Newfoundland Margarine Company Limited

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The Newfoundland Butter Company founded by Sir John Chalker Crosbie[1] in 1925 was one of three[2] oleomargarine manufacturing firms established in Newfoundland during the early 20th century. Oleomargarine or margarine manufacturing plants which used beef fat and lard as main ingredients were established as an inexpensive alternative to butter manufacture which traditional used dairy products. With the expertise of George Ehlers, a Danish chemist, the Crosbie family had grown the firm into the largest margarine manufacturing firm in Newfoundland.[2] The Newfoundland Butter Company through acquisition and merger over the years with the other two manufacturing plants was eventually sold to Lever Brothers of England in 1938 and became a subsidiary of Lever Brothers of Canada.[3] To reflect the product of manufacture the company name was changed in 1950 to The Newfoundland Margarine Company Limited.[3]

History[edit]

Oleomargarine was invented by a French chemist in 1869, which uses a variety of soluble and insoluble ingredients which quickly became an alternative to butter. Soon after its invention it came under regulation, to protect the dairy industry where taxes were levied on yellow margarine and in some countries an outright ban on its sale.[2]

Newfoundland did not have a strong dairy industry at the turn of the 19th century and subsequently embraced the production of margarine. Then in 1883, under the direction of Robert A. Brehm, Harvey and Company started the first margarine manufacturing plant.[2] This plant used fish and seal oils in its production. Brehm had left Harvey and Company shortly thereafter and started a second manufacturing plant under the name Hearn and Company which he eventually renamed Brehm Manufacturing Company after the death of his partners. [2]

A third manufacturing plant was opened on LeMarchant Road, St. John’s by John Chalker Crosbie in 1925. They had hired the expertise of a Danish chemist George Ehlers in its manufacture. Within a short time this firm had taken a leading role in the production of margarine for the country. The product was sold in wooden tubs under the brands of Golden Spread and Silver Spread.

The original two companies, Harvey and Company and Brehm Manufacturing Company had amalgamated in 1932 and sold their plant to Lever Brothers of England under Unilever Limited in 1937.[2] Then in 1938 the Newfoundland Butter Company was sold to the Lever Brothers. Then only one plant remained in existence, The Newfoundland Butter Company on LeMarchant Road. The name was eventually changed to Newfoundland Margarine Company Limited in 1950.[3]

Margarine and Confederation[edit]

Margarine manufacture in Canada was banned in 1886 and remained so until 1948 except for the period from 1917 to 1923 when the ban was lifted because of shortages of butter during the war.[4] However, Newfoundland continued to manufacture margarine (the first plant had opened in 1883) and at times sold margarine to the rest of Canada at half the price of butter.[5] Before Newfoundland joined in confederation with the rest of Canada such had become a negotiation point which in turn led to Term 46 of the Newfoundland Act.[6] A stipulation within Term 46 prohibited the sale of margarine to the rest of Canada but allowed the manufacture and sale of margarine within Newfoundland as noted herein:

Unless the Parliament of Canada otherwise provides or unless the sale and manufacture in, and the interprovincial movement between, all provinces of Canada other than Newfoundland, of oleomargarine and margarine, is lawful under the laws of Canada, oleomargarine or margarine shall not be sent, shipped, brought, or carried from the Province of Newfoundland into any other province of Canada.
Text of the Term 46 Schedule Part 2 of British North America Act 1949 (c.22) as originally enacted or made within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database

After the joining of the Dominion of Newfoundland into confederation with Canada the Newfoundland Butter Company became the first margarine manufacturing plant in Canada.[4] Due to Term 46 regarding the sale of margarine it became unlawful to ship to any other province within Canada. This turn of events did not please everyone and it drew well known Newfoundland political satirist and poet Greg Power (1909 - 1997) to write the poem The Ballad of Oleo Margarine.

The Ballad of Oleo Margarine
I pray that I shall never know
A future without oleo,
Or live to see my little sons
Turn up their noses at my buns;
But there is one with soul so dead,
Who’d sacrifice our spread for bread,
And ban from every Newfie table
Our wholesome, rich, improved Green Label.
- excerpt from The Ballad of Oleo Margarine, Greg Power (1909 - 1997)

Closure and current status[edit]

Major brands produced by the Newfoundland Margarine Company were Good Luck and Eversweet.[3] Both of these products become staples of many households within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. In early 2000 Unilever made the announcement that it will be closing the manufacturing plant in St. John's. The plant on LeMarchant Road closed in 2004 and the building was demolished in 2007 to make way for a Shoppers Drug Mart.

See also[edit]

References[edit]