The Sons of the Man Who Made the Business

J. L. COLVIN September 1 1920

The Sons of the Man Who Made the Business

J. L. COLVIN September 1 1920

The Sons of the Man Who Made the Business


BECAUSE a man has done a thing once is no particular reason why he should be expected to do it again. But if he does, and then again and again, there arises a strong probability that he will continue so to do; for there you have the intangible thing called habit that regulates all our lives.

Or, to broaden the scope of this idea. Because a man’s father, or his father’s father has done this thing, he is the more likely to do it also, because a tradition, that is the handing down of an idea from generation to generation, becomes operative.

To put this proposition into more practical terms, there is no reason why a new business should not produce the acme of quality. But it has no history to suggest that it will. Because a business has for half a century laid a stress on the quality of its producers equally no reason for claiming that it will always do so. But there is this

much: in the one case there is no habit of giving quality to safeguard the new business against a temptation of larger profits, while in the second case there is a habit and tradition of service rendered and quality given that stands behind that firm and assures it against such temptations. It has a record of a good name to lose, a tangible asset handed down through generations.

It was very close to a hundred years ago that a young man entered one of the woollen manufacturing establishments in Bradford, England, then as now known as the centre of the woollen industry. He was a lad eager to learn, interested and confident in the future of the industry. Before long he was master of a little mill of his own. He took an honest pride in the work it was turning out, and kept within him always the idea that though other men might claim to turn out more goods than could possibly be produced by his mill no one of them could produce goods of better workmanship or higher quality.

And so Charles Stanfield built a

business on real worth, that was eventually to reach out into another country, and to carry there the ideal of honest quality that had grown to be an accepted fact in Bradford.

And it happened in this way. To the Stanfield mill in Bradford, came Charles E. Stanfield, the nephew of the owner, to be apprenticed in the business. Here as a young man he served his time; learning much of the woollen trade from his uncle, whose life interest it had become. Here too he caught the idea that quality was the first essential, and that building on that basis of honest service to the customer was the only sound business policy. It was an idea that was ground into him with his growing knowledge of business, for his uncle was an authority on woollen yarns and took a justifiable pride in their wearing qualities.

“Charles,” he would say,

“we want to make them just as well as we know how, and we want to learn all we can, so that no one can possibly make them any better. And if they last a lifetime, why there is always another generation to sell.”

But for all that Charles E. Stanfield was brought up to love the business and to take a pride in it as his uncle had done before him, there was a restlass spirit in him that rebelled at the quiet humdrum life of Bradford. He wanted to go somewhere else; to start for himself; to prove himself in some new field. He talked the matter over with his uncle, and told him of his desire to go to Canada. His

uncle was getting on in years, and the whisper of adventure did not call to him as it did to the younger man. But while he was too old a man to cut loose himself from the surroundings of a lifetime, he appreciated his nephew’s viewpoint, and saw with him a large future in the growing country of Canada. Finally after much discussion, his uncle agreed with him that he should go to Canada, and agreed also to provide him with the necessary money to provide milling machinery.

The place young Charles Stanfield selected for his home and for the creation of his business was Tryon, in Prince Edward Island. Here he set up his mill, and for twenty years he kept to his peaceful and not too aggressive way, manufacturing worsted and woollen cloths, becoming letter perfect in this art, areal authority on wool and all that pertained thereto, so that in the little circle in which they were distributed his goods were a by-word for honest manufacture and great wearing qualities.

Charles Stanfield had passed the age of adventure. He was contented with his lot but he was not slow to realize that the small mill with its limited output could not provide much of an outlook for a growing family, nor yet supply very adequately their material needs. So once again he started out to find a new field of endeavor

where the opportunities would be larger. He decided seek for some place along the lines of the newly opei Intercolonial Railway. He chose Truro, Nova Scot as a good centre of distribution, with a fertile and promis country all around it.

