YOU have watched them set off one of the big set pieces in a display of fireworks. The chain of light flashes hither and thither around and across the framework, until all the outlines are filled in; then, with splutterings and shootings, the little connecting lines are completed; finally the blazing figure in all its perfection of outline stands forth brilliantly before the eye.
With some necessary modifications this serves to illustrate the way in which Canada’s industrial life has been quickened. Our industrial framework spread out first in the broad outlines of the great basic industries, first one and then another, and then a number together springing into being and making a place for themselves. Next the smaller ‘industries began to fill in the gaps, which became ever more and more noticeable as the country grew. And while the figure, by which Canada’s fullymatured industrial standing shall some day be seen, is not, and perchance never will be, absolutely complete, it is yearly growing greater, more brilliant, more worthy of the admiration and envy of the whole world.
There is a stupendous romance underneath the apparently matter-of-fact growth of Canadian industry. A poet might write an Odyssey about it. On any one of its phases, a novelist might found a great work of fiction. It has in it the material for thousands of human nature stories.
The gentle ringing of a curfew bell one summer night in far off Palestine has ultimately set in motion a rough and noisy industry in an Ontario town. What could be more astonishing? The wildest conjectures might fail to solve the connection, and vet it exists—a sure proof that industry and romance are by no means distinctly related.
Many people visit the Holy Land. It is by no means extraordinary, then, that a number of young English women should be wandering curiously about the streets of a village in Palestine one night just when the curfew rang. They did not understand its meaning; did not obey the command of its clamoring tongue. As the shades of evening fell, they were attacked by some ruffians. Attracted by their cries for help, a tall, brawny, young man rushed to their assistance and drove off the attackers. He was a Canadian clergyman, like them, a tourist in the Holy Land. Thus introduced so dramatically to the young Englishwomen, he attached himself to their party, with the ultimate result, so common under such circumstances, that he eventually married one of them.
It happened that the father-in-law was a man of wealth. On his first visit to his daughter in her new home in Canada, he chanced to meet an American, who was spending the summer in the same town. This American was interested in a mill in the United States, where discarded steel rails were re-rolled. Now, no such industry existed in Canada, and yet there seemed to be a good opening for one.
Here was an industrial gap all ready to be filled in. Railroad construction work was being carried on in Canada more and more extensively. Developments in this direction were daily being announced. The big roads were sending a steady stream of old rails across the line into the United States, there to be re-rolled and shipped back for use on sidings and branch lines. The demand was increasing steadily.
The American finally persuaded the Englishman to buy up the plant in the United States, in which he was interested, and bring it over into Canada. This was done about two years ago, and now, instead of sending their rails into the United States, Canadian railroads have them re-rolled at home. In this way that faroff curfew bell rang into being a brand new industry, which was established to fill in an ever-widening gap in Canada’s industrial fabric.
Let any one now say that Canadian industry is prosaic! An investigator could unearth dozens and dozens of instances, quite «as interesting «as this, into which the romantic element has crept. But it is not the business of this article to discover the presence of romance in many a grimy Canadian industry, however engrossing such a subject might be. It is rather to illustrate the way in which, as the need arises, the industry springs into behig; in other Avords, to show how the gaps are being closed up.
Consider the automobile industry. As everyone knows, the output of the automobile factories is immense and the industry itself has had a mushroom-like growth. But there may be some few people who are not yet aware that the automobile manufacturers do not build their cars complete in their factories. Many of them merely assemble the different parts, of which the car is composed. The parts are purchased from other manufacturers, who specialize in their making. Up to quite recent times many of these parts and accessories had to be imported from the United States. But, to-day, thanks to the greatly increased demand for automobiles in Canada, factories have been established here which manufacture practically everything required by the makers of automobiles.
A big industry, as it progresses, will call into being numerous small industries. That is axiomatic. It is true of the automobile industry, as has been pointed out. It is also true of many another industry. Had it not been for the expansion of the country’s railroads, doubtless steel rails would still be numbered in the list of articles not manufactured in the Dominion.
The growing use of incandescent electric lamps has meant an enormous consumption of the bulbs. When these were burned out, they bectime of no further use. Now, a plant has been established for the sole purpose of refitting them with filaments.
The development of the textile industry has called into existence, among other industries, a factory for the making of spring needles for knitting machines. It is true it is only a small industry, employing but half a dozen hands, yet it is a notable one, in that its product can enter the United States and be sold there profitably in face of a hostile tariff.
Advertising has done its share in bringing to life new industries. Two years ago a big electrical sign in a city street was a novelty. To-day it is so common as almost to escape notice. And yet the use of these brilliant signs has brought about the establishment of several industries, devoted exclusively to their manufacture.
Another example is the building industry. So many buildings are nowr erected of structural steel, that there has been a grooving call for structural materials of clay for surrounding the steel beams. To such an extent has this demand grown that the establishment of a big factory to be devoted exclusively to the manufacture of this product, is a natural outcome.
