The water power of Niagara Falls was of immediate interest to the early settlers. They were accustomed to using water to power mill wheels for grinding wheat and driving the machinery in factories. The advent of electrical generation by water power was viewed as having immense
potential in the manufacturing industries. As a result, Niagara was seen as a potential industrial centre. This was especially true before the long distance transmission of electricity was made possible.
One of the industries that developed in Niagara Falls was wire weaving. This involved the preparation of screens used in the manufacturing of paper. The process was not unlike the weaving of cloth, but the use of wire required much heavier machines and expert weavers to operate them.
In the nineteen thirties the Niagara Wire Weaving Company was the largest manufacturer of pulp and paper mill wire cloth in Canada. Combined with its affiliated company, the Lindsay Wire Weaving Company of Cleveland, they were the largest in the world. The predecessor of the Canadian company was incorporated in 1919 under the same name. Their expansion was rapid
and by 1924 they had to add a unit to their building, as they had to do again in 1926. They had begun with thirty employees but by 1930 they had a hundred.
The fine mesh screens they manufactured were of endless brass or of phosphor-bronze wire as fine as the finest strings in a musical instrument. Because of the high speeds in the manufacturing of paper, the wear on the screens was significant and consequently replacements were in constant demand in the paper mills.
The building that still stands was of steel and brick construction. At their peak they were equipped with thirty eight Lindsay patent looms, the largest of their type in the world, as well as the supplementary equipment required for finishing and handling of wire cloth and screens. The manufacturing process required highly skilled weavers and consequently the wages paid were considered to be above those paid in other industries. The building had plenty of windows, so that it was well lighted and well ventilated. The company carried full group insurance on its employees and employees had a week’s vacation with full pay each year. Both of these, while seen as customary today, were very forward looking in the nineteen thirties.
In the latter half of the twentieth century the use of plastics made obsolete the need for wire screens in the paper making industry. The building on Robinson Street was converted into several shops and restaurants to serve the visitors in what had become the centre of the tourist industry.
See A.E. Coombs History of the Niagara Peninsula and the Welland Canal:1930
Museum Kids: Ancient Egypt and Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Centre Tour
History & Archeology @ the eXchange
J4BL Book Club