All in the knitting

The Ballantyne company was at the corner of North Street and Ballantyne Avenue. It ran the full block on the north side of Ballantyne Avenue between North and Front Street.

 In 1905, Robert Mitchell Ballantyne (1859-1929) amalgamated three companies to form R. M. Ballantyne Ltd., manufacturers of knitted goods. The three companies were the Cardigan Overshoe Co., the Ballantyne Supply Co. and the Stratford Knitting Co.

R. M. Ballantyne Staff  Stratford-Perth Archives

Born in Stratford, to Mary and Thomas Ballantyne,  Robert Ballantyne was president of the company, which had capital stock of $200,000. The plant was described as an immense modern cement structure, fitted with the most improved knitting machinery for manufacturing all kinds of knitted goods, caps, toques, gloves, mittens, sweaters, sweater coats, jerseys, mufflers and hosiery, and employment was given to 152 expert operators, and six experienced salesmen.

1922 ads

The Ballantyne factory. In the background to the left (west) is the curved roof of  the city's longest-serving skating and hockey rink, now named the William Allman Arena. Stratford-Perth Archives

The company was said to use only the best yarns from the best-known mills, and the finished product was shipped in large consignments throughout the Dominion of Canada, where the Ballantyne name achieved an enviable reputation for both superiority of material and workmanship. The factory closed in 1950 due to low-priced product from the far east. That building later housed Scholar's Choice Ltd. and Harlequin Books. After a period of vacancy, it was demolished. There are apartment buildings on the site now. With notes from Stanford Dingman  

Robert Ballantyne died in 1929, but the knitting factory continued to operate until 1954. Peak employment at the plant reached 214 in 1944, with orders for the armed services during the Second World War. With knitting machines working more than 23 hours a day, Ballantyne workers produced 1,208,973 gloves. Their special orders included a rush was for sweaters in blue, black and orange for the Perth Regiment then stationed in Sneek, Holland.  Source: Wikipedia; Thomas Ballantyne (1829-1908) - Find a Grave Memorial 

For more information see Flashback Article R. M. Ballantyne Ltd. Built by a thread company  by Jaan Pill.

Hon. Thomas Ballantyne Sr.

The Ballantyne Family. The Ballantynes were among the leading pioneers in Perth County, and it was estimated in 1938 that there were some 700 descendants by that name. 

The Honourable Thomas Ballantyne, Sr., teacher, politician, cheese merchant and entrepreneur.

The best-known member of the family was the father of R.M. Ballantyne, the Honourable Thomas Ballantyne, (1829-1908) who after being defeated in 1871 by Andrew Monteith in the North Perth riding for a seat in the Ontario legislature by 171 votes, won the seat for South Perth in 1875 and was re-elected in four subsequent elections, as a liberal, thus remaining in the Ontario legislature until 1894 when he retired. In 1891, he became speaker of the legislature, the first speaker in the new parliament buildings. His role as speaker earned him the title Honourable

Earlier, Thomas had been a teacher in Downie Township from 1853 to 1961. He founded the first public library in Downie and served in different years as auditor, reeve and clerk on the county council. He championed the subsidizing of the construction of a railway from Wiarton through Stratford to Port Dover. By then he was in the cheese-making business and knew the advantages of the railway. To farmers in the south, he had chosen the interests of Stratford over those of the countryside, and people in Blanshard and Fullarton townships were to remain suspicious of his motives throughout his political career.  The railway, however, was of value not only to Stratford but to him personally. His support in 1872 for the railway link had coincided with his opening of a warehouse in Stratford and his first cheese selling trip to England.  

However, he had also earned a prominent position as a founder of the dairy industry in Perth. He became president of the dairymen's association in 1867 and made his fortune in cheese manufacturing. He built the Black Creek cheese factory in Downie Township, and both his cheese and his factory brought him fame.  He bought the factory outright in 1868 after selling his farm and procuring a government grant.  

Ballantyne would remain involved in the dairy industry all his life even during his political career.  He served continuously as an executive member of The Dairyman's Association: director, 1867–91; president, 1872–73, 1879, 1882, 1886–87, and 1891; and honorary president, 1892–1908. A strong advocate of agricultural education, he was responsible for the establishment of the western Ontario association’s travelling instructor service and was instrumental in the creation of the Dairy School at Tavistock in 1891. Similarly worried about maintaining skills, he pressed for the unionization of cheese-factory employees and for the creation of an apprenticeship system. His factory was the first to use the Babcock test, by which milk was graded and purchased according to its butterfat content. 

