The Manitoba Glass Works Historical Site is the site of the first glass container factory in Western Canada. It was built in 1906 by Joseph Keilback and his partners. Glass-blowers from Poland and the United States, aided by local labour, used silica sands to produce bottles for breweries and soft drink companies in Winnipeg, serving the prairie market. Semi-automatic machines were soon installed to increase production.
Winnipeg businessmen took over and enlarged the plant between 1909 and 1911. The new company expanded its production to include jars and medicine and ink bottles. At its peak it employed 350 workers. This historic site is situated at the south end of Glass Lake on First Street, which is slightly north of James Avenue East (also known as Cemetery Road). It is open to public viewing throughout the summer months. Archeologists have participated in public digs at various times. Ink bottles, glass pieces and tools have been found.
A growing building boom in the rapidly-expanding metropolis of Winnipeg during 1904 led to the founding of the Manitoba Pressed Brick Company Ltd., which was incorporated later that year. Though his name did not appear the principals of incorporation, the financial power behind the project was future Senator George H. Bradbury of Selkirk. The brick plant was to be associated with the future Manitoba Glass Manufacturing plant, for both used the same copious amounts of sand found in the Beausejour area. This was to be known as Silica brick, and at the time there were 50 such plants in operation in the United States, as well as one Ottawa plant which had then been in the business for two years. The process required no drying of clay, with the brick being hardened by steam. Construction of the Beausejour plant was begun in the spring of
Manitoba Pressed Brick Company Ltd.
Beausejour , Manitoba
1905, and it was projected that the operation would produce 15,000 to 20,000 bricks per day. All of Bradbury’s equipment was Canadian-made, while the plant was considered to be the largest brick plant ever built in Canada. Bradbury estimated that the brick would cost $12.00 per thousand, while the owners claimed it was the equal of imported brick put down at Winnipeg for $25 to $35 per thousand. A trial of the plant machinery was made in August 1905. Using a Berg Press, Bradbury’s bricks were a light grey in colour, but supposedly could be a made in any colour. The plant shipped its first carload to Winnipeg during late October 1905. In November a contingent of Winnipeg builders and contractors were given a tour of the plant, complete with a luncheon. A Beausejour house which highlighted the sand-lime brick was also inspected by this group. At the plant six different colours of brick were on display, including dark red, light red, buff and slate-coloured. During 1906, the brick plant was joined by the new glass factory. According to a 1913 R. G. Dun commercial report on this firm, it was still making money. Indeed, the firm had just signed a contract to supply the Town of Beausejour with electricity from its power house. All this was for naught, however, as the brick business wound down in the early months of World War I. In financial straits early in 1915, the firm’s Letters of Incorporation were accidently cancelled that summer, only to be reinstated a couple of months later. A March 1916 Fire Atlas sheet, however, showed the plant to be “Silent”, an insurance euphemism for “Closed”.
1 Manitoba Historical Branch, An Inventory of Brick Manufacturing sites in Manitoba 187-1953, Randy Rostecki
Published in 1981 this is a history of early settlement along the Brokenhead River.
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