VIEW-4502 | Company workmen's house, Laurentide Pulp Mills, Grand-Mère, QC, about 1908

Company workmen's house, Laurentide Pulp Mills, Grand-Mère, QC, about 1908
Wm. Notman & Son
About 1908, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , domestic (461) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

The need to bring industry where the resources and energy were sited obliged industrialists to create towns that were often far from urban centres where labour was plentiful. In order to attract and retain workers, companies built communities to house their workers and provide them with the necessities of life - schools, hospitals, stores, hockey rinks, etc. Such paternalism had the added advantage of making the worker beholden to his employer and thereby diminishing the power of unions to organize the labour force.

The Laurentide Company, organized in 1877, was Canada's largest maker of newsprint in the years 1898-1919. Located in Quebec's St. Maurice River Valley, Laurentide built a "company town" to accommodate its workers. Nearby Shawinigan was a similar company town.

  • What

    The architecture of company towns projected the corporate hierarchy of the town's employer. Row houses accommodated wage labourers, while foremen and managers were given larger single homes.

  • Where

    Company towns sprouted across Canada. Almost always they were linked to primary resource extraction and processing. Iroquois Falls (Ontario), Noranda (Quebec), Powell River ( British Columbia) and Corner Brook (Newfoundland) were all born as company towns.

  • When

    Company towns are a classic symptom of a nation that grows by developing a succession of primary staples. In the era of the fur trade, settlements like Fort Churchill sprang up. In the nuclear age Chalk River, Ontario would be built as a company town to support Canada's nascent atomic energy industry. The map of Canada is dotted with extinct company towns.

  • Who

    Sociologists argue that the people of a company town are subject to unusual pressures: isolation, dependence on one economic staple and the uniformity created by everyone working for a single employer.