Oneida Silver Company

Oneida Factory in Niagara Falls aerial view

The Oneida company began as a religious/social society. In 1848 John Noyes developed a theology of Perfectionism. There were two basic values, self-perfection and communalism. Property and work were to be shared, so that the interests of one were the interests of the whole group. The small unit of a family became the larger unit of the group.

The Oneida Community Mansion House in Upstate New York was built in phases from 1848 to 1880 and served for the social practices of a 300 person commune living as one family. They began canning fruit and vegetables for market. They became skilled in the manufacture of
chains and traps eventually learning how to make knives, forks and spoons.

Back of the Oneida FactoryFor 33 years under the leadership of John Humphrey Noyes, the religiously-based Perfectionist Community challenged contemporary social views on property ownership, gender roles, childrearing practices, monogamous marriage, and work. From their insistence on life-long learning and the realization of self in advancing the good of the whole, they developed a work ethic and an industriousness so strong it developed into one of the most impressive manufacturing companies of the 20th century. In 1880 the community disbanded and formed a joint stock company to be owned and operated by former members of the community and in the twentieth
century they changed its name to Oneida Ltd.

Oneida Factory in background with staff in the foregroundIn the late nineteenth century the company suffered from the depression of the times, but in January 1894 the son of the founder rejoined the company. His experience outside in other businesses allowed him to see weaknesses in the company. He won a proxy fight and gained control of the company and head of the Niagara Falls plant. By the age of thirty he had gained control of the entire company, so that by 1899 the company announced the largest profits in its history and paid shareholders a dividend of seven percent.

Oneida factory staff making a spoon

Oneida factory staff making a spoon

As local criticism of the communal nature of the group had grown, the leader chose to purchase a small property in Ontario. In 1926 they established the Oneida Silversmith factory in Niagara Falls. They built offices and their factory on a large tract of land along the north side of Clifton
Hill on Ellen Avenue.

Oneida Factory baseball teamIn 1963 the Oneida Community Development Company (Canada) built a tower and stores, as a complex facing Falls Avenue. An observation Tower 104 meters tall was built on the site of the factory. It was capped by a two storey observation deck capable of holding 1,500 people with a time. A two storey commercial plaza was built at its base.

Oneida Tower

Oneida Tower

In 1974, the Oneida Tower became known as the Niagara Tower and Plaza Limited. In 1985, this tower would become the center piece of the Maple Leaf Village Shopping Complex under the name of “Kodak Tower”. 

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