Royal Knitting Company

Samuel Carter (1860 – 1944) arrived in Guelph in 1882 after spending about a year-and-a-half in Philadelphia. He had been born in Ruddington in Nottinghamshire, England, a village where the main industry was hosiery. After a brief time boarding in a hotel, he settled on a cottage on 60 Manitoba Street in St. Patrick’s Ward joining forces with a partner whose name may have been Greenside or Grenside. This stone building was to act as a small-scale hosiery knitting mill from 1883 until around 1894/95. This was the start of what was to become known as the Royal Knitting Company.
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