Manufacturer Notes: Foster Brothers

The record of this glass house begins with a listing in the Canada Directory for 1857-1858. Under F in the St. John section we find "Foster Brothers, glass manufacturers, Albert St.

The second source of information was supplied by Mr. Davies, of the Wallaceburg branch of the Dominion Glass Company Limited. In his search for information relative to glass-making in Canada, Mr. Davies had written to the late Mr. "Joe" Jones, glass blower. Mr. Jones replied with a letter describing the beginnings of successful glass
manufacture in the Province of Quebec.

The following is a quotation for Mr. Jones' letter:

It was the early part of December 1879 that my Father moved from Glassboro, N.J. to St. Johns, Que. I was then 15 years old, and of course went to work in the factory.  It was at that time operated by the Yuile Bros. (William and David) who had taken over the plant from a person by name Charles Foster who built the tank (?), and it was known
as the Foster Tank, and consisted of nine ring holes. There were four cast ring shops, two insulator presses (the old hand press style), and three glory hole shops, of which I carried in on two of them. It was there I met some blowers who at some time had worked at Hudson, and I believe they learned to blow there as their relatives, the old folks,
were on farms there, and these men were the descendants. The plant at St. Johns was managed by a man by name William Borland, and the office clerk was an Ed. Sawyer. I must say two nice fellows and all liked them. The boss packer was a man by name John Farnham. The working staff was from the States, South Jersey; and a couple who at one time Worked at Hudson.

Mr. Jones's letter continues with much data relative to Montreal glass houses, but one further mention of St. Johns is of importance: "At St. Johns it (the Company) was known as the Excelsior Glass Company."

Stevens, Gerald; Early Canadian Glass (Toronto, Ryerson Press, 1961)

This company was one in the chain of companies that became the present day Dominion Glass Company. It represents a series of name changes under the ownership of the Yuile brothers, who had taken over the Foster Bros. Glass Co. shortly after it was founded, changed the name to St. Johns Glass Co. in 1875, and to Excelsior in 1878. During 1880 they moved the plant to nearby Montreal.

Toulouse, Julian Harrison; Bottle Makers And Their Marks (Camden, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1971)

The Excelsior Glass Company, St. Johns, Quebec (1879 - 1880)

Initially the Yuile Family immigrated from Helensburg, Scotland to Ingersoll, Ontario in 1857. In the 1870s the family relocated to Montreal to set up an office and warehouse when the brothers became involved in the take over of the bankrupt St. Johns Glass Co., St. Johns, Quebec. After refurbishment, the company's plant was back in operation in 1879 under the name of Excelsior Glass Company. *

Vicki Cooper Bruce County Museum * Ref. Glass in Canada, page 67

James Macpherson, Post-master, St. Johns, Que., was born in Glengarry County, Ont., Oct. 17th, 1833.
Mr. Macpherson was the originator of the St. Johns Glass Co., which was established in 1875; also of the Stone Chinaware Co., started in 1873; director of St. Johns Shoe Co., and president of the Board of Trade of St. Johns for ten years.

Hopkins, J. Castell, The Canadian Album Encyclopedic Canada or The Progress of a Nation (Brantford, Bradley-Garretson Company Ltd, 1896)

In a case which went from St Johns to the Privy Council a note which had been left in the hands of the St. Johns glass works for over four years, until the parties to it had become bankrupt, and was then presented, was held to be presented in sufficient time, because it had been presented in the hands of the bank as collateral security.

Girouard, Desire; The Bills of Exchange Act, 1890 (Montreal, Jos. M. Valois, 1891)

In 1846 Smith and Wilkins made the major decision to move the company to St. Johns, Canada, the busy customs house port at the northern end of navigation from Lake Champlain with train connections to Montreal. In an agreement dated August 1, 1846, they entered into an equal partnership with four other parties (two from St. Johns and two from Montreal) for the term of five years, the purpose of which was “carrying on business at St. Johns CE [Canada East] of Manufacturing Glass, trading in Merchandize, or any other business . . . for the advantage of said company.” They each put in the sum of £1,000, equal to $4,000, giving them working capital of $20,000, with which the partners agreed to purchase from the former Smith and Wilkins Company “all their Real Estate, Tools, Horses, Wagons, etc.” for $15,000, and also all their stock of materials on hand, “Soda Ash, Wood, Clay etc. at their cash value or actual cost.” The glass was to be manufactured under the name and firm of Smith Wilkins and Co. and Fred Smith was to be manager, “devoting his whole time and attention to the business” at an annual salary of $1,200. Another partner, Charles Seymour, would manage the store. Smith had apparently moved to St. Johns, as the Canadian town was listed as his residence, and his only son, Charles, was born there the following March. William Wilkins remained in Burlington. A major reason the Burlington glass company decided to move north may have been the availability of wood for fuel. In 1843 the Chambly Canal had been built around the twelve miles of  rapids on the Richelieu River just above St. Johns, allowing a “seemingly endless outpouring of logs”77 to come from the Canadian forests, whereas in Vermont that same year the local lumber resources were considered exhausted.

Carlisle, L. Diana; Champlain Glass Company: Burlington’s First Manufacturing Enterprise (

No evidence of its closure exists until 1854 when Joseph Foster purchased the factory, which he refitted and opened as a bottle factory in 1855 or early 1856. It may be severe recession in Canada during the latter half of the 1840's affected the fledgling company, and the need for money as the recession continued may have prompted expansion of the company partnership 1849.

Pacey, Anthony: History of Window Glass Manufacture in Canada. Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology, Vol. 13, No. 3, 33-47. 1981.

Glass manufacturing took hold at this time. Glass was manufactured at Mallorytown, Upper Canada beginning in 1825. Window glass was produced at the Canada Glass Works in St. Jean, Canada East (Quebec) from 1845 to 1851 and the Ottawa Glass Works at Como in Ottawa, Canada West (Ontario) from 1847 to 1857. Glass was blown to form tubes which were cut lengthwise, unrolled and flattened. Glass bottles were produced starting in 1851 by the Ottawa factory and Foster Brothers Glass Works, in St. Jean starting in 1855. Other manufacturers included: the Canada Glass Works, Hudson, Que., 1864-1872 and the Hamilton Glass Company, Hamilton, Ont., 1865-96, which produced "green" glass and the St. Lawrence Glass Company, Montréal, 1867-73 and Burlington Glass Company of Hamilton, Ont., 1874-98 which produced "flint" or clear glass.

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