The Berghaus Axe: A “Swedish” Axe Made in Canada?

1910* – 1950s*
Paul Berghaus & Co.

Berghaus Sweden Axe Label
1930s-40s Axe Label for the Berghaus Axe – Credit: LBGradwell (2)
(retouched to remove watermark and some damage)

The Berghaus Axe was sold in Canada from the early 1900s into the 1950s by Paul Berghaus & Co. of Goteborg, Sweden. But from the start, the axes were contracted out to be made by the Welland Vale Mfg Co. out of St. Catherines, ON until at least the 1940s – making this “Swedish” axe – Canadian.

The details are sparse, and there is a possibility the contract was moved to another (maybe Swedish) axe maker near the end of the brand’s existence. Given the lack of specifics, I will be clear on what the known facts are – and what the educated guesses are.

There is also some evidence that the axes were exported abroad as well, but today they seem to only show up in Canada.

The Original Berghaus Axe

The first known listing of a Berghaus axe is from 1910 – in a catalog of Welland Vale axe brands.(1) The early axes likely only had a paper label and were not stamped. Welland made a LOT of different axe lines for themselves and others. The majority of the brands only had paper labels.

While some of the axes Welland Vale made for other hardware store partners were stamped, they would have more detailed designs. This is validated by an example of an axe from the late 30s or early 40s only having a label.(2)

In this example from a 1936 Canadian hardware catalog has the Berghaus Axe listed alongside other Welland Vale axes, and no other makers are present. This suggests they were still producing the axes at that time.

Given how common the “Berghus Sweden” stamps are, I expect they are more recent production.

Axes Stamped “Berghaus Sweden”

I believe the axes found today stamped “Berghaus Sweden” are from the late 1940s into the 50s.

By the 50s the Canadian axe market was already in steep decline, and contracted axes and house brands were quickly vanishing as the margins shrunk. It has not been confirmed if Welland Vale still made them or if the contract had moved at that time.

And while the Berghaus axes are not uncommon, the lack of labeled examples makes me think they must be from around this time. If they were more recent, examples of labels would still pop up (like they do with other brands) – but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Scenario 1: They were still made by Welland Vale

I believe this scenario is the most likely.

The stamp on the pole is very simple, basic text similar to the basic Welland Vale stamp used in the late 40s into the early 50s. And, I’ve seen my share of Berghaus axes -and they share characteristics of Welland Vale made axes. This is totally based on my gut feeling from someone who has held and seen a lot of axes made by Welland Vale, NOT concrete evidence.

The Berghaus axe also only seems to have been sold in Canada – nowhere else. If they were made somewhere else like Sweden, you would think they would try and export them elsewhere, or sell them locally.

It is a little hard to believe a Canadian factory would stamp “Sweden” on a Canadian-made axe. But it’s not unthinkable, given they printed paper labels with “Sweden” on them for 30 years. But there is also a chance production switched at some point.

Scenario 2: The Stamped axes were made in Sweden

By the late 1940s and 50s, Swedish-made axes were starting to enter the Canadian market as Canadian makers began to struggle.

There is a chance that sometime in the 1940s (say after the WW2) Berghaus switched production from the Canadian factory to a cheaper Swedish option and imported to Canada with all the other brands. There were a lot of Swedish axe makers at this time, and many were starting to come to Canada.

I have asked around with a couple of Swedish axe collectors (like Neil Erb), and I have not found any knowledge of this brand of axes in Sweden.

I haven’t found any evidence to support this yet, which is why currently I still believe the axes were continually made in Canada the whole time.

Paul Berghaus & Co.

I haven’t found much about the company either. It began in the late 1800s and was in operation until at least 1973, with the company assets being liquidated in 1983. They were a wholesaler and supplier of all kinds of outdoor and sporting gear, including firearms, fishing equipment, and all manners of outdoor tools.

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Sources

  1. “Axe Makers of North America” by Allan Klenman (second edition – editor: Larry McPhail), 1990
  2. Papawswrench.com – The Berghaus Axe
  3. Yesteryearstools.com – Welland Vale Co.
  4. Bajus Bros Catalog – 1936

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