The Globe File, Port Hope Ontario

The former Globe File Manufacturing Company was established on Cavan Street in Port Hope Ontario in 1888 on the former Beamish Mill property by Frederick Outram. Research indicates that Black Diamond files were manufactured on this site as early as 1853. Frederick was born in England to George Outram and Sarah Hunt on September 4, 1846. The family moved to Montreal where George and his brother were employed for the Kinmonds file manufacturers before establishing their own firm. In 1882 Outram went into a partnership with his father in a Montreal metal file manufacturing company. While here he developed specifications and received a patent number for a file cutting machine. With this patent Frederick decided to move his file factory to Ontario.

After re-locating several times, Outram discovered great potential in Port Hope and decided to open the Globe File Manufacturing on the banks of the Ganaraska River on the old Beamish Mill site. Francis Beamish had purchased this site with a ‘water power’ from the Smith estate, a water power is the right to water from a source, the Ganaraska River to drive machinery and turbines etc. that must be possessed to build a mill. A large three story flouring mill was erected and later a plaster mill at the Cavan and Bedford Streets site near todays Nicholson File building. Sometime after the demise of the Beamish mills, electric power was introduced in Port Hope. The first electrical generating plant was located in W. J. Wallace’s Machine shop (now 5 Cavan Street)   and powered lights in the downtown area by a steam engine from the shops boiler. By 1885 more electricity was required which led to the creation of the Port Hope Light and Power Company with some smaller contracts between the town, the Seymour Power Company and Central Ontario Power. When even more power was needed for expansion in the town the plant was moved to the vacant Beamish Mill site.

Rapid growth of power needs at the end of the 19th century meant another relocation of the electric company. Dr. Robert Corbett (of 86 John Street) purchased the former Molson Mill property where a much larger dam could be constructed. This new dam was twice washed away by floods and endured a massive fire in 1908. In 1911 the Port Hope Electric Light and Power Company was sold to the Seymour Power Company. With the Globe File Manufacturing Company looking for a site in Port Hope, the town agreed to give them the property known as the Beamish Mill property, tax exemption for 10 years, and $400 for repairs, providing Messrs. Outram and son would erect certain buildings, remain in operation for 10 years and employ a certain number of men for that period. The property was purchased by the town for $7,000, a great deal indeed.

The Globe File building had a 100 horsepower head of water from the Ganaraska River to propel their machinery. The plant was one of the largest in Canada but the competition was very keen as there was many small manufacturers of files at the time. The buildings were built of substantial red brick. The main factory was divided into four divisions called the cutting room, the tempering and forging rooms, the grinding room and the electric light room. The second floor was devoted to a packing and store room and the business office. As eleven different brands of files are manufactured here, it was necessary that a large stock of labels for boxes be carried, one half a million in stock at any time. In a large room on the second floor the files are packed into boxes of dozens and half dozens ready to ship. A room on the main floor of the building was used to store the raw materials, steel etc. which enter into the manufacturing of files, and in this room were stored about 50 tons of steel, numerous pulleys, coal, oil etc.

The raw material in long rods of steel is carried from this wing to the shearing machine which cuts the metal into required lengths for the production of files. This machine is power driven and will cut in two the heaviest pieces of steel. The trip hammer is the next process after shearing. This factory had five hammers with a striking capacity of 1,000 pounds each blow down to ten pounds. These five hammers strike about 1,500 blows a minute and are taken care of by three men. The hammer was used to forge the tangs and points of the files into shape. Next comes the annealing furnace, because the raw material is too hard to be fashioned into files by cutting machines, an annealing process has to be taken which consists of heating the files red hot in the annealing furnace, which takes three days to cool off. This gradual cooling has the effect of softening the steel to allow it being cut and ground.

