Valley City Manufacturing

In 1884, two Hamilton entrepreneurs, John D. Pennington and Edgar Baker, started manufacturing wooden boxes for a recently invented device: the telephone. They also made student desks for an expanding public school system. After six years, the firm outgrew its Hamilton location. The company moved to one of the old Dundas Foundry buildings at 64 Hatt Street.

Now in Dundas, the company began to make church pews and other furniture. It was then that they changed their name Valley City Seating Company. After 35 years in the business, John Pennington retired in 1929, turning the company over to his sons. However, they suffered great losses in the Great Depression and by 1937 they were bankrupt. Hamilton builder J.M. Pigott tried to help with contracts and money to no avail. By 1941, Pigott was the new owner. He persuaded then 28-year-old Nelson Crockford to take over as manager.

During the Second World War the company made wooden cases for the Bofors Anti-aircraft Gun.

Crockford bought the business in 1950, leading it through the postwar building boom. The school and university markets, on which Valley City had prospered for 20 years, went into serious decline in the 1970’s. The Company had to diversify again. Supplying custom woodwork to health care facilities provided significant volume. They developed innovative new laboratory products, such as the McMaster Sub Servo system. Nelson retired in 1978, turning the reigns over to his son Bob who had joined the firm three years earlier.

In 2004, the Crockford family sold 50 per cent of the business to three senior managers who took over the day-to-day operations. The company then switched to making laboratory furniture. The microbiology research revelation was gathering momentum and Valley City seized an early lead in providing high quality solutions medical research institutions including those in such universities as Yale, Harvard, Cornell and Princeton. Laboratory furniture represents 80% of their business with specialty seating and selected architectural woodwork for courthouses and libraries providing the balance. By this time, Valley City exported more than 90 per cent of its products to the United States.

At its peak in 1968, Valley City accounted for 200 local jobs and recorded sales of more than $30 million a year.

Sadly, competition, a high dollar and three years of recession in the United States forced the company to close its doors in 2012.

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