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Table of Illustrations

It is important to note that in 29 years there were only 109 installations, 91 of which were of new engines. Consequently the marine engine founders were very specialized, low volume producers of a high value, durable commodity. The firms listed in Table II represent the known pool of steam engine founders from which central Canadian steamboat promoters purchased their engines. Each will be examined in terms of the origins of their ownership and skilled labour, and the degree of their success.

TABLE II Marine Engine Founding Firms in the Central Canadian Market, 1809-37
Nationality Name Location Years Number
Great Britain
Boulton & Watt Birmingham 1812-20 6
Maudslay & Sons London 1818 1
Fawcett, Preston Liverpool 1831-32 2
United States
Fuller & Copeland Hartford 1832 1
Drennan & Graham Cincinnati 1832 1
William Avery Syracuse 1833-34 3
Unknown American 5
Lower Canada
John Jackson Montreal 1809 1
St. Mary's Foundry Montreal
Joseph Lough 1819 1
Adam Hall 1820 1
Bennet, Briggs & Burt 1821-22 2
Bennet & Briggs 1825-26 3
Bennet & Henderson 1830-33 12
Eagle Foundry (Ward) Montreal 1819-37 33
Upper Canada
Charles Perry York 1830-33 3
Sheldon & Dutcher York 1833-34 3
Samuel Hulburt Prescott 1834 1
G.W. Yarker Kingston 1835 1
Niagara Harbour Niagara 1836-37 2
Unknown 11

Great Britain

The use of Boulton & Watt engines is hardly surprising. The firm owned, without question, the best steam engine foundry in the world, their ascendancy initially assured by James Watt's patents. The Soho engine works in Birmingham had developed into a huge complex--the Frontenac's engines were shipped within seven weeks of the dates on the engine drawings. (68) In North America, Boulton & Watt engines were uniformly successful; most can be traced through a succession of vessels before 1837. (69)

Before competitive engine works were established in Lower Canada, only one firm broke through Boulton and Watt's effective monopoly. The firm of Henry Maudslay & Sons of London included two of the most prolific and ingenious inventors in the marine engine trade. Between Henry and son Joseph, they developed the oscillating, the steeple, the twin-cylinder (or 'Siamese') and the annular engine, along with a variety of important devices for machining metal. However, the engines for the Quebec and Lauzon seem to have been their only North American sales before 1838. (70)

The other British supplier was Fawcett, Preston & Co. of Liverpool. Unlike the Birmingham and London firms, this company had a modest presence in the North American market. At least six small, low pressure engines had been exported to the lower Mississippi in the 1820s. Whatever their original purpose, by 1838 they were all driving sugar mills. During the tremendous boom in demand in the early 1830s, the Montreal foundries were heavily committed and two large, low pressure engines were imported from this firm. Between 1834 and 1836, Fawcett, Preston & Co. also supplied engines for five coastal steamboats trading out of Savannah, Georgia. (71)

While British imports dominated sales before 1819, they could not compete with engines produced in the region by competent founders. Not only did shipping to Quebec add £250 Stg. to one bill, but British imports were not necessarily exempt from Lower Canadian customs duties. (72)

Lower Canada

John Jackson

When John Molson began planning the construction of the Accommodation in 1808, he formed a partnership with shipwright John Bruce and engineer John Jackson. Research has failed to determine much else about Jackson except that he was a very hard man to get along with and his engine was little better. It leaked badly, was difficult to keep up to power, and was abandoned (along with its builder) a full year before a replacement was available (73)

St. Mary's Foundry

Located on the St. Lawrence River by the St. Mary's current and conveniently close to John Molson's brewery and Hart Logan's shipyard, the St. Mary's Foundry was one of the oldest in Montreal. Despite Denison's attempts to portray it as an early subsidiary of the Molson brewery, the operation had a much more varied history. (74)

In January of 1816, founder Joseph Lough formed a partnership with three other men to erect an air furnace on this site. This partnership involved not only Joseph Wildgoose and Thomas Mears of Montreal, but Jahaziel Sherman of Vergennes, each of whom was to supply £500. (75)Lough was described by a contemporary as "an Englishman, [who] had lived in the States and married an American wife, he was a very clever man ... and employed quite a large number." (76) He had also been involved with the construction of the Vermont and the Champlain, both on Lake Champlain. (77) The relationship between the partners was not a happy one and within a year and a half Lough had assumed all the debts of the organization, £750 to Sherman and £2172 to the estate of Henry Cox. In 1819, Lough built the engine for the Ottawa, which was partially owned by Alexander Allison. (78) After this date, Lough disappears along with references to the Montreal Air Furnace.

