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The future of the firm

Amid the Depression, what could J. Fleury’s Sons do to guarantee its future? After 1930, Herbert and his brother must have become preoccupied about the future of their family firm and the men it employed. What were their options? We can only speculate…
An oval-shaped aerial view drawing of a large factory complex of white buildings with grey roofs.
William’s son, William Eric Fleury, in Toronto, was in his early twenties. Would he move to Aurora, take over the firm and keep it
in the family’s hands? According to family lore, Herbert took his nephew on a trip to Western Canada to show him the extent of
the agricultural industry there and the sales network for Fleury implements. Although William Eric had taken one year of engineering
at the University of Toronto and then attended Royal Military College, from 1929 to 1933, he did not take up his uncle’s offer.
Instead, he enrolled in the School of Architecture in Toronto where he graduated in 1937. He was in the first contingent of the
Canadian army to sail to England in 1939.
In the past, other agricultural implements firms had moved successfully from private to public ownership. But in the midst of
Depression in the 1930s, the prospects of attracting investors would have been very difficult. By this time, J. Fleury’s Sons was a
niche player in an industry in the midst of technological change. While horse-drawn plows would still be used into the 1950s
and J. Fleury’s Sons had started to adapt its designs to the tractor age (its tractor plows, drawn by Ford tractors, were winners at
the Ottawa International Plowing Match in 1932), farmers across the country had little funds to invest in new machinery. In addition,
the firm may have had problems of leadership. In 1933, Charles G. Southmayd, the general superintendent of J. Fleury’s Sons since
he had arrived from Chicago twenty-one years earlier in 1912, died in his home on Temperance Street.
Based on his connections in Toronto, we can speculate that William took the lead in looking for a private investor. He found one in
H.C. Hatch who was closely associated with the Hiram Walker-Gooderham and Worts liquor interests. In 1928, Harry Hatch and
other Toronto investors had purchased the T.C. Bissell Company, the largest manufacturer of disc harrows in Canada, and a similar
size to J. Fleury’s Sons. In the fall of 1937, Harry Hatch and his colleagues were looking for a merger.
A black and white photograph of a group of dark-clad men standing outside a brick factory building with tall windows.
J. Fleury’s Sons Employees, c. 1912-13, Aurora Museum & Archives (994.3.1)
A black and white photograph of a man with white hair and a moustache sitting in a large chair against a high desk full of books.
Herbert Fleury, 1937, Image Courtesy of David Fleury

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