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Smith Bros. Body Works, Smith Bros. Motor Bodies
Wm. Smith Waggons, 1843-1870s; Wm. Smith & Sons; 1870s-1885; Smith Bros., 1885-1919; Smith Bros. Body Works 1919-1930s; Smith Brothers Motor Bodies Ltd. 1930s-1977; Toronto, Ontario; Smith Bros. Motor Bodies Ltd. Subsidiary of Wajax Ltd., 1977-1979
Associated Builders
Wajax UEC Ltd. 1979-1983; Pitman Mfg. div of Wajax Industries 1983-1990; Pitman Crane Corp.1990-???? Markham, Ontario;

Toronto's Smith Bros. (1843-1979) are remembered today as the builders of the streamlined tractor-trailers used by London, Ontario's Labatt Brewing Co. Ltd. during the late 1930s, and 40s. Although most Canadian Provinces repealed Prohibition during the mid-twenties, Canadian brewers, vintners and distillers were prohibited from advertising their beverages in the Province of Ontario into the 1950s. The brightly colored aerodynamic delivery trucks provided publicity for the beverage manufacturers during a time when the advertising of beer, wine and spirits was banned.

The most outrageous of the bunch featured aluminum-skinned wood framework built by Smith Bros. and designed by the Russian-born industrial designer Count Alexis de Sakhnoffky. However, most of Smith Bros. work was far more utilitarian and its reputation was built upon the sturdy horse-drawn delivery 'waggons' constructed by the firm's founder William Smith (b.1821-d. Jan 2, 1892).

William Smith, waggon-maker, was born in Oxfordshire, England, in 1821, to John and Mary (Mason) Smith, William being the eldest of a family of two sons and two daughters. In 1832 the Smiths embarked upon the ship "Alexander" for a perilous journey across the Atlantic. On the voyage out smallpox and cholera broke out among the passengers and William's 2-yo sister succumbed to the former.

At Montreal William's uncle and grandfather died from the cholera and while waiting at Prescott for a boat to take the Smiths on the final leg of their journey to York, William's mother Mary succumbed as well, leaving his father John, to provide for his 3 young children on his own. With the remainder of his savings he rented two small rooms on Yonge Street, and obtained work as a mason's clerk ending his career as a laborer at Helliwell's Brewery, passing from this mortal coil in 1849.

By that time Alfred Smith, William's younger brother, had become a cooper in Drayton, Ontario, and William, a wheelwright, learning the trade as an apprentice with Reuben Parkinson. The 1833 & 1837 Toronto Business Directory lists Rueben Parkinson as a wheelwright, Duke St. East.

Parkinson (b: May 2, 1795-d. September 3, 1879), was a well-known wagon and boat builder who in 1850 constructed a hotel at Maskelonge Point, (now Mugg's Island), one of the small islands in York Harbor better known today as the Toronto Islands. Parkinson and his wife Emily relocated the hotel to the west of Privat's Peninsula Hotel three years later, but it was washed away in the great storm of 1858. In 1859 Mrs. Parkinson erected a new hostelry on Centre Island which was later known as Mead's Hotel, the entire 12 acres of which was purchased by the City of Toronto in 1887 and renamed Toronto Island Park.

What education Smith had, he received in the old country, his first job in the new one being a bricklayer's apprentice. After a short time on the trade he longed for something more challenging and 1836 became apprenticed to Parkinson serving with him for a period of seven years. In 1843 Smith began a wheelwright and wagon-building business of his own, becoming so successful that in in 1847 he purchased a plot at the southwest corner of Parliament and Duke Sts. (now the southwest corner of Adelaide & Parliament Sts. near the present site of the Toronto Stock Exchange), and erected a waggon shop, that eventually provided employment for eight hands.

By 1855* the 33yo Smith had married Edith Dellamore (b.1831), the 23yo daughter of William Dellamore, a farmer in York Township, and to the blessed union was born the following:

"Mary Catherine, (b.1856); Frederick William (b.1858);Sydney, (b.1861); Margaret, (b.1863); Lilly (b.1865); Nelly, (b.1867); Herbert, (b. 1870) and Edith, (b.1872) Smith."

(*The actual year of Smith's marriage is open to conjecture, three dates are listed in his various biographies and obituaries: 1858 (unlikely); 1845 (doubtful – his wife would have been 14) and 1855, which fits best with the ages of his children as included in the 1871,1881, and 1891 Canadian Census. One obituary states he had nine children, two of which preceded him in death – however the Census only provide the names of eight.)