Despite some evidence that Lough was employed by Allison and his partner Thomas Turner, this seems to be the first association of these two men with the site. However, Allison and Turner had been associated with the trade before the War of 1812, supplying some iron work for Jackson to use in the Accommodation. (79)

In 1820, Allison retained founder Adam Hall as engineer of the Ottawa, the partners in that venture allowing Allison to employ their engineer as he saw fit during the winter months. (80)Hall seems to have also constructed a 32 h.p. engine for the Catharine that spring. The nine month delay between the launch of the vessel and the installation of the engines may account for the dearth of followup orders. (81) Instead the St. Mary's Foundry was producing a broad range of other goods, including stoves, cart boxes, rainwater spouts, weights and bark mills. (82) It was run for Allison's estate after his death, until his executor, John Gray, moved the foundry to Côte-Sainte-Catherine in 1825. (83)Turner sold the old site to Bennet and Henderson four years later. (84)

John Bennet was a Scotch engineer who was delivered to Molson in 1812, with the latter's first purchase of a Boulton & Watt engine. (85) Only 21 and with his apprenticeship probably just completed, John Bennet was to be paid $400 (£100 Cy) a year for the next three years. During the decade that Molson imported engines from Britain, Bennet was working in Lower Canada putting them up and operating them.

In January 1820 Bennet formed a partnership with Lott Briggs, a local blacksmith, and Scott Burt, another steamboat engineer. (86) It is fortunate that Bennet had a major block of pay coming from the Molsons for it would be 1821 before Bennet, Briggs & Burt got their first commission, £600 for the 12 h.p. engine for the Perseverance, being built at Lachine. For their troubles the partners were 'induced' to buy a £120 share in the little steamer. (87) Only one more commission came their way before Burt left the firm to set up and operate a used engine in the first steam boat on the Ottawa River. (88)Bennet & Briggs built only three more engines in a small foundry on Panet Street before their partnership was dissolved in 1826. (89)

Even as the termination of his association with Briggs was being arbitrated, Bennet entered a new partnership with John Henderson in a former nail factory on Wellington St. in Griffintown. (90) Three years later, immediately after signing their first major steam engine contract, the partners bought the site of the St. Mary's Foundry from Thomas A. Turner. The contract for the engines of John Hamilton'sGreat Britain quickly established the partners' reputation even as it reflected the limits of their original operation. Hamilton arranged to import the boiler iron and deduct its price from their contract. He also contracted with Guy Warwick of Montreal for the iron castings. (91) Pricing their work about 20% less than the Wards' rates, Bennet & Henderson succeeded in capturing the contract for the engines of the Royal William, being built in Quebec to provide a service between that town and Halifax. When the William proved a financial disaster, it was dispatched to England for sale, and proved to be the first steamboat to cross the Atlantic completely under the power of steam. (92) Despite the poor performance of their engines on the crossing, the excitement of the accomplishment of the Royal William established for Bennet and Henderson an enduring reputation among early Canadian founders.

Figure 5: Bennet and Henderson's Foundry. (Daily Witness (Montreal), 20 March 1897)
Between 1831 and 1833 Bennet and Henderson built three engines a year for the Great Lakes, Ottawa and St. Lawrence trades. An additional five stationary engines can be identified from the same period. (93) The result of this dramatic expansion of sales was the borrowing of funds for a major building programme which resulted in the layout seen in figure 5. (94) In 1834, the market for new steamboats collapsed. By the end of 1834, with little prospect of new sales in sight, Bennet and Henderson assigned their personal belongings, their receivables and the St. Mary's Foundry to their creditors. (95)

