We Made Hartney

We Made Hartney


Sash and Door Manufacturter Alex Mains



An interior of a sash and door factory, suggesting the working conditions that likely attended the Mains Brothers’ operation.

ALEX MAINS CAME TO THE TOWN early in 1900, and assured that the town would have a second railway before the year’s end to make possible the procuring of rough lumber at reasonable rates. He set up a small planing mill on the corner of Queen Street and Spencer Avenue to manufacture window sashes and doors.

After three successful years in his modest workshop, Alex Mains was joined by his brother Thomas. They moved the Mains workshop and wood yard to property south of the CNR yards and erected there a large planing mill. Alex Mains built a fine new house beside the factory and Thomas Mains took over the former Alex Mains house.

An illustrated price list, printed for the Mains Company in February 1903 advertised “window-sash, brackets, scroll work, screen doors and windows, turned articles and hardwood finishing of special designs, of as good quality and at cheaper prices than the same articles in Brandon or Winnipeg.”

A steam engine operated the factory and the citizens were made aware of its existence by a loud whistle, morning, noon and at six o’clock each day.

In 1904 Alex Mains reorganized his business as a joint stock company and offered $10,000 worth of stock at par. It was soon sold. The company thereafter was known as “The Hartney Manufacturing Company.” It employed, besides workmen, a full-time bookkeeper, Arthur Goad, whose uncle, Rev. Pascoe Goad was at the time the Methodist minister in the town.

The company seemed prosperous until 1906. That year the crops were poor and building was at a standstill throughout the prairies. By that time, too, most of the early pioneers’ farm buildings had been replaced by better structures and building prospects were not bright. To add to the company’s difficulties the dry season made it difficult to secure sufficient water for steam power at the factory. The machinery was shut down. At a meeting of the shareholders it was decided to discontinue the manufacture of wooden articles and to confine the business of the company to the sale of lumber supplies.

The Mains brothers left Hartney when the factory closed. The Mains house beside the factory was rented by Thomas Ramsay in 1912. The factory building was bought by William Witt and moved to his farm where it was used as a barn. Nothing remained of the sash and door factory but a memory.

Adapted from The Mere Living, p. 171.

A Sash and Door Factory

Even though the operation only lasted six years, the Mains brothers’ sash and door company was a vital aspect of local industry, ensuring that many buildings in town and in the countryside had access to locally crafted windows and doors. It must be assumed that many are still in place. There are no accounts of the plant’s operations, but surely it was very much like that described in various other accounts of similar sash and door outfits:

“The plant was almost hidden by the great piles of lumber, up to thirty feet high. Its location was an advantage in that the principle raw material was made at its doorstep. A very large operation required 4 million feet of lumber and produced 50,000 doors, 90,000 windows and 18,750 blinds.

In a venetian blind-making department of the works all materials used in this department were imported direct by the firm, including timber for the lathes, boxwood bobbins, hurdles, and wheels for adjusting the cords, as well as the tape cords, and paint needed. After the laths were cut to size they were thoroughly dried and seasoned so as to avoid all twisting and shrinking. They then passed through the lath morticing machines. The paint was specially mixed and prepared by the paint mixer used for the purpose. A beautiful machine was used for painting the laths, which turned them out with the paint evenly spread on all parts. The rails were morticed likewise by a special machine. When all the parts were ready for putting together a beautiful adjustment was used for the purpose. It consisted of a movable frame, which could be raised or lowered at will on the principle of the blind.”


View of a typical lumber operation.

Our Heritage  People / We Made Hartney