The “Canadian” Kelly Axe & Tool Company

1931 – 1965*
St. Catherines, Ontario

Kelly Axe & Tool Co Stamp. Made in Canada, St. Catherines

Thanks to the folks at Whiskey River Art & Trading for generously contributing the photos of the axe shown in this article. This axe was up for auction on November 25, 2023. See upcoming auctions.

In the early 1900s, American axe makers were starting to flood foreign markets with axes priced to undercut the local industry. As a result, countries like Australia started to raise heavy tariffs on imported axes to help protect their local economy.

The Kelly Axe & Tool Company of Canada, LTD was set up as a way to sell axes under the globally known Kelly name while bypassing the tariffs put on American axes by moving production to another commonwealth country (Canada).

American Fork & Hoe Company was able to pull this off after they purchased both the American Kelly Axe & Tool Company and the Canadian Welland Vale Manufacturing Company (St. Catherines, Ontario) in 1930.

Another interesting benefit of the new Canadian company is that they could use the word “Company” in the name, while the Kelly brand had to operate as “Kelly Works” in the USA.

Beveled Tasmanian pattern made for the Australian market (1930s or 40s).
Thanks again to Whiskey River Art & Trading for the pictures.

Well-known Kelly brands like “Waratah” (see example) and “Dandenong” (see example) were almost instantly moved to the Canadian factory, as the primary destination for these axes was Australia & New Zealand.

The Kelly brands were treated like another product line out of the Welland Vale factory, as they continued to produce their original Canadian brand axes for export such as Lion Brand and Black Prince.

Kelly persists under True Temper

Between 1949 and 1950, the American and Canadian factories of The American Fork & Hoe Company restructured to form True Temper and True Temper Canada. At this time the distinct corporate entity of “Kelly” ceased to exist.

However, axes like the “World Famous Kelly Dandenong” continued to be a product line made by True Temper Canada until a strike in 1965 led to the St. Catherines factory being shut down for good.

Eventually, True Temper formed a partnership with an Australian company (Cyclone Forgings Pty, Ltd.) and the “Cyclone” Dandenong began to be produced in Australia, but it’s unclear exactly when or for how long that partnership existed.

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  1. “Axe Makers of North America” by Allan Klenman (second edition – editor: Larry McPhail), 1990
  2. – Welland Vale Co.
  3. – Kelly Axe Mfg Co.
  4. – American Fork & Hoe Co.
  5. Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
  6. Hand Tool Preservation Association of Australia – Newsletter June 1992
  7. Hardwood_Axes – Instagram