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The Cartledge Knitting Mill: Training Ground for Joseph S. Cartledge, Founder of Guelph Elastic Hosiery
Bonnie Durtnall

The Cartledge Knitting Mill: Training Ground for Joseph S. Cartledge, Founder of Guelph Elastic Hosiery

Guelph has been home to various textile factories. Carter’s Royal Knitting Company, Zephyr Looms and Cartledge’s Knitting Company are a few examples. The Cartledge Knitting Company appeared at about the same time as Carter’s. It, too, was a cottage industry, located in the back of what was one of the oldest houses when it was torn down in 1956. The actual shop behind 27 Quebec Street was, unlike Carter’s a family-operated industry. During its early years, employees included the following family members:

·        Sarah Cartledge – knitter

·        Theresa M. Cartledge – knitter

·        Nathaniel (Nathan) Cartledge - knitter

·        Wright B. Cartledge - knitter

·        Joseph H. Cartledge

In addition, Cartledge supplied work for other Guelphites. James Lawson worked there as a knitter in 1885/1886. Miss Minnie Bard and John Holley later found work in their expanded operations in 1901.

John (Joseph) Cartledge

John aka Joseph Cartledge had worked in mills since he was a child. Born in Shelland, Darbyshire, England in around 1826, he had married an American, Mary Jane Adams (1835). He had met her there when he lived and worked in mills during that period. In fact, five of his children, including the driving force behind Guelph Elastic Hosiery - Joseph H. Cartledge, had been born during this period. Joseph first made his appearance on December 10, 1859 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Only two children, Sarah and Edith had been born in Ontario, probably in Ancaster.

John Cartledge had left the United States to settle in Ancaster in around 1871. His son, Joseph, age 12, began working with his father in the Ancaster Mills. John also set up the Arkell Mill in partnership with John Davenport in around 1883. However, John took his skills elsewhere in 1884.

The Quebec Street Knitting Mill

In Guelph, the first step was to establish a small cottage industry on 27 Quebec Street. The new business was located in a shed behind the Cartledge residence. The family business was producing cardigans, jackets, gloves and mitts in 1891. This location was sufficient for about 10 years. However, the growing demand for their product resulted in removing the business in 1894 although the family continued to live there.

Gow's Bridge

The new location of the Cartledge Woolen or Hosiery Mill was the site of the old Gailbraith and Company knitting mill situated near Gow’s Bridge – not too far from Grundy’s Stove Foundry. At this point, Joseph S. Cartledge began to assume greater control along with his younger brother, Nathan. In March 1903, the company was improving the existing facilities by installing a “new 80 hp boiler,” as well as a 60-foot smokestack. Other administrative changes were occurring. John’s two daughters, Sarah and Edith, left knitting behind to act as clerks for the company.

Here, the Cartledge Knitting Company was to remain until the fire burnt their business to the ground on August 6, 1906. This was, as the local paper reported: a “devastating blow,” particularly as the company was “doing well” and employing between 25 and 35 hands. This brought a temporary hiatus to the business. Joseph S. Cartledge took this time to visit the United States. It was there he was to receive the training, experience and knowledge to raise the family business from a general hosiery/knitting business into a specialty industry – the Guelph Elastic Hosiery.

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No Relief From Relief: The Great Depression In Guelph

During the last few years of the 1920s, Guelphites were beginning to feel quite optimistic. After the post-war slump, the economy was turning around. Companies were hiring and workers were regaining much of what they had lost. Then, on October 29, 1929, came the crash plunging employers and employees alike into a new economic reality.

One year later, 400,000 Canadians were out of work. Wages were cut and those employed had to live on less pay. Businesses retrenched and the labour movement was brought to a temporary standstill. All levels of Government, attempted to curtail the downward spiral. They instituted various Relief Programs, including Relief Camps, Relief Settlements, Relief Gangs and Relief distribution. Truly, during the 1930s, there was no relief from Relief.

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