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Manufacturers Index - Thomas Northey
Last Modified: Feb 28 2020 11:12AM by Jeff_Joslin
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Between at least 1862 and 1878, Thomas Northey was manufacturing steam engines and boilers in Hamilton. In 1876 he patented a new steam pump, which soon became his primary product. In 1878 he relocated to Toronto and was operating as Northey & Co.; that same year Northey had patented a steam pump which became their main product. By 1885 his son, John Pell Northey, was operating the business, employing 25 to 50 workers and two traveling salesmen.

In about 1900 John Northey met Robert Hope-Jones, inventor of the Wurlitzer, and realized that Hope-Jones' "diaphone horn and apparently realized that the horn's piercing sound was suitable for a foghorn. He purchased the right to patent Hope-Jones' invention in Canada, but before he did so he made significant improvements to make the horn more efficient. In 1903 he established the Diaphone Signal Co. to manufacture his patent fog horn, which proved to be spectacularly successful. The horn briefly produced a distinctive lower tone as the sound ended; that brief low note carried well through fog, and John's son Rodney redesigned the horn to emphasize that note and make it last longer. This modified two-tone foghorn became the standard for light-houses in Canada and the USA. Rodney would own and operated the Diaphone Signal Co, until 1932 when he sold the business.

Information Sources

  • September 1862 List of Prizes awarded in Arts and Manufactures at the Provincial Exhibition in Toronto, includes "Model of Improved Steam Engine, for Working Steam Expansively, Thomas Northey, Hamilton, Diploma and $2."
  • Thomas Northey was granted an 1862 Upper Canada patent for an "improved expansion steam engine".
  • 1885 book History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario.
    NORTHEY & Co., pump manufacturers, proprietors and sole makers of “ Northey’s Patent Steam Pump," patented in 1878. Thomas Northey first established his business in Hamilton and removed it to Toronto in 1878. John P. Northey, the son of the patentee, carries on business at the present time, and employs from twenty-five to fifty hands and two travellers. The works are situated at the corner of Front and Parliament Streets.
    Elsewhere in the same book:
    THOMAS NORTHEY, of the firm of Northey & Co., manufacturers of steam-pumps, was born in Cornwall, England, in 1816, being the eldest of a family of five sons and five daughters born to George and Mary (Black) Northey. About 1826, he came to Canada with his parents, who settled on Prince Edward Island, where they remained for six years. Then he went to Pittsburg, Pa., where he learned the trade of a mechanical engineer. In 1838, the term of his apprenticeship having expired, he returned to Canada, and after working ten years at Wellington Square and Simcoe located at Hamilton, where, until 1880, he was engaged in building stationary steam-engines and subsequently in making steam-pumps. In 1882, he removed to Toronto, where, at the corner of Front and Parliament Streets, the firm of which he is a member is doing a prosperous business. In 1876, he patented a steam-pump, which has proved a great success. In 1846, he married Matilda Williams, daughter of Mr. Williams, of Seneca township, who subsequently died. In 1856, he married Julia Henrietta Pell, daughter of E. Pell. Mr. Northey’s parents died in Hamilton; he has three brothers living, one in Melbourne, Australia, and two in Hamilton. He is a Conservative in politics.
  • From 1892 Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, is a listing of new corporations.
    "The Northey Manufacturing Company" (Limited).
    Incorporated 8th December, 1891 — — — Amount of capital stock, $100,000.
    Number of shares, 1,000.—Amount of each share, $100.
    Corporate Members:—John Pell Northey, manufacturer; John Leys, Merchant; Arthur Brindley Lee, merchant; Arthur Burdett Lee, accountant, and Harry Sutton Pell, insurance inspector, all of Toronto, Ontario.
    First or Provisional Directors:—John Pell Northey, John Leys, Arthur Brindley Lee, Arthur Burdett Lee and Harry Sutton Pell.
    Chief Place of Business:—City of Toronto, Ont.
    Objects of the Company:—To manufacture and deal in pumps, engines, boilers and machinery, and all other articles made wholly or in part of iron or other metals, and to deal in iron and other metals throughout the Dominion of Canada.
  • 1915-02-06 Electric Railway Journal has an ad for "The Simmen System / P. J. Simmen, Bufalo / The Northey-Simmen Signal Co., Ltd. Toronto / Simmen Automatic Railway Signal Co. Buffalo". "Location of trains automatically displayed direct to dispatcher... Continuous display of signals in motorman's cab... Direct communication from dispatcher to motorman... Signal indications automatically interlocked against error".
  • The 2007 book, Craft Capitalism: Craftworkers and Early Industrialization in Hamilton, Ontario 1840-1872, by Robert B. Kristofferson, reports that the 1871 Census lists, among Hamilton industrial establishments, T. F. Northey, boiler/engine manufacturer, employing 31 hands.