From this furnace the files are taken to the grinding room with three large grindstones. After the hammer has forged the steel into the shape of a file, about 100 of them are placed into a case, which was constructed as to automatically bring them against the grindstone, and as it turns the stone grinds the rough steel and polishes it off smoothly. After the grinder the pieces of steel were submitted to a further process of polishing by emery wheels, called stripping. Now comes the cutting which is the process by which the rough sides and edges are made. The files are placed upon a movable bed, which when the machine is started, is drawn forward at the rate of about three feet a minute, the teeth being cut by a blow from a chisel in the end of the ram. The chisels are made as sharp as razors, and are changed every two or three files that are cut. The cutting machine strikes about 2,500 cuts a minute. After the files are cut they are carried to the tempering furnace, where they are heated red-hot in boiling lead, they are then dipped in strong salt brine 30 degree density. A thorough cleaning with oil of vitriol and sand is next applied, after which the files are placed in lime water to keep them from rusting. The files were then tested, oiled and packed in boxes ready for shipment.

The Globe File Manufacturing Company founder Frederick Outram lived his time in Port Hope on Brown Street. He died in September 1922, just days before his 76th birthday. He and most of the Outram family are buried in Union Cemetery, Port Hope.

In 1901, the Globe File Manufacturing Company merged with the Nicholson File Company, a Rhode Island based manufacturer wanting to expand its operation. The Nicholson File Company was founded in 1834 by William Thomas Nicholson and existed until 1972 when the company was bought out by Cooper Tools.   In 1955 Nicholson File moved from Cavan Street to a new, modern building on Peter Street, Port Hope leaving the Cavan Street building vacant. The Peter Street Nicholson File plant remained active until 1994 when thanks to NAFTA it moved its operation to Mexico.

By 1985, the vacant Cavan street buildings were officially declared a heritage site. The empty building was once considered a possible home for the Canadian Canoe Museum (now located in Peterborough).  The building has had many tenants over the years, in 1988 the tenant faced a major problem with vandals and it is said he had to replace the glass in most of the buildings windows three times while he was at the site. In 2012 the buildings new tenant had plans to turn the 75,000 sq. ft. building into a condominium/shopping/arts complex. A few years ago the derelict building was raided and a marijuana ‘grow-op’ was discovered on the second floor containing 1800 plants with a street value of nearly two million dollars The person arrested at the scene was a tenant of the building. It was later revealed he had a license to grow medical marijuana…but not in that quantity! Hopefully there is still time for someone to come forward and return this derelict building back to its former glory.

Regards, Ranger

10 comments

  1. I have a set of globe “made in canada” files. They are apparwntly very very old bit nobody seems to know about them or how well they where built!

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    1. Cory, thanks for comment. It must be great to own a set of Globe files, such a famous name. There should be more history available somewhere on this product.
      Ranger

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  2. Stephanie · · Reply

    What were these files used for, in particular? Just general files found In a typical tool shed? To file horses hooves?
    It’s a shame it sits empty as it would be wonderful to be repurposed as some kind of cultural Center.

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    1. Stephanie, thanks for your comment. These files were for many uses, and yes to file horse hooves. The building still sits empty. Many uses have been explored over the years with no success.
      Ranger

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  3. Is there any information you could give about the factory in the 1800’s? When it first became a company for global files…..And what you believe was there before the company…Thanks

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    1. Grace, thanks for your comment. As early as 1853 is said the Black Diamond File Company produced files here. The Beamish Mill was located here operated by Francis Beamish and later the Globe File Factory owned by Frederick Outram. The present (Globe) building has now been vacant for many years. Future use?
      Ranger.

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  4. what other uses were the files used for????????

    thanks

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    1. Grace, there was eleven types of files produced at the Globe File Co. The files were used for many uses world wide, to many to list.
      Ranger.

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  5. Hello, enjoyed the description of the manufacturing process.i found an old ad for a company named Port Hope files and i was wondering if the company was related to the Globe File company?

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    1. Gerald, great comment. There was a small file works in Port Hope as early as 1853, before the Black Diamond and later the Globe opened in 1888. This may have been the Port Hope File. As near as I can find out, it was not related to the later file companies. However, it must be an interesting ad.
      Ranger.

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