One obituary notes the importance of religion in William Smith's life:

"This man, so faithful to his profession of Christianity, was born in Oxfordshire, England, in the year 1821. He came to Canada with his parents when about eight years of age, and settled in Duke St., Toronto, where his family survivors live to-day… He was converted at the old Bay St. Church of the Primitive Methodist denomination, and did a great work as Sunday School teacher and visitor, also as Trustee and member of the Quarterly Board of Parliament St. Methodist Church. Although not making a great many words about it, Mr. Smith was a firm advocate of Temperance. He belonged to the York Pioneers, he having settled here when this place was Little York."

In 1848 Toronto was divided into a group of wards, each named after a Christian saint. St. David's Ward was bounded by Ontario, Don Mills Road (now Broadview Ave), Bloor and Queen Sts.

The 1871 Canadian census lists William Smith and family (all P. Methodists) in St David's Ward,​ East Toronto,​ York County, Ontario,​ Canada as follows:

"William Smith, age 50, occupation Waggon Maker; Edith Smith, age 40; Mary Catherine Smith, age 15; Wm. Fred, age 13; Sydney, age 10; Margaret, age 8; Lilly age 6; Nelly, age 4; Herbert, age 1."

The 1881 Canadian census lists William Smith and family (all C. Methodists) in St David's Ward,​ East Toronto,​ York County, Ontario,​ Canada as follows:

"William Smith, age 60, occupation wheelwright; Edith, age 50; Frederick, age 23, occupation carriage maker; Sydney, age 20 , occupation carriage maker; Margaret, age 18; Lilly age 16; Nelly, age 14; Herbert, age 11; and Edith, age 9. ; Their eldest child, Mary Catherine Smith, age 25, is not included, and it's assumed she was married and had left the household."

A short history of the firm was published in the 1886 edition of 'Industries of Canada':

"Smith Bros., Manufacturers of Carriages, Waggons, Sleighs, Lorries, 121 to 127 Duke Street.

Among the old established houses of Toronto stands the well-known firm of Smith Bros., carriage and waggon works, which are located at 121 to 127 Duke Street. The father of the present proprietors started the business 46 years ago, which he conducted up till the beginning of 1886, when he retired in favor of his two sons, Messrs. F. W. & S. Smith. The premises occupied are the waggon factory, paint and black smith shops, and extensive yards and sheds, in all covering about half an acre of ground. The business comprises the manufacture of carriages, waggons, sleighs, carts, and a specialty is made of heavy work such as fire apparatus and lorries; special attention is given to repairing, repainting and trimming, be sides custom blacksmithing. Employment is given to 16 competent workmen, while the trade of the firm extends throughout the Province. Both members of the firm are natives of Toronto, and are well known and highly respected."

The 1891 Canadian census lists William Smith and family (all C. Methodists) in St David's Ward,​ East Toronto,​ York County, Ontario,​ Canada as follows:

William Smith, age 70, Edith, age 59; Sydney, age 30; Margaret, age 28; Lillie age 26; Nellie, age 24; Herbert, age 21; Edith, age 19, and Mary Lee - a servant, age 19.

Their eldest two children, Mary Catherine Smith, age 35, and Frederick, age 33; are not included in their father's household. William's occupation is left blank, Sydney's occupation is listed as carriage builder and Herbert's is listed as hardware draughtsman. Although I could not locate a listing for Mary Catherine Smith, it's assumed she is married and living with her husband who's surname is unknown.

The 1891 Census lists Frederick Smith, age 33, occupation carriage builder, separately from his father's household, although it remained in St. David's Ward. During the interim he had married He had married Isabella Frances (Manning), b.1870, and their union had been blessed by the birth of two children; a daughter Ethel Winifred, (b. Nov.22, 1883); and a son, Dallimore, (b.1889) Smith.

Shortly after the 1891 census, Sydney Smith married Elizabeth Myers and to the blessed union was born a son, Percival William Smith, his birthdate May 21, 1892. Unfortunately William Smith had passed away on January 2, 1892 and missed the birth of the future leader of his business empire.

