The Match Factory
Updated: 6 days ago
What does a match factory have to do with the Saanich Peninsula? That's exactly what we're trying to find out.
Though it can be frustrating, at the same time we love finding a "random" photo in the archives. Why did it come to us? What is the connection? What's the story?
Such was the case recently when we came across a photograph of a match factory. Unfortunately, at some point in the past it had been relegated to a "research" file, where we happened upon it by chance.
The Manson & Hendry Match Factory was located on what was then Work Street (now Bay Street) in Victoria, near the Point Ellice Bridge. Although it doesn't appear often in the old newspapers, the August 3rd 1882 edition of the Daily Colonist ran an extensive piece on it under the heading of "Local Industries." This article provides valuable information on the factory and its operations.
In fact, an 1887 edition of the Colonist added this information on the factory:
B.C. match factory, owned by Manson and Hen[d]ry, employ 6 men; monthly pay roll $300. The output during the past year amounted in value to $7,000. Colonist, Victoria B.C.Holiday Number 1886 (Ellis & Co. Publishers) BCAR # NW 971K D133c 1887.
It's also mentioned in a July 28, 1896 Colonist story giving results of a rowing race in the harbour. According to the Esquimalt Archives, the factory is the Columbia Steam match factory first listed in the 1889 city directory, Proprietor: Thomas Hendry. At the time, Hendry lived at 23 Work Street, (later re-numbered to 43 Work Street, and 413 Bay Street). The factory name was later simplified to Columbia Match Factory Co. Some references show it incorrectly as the Pendray factory, which was actually a soap works. Directories indicate there were two houses between the match factory's location on Work Street and the Rock Bay Bridge.
The match factory photograph came to the Saanich Pioneer Society on or before 1989, and appears to have been donated with images of a logging crew, ca. 1900, and an ox team "hauling logs for the match factory." The location for the logging-related photos isn't recorded. Despite our research, we haven't found the connection. Did the logs for the match factory come from the Saanich Peninsula? As happens so often in these sorts of cases, we still have questions. But we've enjoyed learning about, and sharing, the story of the match factory along the way.
After we published this story, historian Stephanie Ann Warner reached out to share more on the Match Factory:
The first mention of the match factory in the Victoria Daily Times was September 26, 1884, about the Victoria exhibition: "The Victoria Match Factory display some of their blocks of matches."
More from the Victoria Daily Times
"Victoria Industries", Victoria Daily Times, September 1888. The factory had been closed for a time but had re-opened. The sole proprietor is Thomas Hendry--this is the first mention in the Times of Thomas Hendry. The article gives much more graphic information than the Colonist one about the match making process, viz. "boiling dish of sulphur, whiting, glue, chloride of potash, sulphur and phosphorus".
Articles from July 11, 1913 and July 14, 1913 both mention phosphorous fires at the "old match factory". There is also another mention in the paper of a fire in 1916. (It seems to be the last time the factory appears. The building may have burned down.)
The article also mentions that the match wood comes from "White Pine from Comox," bringing into question our theory about the wood coming from the Saanich Peninsula.
Thomas Hendry's death notice says he was "a ship's carpenter". He seems to be the same person as the match factory proprietor, as his death certificate lists "413 Bay Street". His address is definitely vacant in 1913. Incidentally, the two fires occurred just a few weeks after his death in 1913.
To complicate matters somewhat, there appear to have been two Thomas Hendrys living in Victoria: one, the factory owner; the other, a clerk at the Hudson's Bay Store. The latter was reported as missing in San Francisco in November 1891. He was reportedly the brother of John Hendry of Royal City Planing Mills, (later BC Mills, connected to John Hendry / Trout Lake Park) in Vancouver.
Do you have any information to add? Let us know! A huge thank you to Esquimalt Archives and City of Victoria Archives for providing many of the news clippings as well as some information. We are also grateful to Stephanie for sharing her research with us so we could add it to the story.