These two Belleville, Ontario companies were closely connected. The tinware manufacturing side of the business started when in 1886 Charles Frederick Smith sold his retail and wholesale hardware store to William Whitfield Chown. The retail store was called “C.F. Smith & Co.” and after the purchase was renamed “W.W. Chown & Co.” Smith, using the money from the sale, took over the tinware business of the “Harte & Smith Mfg. Co.” which was a foundry & tinware company. At the same time, Smith began a partnership with John Henry Stone, making and selling his lanterns. This new tinware & lantern company was named “The C.F. Smith Co. Ltd”.
Around a decade later, William Chown would again acquire the business of C.F. Smith, buying out C.F. Smith’s businesses twice in his career. This new larger W.W. Chown & Co. business would continue with and enlarge Smith & Stone’s successful lantern business.
The superintendent of the W.W. Chown & Co., James Harvey Hill, became the brother-in-law to another person of importance to lanterns, William Chamberlain Embury. Around 1898, Embury and Hill decided to begin their own lantern company. James Hill designed and got two patents. Using those patents, the two got the funding to start the Defiance Lantern & Stamping Co. in Rochester in the year 1900. The Chown’s were large supporters in their new venture. As a result, the Chown lanterns made after 1900 use of some the designs and even names of Defiance lanterns, often times being confused with lanterns from DL&S.
Identifying a Defiance Lantern
The main identifier of the Canadian made Defiance lanterns is the brass name plate attached to the front. This brass tag is oval shaped and has the Defiance name, as well as the Chown name. The brass tag can also have just the name of a jobber, if the lantern was made for a jobber. If the lantern doesn’t have the brass tag, the Canadian version of the Defiance lantern uses an oval logo on the front and back, and has a vent hole on the chimney. The American Defiance lanterns do not use the oval logo, or have a vent hole.
The end of W.W. Chown & Co’s Lantern Business
As time went on, disputes between the Chown’s and Embury started, eventually concluding in 1908 when Embury got fed up with the Chown’s and stopped allowing them to make lanterns with his and James Hill’s patents. This was the end of W. W. Chown’s lantern production. Instead the company focused on dairy and cheese products, as well as their retail hardware stores in western Canada. W.W. Chown & Co. was the first of the ‘big four’ lantern producers to cease production. This left only E.T. Wright & Co., Ontario Lantern & Lamp Co., and the Kemp Manufacturing Co. as large tubular lantern makers in Canada.
W. W. Chown & Co. often made their lanterns for Jobbers and other hardware companies, as a result, many of the Chown lanterns found today bear the names of various hardware companies. A few of them are listed here:
- E. Chown & Son, Kingston, Ontario
E. Chown & Son was a hardware company owned by William Chown’s brother, Edward. The Chown’s were known for nepotism and favouritism, so it’s no surprised a lot of these lanterns are around. Edward also had a relation with C.F. Smith, acting as Smith’s sole sales agent before the W.W. Chown takeover. Lanterns made for E. Chown & Son have both the name of the company on them, or just simply ‘Chown’s Hardware’.
- McClary Manufacturing Co., London, Ontario
The McClary Manufacturing Co. was one of the biggest tinware and founders in Canada at the time. They always stocked a supply of lanterns, however never made lanterns themselves. Instead McClary relied on others to make them, and just had their name put on them. One frequent supplier of jobbed McClary lanterns was W.W. Chown & Co. McClary Lanterns all bear the McClary trade name “McClary’s Famous”
- W. J. Reid & Co., London, Ontario
A bit more of an obscure one, W. J. Reid & Co. was an old Canadian business, founded in 1837. They were mainly importers of China, glassware, porcelain, decorations, etc. They also carried a small line of lamps & lanterns. Their main location was London, Ontario, but also had a location in Belleville. Making it easy for Chown to be the supplier.
If you have any more Chown made lanterns for other jobbers, let me know and I’ll add it to the list!
My W.W. Chown & C.F. Smith lanterns
Due to the similarities between C.F. Smith Co. Ltd and W.W. Chown & Co., I’ve decided to include the two companies together. It’s nearly impossible to identify pre-1900 Smith & Chown lanterns as one company or the other as the tooling was identical. Below are all of my Smith and Chown Lanterns. Click on the photos to see a page with more information and photos of the lanterns.