Frederick W. and Sydney Smith, succeeded to their father's business in 1885, and branched out into the manufacture of all kinds of carriage and commercial vehicles, their heavy-duty lorries and light-weight delivery and patrol wagons being some of its most popular sellers. They were the sole Ontario manufacturer of the Jones Patent Street Sprinkler and also outfitted and manufactured fire equipment for the City of Toronto and outlying municipalities.

In the early 1890s the firm's hodepodge of wooden structures was replaced by a modern 4-story brick factory located at the southwest corner of Parliament and Duke Sts. A brochure from the 1895 Canadian National Exhibition entitled 'Toronto Industrial Fair: An Illustrated Souvenir of Canada's Great Exhibition, September 2nd to 14th, 1895' contained the following description of the firm's new factory:

"Smith Bros, Carriage and Wagon Factory, Duke and Parliament Sta.

"The firm of Smith Brothers is one of the oldest establishments in Toronto, having stood the tests of a business career of over half a century. The business was founded in 1843 by Mr. Smith, the father of the present proprietors, Frederick W. and Sydney Smith, who succeeded to the business in 1885. This firm carries on a large business in the manufacture of carriages, street sprinklers, delivery and patrol waggons, lorries, etc., and makes a specialty of all descriptions of fire apparatus, while their repairing department is an important branch of the business. The factory and offices at the corner of Duke and Parliament streets consist of a large brick building 66 x 100 feet, four stories in height, and fifty skilled mechanics arc employed turning out the firm's goods and attending to the repair orders. On the first floor are located the forges where all the blacksmithing and iron work is done, on the second floor are the office and wood-working department, the third floor is devoted to trimming and painting, while the fourth is used as a stock and show room. The articles manufactured are of the best quality, and the business has been built up to such proportions that it is now one of the largest of its kind in Canada."

1902 display advertisement in the Toronto Business Directory:

TELEPHONE 2436 Cor. Duke & Parliament Sts. TORONTO
Pioneer Carriage and Waggon Works established 1843; Carriages, Waggons, Cutters, Sleighs, Fire Apparatus, Street Sprinklers, Hospital and Emergency Ambulances Built to Order.
Patrol Waggons, Fire Apparatus, Chemical Engines, Hook and Ladder Trucks, Hose Waggons and Reels, Street Sprinklers, Lorries, Drays, Coal Waggons and Carts, and Delivery Waggons of Every Description."

The Smith Bros. built their first automobile and motor truck bodies under Frederick W. and Sydney Smith's tenure, a field which became so popular that they adopted the 'motor bodies' part of their name at the end of the First World War.

1917 listing in the Toronto City Directory:

"SMITH BROS.; Established 1843
Wagons, Lorries and Motor Truck Bodies - Sole Manufacturers of the Celebrated Jones Patent Street Sprinkler, Cor. Duke and Parliament Sts., Toronto.

"Special attention given to Repairing, Repainting and Trimming. Lorries built to order - Fire Apparatus and Chemical Engine Specialties, Smith Bros, 86-92 Parliament"

Save for census data, very little is known about William Smith's two sons, other than Sydney's son Percival assumed control of the firm following the retirement of his father and uncle during the Second World War.

Pervical's address at the time of his enlistment in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces on May 21, 1917 was 32 Douglas Drive, his religion Methodist, his profession, chauffeur. 32 Douglas Dr. was the home of his parents, Sydney and Elizabeth (Myers) Smith. A picture of the home can be seen to the right, its description (from 1920) reads:

"Thirty-Two Douglas Drive. House of Sidney Smith, Proprietor of Smith Brothers Motor Body Works, 171 - 183 Duke Street."

In 1929 the Toronto Police department used a few armored vehicles such as a Graham Paige, a McLaughlin-Buick and a Buick. Shields were welded across the front fenders of the car protected the tires from puncture and Bovite was allegedly used in the doors and side panels. The armored bodies were built by the Smith Bros. Motor Bodies Ltd.

The company built some of Toronto's first city and highway buses as well as many early transport trucks. In 1931 the firm produced a custom convertible sedan body for Winston Barron on a long-wheelbase McLaughlin-Buick chassis. The exceptional car survives and is in the collection of the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.

Smith Bros also built the famous 1931 Barron Buick, the subject of an article in the March 1973 issue of the Classic Car (pp38-40) The Barron Buick was an unusual custom dual windshield phaeton that was built on a 132” Buick 8-92 chassis. It was featured at the 1931 Canadian National Exhibition’s Automotive exhibit.

