Kitchener-Waterloo Ontario – a city of fashion in 1940

Found this interesting article from the July 15, 1940 issue of MacLeans Magazine, about the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. A large part of the article ensures readers that although the population has a large German heritage, it is not in support of Hitler. Details in how the cities raised money for the war effort then gives way to an overview of local industry, of which fashion related industries are detailed. 

According to the article, the Kitchener Board of Trade boasts that the city “makes more shirts, builds more furniture, manufactures more tires, fashions more footwear, and tans more leather than any other city in Canada.’’ 

Twenty-five percent of the 42,000 who live in the two cities arrived in the previous twenty years (1920 – 1939) and were employed in the city’s industries that included:

“The B. F. Goodrich Rubber Company of Canada makes not only Goodrich tires, but rubber footwear there. The Kaufman Rubber Company, a Kitchener institution from away back, also makes rubber footwear, as does the Merchants’ Rubber factory, now affiliated with the Dominion Rubber organization…

There are ten Kitchener companies engaged in the manufacture or processing of textiles, two of them rating international status. Here is the head office of Cluett Peabody and Company of Canada, producing the Arrow lines of men’s shirts and furnishings. This organization, of course, is linked with the original Cluett Peabody company of the United States.

John Forsyth, Limited, making Forsyth shirts, underwear, pyjamas, cravats and handkerchiefs, is entirely a Kitchener enterprise, and its growth is a matter of considerable local pride. The Forsyth company has two plants, one in Kitchener, the other in Waterloo. Mr. J. D. C. Forsyth, president of the organization, maintains two homes in the Kitchener-Waterloo district, a city residence and a farm where he raises prize cattle.

Other Kitchener textile products include glove linings, knitted fabrics, rayon, jersey cloth and twine. There are five companies making buttons—the town has always been a big button producer—and three of these, the Dominion Button Manufacturers, Limited, Kitchener Buttons, Limited, and the Mitchell Button Company, sell their goods all across Canada.

Twenty-three Kitchener companies manufacture boots and shoes and other leather products. Eleven companies, Ontario Shoes, Limited; Valentine and Martin. Limited; the W. E. Woelffe Shoe Company; Western Shoe Company; Charles A. Ahrens, Limited; the Bauer Shoe Company; the E and S Shoe Company; the Galt Shoe Manufacturing Company; the Hydro City Shoe Manufacturers Limited; and the Kitchener Shoe Company, make leather footwear. The Bauer and Western shoe companies also make skates. Other concerns turn out cut soles, shoe patterns, leather washers, and leather ties and braces.

The L. McBrine Company makes the widely known McBrine line of trunks, bags and other travel accessories in Kitchener. The names of Breithaupt and Lang, associated with the leather industry since its first beginnings in this area, are represented by three companies; the Breithaupt Leather Company, the Lang Tanning Company, and John A. Lang and Sons. There are three companies producing gloves, mitts and gauntlets; the Barrie Glove and Knitting Company, the Huck Glove Company, and the Ontario Glove Company. Canadian Consolidated Felt Company, and the W. G. Rumpel Felt Company make commercial felts.”

Click here to read the full article

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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