From the beginning, the history of the companies that would become Canadian Industries Limited (C-I-L) have been entangled with that of the nation itself. The Hamilton Powder Company, founded in 1862, manufactured black powder — and later, dynamite — which was used in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1885 the American A. J. ‘Gat’ Howard introduced the Gatling gun to Canada which deployed it to devastating effect during the Northwest Rebellion and later, the Boer War. His Dominion Cartridge Company was founded in Brownsburg, Quebec in 1886. These and several other explosives companies were united in 1910 as Canada Explosives Limited (CXL) which became the major supplier of munitions for Canada during the First World War.
The name Canadian Industries Limited (C-I-L) was adopted in 1927, and the company began purchasing plants from what was then known as E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company with the intent of expanding into peacetime markets. These included varnish, coated fabrics, and the brand new industry of polymers: in 1942 C-I-L built the world’s second-ever nylon plant in Kingston, Ont. However, by this time most of the company’s attention had returned to producing munitions, this time for the Second World War. A specially-created subsidiary of C-I-L called Defence Industries Limited operated plants across the country. One of the largest was in Ajax, Ont., home of the famous ‘bomb girls’ who produced over 25 million shells for the Allied war effort.
In 1954, an anti-trust lawsuit split C-I-L into two separate companies. The first retained the name of C-I-L and still operates as a subsidiary of the Dutch conglomerate AkzoNobel. In its early days, it produced commodity chemicals, such as the hydrogen peroxide being promoted in this 1961 ad. Today the company is best known as a manufacturer of designer paints under its own name, and those of related brands Dulux and Glidden. The other company became Du Pont of Canada Limited which still operates a research and development facility at its Kingston site. Through its acquisition of Pioneer in 1999, DuPont has become a major player in agriculture, producing patented varieties of corn, soybeans, wheat, and canola seed. From powders to paints to plants, C-I-L remains an important part of Canada’s social and economic landscape.