When he built the first factory opposite the railw station, for all that he had a wide vision of the possibilit of the business he never dreamed of a great industi stretching from coast to coast, and a name known in ev« village or hamlet large enough to boast a general store, such is the present of that business built on’the traditie of the past, of service and quality and business hones

Shortly after this mill was built in 1870, he found a siti tion that appeared more suitable to him, some two mi out of town, where the Union Mills were built One otl move there was in the history of the business when th( two mills were disposed of and a new plant was built the banks of the Salmon river, t present site of Stanfield’s Limit« The original buildings of this pla were completed in 1882, and Char Stanfield at once began his lo hoped for and long delayed policy expansion.

These were not the days wh' the world could be said to be aga for something new. People we conservative, they were not lookii for anything new. Moreover th had come to look to Britain f most of their cloth fabrics and believe that they could not be o tained elsewhere. Charles Sta field however was not to be daun ed. He knew he understood tl woollen business. He knew tlt; that given time he could prove the people that the goods that can from his mill were second to non whether of British or Canadis manufacture. It was with th courageous spirit that, in compar with his sons John and Frank, began the great work of building u a sound and profitable business, an in this small mill on the banks of tl Salmon river there were produce the first Cardigan jackets and Bannockburn tweeds to l made in Canada.

If you want these goods, the public had said, you have go to Great Britain for them. “Not so,” said Charle Stanfield, “if you want them, we will make them for yc here, and we will make them as they should be made, an stake our reputation on their quality.”

It was Charles Stanfield too who originated the nov idea of selling stockings by the yard. The times wei more primitive then than now, and there was need flt; something that could withstand wear, whose quality wlt; more toward wearing qualities than a mere matter of shap and comeliness. There wasn’t much in the nature of foot in these stockings by the yard, but they had durabi ity, and they found a ready market.

Charles Stanfield was getting along in years, and trut to say, the business was not proving much of a mone maker. The goods manufactured in the Stanfield mill wei known far afield, and there was growing up a confidence i anything that bore the name of Stanfield, that was gradt ally calling the products of their mill into territories foi merly unknown. But for all this, it was not a profitab) business. The two sons realized this well enough, realize too the reason; their efforts were too scattered. The were making goods that could not be bettered, but the

were so varied in character that the costs of marketing them ate up the profits as fast as they could be made. Seeing that he was past the age when he had energies to spare for the difficult task of remodeling a business, Charles Stanfield decided to sell out and offered the business to his two sons, John and Frank. It was in 1896 that they obtained control, having purchased the business from their father, giving him their notes in payment. They went into the present and the future of the business carefully, and decided thr1 it was beyond the abilities of one plant to handle all the ! i es that they were at that time turning out with any prc pact of profit.

It lemained then to consider what lines they would retain, and what they would specialize on. For years past , these two sons, John and Frank, had been spending their time investigating the question of the shrinking of wool. If they could achieve a woollen garment that would not shrink, they were confident that it could be sold at a profit. It was an idea that the father before them had been experimenting on from his youth. At last they had discovered the answer to this vexed problem, and “Stanfield’s Unshrinkable Underwear” was given to the world. But the trouble was that this was only one of many lines. It was their best business proposition, but because stress had to be 'aid on selling so many lines, sufficient stress was not 'perhaps laid on the selling of this premier line. When the two sons therefore sat down ;to look over the business, they unhesitatingly decided that there should be fewer lines, and ■that their “Unshrinkable Un¡¡SSSsiSl derwear” should be given the place it deserved.

This policy wag no sooner decided upon than it was brought into action. The ma»chinery for making woollen cloth was scrapped. From that day in 1896, when this policy was decided on, the history of the concern has been one of steady progress. With the limited number of lines they now handled the two Stanfield brothers set about making a real market for their product.

They believed in it, and they advertised their belief, and they built that business from a production of two dozen per day, for an uncertain market, to a production of over five hundred dozen per day and a market that more than equals the demand, and that in this one line alone. They had achieved that important factor in sales of pinning a name to a product and a reputation of highest quality to the name.