At the ensuing auction, John Molson sr. bought the foundry, John jr. subsequently leasing the facility and recruiting James Irwin, an engineer, and Samuel Workman to act as his agents. (96) Both Irwin and Workman had been associated with the Wards. (97) As agents, Irwin and Workman could tender for accounts but all contracts had to be ratified by Molson, an arrangement that was cancelled after two years. Instead they agreed that Molson would hire Irwin and Workman at £200 a year each to run the establishment. (98) A modest operation by Bennet & Henderson's standards, the foundry was later managed by a variety of men, including William Parkyn, Warden King and George Rogers. Before 1840 it produced a few marine engines, and like other foundries, in the 1840s and 1850s began producing iron work for railroad carriages. (99)

Eagle Foundry

Without question the single most important engine foundry in British North America before 1838 was the Eagle Foundry, founded by John Dod Ward in the fall of 1819. Ward's credentials as a steam engine builder were impeccable. His uncle, Daniel Dod, has already been referred to as the patentee of an early form of the walking beam engine. In partnership with Aaron Ogden, Dod challenged the Fulton-Livingston steamboat monopoly in New York state and lost, dragging them both into financial ruin. Supported by friends and family, including the Wards, Dod moved to a new plant in New York City in 1820 where he was killed in a spectacular explosion of a high pressure boiler in May 1823. (100)

By 1816, Ward was "on the road" supervising the installation of his uncle's engines in some of the most important steamboats outside the Fulton monopoly. He put Dod's engine in the Ontario, the first American steamer on the Great Lakes. He was also involved in installing engines on Lake Champlain. During the summer and fall of 1817 Ward worked on the Norfolk, in Norfolk, Virginia, and altered the engine of the Powhatan. (101) He may even have worked on the engine of the Savannah, which Dod designed. (102)

The financial embarrassment of his uncle led Ward back to New York and Vermont in an attempt to collect old debts. There, he was "strongly solicited to take a small part of Capt. Sherman'sMontreal furnace establishment and take the entire management of it." (103) This was, of course, rather presumptuous of Sherman, who a year before had converted his stake in Lough's Montreal Air Furnace from a that of a partner to a creditor. (104) Nevertheless, Ward was sufficiently intrigued by the offer to plan a trip to Montreal, returning the following summer, partly to collect a debt from Lough. (105) Whatever passed between them has not been ascertained but that fall, Ward was hired by the promoters of the steam ferry Montreal and opened his own foundry. (106)

The Eagle Foundry was established on a 70' x 90' lot purchased in October 1819 on Queen Street in what became known as Griffintown. (107) Within a month, for a mere $250, a 30' x 32' building with two blacksmith's fires was erected. (108) Two month's after that, he had a good turning lathe, a punching machine and was anticipating delivery of a set of boiler tools. Ward claimed, justifiably, that when they arrived he would "have all the machinery for making a boiler as well and as conveniently as it can be done at any place." (109)

Despite some short term cash flow problems, Ward was an immediate success both in the construction and repair of steam engines. So much so, in fact, that with the exception of the few engines built by Bennet and his various partners, Ward supplied Upper and Lower Canada with all its marine engines between 1820 and 1829--13 new engines and a wide range of replacement contracts. Most critical for his reputation was the 1823 contract for the Hercules, £4500 for a 100 h.p. engine with a 55" cylinder. At the time it was one of the most powerful single marine engines in North America. (110)

Reluctant to take in outside partners, Ward had brought his younger brother, Samuel, north with him in 1819. (111) By 1826, another brother, Lebbeus, had joined him, and the firm of John D. Ward & Co. was formed. (112) The firm expanded across Queen St., using the old site for the boiler shop and the larger new site for a new foundry, and other shops. The space was needed for a regular staff of around 100, although as many as 300 were hired in peak seasons. (113) Along with the shipyards in Quebec, it was one of the largest industrial establishments in British North America. Indeed it was on the same scale as some of the major New York foundries. (114)

In 1832 John sold his share of the foundry to his brothers, Lebbeus and Samuel, for £5000. (115) Shortly after the final payment was made in 1837, John, this time with outside partners, purchased the Novelty Iron Works in New York, building it into one of the largest foundries on the continent with upwards of 1200 employees by the 1850s. (116) When Lebbeus and Samuel took in a new partner, an old friend, Captain George Brush, the foundry was valued at £7620 with no allowance being made for its "good will". Lebbeus, however, was spending most of his time in New York City at his new foundry, the Hammersley, where Samuel would join him after 1842. (117)