Its description follows:

"Eighty years ago, Winston Barron was Director of Public Relations and Advertising for Paramount Film Service at 111 Bond Street in Toronto. In this capacity, he travelled frequently between Toronto and the Paramount Studios in Hollywood, and beginning in 1931, he covered that distance in grand style behind the wheel of a custom-bodied Buick designed by him.

"The GMC Buick Custom 1931 is designed by Winston Barron, editor of Canadian Paramount News from 1931 to 1951. The GMC Buick Custom was built by Smith Body Works Ltd. in Toronto using the chassis of a 1931 McLaughlin-Buick. Win Barron was one of the first hosts of the CBC quiz show 'Front Page Challenge', which ran from 1957 to 1995."

1931 issue of Canadian Railway and Marine World:

"Le Cie de Transport d'Abitibi, Rouyn, Que., received 3 buses with White model 613 chasses and 21-passenger street car type bodies with deluxe type coach seats, built by Smith Bros. Motor Body Works, Toronto."

Although most Canadian Provinces repealed Prohibition during the mid-twenties, Canadian brewers, vintners and distillers were prohibited from advertising their beverages in the Province of Ontario into the 1950s. The brightly colored aerodynamic delivery trucks provided publicity for the beverage manufacturers during a time when the advertising of beer, wine and spirits was banned.

The most outrageous of the bunch featured aluminum-skinned wood framework built by Smith Bros. and designed by the Russian-born industrial designer Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky (b. 1901-d.1964).

Born in Moscow in 1901, de Sakhnoffsky emigrated to Switzerland in 1919 and by the late 1920s had become a well-known designer of European sports cars. After his work with Van den Plas attracted the attention of H. Jay Hayes, the owner of the Hayes Mfg. Co. brought him to Grand Rapids, Michigan where he designed a striking Cord L-29 coupe that won 'Grand Prize' at the 1929 Monaco Concours d'Elegance and the 'Grand Prix d'Honneur' at the 1929 Beaulieu Concours d'Elegance.

He worked for Hayes from 1929-1932 working on designs for the firm's numerous customers who included American Austin (Bantam), Auburn, Cord, DeVaux and Nash. He left to become a free-lance design consultant, contributing designs to General Motors, Briggs Mfg. (for Chrysler), Packard and the White Motor Co.

In 1934 he accepted a full-time position with Esquire Magazine as technical and mechanical editor and his distinctive renderings quickly made him a household name. Each month readers were treated to de Sakhnoffsky's futuristic cars, trucks, boats as well as an occasional bathtub, swimming pool, escalator, kitchen or movie theater.

While working for Esquire Sakhnoffsky continued to produce free-lance designs for various manufacturers, one of which was the White Motor Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. Headquartered in Toronto, the associated White Motor Co. of Canada, Ltd. maintained a working relationship with Smith Bros. so whenever a special project presented itself, it was constructed in the Smith Bros. shops.

In 1935 White received an order from the London, Ontario brewer John Labatt Ltd. to create an eye-catching show-piece for the 1936 CNE (Canadian National Exhibition - opened on August 28, 1936). White's London office presented the project to the firm's Cleveland-based designs studio who recommended Sakhnoffsky for the design portion of the project. 

According to Labatts, de Sakhnoffsky produced four streamlined tractor-trailers designs, whose introduction was to be stretched over the upcoming decade, each one more futuristic and streamlined than the previous.

The first, of which 4 examples were built, debuted in 1936. It featured a basically stock White Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. single axle tractor cab & chassis mated to a Fruehauf of Canada Ltd. single-axle drop-frame trailer chassis which bore aerodynamic Smith Bros. coachwork built using an ash and maple framework sheathed with hand-formed sheet-aluminum panels.

Smith Brothers customized the tractor/cab, adding custom running boards that flowed into the rear fenders, whose distinctive spats matched the ones on the rear of the trailer. According to Labatts, the distinctive firm's red paint and striking gold graphics were applied in Labatt's own paint shop.

In a 1978 article Toronto-based Canadian transport historian Rolland Lewis Jerry (b.1924-d.2002) states that the Chicago-based de Saknoffsky "came to Canada in the mid-30s" but provides no further details.

