The Burrow, Stewart and Milne Foundry

Formerly located in the block bounded by Cannon, John, Robert and Hughson Streets

Imagine this whole block filled with a large, elegant three-storey 19th-century factory. In 1868, the Burrow, Stewart and Milne Foundry moved from smaller quarters on Cannon Street to this site. It had a mixed output of stoves, ranges, hot-air furnaces and scales, as well as wagon, carriage and saddlery hardware.

The foundry became one of Hamilton’s largest employers of skilled metalworkers. Two hundred men were on the payroll in 1891. Many were unionized moulders. The company had battled the union on and off for years. This was an important stop for the Nine-Hour marchers in 1872.

From the beginning, the Iron Molders International Union (IMIU) No. 26 was a central player in the city’s labour organizing drives. The union lent its support to striking bakers as early as 1862. It also inspired other city unions to band together and form the first local labour council, in 1864.

The struggle was not easy. In the 1860s, city foundry-men joined forces to fight the union. A major setback in 1866 left the union in disarray for the rest of the decade.

The turning point came in 1872. The local moulders’ union revived itself in the spring and summer and played an important role in the Nine-Hour movement. Their solidarity with the marchers was impressive, since moulders worked an eight-and-a-half-hour day already.

The Nine-Hour parade stop in front of Burrow, Stewart and Milne was significant for the moulders. Many non-union moulders still worked in the city’s foundries. Employers had brought them in from the United States to break a strike in the late 1860s. In the months following the parade, the union flushed them out. By December 1872, the moulders cemented their gains by setting up a union hall in the Clyde Hotel.

These gains were short-lived, however. The economy fell into a depression by 1873. Unemployed American moulders began to flood back in, and employers cut wages by 10 per cent. When the union protested, the employers locked them out. By 1875, the union had no bargaining strength left.

The moulders’ situation improved along with the economy in the early 1880s. A strike at Burrow, Stewart and Milne in 1881, however, forced the removal of two non-union men. In March 1882, IMIU No. 26 won a 10 per cent wage increase at the foundry. The enthusiasm of 1872 was reignited.