Canadian Fashion Connection – Dominion Woollens and Worsteds 1928-1959

In 1870 Scottish-born Robert Forbes entered into a partnership with Jonathan Schofield in Hespeler, Ontario to operate J. Schofield & Co. – a mill to produce woollen flannels, plaids and tweeds as well as drugget carpeting. In 1874 the partners purchased the Randall, Farr & Co., a larger woollen mill on the edge of town, and in 1880 Forbes bought out Schofield and renamed his enterprise R. Forbes & Co. In 1888 the company was incorporated and Robert’s 28 year old son George took over as president and ran the company until 1928.


Dominion Woollens and Worsteds, c. 1950s, everything to the right of the water tower no longer exists

The new owners renamed the company Dominion Woollens and Worsteds Co. Ltd. and despite the onset of the Depression, could boast their business was the largest woollens and worsteds mill in the British Empire. They employed a third of the entire population of the town of Hespeler, and during WWII also employed hundreds of ‘mill girls’ who came from across Canada to make Canada’s wool for military uniforms. In 1959 the company went into receivership and was purchased by Silknit. Despite production being diversified to include synthetics, the business slowly went into decline. Production ceased in 1984 and more than a third of the building was destroyed shortly afterward in a fire.

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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3 Responses to Canadian Fashion Connection – Dominion Woollens and Worsteds 1928-1959

  1. Such a shame when companies with a good history just fizzle out like that.

    • Jonathan says:

      I think in this case it had gotten too big and wasn’t modernizing to keep up with the changing world, but I agree, it is a shame.

  2. Pingback: milling about Hespeler « music & musings

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