In 1937-1938 the second series, a more advanced design - which included a streamlined White model 812 cab mated to a matching Fruehauf drop-deck trailer - debuted. Twelve examples were constructed in Smith Bros. shop, all of which wore Labatt's red & gold color scheme, which was once again applied in Labatt's London, Ontario paint shop. Labatt's sent one to the 1939 New York World's Fair where it was awarded 'Best Design'.

The tractor and trailer combined were 37 feet long, 10 feet high, and eight feet wide. The body was made from aluminum sheets pinned over a frame made from hundreds of pieces of hard wood. The empty trucks weighed as much as 10 tons and had a trailer capacity of about 825 cubic feet. They could carry eight and a half tons of beer and were still capable of about 50 miles per hour.

The seldom-seen third version, two of which were constructed in 1939-1940 before the War halted such frivolous projects, featured even more sweeping curves added to the roof of the tractor and long tail fin added to the trailer which featured dark blue side panels not found on the postwar streamliners. Once again White furnished the cab, Fruehauf the trailer and Smith Brothers the coachwork.A surviving picture reveals a similarly styled straight van was also produced using the same paint scheme.

When hostilities ceased, the fourth version debuted, of which 10 examples were constructed during 1947 at a cost of $16,000 each. They were constructed using de Sakhnoffsky's 4th design, whose cab was radically different from the pre-War units. Photographs exist of stock White cabs towing post-war streamline trailers  and LaBatt itself doesn't state exactly how many of the post-war cabs were streamliners, so the exact number of streamline trailers and streamline cabs is currently open to debate.

The forward raked cab featured a curved windshield and side windows for great visibility when travelling forward or backing up, its roof gently arced from the top of the cab both downwards and rearwards leaving more distance between the cab and the trailer. Built on a White WA122 COE (cab-over-engine) single-axle chassis, the cabs of the postwar streamliners tilted from the rear to allow easy access to the motor for maintenance and repair. The drop-frame trailers' streamlined coachwork was slightly lower than before in order to match the all-new cabs.

The 1947 streamliners once again featured White cabs, Fruehauf trailers and Smith Bros. coachwork – all paint and gold-leaf lettering once again applied in Labatt's own garage paint shop – the trailers of the two 1939 versions bearing Labatt's blue and red paint scheme with gold leaf trim and lettering.

A 1948 issue of Canadian Transportation featured a small article describing the streamlines constructed in 1947:

"Another 'Streamliner' for John LaBatt, Ltd.

"The London, Ont. Brewing and bottling firm, long noted for operation of handsome, streamlined motor truck equipment on Ontario highways has added a fourth model to its fleet, designed like its predecessors, by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky.

"What is spoken of as the most modern transport on the road in Canada, a fourth design of freight automotive equipment has been added to the fleet of John LaBatt, Ltd., London, Ont. The most recent addition is a tractor-trailer (or, more properly, semitrailer) combination, and the design is, like that of the three forerunners, the work of Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, designer with international reputation.

"LaBatt streamliners, which have always been the subject of much public and industrial comment both for their utility and their beauty, were introduced by the London breweries firm in 1936. All four designs which are now in use were drawn by Count de Sakhnoffsky at the same time, to allow for a steady progression in streamlining. These great sleek highway trucks are designed basically for hauling. They are practical equipment, but the lines which fit them for their work on the road also give them their beauty.

"The new streamliner has a White tractor, built by the White Motor Co. of Canada, Ltd., Montreal. The drop-frame trailer was constructed by Fruehauf Trailer Co. of Canada, Ltd., Weston, Ont. The body of the streamliner, cab and trailer, was supplied by Smith Bros. Motor Body Works, Toronto. It is an all-metal body of aluminum, over a wood framework. The aluminum reduces weight. All Labatt transportation equipment is painted in the company paint shop. The new streamliners are all red, with lettering and ornamentation in gold leaf. This latest model is minus the dark blue side panels which characterize the previous design.

"The new streamliner differs quite radically from the earlier model, particularly in the tractor. The front of the cab is more vertical and flatter in the latest model, but the most noticeable change is in the rear of the cab, which is curved in one smooth line from the top front, leaving greater distance between the cab and the trailer.

"The older cab had an almost flat top and an almost vertical back. The new cab has a curved windshield for better view, and curved side windows at the back for greater visibility in backing and turning. All cabs of the new streamliners tilt from the rear, to allow easy access to the motors.

