Stories That Move You

ION Kitchener City Hall: Stitch by Stitch

Forsyth Shirt Co. Sewing Room

MC60 P1019 John Forsyth Shirt Co. Sewing Room (KPL Collection)

When ION pulls into the Kitchener City Hall station, can you hear the hum of the sewing machines?

This stop has history sewn into its location. The John Forsyth Shirt Company occupied the corner of Duke and Young Streets, across from the present location of Kitchener City Hall. Flooded with sunlight, the sewing room pictured above, likely in the mid 1940s, was claimed to be “Canada’s longest sewing room.” In 1937, an art deco addition to the factory was built facing Duke Street.

Founded in 1903 by John Derby Claude (J.D.C.) Forsyth, the John Forsyth Shirt Company took over the former Star White Wear factory building at 31 Young Street, Kitchener in 1917. Additional factories were located in Waterloo and St. Mary’s, Ontario. Under Forsyth’s management, branch offices were opened across Canada and in Manchester, England. By 1956, the Forsyth Co. had 600 and grew to 800 employees in the Waterloo Region by the mid-1960s.

Over the course of its life, the Forsyth company produced dress shirts, shirts with detachable collars, pyjamas, underwear, scarves and ties.

Beloved founder and owner, J.D.C. Forsyth, died on 23 June 1948.

In 1973, the company was sold to Dylex Ltd. of Toronto. After several ownership changes, the Kitchener plant was closed in 1992 and employees were moved to a Cambridge plant. After failed bids to find a buyer, the building fell into disrepair and was demolished in 2006.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 11 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.

Clothing, Displays

Pondering the “Juvenile Collar Question”

Juvenile Collar Question

The Juvenile Collar Question booklet by Williams, Greene and Rome

With the late arrival of spring, we’ve been thinking about fashion in the GSR lately. When liberated from winter outerwear, boots and sweaters, we gravitate towards summer clothing – often neglecting to realize that spring mornings can be quite cool and wet.

As for me, I’ve been pondering the “Juvenile Collar Question” posed by Berlin’s Williams, Greene and Rome shirt makers. I came across this booklet in the collection and have been enchanted by the idea that children’s collars could actually be a pressing fashion issue. Popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, children’s collars served to dress up an outfit and allowed for expression of style or status. Williams, Green and Rome, a clothing factory in Berlin, produced this booklet to advertise its products.

Children's collar styles - Williams, Greene and Rome

Collar styles for children from the Williams, Greene and Rome Co. of Berlin, ON

I was also fascinated by the multitude of traditional collar styles available for boys in their catalogue.

Collar styles - Williams, Greene and Rome

Collar styles for boys from Williams, Greene and Rome, Berlin, ON

Be sure to stop by the GSR to see our “Spring into Fashion” display. Many thanks go to my colleague, Karen, for her creative interpretation of Kitchener style!

Cheers, Karen