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Faces of the Foundry

A black and white photograph of a group of men in a variety of late 19th century dress standing in front of a large pair of factory doors.
1
GEORGE SMITH
Machinist
2
WILLIAM LYONS
Labourer
3
WILLIAM ROWLAND
Woodworker
4
THOS. A. GRIFFITH
Moulder
5
ALFRED WILSON
Painter
6
WILLIAM LUBBOCK
Blacksmith
7
JACOB TOOLE
Machinist
8
ENOCH CHANTLER
Blacksmith
9
MILTON FLEURY
Painter
10
CHARLES COLLETT
Machinist
11
ARTHUR ASHTON
Carpenter
12
ALEX. W. BRODIE
Iron Moulder
13
GEORGE HOLDER
Moulder
14
JAMES DICKER
Moulder
15
DENNIS ELLIOTT
Labourer
16
CHARLES BAILEY
Blacksmith
17
JAMES WILCOX
Carpenter
18
EDWIN W. YULE
Office Worker
19
CHARLES WEBSTER
Bookkeeper, later Sales Manager
20
MILES HEISE
Moulder
21
ALBERT W. GRIFFITHS
Moulder
22
MARSHALL ANDREWS
Painter
23
JOHN BARKER
Tanner
24
JAMES BOYD
Blacksmith
25
RICHARD DODDS
Blacksmith
26
FRANK PACKER
Carpenter
27
JOSEPH HOLMAN
Melter
28
JACOB ANDERSON
Moulder
Some Employees of J. Fleury’s Sons, July 1893, Aurora Museum & Archives (992.13.3)
A black and white photograph of a man with a long moustache and a tilted bowler hat, holding his lapels.

CHARLES BAILEY

Charles Bailey started at the Foundry in June of 1881 and made 15 cents an hour. By 1901, he was earning $450 a year as a blacksmith and worked 60 hours a week.
Charles is credited as an inventor for the Foundry on a 1910 patent for a tool holder. On the patent document, Charles describes his invention as, “A tool holder for that class of agricultural implements, such as plows and the like, in which the handle bars are braced by stay rods, connected at one end to the plow mean and the other to the handle bars, the object of my invention being to form one of both of the stay rods with one or more tool holders to retain and carry a tool, such as a wrench or the like, during the use of the implement” (Patent 129943, 1910).
By 1911 Charles was earning $600 a year. He continued to work at the Foundry for over forty years and in 1921, he held the position of a foreman and made $1200 annually.
A black and white photograph of a man with a moustache and a boater hat, looking to the left.

JACOB ANDERSON

Jacob Anderson began working at Aurora Agricultural Works in the late 1860s and had a lifelong career at the Foundry. His experience with the company is intriguing as he was with the Foundry when it was known as Aurora Agricultural Works, J. Fleury’s Estate, J. Fleury’s Sons and finally the Fleury Bissell Company. In an interview with the Toronto Star Jacob recalls “I’ve been there when every brick in the present buildings was laid […] The place was just a rambling shack when I came in from the country and started working there, but it expanded rapidly mainly on the reputation of the famous Fleury plow.”(April 3, 1940).
Jacob worked as a moulder, and later as the foreman of the moulding shop, which meant working in dangerous conditions. In 1880, he was involved in a serious accident when he was pouring moulten iron into a mould and a spark of iron flew into his eye badly searing it (Aurora Banner, April 1880). Fortunately he was able to make a full recovery and didn’t lose his sight like many expected.
In 1937, Jacob celebrated his 92nd birthday working at J. Fleury’s Sons, which wasn’t unusual for him given his opinion on early retirement and holidays: “A holiday is all right if a man hunts or fishes, but what is the use of taking time off to go out to lie down under the beach trees, with snakes crawling around you in the grass and mosquitoes biting you?”(Toronto Star, July 18, 1933).
A black and white photograph of a man with a moustache and a receding hairline, squinting.

WILLIAM G. GRAHAM

William Graham worked as a carpenter at the Foundry during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
When he was sixteen years old William had an encounter with Joseph Fleury while Joseph was serving as Chairman of the Board of School Trustees. The incident is officially referred to as an accidental shooting and took place when William brought a loaded four-barrelled revolver to school. According to the Aurora Banner, William was explaining the construction of the weapon to a fellow student when it accidently fired and wounded him in the thigh (February 10, 1865). Thankfully the gunshot missed an artery and the boy survived. As for consequences, the Board unanimously adopted a resolution that severely reprimanded the boy, censured his parents for allowing him to carry a pistol, and advised the principal, Mr. Peck, “to expel from the school any pupil who may hereafter bring any description of fire arms on the school premises”
(Aurora Banner, February 10, 1865).
A black and white photograph of a man with a moustache and bowler hat with his jacket buttoned up to the top.

WILLIAM LUBBOCK

William Lubbock worked as a machinist at the Foundry and in 1895 he was involved in a terrifying accident at the Foundry. When he was engaged with cutting a heavy piece of iron, “a splinter of the iron flew and struck him in the eye penetrating fully an inch, and causing him most intense suffering” (Aurora Banner, June 14, 1895). William was transferred to Toronto immediately and underwent a procedure where a specialist successfully removed the splinter. The Aurora Banner reported that, “It was thought at first that he would lose the sight of his eye altogether but we are pleased to learn there is some hope that he will retain it” (June 14, 1895). Fortunately William was able to return to work, and sixteen years later, he was earning $500 a year and worked 60 hours a week at the Foundry.

Where are the women?

DURING THE LATE 1800s AND EARLY 1900s, occupations that were essential to the business of manufacturing farm implements, such as, a blacksmith, carpenter, moulder, painter, pattern maker, labourer, salesman and accountant, were almost always filled by men. At the time, gendered work roles were common place and it would be incredibly rare to find a female blacksmith employed in a Foundry. According to the Public Service Alliance of Canada (2017), in 1891 “41% of women in the labour force were employed as domestics.” This means that they held positions associated with household functions such as: servants, dressmakers, seamstresses, and childcare. Light manufacturing jobs were another type of employment where women could find work and included textiles, culinary work, printing, and other consumer/retail oriented positions.
During the 1900s the composition of the Canadian workforce changed: by 1901 women made up 13.4% of the paid labour force, and by 1921 this would rise to 15.4% with a reduced 21% of women working as “domestics” (Public Service Alliance of Canada, 2017). While the gendered nature of the labour force was beginning to shift, women weren’t being equally compensated for their contributions. If a man and a woman were employed in the same position, and fulfilling the same tasks, there would often be a significant wage gap with the woman earning much less. For example, we know that at J. Fleury’s Sons in 1911, Viola Petch worked as a bookkeeper for 54 hours a week earning $288.00 per year. Daniel Webster worked in the same position, for the same amount of hours each week, and earned $650.00 per year.
Unfortunately wage inequality is still a reality for many women today, and while a lot of progress has been made, there is still a long way to go.

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