The Products of Greenwich-Mohawk: The Adams Wagon Company

To celebrate the exploits of the companies that were once located on the Greenwich-Mohawk brownfield site in Brantford, a seven-part series will briefly introduceThe Adams Wagon Company each of these industries, their products and their lasting impact on Canada and the world market.

The history of Canada’s modern day transportation industry can trace its roots back, not to the internal combustion engine but to the horse. Many a blacksmith was responsible for the design and production of the vehicles that would move both people and freight in the early days of a young nation. So was the case in 1863 when Peter Adams began operation of his blacksmith shop in Paris, Ontario.

In response to the repeated requests of his customers to build wagons, Peter Adams ventured out into this market with a design of his own. The quality of his work was so good that the orders for wagons continued to grow as his reputation spread. By 1881 the business had outgrown the little blacksmith shop and a large factory was built in Paris to accommodate the steadily growing production that was, by that point, being shipped by the railcar load to the Canadian prairies.

Adams relocated again, and in 1901 began production out of an even larger factory that they constructed at 22 Mohawk St. in Brantford. This move was the result of the lobbying efforts of Brantford Mayor Harry Cockshutt who saw this as an opportunity to benefit city’s ever-growing industrial base and coordinate sales operations with the Cockshutt Plow Co., who were a major distributor of the Adams product line (farm wagons and heavy sleighs) through their own dealerships in Western Canada.

The sales arrangement was of such great benefit to both Adams and Cockshutt that in 1911 Harry Cockshutt purchased the Adams Wagon Company and it became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Cockshutt Plow Company. By 1929 Cockshutt merged Adams Wagon into its larger transportation division, under the name of Canada Carriage & Body Ltd. The automotive age was firmly underway by this point in time and the new realities of the industry dictated that the movement of goods on highways by large trucks was needed. This ongoing trend

would eventually take the company in the direction of semi-trailer production, for which it would become the industry leader in Canada.

From the modest beginnings of a blacksmith shop, Brantford would help shape Canada’s transportation history. For a more detailed history of the Adams Wagon Company,

Additional reading “From Wagon to Trailer: A History of Trailmobile Canada and its Forerunners,” by Michael Hand.