"The trailer of the new streamliner is set lower than the trailer of the previous model, and is rounded on both upper and lower surfaces at both front and rear, rather than being rounded to a flat bottom surface. This makes the front and rear more similar, the front less snubbed and the rear less sloped. The trailer features a stainless steel 'dorsal fin', principally for ornamentation.

"All the new streamliners are equipped with an anti-jacknife device on the fifth wheel. The Labatt firm was the first in Canada to employ the anti-jacknife device, and many of the older models have been fitted with this equipment.

"Combination stop and directional arrow lights are located on both sides, front and rear of the new streamliner. The tractor-trailer is 36 ft. 10 in. long over all. The combination has wheelbase of 28 ft. 5 in., the wheelbase of the tractor alone being 121 in. Height over all is 9 ft. 8 in., and width over all, 8 ft. 5 in. The trailer length is 28 ft., and trailer capacity is approximately 825 cu. ft.

"The tractor-trailer is 36 ft. 10 in. long over all. The combination has wheelbase of 28 ft. 5 in., the wheelbase of the tractor alone being 121 in. Height over all, 8 ft. 5 in. The trailer length is 28 ft., and the trailer capacity is approximately 825 cu. ft. The trailer is the White model W.A. 122, and is powered with the 'Super Power' model 140A engine, which develops 125 h.p. and has piston displacement of 362 cu. in. The transmission, model 501B, provides five forward speeds. Westinghouse air brakes are employed, and the equipment includes air-operated windshield wipers and horn."

The June 11, 1949 issue of the London Free Press provided a look at Labatt Streamliner history:

"Variety of Changes Shown in Style of Transportation

"Labatt's modern streamlined fleet of transport vehicles – the finest fleet on the continent – had a humble beginning 36 years ago when a Ford truck was bought to supplement the horse-drawn vehicles in use by the Company. In 1917 a second Ford truck was bought and from then on the fleet began to take shape with the addition of various trucks, square single vans, tractor-trailer units, double hook-ups, diesels, tandems.

"In 1936 the first of four streamliners designed by internationally famous Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky made its appearance. Four of these sleek giants were built. In 1938 the second series, a more advanced design, appeared and 12 streamliners were built along this pattern. The 1939 streamliner with forward-sloping lines appeared but only two were built before the war began. Last year ten new streamliners were built at a cost of $16,500 each – unpainted. All paint and gold-leaf lettering is applied in LaBatt's own garage paint shop.

"It is interesting to note that all four streamline designs were drawn at the same time 12 years ago by Count Sakhnoffsky. In spite of the intervening years the streamliners are the most modern design of transport to be seen anywhere on the highways. Another interesting fact is that Labatt streamlined trucks had fenders sweeping back to the rear wheels and full windows in the back of the cab before these modern designs were ever used on passenger cars!"

The vehicles moved beer across Ontario until l955, when Labatt's sold off its Streamliner fleet and brought an end to an era.

A pair of streamliners survive, the first a complete 1937 version which is currently undergoing restoration, the second a totally restored 1947 version built using an original trailer and a re-created cab.

The 1937's owner, Campbell, California's Jeffrey W. Glenzer, reports:

"The one I am restoring is an original tractor and trailer built in 1937 one of twelve built and pretty much the only complete tractor and trailer still around….  I did start working on it in January 2010, I took a class with LAZZE metal shaping and did make some new fenders for the tractor and some aluminum panels for the trailer. I am gearing up to really get on it this summer, so I guess I’ll shoot for the 2013 (ATHS) show in Washington."

While Glenzer is utilizing his own funds to restore his 1937, Labatt's footed for the restoration of the 1947 unit which was finished in time for a planned debut at the 1986 Vancouver Expo. To commemorate the event Canada Post released a 10 and 90 cent commemorative stamp in 1986 that featured a side view of a 1947 streamliner.

A short story of the 1947's streamliner's restoration follows.

In 1977, Labatt contracted Joe Scott, the former President of White Truck Sales Ltd. of London, Ontario, hoping to find and restore an original Streamliner. A $500 reward was offered and Joe and his brother Bob followed up numerous leads and dead ends, eventually coming up with six trailers, of which one was deemed restorable. Two of the original 1947 White COE tractors were located and combined to create a single usable chassis. Unfortunately the coachwork was too perished to be usable so a replica cab body was constructed using a full-size body draft generated from existing photographs of the 1947 cabs.