Year after year additions have been made to the Truro plant. The old plant gave place to one of the most modern mills in Canada and year by year this has been growing in extent and in character as one of the most modern plants in the country. In these buildings the stress has been laid on permanence, they were not being built for the moment, but for the years to come, for the growing business that was foreseen. The operating rooms are bright and airy, and one glance at the contented and happy faces of the workers is enough to satisfy even the casual onlooker that they are well in body and contented in mind. They are interested in their work, and have a fee'ing of friendship toward the firm that employs them, and they are consequently eager to give their best service The factory is equipped with every convenience for its operatives, and every safety appliance. Nothing costs too much if it can ensure the life and health of the workers, there is everywhere throughout the plant an element of mutual good-will.

And in addition to all this, to this element of human good will and enthusiasm that means so much in the creation of a faultless product, is their perfection in mechanical equipment. Whatever equipment can improve the production Is instantly installed. Mechanically the plant is the acme Of modem machinery and equipment.

For all that there has been a continual series of additions fo the Truro plant that have spread it over a very considerable space, it became growingly certain that this plant would be inadequate to meet the needs of the business. It was in 1916 that this fact became patent. The demand for the commodities of the company was far exceeding their ability to supply. Other mills were needed, and it was felt that for a variety of reasons it would be advisable to operate a separate plant. This decision resulted in the Acquisition of the Amherst Woollen Mills at Amherst, Nova Scotia. To-day these mills are owned and operated «n the same careful system that obtains in the parent mills At Truro. At the present time the company has over four hundred employees in its Truro Mills and hundreds as well at Amherst. This m itself is a striking commentary on the growing popularity of Stanfield’s Underwear.


Indeed it might be said without exaggeration that there is no more popular brand of underwear in Canada than that which hails from the East and bears the well known name of Stanfield’s. It did not achieve this position without effort, however. It was steadily and consistently advertised. From the hoardings that call attention to the merits of Stanfield’s Underwear in the town of Truro itself, there is a practically uninterrupted trail of similar announcements across the continent. In newspapers and magazines the honest worth of Stanfield’s Unshrinkable Underwear has been preached as a persistent gospel.

All this of course means business. Yet no one knows better than those who guide the destinies of the company, that advertising cannot achieve anything unaided, that back of every advertised article must be a real and demonstratable value if the advertising is not to fall on arid ground. At the present time there are over five thousand dealers from the Atlantic to the Pacific who are not only handling this underwear, but who have grown to understand the proposition, and who in their service to their customers are pushing this line.

It is a far cry from the little mill of the uncle in Tryon, P.E.I., to the great mills of Truro and Amherst, and it is a far cry from the modest earnings of those days to the four million dollars annual turnover of the present time. There is perhaps only one point of connection between

that business of the early eighteen hundreds and that of the present day, and that is found in the unswerving adherence to an ideal of quality, that no consideration must take precedence of the idea that the customers must not only get the worth of their money but must get the very best article that can be produced in the line. It has ceased to be thought of now, or rather it has become a part and parcel of the thinking that for that reason no one would think of stressing now. It has become a tradition of the firm that in the rush and eager competition of the present there should be no deviation from this guiding principle. It is said that men are known by the goods they produce. If this is so one might well expect to find good men at the head of this company, men who stand as the embodiment of the principles which have made the business what it is to-day.

The men at the head to-day are the two sons of Charles E. Stanfield, the third generation in the business. John Stanfield, the elder of the two brothers, was born while the father was still in Prince Edward Island, in 1868. Immediately after finishing his common school education he went to the United States, where he served an apprenticeship in the great Pacific Woollen Mills at Lawrence, Mass., then the largest mills of their kind on the continent. Here he got a thorough grounding in the most modern practices in woollen manufacture. In the knowledge of the production end of the business he had few equals, and when he returned to Canada to join his brother in the business at Truro, and to look after the manufacture of “Stanfield’s Unshrinkable Underwear” he came as a real expert in woollen manufacturing.

