Oshawa’s job market has massively changed in the last hundred years. But what was life like for Oshawa job-seekers before General Motors dominated the workforce? Here are five Oshawa jobs you’ll never find on Workopolis today.
Hayfork Maker: A hundred years ago, agriculture was still big business in Oshawa. At R. Dillon and Son, workers not only made hayforks, but also litter and feed carriers, hay carriers, stalls, stanchions stable equipment, and speciality hardware. The factory was located on Mill Street, west of the Oshawa Creek.
Ladies Dress Maker: Have you ever noticed the refurbised loft-style Ontario Tech University building next to the Tribute Communities Centre? In 1903, the T. Eaton Company occupied these premises and employed 150 people, mostly women, to sew clothing. While Eaton’s is no longer around, this building is one of the few factories in the city from that era that still exist. Check it out at the corner of Charles and Athol Streets.
Carriage Builder: Admittedly, the demand for horse drawn carriages has gone WAY down since the automobile came on the scene. But the address of 80 Simcoe Street North was once the home of the Bambridge Carriage Shop, where the owner, William Bambridge, holds the dubious honour of reportedly remarking about R.S. McLaughlin (the same R.S. McLaughlin who went on to found General Motors in Canada and make millions of dollars), “That young whipper snapper won’t last long.”
Beaver Hat Milliner: In 1872, Barker and Rogerson of Toronto built a factory on Centre Street South dedicated to the making of high beaver-pelt hats. But hats would only be produced for a short time in this magnificent building, before Rogerson retired and Barker was unable to continue the business alone. In 1875, Masson Manufacturing took over the space, but, after changing hands several times, the factory was eventually torn down.
Piano Maker: The R.S. Williams Piano Works factory was located in downtown Oshawa, around where the Durham Region Police Service building is now located, and was the biggest company of its kind in the western world. The impressive factory on Richmond Street West lasted until the 1970s, when the building was demolished.
Image from the Thomas Bouckley Collection at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Explore online to find images of Oshawa’s history.