In all directions this expansion is to be noted. Portland cement began to be made a feAv years ago, when the demand for this commodity had reached a sufficient level. Pulp mills are rising here and there on the outskirts of civilization. These are big industries, but they are typical. On the other hand, diminutive industries have been established, making articles for which one would think there would not be enough demand to keep them going. In Toronto there is a factory devoted to making steel shoes for molders—a protection for men working in places where molten metal is used. In Fredericton, N. B., a little factory, employing but three hands, turns out what are called steel corks—pointed spikes, which are screwed into the heels and soles of lumbermen’s boots, so that their feet may grip the logs. These two industries are indicative of the extent to -which Canada’s industriel life has developed, for the market for both
commodities is limited to the men employed in these particular callings.
The existence of a protective tariff is, of course, pointed out as the reason for the establishment of many branches of American industries in Canada. Yet there must exist, in the first place, a sufficient demand for their products to make it feasible to sink capital in a Canadian plant, in other words, there must be a noticeable gap to be filled. There is now a factory at vVindsor manufacturing liy paper, and another making carpenters' rules and other ruling apparatus. There is even a factory producing massage cream, ¿several branches of American firms are making perfumes, tooth pastes and other toilet articles. Still another firm manufactures fountain pens complete ; and there is even enough demand to keep a safety razor factory running. A noted pickle-making concern has recently started a Canadian factory employing eighty hands. And in Hull there is a tooth-pick factory.
To go over a list of articles now made in Canada would open the eyes of many people to what is being accomplished in the industrial field. The ‘gaps are indeed becoming fewer and fewer. They are producing vaseline in a separate plant in Montreal. Pearl buttons are being made in several places in Canada. They even manufacture ostrich feathers in Toronto. Indeed, it would be hard to find a commodity which is not made in Canada today.
Perhaps the most interesting field of research for the investigator is that embracing minerals and the various products made from them. Here the element of romance enters largely. A disastrous fire in a theatre in Chicago a few years ago was the means of giving a vast impetus to the asbestos industry. Canada is rich in deposits of this wonderful substance, and immediately the asbestos mines became centres of activity. For a long time, it is true, very few asbestos products were made in Canada, but to-day there exists a factory turning out many commodities made of this material.
The discovery of Cobalt had in it the germs of several interesting industries. First came the reduction plants and then the manufacture of by-products. One of these, cobalt oxide, is now made in sufficient quantities at two plants in Canada to supply the entire world’s demand, while only a few years ago the cost of the oxide was exorbitant.
The vast development of the electrical industry has led to the starting of a plant for the manufacture of all kinds of carbon products for electrical work. Another plant in Ontario is finding a field for the manufacture of sulphuric acid. In fact, a gap no sooner appears than it is filled up.
The question naturally arises at this point, whether the field is being completely filled or not. Are there any industries which are being neglected? From the foregoing it would seem as if such a contingency were impossible. But there is room for believing that some Canadian industries are not being pushed to the extent they might be. There is a tendency in some parts of the Dominion to overdo certain industries at the expense of other industries. As an example, take the west. Here wheat is king, and all the people’s activities are directed towards seating him more firmly on his throne. And this is true of other parts, as well.
Thoughtful people point out the somewhat humiliating fact that Canada, though specially adapted for sheep-raising, does not produce sufficient wool to supply the demand for this commodity. During the last fiscal year she had to bring in $1,587,175 worth of wool, while her export of wool only amounted to $538,077. Those who have investigated the subject find that the country could profitably support sixty million sheep, whereas there are to-day only about one-tenth that number on Canadian farms. There is enough waste land in the Dominion to give sustenance to big flocks of sheep, without interfering with any other branch of farm industry. Propagandists are endeavoring to stir up the farmers of the country to a recognition of their neglected opportunities in this direction.
Canada exported cheese to the value of $21,607,692 last year—a truly remarkable showing. But of eggs only $41,766 were shipped from the country. This is an astonishing situation, and raises the question as to whether or not the poultry industry is not being neglected. Investigators have found that in poultry products
the United States is beuting Canada by three to one per head of population. In 1902 Canada exported $1,733,242 worth of poultry products. Last year these figures dropped to but slightly over half a million. The reason given for this state of affairs by some students of the matter is the fear of the farmer that by increasing production, his profits would be reduced. The farmer does not want to produce unless he is going to get full return for his labors. At any rate, there would seem to be a good opening here for increased production.
That there still exist gaps here and there in the industrial fabric is quite evident, but it is also true to add that opportunities do not go long begging. Many a
new industry is doubtless fertilizing today in the minds of promoters. Many a prospectus is being drafted and made ready for the public. When a man sees a chance for the establishment of an industry he does not cry it aloud from the house-tops, but keeps it to himself, and in this way the public hardly realizes the need for a new factory before it is in operation.
The movement of the future will probably be more in the direction of introducing greater efficiency in existing industries than in establishing new industries. The item of waste will have to be eliminated. Economies in production and distribution will have to be introduced. There is a great and growing field for work in this quarter.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.