Part 4: The Textile and Ship-Building Industries

With innovations came new ways to produce garments and clothing in Canada. The textile and clothing industry emerged in urban centres (unlike the brewery and milling industries, which mainly grew in more rural environments). Lybster Mill, for example, was founded in 1860 in the Merritton area of St. Catharines and produced cotton. Mills, like Lybster, took advantage of their proximity to the U.S. border and the Welland Canal, which allowed for relatively cheap shipments of goods between British North America and the United States. The garment industry gained even more momentum in the early 1900s, when it was concentrated in places like Toronto and Montreal. Today, the garment and textile industry accounts for over 170,000 jobs across Canada, and it is astonishing to think that its beginnings were in places like Merritton, where advanced hydro-based milling processes were used to convert cotton and related materials into usable clothing and textiles.

Other industries that played a key role in Ontario’s manufacturing history included shipbuilding across the countless Ontarian lakes (although this industry was much larger further east), and transport, such as railways and canals. Two of the most significant railway projects were the Great Western Railway (built in 1855)—which linked Detroit and Windsor to Niagara through Toronto and Hamilton—and the Ontario, Simcoe, and Huron Railway, later called the Northern Railway of Canada (built in 1853). One example of an important canal project was the aforementioned Welland Canal (constructed between 1824 and 1829), which connected Lake Ontario with Lake Erie. This canal provided employment opportunities and massive trade potential through the United States and Southwestern Canada. In fact, even today, about 40 million tonnes of cargo pass through the Welland Canal each year.

Read part 5 of The History Of Ontario’s Manufacturing Industry here.

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