In 1907 he retired from the active management of the company and went into politics. With both Federal and Provincial Governments against him lie won the famous by-election in November of that year.

“Honest John,” as he was popularly known, was re-elected in 1908 and 1911, and when the Conservative Government went into power he was elected chief whip.

In 1915 he resigned to offer his services to the Government in a military capacity. Through

his untiring energy he raised one of the Nova Scotia Highland regiments, that was generally known as “Stanfield’s Unshrinkables.” He was appointed their Colonel, and in company with three other regiments of Nova Scotia Highlanders, he went over in command. Owing to a serious operation he was unfortunately compelled to return home, and has since been leading a retired life. He is still the President of Stanfield’s Limited, and gives to the business a good part of his time and attention. It is probable too that he will be heard from again in the political arena, for no man wears better than John Stanfield, and he has a staunch following in the riding that he represented so long.

Frank Stanfield is the actual working head of the business. He was born on Main Street of Truro, where he still lives. He went to work at fourteen years of age as office boy in the factory, and from that humble beginning he has gone to the top, not merely because he was the son of his father, but because his early training through every branch of the business and especially his solid grounding in the selling end, joined with a natural aggressiveness and foresight, has marked him out as a man of exceptional organizing and administrative ability.

There aren’t many men who have a more intimate knowledge of actual selling on the road than has Frank Stanfield. He has made all the small town circuits, and all the big circuits as well. He

________________ knows the trade from coast to

coast from actual first hand experience. He knows the problems that face that trade and is in a position therefore not only to advise and assist his salesmen now on the road, but to get the viewpoint of the merchant and to frame his selling policy to meet the needs of the merchant as well as that of the house. This close connection between the actual administrative head of the firm and his customers has been a great source of strength to the company. He has been with the business through all his working years and has made it his chief interest. It is a hobby with him, as well as a business, and while he is distinctly the man behind the gun, it is not merely that the business shall succeed as a business venture, but that it shall also live up to its traditions.

In addition to his experience on the road he has been and still is the buyer of the wool used in the Stanfield products, and it is admitted that there is no better authority in Canada on the type of wool used by the company. While it is certain that Frank Stanfield, who is the administrative head of the firm, has little time for outside activities, he has had to answer the call of public service. For a number of sessions he has represented the riding of Colchester, and though he frankly admits that he has not the time to devote to these services that he thinks the services demand, the electors evidently think differently, for they keep sending him back session after session. Till quite recently the Stanfield family and the Stanfield business had the novel honor of representing their constituency in both houses, John Stanfield being representative from Colchester in the Federal house and Frank Stanfield the representative of the same riding in the Provincial House.

In addition to the task of managing the business and representing his fellow constituents in parliament he has devoted much time to perfecting the design of certain articles of children’s clothing. The result has been that he has personally patented “Stanfield’s Adjustable Combination,” and “Stanfield’s Adjustable Sleepers for Growing Children,” that are recognized as the most complete and satisfactory garments of their kind manufactured on the continent.

'^Frank Stanfield has four sons, the oldest of whom, Frank Stanfield, Jr., graduated this year and is entering the business, thus bringing the four generations into the company.

Coni. on next page

There may be nothing in the idea of traditions in business, but it is hard to escape the logic of facts. Back in the little mill at Tryon, the grand uncle and father of the present owners did their best to create a product that in the little community they served should be known as the epitome of trustworthiness. They were so known, and this fact stood behind them when they went farther afield to bid for new business. Into the present business, changed as it is from those former days, has gone the work of three generations; three generations of the study of the products used, three generations of effort to make the product produced the best that could be produced. The span of time has meant something to the business, and its multitude of friends throughout Canada recognize this fact, recognize too that being the sons of the man who made the business entails a real obligation, and that these sons have felt it as such and have spared no pains to live up to the fine business traditions of the early days of their house.

Quality must go in before the name Stanfields’ goes on.