Like other foundries of the period, the Wards did some other business. When engine production was off in 1829, orders included "a bark mill or two and machine for rolling leather, a puncher, a turning lathe, mill crank, a few wheels for Brouses carding machines and mill, some small wheels for Roebuck" and a few small steamboat repair jobs. (118) In the mid-1830s Lebbeus became involved in the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railway, and, it is reputed that the Dorchester, that company's first locomotive, was re-assembled by its British engineer in their shops. (119)

Upper Canada

Although before 1838 the trade in marine engines was dominated by the Eagle and St. Mary's Foundries of Montreal, beginning in 1830 a number of engines were built in Upper Canada. Their appearance reflects both a growing market for iron products in Upper Canada, and the emergence of some relatively sophisticated foundries.

The first Upper Canadian founder to sell a marine engine is also the least well known. Charles Perry sold three small, high pressure engines for use on the upper waters of the Trent system. Perry's "York Steam Engine Works" is also known to have supplied engines for two saw mills and a distillery. The origins and fate of the foundry are unclear, although an Isaac Perry ran a blacksmith's shop in the vicinity in the preceding years. (120)

The most notorious Upper Canadian steam engine manufactory in the period was that known as Sheldon & Dutcher's. Started by Frederick Dutcher, about 1828 the foundry moved to York from a location on Dundas Street, probably near the head of the lake. (121)Kenneth Lewis has argued that Sheldon & Dutcher ran a fairly small operation until 1833 when they expanded dramatically and cites the evidence of the entry of the Van Normans of Long Point into the partnership as the key to this expansion. An economic downturn a year or two later is blamed for the collapse of the firm. (122)

A close examination of the available court records reveals a much more interesting tale. The foundry was initially in the hands of Frederick Dutcher, who in February 1830 gave it to his younger brother William, as he "hot footed" it to the border. (123) After his release from debtor's prison, William Dutcher formed a partnership with William Bull Sheldon, a "retired" Hamilton merchant. Sheldon had the business background that the Dutcher's apparently lacked. (124) In the spring of 1833, the partnership expanded dramatically to include Samuel Andruss (William Dutcher's father-in-law and a miller from Ancaster), Joseph and Benjamin Van Norman and Fred Dutcher, who had slunk quietly back into town. (125) The evidence suggests that the Dutchers had just swung the biggest deal of their lives, and needed more financial backing. (126)Sheldon & Dutcher, however, were not a reliable risk.

The lack of reliability is directly and unequivocally related to the botched job they made of the contract for the engines of the Cobourg. The foundry had expanded rapidly--as many as 80 men worked for the firm in the summer of 1833, including some of Ward's former employees. (127) They were late delivering the engines. As unforgivable as that was, one of the cylinders was badly cast, poorly patched and leaked. The boiler broke 24 stays one night and had to be constantly nursed along by the engine crew. Their shafts were undersized and broke twice at the beginning of her first season. (128) The contract for replacing the engines of the John By that same spring has been held up as something of a coup--replacing the engines of the famed Bennet & Henderson. In fact, the two small high pressure engines failed to accomplish their intended purpose, and were quickly discarded by the next vessel in which they were installed. (129) Only the engine for the Canada Company'sMinnesetung can be claimed as a success, albeit qualified--the steamer ran so infrequently their quality is difficult to judge. (130) Two stationary engines round out known production: one for themselves, and a second for the Niagara Harbour and Dock Company (which promptly set up a rival foundry). (131)

Their credibility in shreds, Sheldon & Dutcher sued and were countersued by the owners of the Cobourg over penalties and extra expenses. Between 1834 and 1838 the partners were involved in a minimum of 31 additional lawsuits at the Home District Assizes, involving pumps, mill castings, threshing equipment and unpaid suppliers. (132) The foundry was eventually taken over by another American living in Ancaster, Job Lodor, who slowly pushed Sheldon and the Dutchers out the door. Samuel Andruss, and another son-in-law ran the operation until 1841 when a fire which started in the foundry burned down central Toronto. (133) Revived as the Phoenix, the foundry produced stoves, plough and assorted castings into the 1870s.

