Samuel Lennard (1829-1892) came to Canada from Leicester, England and in 1878 founded the Dundas Knitting Mills. Samuel’s father had established a hosiery textile mill in Leister, England, where Samuel spent many years learning the stocking and knitting trade before he immigrated to Canada in 1870. Settling in Toronto, he established a hosiery business there, but with the low tariffs at that time, the business wasn’t viable, which made him decide to move to Philadelphia, the textile centre of the United States, in 1872.
By 1879, the MacDonald government greatly increased import tariffs on textile products, which prompted Samuel to return to Canada and settle in Dundas. Dundas was ideal for his purposes as he could obtain his raw material from the worsted spinning mill on Hatt St. and the cotton mill on Dundas St. He leased the Dundas Knitting Mills located in the basement of the former New Dundas Mill, built by Richard Hatt in 1804, located on the north-east corner of Ogilvie St and Governor’s Road. Henry Bickford, Samuel’s son-in-law, became a junior partner. Samuel’s three sons, Samuel, Henry and Frank, also worked in the business. In 1879 the business relocated to a building at the corner of King St. W. and John St. which had been built in 1847 by Charles Cowper for the manufacture of furniture and coffins. He immediately built a brick extension and a second story. At the time, stockings were made in a tubular shape with the toe being hand-sewn; Lennard developed and procured patents for stockings with both heel and toe. In 1884, a dye house was added.
The manufacture of hosiery was discontinued in about 1900 as the firm began specializing in ladies’, men’s, children’s, and infant’s underwear. During both the World Wars, they supplied knitted clothing for the military. In 1943, an additional expansion increased the total manufacturing space to 50,000 sq. ft. Between 180 and 200 workers were employed, roughly 85% of whom were women. Daily production averaged about 1,000 garments which included not only their own underwear brands, Lennard and Encore, but also garments carrying brand names for large Canadian department stores such as Eaton’s, Simpson’s Sears, Woodward’s and The Hudson’s Bay Company. In addition, they manufactured specialized underwear such as that designed by Dufold Inc. of Mohawk, New York which was a favourite of the Canadian ski and bobsled teams of 1964 and 1968.
In 1969, the business was sold to Shelway Holdings Ltd, and production ceased in 1973.