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    Decent Furniture for Decent People:

    The Production and Consumption of Jacques & Hay

    Furniture in Nineteenth-Century Canada

    by

    Denise Jacques

  • Decent Furniture for Decent People:

    The Production and Consumption of Jacques & Hay Furniture in Nineteenth-

    Century Canada

    by

    Denise Jacques

    Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in partial

    fulfillment to the requirements for the PhD. degree in History.

    University of Ottawa

    © 2010, Denise Jacques © Denise Jacques, Ottawa, Canada, 2010

  • ii

    Abstract

    Decent Furniture for Decent People:

    The Production and Consumption of Jacques & Hay Furniture in Nineteenth-

    Century Canada

    Denise Jacques Béatrice Craig

    2010

    The Canadian firm of Jacques & Hay was in business for fifty years, during

    which the company, if The Globe (Toronto) is to be believed, furnished the Province

    of Canada. This was a stunning and largely undocumented success. Jacques & Hay

    was one of the largest employers in the province and dominated the cabinet-making

    trade from 1835 to 1885. In 1871, Jacques & Hay employed 430 men and 50 women

    in a vertically-integrated operation that included a sawmill, two factories and a

    showroom. Jacques & Hay produced abundant furniture at reasonable prices. The

    availability of such household furnishings greatly enhanced domestic life in

    nineteenth-century Canada, providing scope for a more elaborate social life and

    allowing more people to achieve a greater sense of comfort and decency in their living

    arrangements. In addition, Jacques & Hay created the wood interiors for St. James’

    Cathedral, the Toronto Normal School, University College and Osgoode Hall. The

    company also supplied the majority of the furnishings for Rideau Hall, Ottawa and

    Government House, Toronto. While the story of the Jacques & Hay firm throws light

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    on the opportunities Victorian craftsmen had to become manufacturers, it also

    explains the company’s role in making furniture more accessible and contributing to

    nineteenth-century notions of progress and civility.

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    Table of Contents

    Abstract ii

    Chapter 1 Introduction 1

    I. New men, new money, new social order 5

    II. Consumption and material history 25

    Chapter 2 Jacques & Hay, Cabinet-Makers, 1835-1885 48

    I. Introduction 48

    II. The Partners 50

    III. From Commissioned Work to Mass Production 72

    A. The Carriage Trade 72

    B. Mass Production of “Cottage Furniture” 75

    IV. Public Contracts 79

    Chapter 3 The Factories 89

    I. Introduction 89

    II. The Toronto Factories 90

    A. On Front Street 90

    B. Working Conditions: Tradition in the Midst of Modernity 101

    B.1. Introduction 101

    B.2 Apprentices 106

    B.3 The Use of Technology and the Persistence of Skills 109

    B.4 Upward Mobility 114

    B.5 Influence 121

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    III. The New Lowell Mills 123

    A. Introduction 123

    B. The New Lowell Factory 124

    C. Paternalism 126

    D. Relatives and Agents 131

    Chapter 4 Schumpeterian Entrepreneurs? 138

    Chapter 5 Decent Furniture for Decent People 167

    I. Introduction 167

    II. The Furniture 171

    III. Furniture, Sociability and Respectability 182

    Chapter 6 Ornamental Furniture for the Wealthy and Tasteful 195

    I. Introduction 195

    II. Jacques & Hay’s Affluent Consumers 198

    III. Spadina 211

    IV. Fictional Consumers 224

    V. A Canadian Mode of Consumption 226

    Chapter 7 Building “the Pillars upon which Civilization and Order Rest” 236

    I. Introduction 236

    II. St. James Cathedral, 1849-1853 248

    III. The Normal and Model School, 1851-1852 250

    IV. University College, 1856-1859 252

    V. Osgoode Hall, 1857-1860 255

    VI. The Mechanics’ Institute Building, 1854-1861 256

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    Chapter 8 Conclusion 259

    Bibliography 270

    Appendix: Illustrations A-1

  • 1

    Chapter One

    Introduction

    The Toronto Reference Library has an impressive skyline portrait of the developing

    city painted by the artist Arthur Cox in the early 1870s.1 While this is a deliberately sunny

    study, emphasizing the sweep of Toronto’s growth, it is also reasonably accurate. Directly

    opposite the impressive bulk of the first Union Station, there is a confident-looking factory

    with a large and cheerful Red Ensign flag flapping over its cupola. This was the Robert Hay

    and Co. furniture factory, formerly Jacques & Hay, that was in business from 1835 to 1885.