The engine of the Rapid was built at Prescott in 1834 by Samuel Hulburt at the "Prescott Steam Foundry and Engine Manufactory". Erected the previous year by John Ford, the foundry was conducted by Hulburt as both "Engineer and Agent". (134) American-born Hulburt came recommended by Syracuse engine builder, William Avery, and had worked the high pressure engines of the Iroquois, the previous season. The contract for the Rapid was a direct result of Hulburt forming a partnership with Hiram Norton, who amongst other valuable connections was a major investor in the steamboat. (135) In July 1833 the establishment was described as consisting of a 8 h.p., high pressure engine, four forges, a "newly invented" punching machine, several lathes and employing about 20 men. (136) Norton, Hulburt & Co. does not appear to have lasted long, but Samuel Hulburt was in the foundry business in Prescott for a good many years afterwards. (137)

Another Upper Canadian foundry capable of producing marine engines was that of George Yarker on the Kingston waterfront. In 1835 it supplied a small, 15 h.p. rotary engine using William Avery's patent. (138) The following year it included five departments: a smelting house, casting room, workshop "with an infinite number of lathes" and a 10 h.p. engine, blacksmith's shop with four forges and a pattern shop. (139) By the 1850s it would be absorbed into the shipbuilding complex that grew up around the Kingston Marine Railway. (140)

Through to the end of the 1840s, the most successful Upper Canadian establishment was the Niagara Harbour and Dock Company. When the firm was incorporated in 1831, its primary purpose was to provide a ship repair facility for vessels on Lake Ontario. But from the earliest discussions the intention had been to include shipbuilding and a foundry for steam engine construction. (141) In the winter of 1833 the company enduced George Arrowsmith and Adam Hall to leave the West Point Foundry in New York. (142) Just over a year later, John Lowe took over the foundry, which he would manage through the 1840s. Born in Upper Canada, Lowe had trained in Scotland before joining Bennet & Henderson in 1830 or 1831, where he was responsible for supervising much of the work on the Royal William's engine. (143) After the failure of his Montreal employers Lowe moved on to Niagara where only two small marine engines were installed during this period.

United States

The number of American built engines in central Canada during this period is difficult to determine precisely. Imperial tariffs of 15% or more discouraged many imports. All of those were delivered above the rapids of the St. Lawrence and most were high pressure engines which, because of their lower cost were less affected by the customs barriers. (144)

Most sales represent special circumstances. Fuller & Copeland of Hartford, Connecticut supplied two 25 h.p., high pressure engines for the Iroquois, a small sternwheeler intended to work in the rapids below Prescott. Wards usually supplied the Iroquois' owner, Horace Dickinson, with his engines (it helped that Lebbeus Ward married one of Dickinson's daughters). Copeland, however, was located in the same town as another Ward foundry. It is possible that the brothers, who never built a high pressure engine before 1837, used the family network to locate a likely engine. When the steamer was converted to a barge a few years later, this engine was sold. By 1838 it was powering a sawmill in Michigan. (145)

Drennan & Graham of Cincinnati supplied only one pair of engines to the Canadian trades. Two 120 h.p. high pressure engines were sold to Robert Hamilton (John's elder brother) to replace an old Boulton & Watt engine in the Alciope. No evidence of the firm's other sales was found in a major U.S. steam engine report in 1838. (146)

Of these few American manufacturers with Canadian sales, the best known was William Avery. The superintendent of E. Lynds & Co. of Syracuse, Avery built engines for the United States, a "scaled down" version of John Hamilton'sGreat Britain. Canadian sales included the Enterprise, a small sternwheeler on the Rideau system, and two horizontal cylinder engines for the Brockville, intended to replace the Iroquois in the upper St. Lawrence rapids. (147)

Apart from these few it is possible to identify another five American engines used in Canadian steamers on Lake Simcoe (and later Georgian Bay), Lake Erie and the Detroit River region. Finally, it is worth noting that Wards sold a number of engines to the American owned Lake Champlain Transportation Company and at least one St. Mary's engine made its way into an American hull. (148) Indeed, the Canadian exports were hardly surprising--as we have seen, the Upper and Lower Canadian founders were frequently American by birth or previous residence.


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