Gooderham and Worts

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Gooderham and Worts
Industry Distiller of alcoholic beverages
Fate Merged with Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. in 1926; sold to Allied Lyons in 1987
Founded 1869
Headquarters Toronto, Canada
Key people
James Worts, William Gooderham, Sr., James Gooderham Worts, George Horace Gooderham

Gooderham and Worts was a Canadian company that was once the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in Canada. Its former manufacturing facilities on the Toronto Waterfront are today the well known Distillery District.

The company was founded by James Worts and his brother-in-law William Gooderham. Worts had owned a mill in Suffolk, England, moved to Toronto in 1831 and established himself in the same business. He built a prominent windmill at the Toronto waterfront near the mouth of the Don River. The next year Gooderham joined him in Toronto and in the business. The business prospered, processing grain from Ontario farmers and then shipping it out via the port of Toronto. In 1834 Worts' wife, Elizabeth, died during childbirth. Two weeks later Worts killed himself by throwing himself into the windmill's well and drowning.

Gooderham served as the sole manager of the business until 1845 when he made Worts' eldest son, James Gooderham Worts, co-manager. With a surplus of wheat, in 1837 Gooderham expanded the company into brewing and distilling and soon this lucrative business became the firm's primary focus. In 1859 work began on a new distillery complex, the area that today is the Distillery District. It was built on the waterfront with easy access to Toronto's main train lines. In 1862, its first full year of production, the facility made some 700,000 imperial gallons of spirits. At that time it was a full quarter of all the spirits produced in Canada.

Gooderham and Worts

In the second half of the 19th century the firm rose to become one of Canada's most prominent industrial concerns. Under the control of William's son, George Gooderham, production increased to over 2 million gallons a year, half the production in Canada. The distillery itself expanded becoming one of Toronto's largest employers. As well as keeping interests in the milling and brewing trades, the company expanded into other ventures. It had a controlling interest in the Toronto and Nipissing Railway, one of the main lines that transported grain from the rural regions north of Toronto. In 1892 the company constructed the Gooderham Building, still a notable Toronto landmark, as its new headquarters.

By the end of the nineteenth century the company's growth began to slow. Beer and wine became more popular in Canada, reducing sales of whisky. The rise of the temperance movement also harmed the company with the Ontario Temperance Act of 1916 banning the sale of alcohol in the province. The company survived by exporting alcohol beyond Ontario, such as to Quebec, where a good portion would then make its way back to Ontario. The firm also relied on its other ventures, most notably the production of antifreeze, which was essential to the war effort and to the growing number of automobiles.

In 1923 the company was sold to Harry C. Hatch for $1.5 million. The company gained a large share of the United States market during prohibition, legally manufacturing it in Canada and then selling it to resellers who would smuggle it into the United States. In 1926 Hatch purchased Canada's second largest distiller, Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. the makers of Canadian Club. The new company was named Hiram Walker-Gooderham & Worts Ltd. It continued manufacturing spirits at the Toronto distillery, but production gradually declined. In 1987 the firm was sold to the British concern Allied Lyons. In 1990 the Gooderham and Worts distillery was closed, and was then converted into the Distillery District. The Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery is still in operation, now owned by Pernod Ricard.