Entrepreneurs and Innovators - Part 4
On now until February 2, the Galt Museum and Archives presents an exhibit celebrating southwestern Alberta businesses, inventors and researchers. Entrepreneurs and Innovators features photos from the Galt Archives' holdings, and can be seen in the lower gallery, outside the archives. This blog post is the fourth in a series based on the exhibit.
This week's post features two southwestern Alberta businesses that grew from small concerns supplying local needs to larger industries providing products across the continent. Lethbridge Iron Works grew from a small shop supplying the Lethbridge coal industry into a large industrial facility providing iron castings to customers across North America. The Johnson Brothers began with a single sawmill and grew their business into a large milling facility based in Cowley, until market pressures from the softwood lumber embargo imposed by the United States forced its closure.
Lethbridge Iron Works
David Creighton started Lethbridge Iron Works in 1898 providing services to the growing coal industry located close to the coal mining operations in the coulees. George Davies took over management in 1921, a role that has been passed down through three generations of the Davies family. While its first products were for the coal industry, the company later developed its own Chinook line of farm implements as well as water control gates for the area’s expanding irrigation systems. In 1975, the company relocated to a new facility on a 7 acre lot in the industrial park, and has expanded 6 times since. Lethbridge Iron Works continues to be an industry leader as a jobbing iron foundry supplying iron castings to wide range of customers throughout the continent.
In 1925, Edwin and Bert Johnson traded a team of horses for their first sawmill, logging a substantial amount of Douglas fir, spruce and pines from the Porcupine Hills. By the 1940s and 1950s they operated at least three sawmills in various locations in the Porcupine Hills.In 1961 they relocated to Cowley and opened a facility on a 55-acre lot that sawed, planed and milled trees into lumber products. The company continued to operate its Cowley facility until 1981. Four years later, a group of entrepreneurs established Cowley Forest Products on an adjacent lot, eventually buying the Johnson Brothers name in a goodwill gesture. In 2002, the market pressures caused by the softwood lumber embargo imposed by the United States forced CFP/Johnson Brothers to close.
By Sven Andreassen
Sven Andreassen is a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia's Master of Archival Studies program. He volunteered in the Galt Archives in 2013 and curated this exhibit.