Cheese manufacturers were attracted to Black Creek from far and near to study his processes and emulate his methods. Ballantyne won the gold medal at the Centennial World Exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876, and Black Creek cheese was proclaimed the best cheese on the North American continent. It was said that Mr. Ballantyne's achievements were mainly responsible for the preference for Canadian cheddar cheese in England. In his native Scotland he promoted co-operative dairying. His name was put forward for a seat in the Canadian Senate, and he was approached about serving as Ontario's lieutenant-governor. He declined. 

Robert Sr. was chairman of the Stratford hospital board and he built the Mary Ballantyne nurses' residence as a memorial to his wife, Mary, who was mother of  seven sons, including Robert and Thomas Jr., and a daughter.  At the time of his death in 1908, Thomas Sr. was president of the British Mortgage Loan Company (later Victoria and Grey Trust) (see Albert and One Ontario Street) and vice-president of the Perth Mutual Fire Insurance Co.  Source: Biography – BALLANTYNE, THOMAS – Volume XIII (1901-1910) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography (; Thomas Ballantyne (1829-1908) - Find a Grave Memorial 

His sons, Robert Mitchell and Thomas Jr. joined their father as business partners in in the cheese-making business about 1890, and Robert, as mentioned, later founded the knitting company. He  then moved to Montreal in 1901 to become managing director of a large British produce exporting firm, of which he was later president. He became a prominent Montreal businessman and served on the Canada Food  Board during the First World War.  Thomas Jr. remained in the family cheese business in Stratford and became deeply involved in the life of the city. (see Cambria Street)

Thomas Ballantyne Jr., cheese merchant, City of Stratford treasurer. 

Thomas Ballantyne Jr., ( 1863-1938), cheese merchant and  City of Stratford treasurer was the son of Thomas (1829-1908) and Mary Ballantyne (1835-1902)..  Thomas Jr. remained in the family cheese business in Stratford and became deeply involved in the life of the city. which his father bought in 1868 would remain under proprietary family ownership until it was sold by Thomas Jr. in 1925.  He lived at 175 Cambria Street. (see Cambria Street). 

Thomas Ballantyne Junior was born June 22, 1863 in Downie Township, Perth County, where his parents had a farm, moved with them to Stratford when he was ten, and died in Stratford on January 5, 1938. 

Thomas’s grandparents, James Ballantyne, a weaver, and Elizabeth Whitson, emigrated with their son, Thomas Senior, and daughter from Peebles, Scotland to Canada West in 1852, settling on the farm of their eldest son in Downie Township, Perth County. Source: Stratford-Perth County Branch ACO (Architectural Conservancy of Ontario) | Historical Plaque PropertiesThomas Ballantyne (1863-1938) - Find a Grave Memorial 

The photo is taken from the photo of the 1933 Stratford City Council. It was posted on If you grew up in Stratford...FB.

A Festival house

A Festival house, 67 Ballantyne St., was provided by the Stratford Festival for actors in the 1950s. There were several of them around the city. Two actors are known to have stayed in this one: William Shatner and Barry Morse.

Barry Morse

Barry Morse is best known for playing: Lt. Philip Gerard, the relentless police detective in The Fugitive TV series in 1961. He was also director of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. He has had many stage, film and TV appearances over his career (see Barry Morse website).

Hayward Morse

Barry Morse's son, Hayward Morse, played a choir boy in the Festival's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1956 (see Falstaff Street). His major career began on CBC television, and included numerous stage performances in Canada and the United States. He made his USA television debut at the age of twelve in 1959 with Ingrid Bergman in the film The Turn of the Screw. This was the first teleplay to be broadcast in color on the NBC network.

Source:  Wikipedia Hayward Morse

Barry Morse 

Lorne Greene as Marcus Brutus, and William Shatner as Lucius in Julius Caesar, 1955. Bruce Swerdfager (see Elizabeth Street) reclines in the foreground.

William Shatner

William Shatner was a member of the Stratford Festival company for three years, beginning in 1954 when he played Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew, the Young Lord in Measure for Measure and a member of the chorus in Oedipus Rex.

In 1955, his roles included Lucius to Lorne Greene’s Brutus in Julius Caesar and Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice.  In 1956, he famously understudied Christopher Plummer and played Gloucester in Henry V and Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Shatner's first major film role came in 1958, when he played Alexi (also spelled Alexey) Karamazov opposite Yul Brynner in an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.  The rest is history.

 For his roles in Stratford see Shakespeare in Performance.

 *   He was awarded a Bronze Star in 2015 located at the Avon Theatre.

67 Ballantyne St. 2022