    Through hard work and enterprise, cabinet-makers John Jacques and Robert Hay turned their

    original shop in colonial Toronto into a factory so successful that no home in Upper Canada,

    according to the Globe, seemed to have been without an article of their manufacture.2

    (Figures 1 and 2.) Just eleven years after the final closing of the Jacques & Hay furniture

    factory, a Toronto Globe editorialist in 1896 waxed nostalgically about the days when “a

    great furniture factory was running in this city,” and “St. John’s Ward was full of the

    comfortable homes of its workmen.”3

    1 The library has been unable to identify the precise dates and offers either 1873 or

    1875. The painting’s reference number is JRR 4693.

    Slightly later, by 1904, another leading Toronto paper,

    2 The Globe (Toronto), 15 February 1862. 3 The Globe (Toronto), 20 June 1896. St. John’s was in the process of becoming a

    well-known slum, famous in local culture as the “The Ward” or sometimes the “Noble Ward.”

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    the Toronto Daily Star, described the two founding partners as men of “sterling character,”

    and their business as “synonymous for honest goods and fair dealing.”4

    Using the resources of the Canadian forest, Jacques & Hay remained in business for

    fifty years, while the company, if the Globe is to be somewhat credited, supplied large

    quantities of furniture to the Canadian consuming public. This was a stunning and largely

    undocumented success. What is known is that Jacques & Hay was one of the largest

    employers in Upper Canada and dominated the cabinet-making and interior decoration trade

    from 1835 to1885. In 1871, Jacques & Hay employed 430 men and 50 women in a

    vertically-integrated operation, that included a sawmill, two factories and a showroom.5 In

    addition to being the largest Victorian furniture manufacturer in Canada, Jacques and Hay

    created the wood interiors for St. James’ Cathedral, the Toronto Normal School, University

    College, and Osgoode Hall.6

    4 W. B. Rogers, “The Furniture Trade and its Development in Canada,” The Toronto

    Daily Star, 2 July 1904.

    The company also supplied many of the furnishings for Rideau

    Hall, Ottawa and Government House, Toronto. The factory, located where Toronto’s Union

    Station is now situated, would ultimately occupy six acres of prime commercial real estate

    5 Library and Archives Canada, Record Group 31, series 1, Manuscript Census 1871,

    schedule 6 [industrial establishments] microfilm, district no. 46, p. 7. Technically, the firm has become the Robert Hay and Co. by 1870, as Hay bought out Jacques upon his retirement and took two long-time employees as junior partners. By the mid-1870s, some records indicated that Hay employed in excess of 500 men and women.

    6 When referring to individuals, Jacques and Hay will be used; when indicating the company, Jacques & Hay will be employed. Sometimes the distinction between the two is not always clear and the local press usually used “Jacques & Hay.”

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    (or ten acres, according to another source) with commanding access to the primary

    transportation routes by rail and water. 7

    (Figures 3 and 4.)

    The men and women of Jacques & Hay produced abundant furniture at reasonable

    prices. The availability of such household furnishings greatly enhanced domestic life in the

    Canadian nineteenth century by improving levels of comfort and providing scope for more

    elaborate social rituals. The furniture sold well and was distributed widely, and this may

    have reflected a heightened attraction to domesticity, comfort, entertaining and

    respectability, made possible by permitting more people to achieve a greater sense of

    comfort and decency in their living arrangements.

    As handsome houses full of Jacques & Hay’s better furniture and modest frame

    houses furnished with inexpensive painted furniture sets were sign-posts of social change,

    the company’s history then presents evidence about at least fifty years of nineteenth-century

    social life. On on