Approx. 1918 – 1930s
Wood, Alexander & James LTD. (Hamilton, ON)
Made by Welland Vale Mfg Co. (St. Catherines, ON)
It might surprise you, but the Canadian WAJAX axe was NOT made, sold, or used by the Canadian WAJAX Company. Despite the unique name, they are completely unrelated.
Thanks to a single note in the appendix of “Axe Makers of North America”, I was able to start piecing together a backstory for this interesting axe brand. (1)
The WAJAX axe brand was a house brand of the Wood, Alexander, & James LTD. hardware company, based out of Hamilton, Ontario. The company was founded in late 1917, and the axes were made shortly after that into the 20s – possibly up to the 1930s.
Wood, Alexander & James LTD.
Wood, Alexander & James LTD. was a hardware company in Hamilton, Ontario. It was formed in late 1917, as the successor to Wood, Vallance & Co. They sold tools, hardware, mill and factory supplies, sporting goods, cutlery, automotive equipment, and electrical components until the 1970s.
It was the last iteration of a hardware business that operated under various partnerships since 1849.
Under the earlier name of Wood, Vallance & Co., the company expanded in to the Western provinces, seeming to operate as affiliated but independent franchises. All the stores out west seemed to retain the original Wood, Vallance name – or their own variation including other partner’s names (i.e. Wood, Vallance & Adams LTD in Calgary).
There is an interesting article on the Nelson BC branch here.
- 1849 a hardware business was established by A. T. Wood in Hamilton, Ontario
- 1859 Matthew Leggat joined as a partner to help with growth and expansion, and the firm name changed to Wood & Leggat
- 1884 William A. Wood and William Vallance join as partners
- 1889 Mr. Leggat retires and George Vallance joins as a partner
- 1889 the company is renamed Wood, Vallance & Co.
- 1903 A. T. Wood (the original founder) dies
- 1909 George Vallance dies
- 1913 William Vallance dies
- December 1917 the new company name of Wood, Alexander & James LTD. is announced with a new partnership between the last remaining partner William A. Wood, and two men who had been with the company since the 1880s – S. H. Alexander, and G. F. James.
At this point, I do not have a confirmed closure, but according to locals and university papers, the company was operational in Hamilton into the 1970s (4).
History of the WAJAX Axe
Not a lot is known about the WAJAX line if axes – but we can make some assumptions based on related information about the axe industry in Ontario at the time. I will clearly state what is fact and what is theory.
WAJAX Axe Manufacture & Dates
The only confirmed date for these axes is 1925. They were documented in a catalog from that year.(1)
The earliest the axes could have been made was 1918, as the new partnership didn’t form until November 1917. Given the complexity of the branding and the state of the axe industry – they were likely finished by the 1930s (if not sooner).
Given the relative scarcity, it is safe to assume these axes weren’t made in large numbers or for very long.
Much like today, hardware stores would contract out the manufacture of their branded tools.
I suspect that WAJAX axes were made by Welland Vale Mfg Co. in St. Catherines – who was the closest large axe factory at the time, and known to have made axes for other hardware chains, in this style.
The WAJAX boys axe in my collection shares a nearly identical design as a Welland Vale Lion Brand boys axe made in the same time period (although that is far from proof).
The partnership of Wood, Alexander, and James only applied to the Hamilton location – and the Western stores kept their original names (which varied based on their own partnerships and start date). So these axes may not have been sent to the other locations. Although – the boys axe above came to me from British Columbia.
WAJAX Brand Marks
What is quite cool about the WAJAX axes, are the two brand marks stamped on each side of the larger axes. Few Canadian companies paid for the expense of a single large stamp – let alone two.
Many of the other axe brands were simplifying their stamped branding by the 1930s, which once reason I suspect these axes didn’t last too long.
Known Models of WAJAX axe
- Large felling axes
- Boys axes
- Montreal pattern
I’ve seen a few of the felling axes out in the “wild” and came in a variety of weights (3 – 4.5 lbs) and at least a couple of standard patterns (which was standard at the time).
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- “Axe Makers of North America” by Allan Klenman (second edition – editor: Larry McPhail), 1990
- Hardware & Metal, Volume 30, No. 01 – January 5, 1918
- Hardware & Metal, Volume 29, No. 49 – December 8, 1917
- Vintage Hamilton Facebook Page