Hamilton Coach Factory

(1842)

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The Hamilton Coach Company’s buildings once stood on this site. The company produced all types of carriages, wagons, sleighs and cutters. The business was started in 1842 by carriage-maker M. Holmes. In its first year, he owned the company with a business partner, James M. Williams, a Camden, New Jersey, native who had recently completed an apprenticeship, probably as a carriage-maker’s blacksmith. Williams took complete control soon after.

This factory had a number of owners before it closed down in the early 20th century. Its owners had one thing in common: they had all apprenticed and worked in the carriage-making trade before becoming manufacturers themselves. Self-employment — to call no man master and provide for one’s family from the fruits of one’s own labour — was the ultimate goal of many 19th-century artisans. To aspiring apprentices and journeymen, it represented the height of manly independence.

As part of a craft fraternity, 19th-century employers often mentored members of their own workforce toward self-employment. In the mid-1850s, Williams took on his foreman Henry G. Cooper as a junior partner. Cooper had worked at the shop since it opened.

Cooper bought out Williams’s interest a short time later. By 1863, he employed over 40 men and boys. Cooper’s two sons took over the business in 1883 after learning carriage making in their father’s shop. Carriage trimmer Richard Morgan and carriage blacksmith John Malloy, two of Cooper’s journeymen, went on to found the Dominion Carriage Factory a block north of here in 1870. They bought the Hamilton Coach Company when it was put up for sale around 1895.

George Grayson’s steel carriage spring factory operated in premises connected to the Hamilton Coach Factory. In the days before modern, integrated factories, plants offering complementary services often located near each other so that they could share resources or work on each other’s jobs. The Aitchison brothers planing mill and box factory also operated here until the 1950s, when it moved to Emerson Street in the West End of Hamilton.