MP-0000.25.600 | Wabasso Cotton Company mills, Three Rivers, QC, about 1930

Photograph, glass lantern slide
Wabasso Cotton Company mills, Three Rivers, QC, about 1930
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts and transparent ink on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
8 x 10 cm
Gift of Mr. Stanley G. Triggs
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , industrial (826) , Industry (942) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

Canada's transition to an urban-industrial society was reflected in the clothing people wore. Early nineteenth-century Canadians wore home-made, locally tailored clothes, fashioned from wool and imported cotton. The National Policy of 1878 sought to use stiff tariffs to block imported cotton goods and to stimulate local production of cotton cloth and clothes. By the early-twentieth century, the Policy had borne fruit. Canadian factories were working raw cotton into cloth and then turning it into ready-to-wear clothing. Specialty tailors still made custom clothes, but mass-produced cotton goods manufactured in and around Montreal and woollen goods from Ontario towns like Almonte now dominated the national textile industry.

By 1919, 84,120 Canadians worked in textile, knitting and clothing factories. The Laurier Boom saw a tremendous rationalization of this industry. Through mergers and cartels ( secretive agreements between producers to limit prices and production), the Canadian textile industry became dominated by a handful of large companies like Wabasso.

  • What

    Ready-to-wear or "off the rack" clothing was one outcome of the new urban-industrial society in which family self-sufficiency broke down and people relied upon a cash economy supported by wages to buy the necessities of life. Department stores like Eaton's built their own clothing factories to supply the demand.

  • Where

    Montreal dominated Canadian cotton-making. Firms like Dominion Textiles, Canadian Coloured Cotton and Montreal Cotton overshadowed the competition.

  • When

    In 1907, Charles R. Whitehead (1868-1952) left Dominion Textiles in Montreal to found Wabasso Cotton in Trois Rivières and to specialize in fine cotton.

  • Who

    Workers in the textile industry were segregated by gender and skill. In 1919 a male loom fixer in Quebec earned 45 cents an hour. A male spinner earned 45 cents an hour, but a woman in the same job earned only 28 cents. Male were seen as long-term employees and women as temporary.