The numerous buildings of the Hamilton Cotton Company stood immediately behind the Malcolm & Souter plant on Mary Street. This company was set up in 1880 by local merchants and manufacturers. They wanted to capitalize on a new textile tariff structure introduced as part of the John A. Macdonald government’s National Policy a year earlier.
The driving force behind this new enterprise was James M. Young, the eldest son of a prominent Hamilton merchant family. Young had entered into textile production a few years earlier, when he bought the Dundas Cotton Company. His new Hamilton Cotton plant produced a variety of yarns and fabrics.
Production expanded greatly in the 20th century. The Young family strengthened its holdings in Hamilton and added plants in Marysville, New Brunswick; Montreal, Quebec; and Trenton and Woodbridge, Ontario. It also guided production at Hamilton’s Cosmos-Imperial mill. The family wound down its operations in the 1960s, partly because of competition from foreign producers.
Many of Hamilton Cotton’s employees were women from the neighbourhood around this North End plant. The Great Depression of the 1930s did not hit Hamilton’s textile mills as hard as it did many other city industries. Employing women went against tradition, by putting some female textile workers in an unfamiliar role as their family’s primary breadwinner.