After six years and thousands of hours of labor, the restored 1947 streamliner emerge from their London shops in the spring of 1984, after which it was used by Labatt Breweries for numerous promotional appearances through Canada. Although rarely seen, the restored 1947 streamline is still owned by Labatt and is brought out on special occasions.

Labatts was only one of many firms that commissioned streamlined bodies from Smith Bros., during the 1930s and 40s, but unfortunately only a handful survive.

The first being a 1935 Dodge Model KCL streamlined delivery van with sliding front doors (not a humpback – built on a 'B-1-0 flat faced cowl and chassis') that was constructed for Toronto's T. Eaton Co. Ltd. (Eatons Dept. Store). Its owner, Bob Davis, is completing its decade-long restoration and reports that like the Labatt streamliners, it too was designed by de Saknoffsky, citing a photo the design in the Archives of Ontario T. Eaton Co. file which lists de Sakhnoffsky, Chicago, as the designer. Pictured to the right as discovered in 1991, Bob wrote me to say he's making progress on its restoration:

“I noticed in the description of my custom built 1935 T. Eaton co. van in your Smith Motor Truck site you have indicated it is ‘streamlined’. It is not. I guess this is because I said it was designed by De Sakhnoffsky. The prototype, which there are photos of in the Archives of Ontario, is the ‘same’ as mine but appears to be a 1935 International chassis. It has the same Frenched-in headlights as the Labatt's truck, I assume a ‘trade mark’ by De Sakhnoffsky. Mine did not get those. Mine has the ordinary front end of a 1935 Dodge KCL 1/2 pickup or humpback van. However mine is the same as the Archives truck from the windshield back, sliding doors, windows etc. However Eatons would have not any chrome on their trucks if they could delete it so my Dodge front end does not have a chrome rad shell or headlights or bumper. I'm getting closer to finishing it and will be painting the parts this Summer. I have gone out of my way to make it as close to original as I can including the overall T. Eaton Commercial Blue, Fire Red inserts and Arctic white belt line. I just had the two 7” ‘Diamond E’ chrome logos remade for the sides. Eatons had removed those when they sold the truck privatly and I have never been able to find any. I also reproduced the brass plates with ‘T. Eaton Co. Ltd.’ on them for the back and front. It should be quite something when I'm finished. A piece of Canadiana. It was, by the way, one of 10 but as far as I can find out mine is the only one that survived.

“Here's a photo of my truck as found in 1991. It will answer a lot of questions and perhaps will also show why it has taken me so long to 'reproduce' it. Everything from the wheels up had to be repaired / reproduced / replaced and painted the correct colours. At this point I have bills amounting to $14,000 and I did 90% of the labour myself. And all that and the travel expenses to find parts were from the household account. Unlike Labatts, Eatons refused to help me when asked when they were still in business. The only saving grace was the truck was all there abeit just hanging on by a thread. With a little bit of detective work I could see what it was like when new but that was all. The Eaton's archive, F229, does not have a photo of my exact truck.Close but no cigar. It has a photo of the original De Sakhnoffsky 1934 drawing,the 1934 wooden model made for the family to see it in 3D and 2 photos of the 1935 steel and wood prototype but it appears to have not survived. The composite wood was all replaced with new hardwood as the original had all gone to dry rot basically to a form of soft wood. The truck was so bad that some right hand wood parts were duplicated in their mirror image to make a left hand part and vice versa. I apologize to all those who keep asking me 'when will you have the Eatons truck done?'. There has been times when I was stalled because of confusion as to what construction direction I was to take (the original front windshield frame and glass and the door window regulators are 1931 Model A Ford Victoria which I was able to buy reproduced) and also I had to do other things that came up in my life. This year should see it finally in it's Eaton livery and out in the sun.”

The second survivor being an unrestored 1938 Seagrams delivery van, it's 2009 listing on Hemmings Motor News states:

"In 1938 Toronto-based Smith Brothers Body and Coachworks built this one off, steel bodied design for Seagram's Distilleries. It was in service until 1949 then sold off to a local contractor. In the early 1980s it was sold to a scrap dealer but somehow remains intact up to the present day."

Smith Bros. built a streamlined 1938 Diamond T built for Seagram’s who used it as a delivery van/mobile billboard until 1949, when it was sold to Holman Construction, Rockwood, Ontario, for scrap. In the early 1980s Holman sold it to a scrap dealer from which it was acquired by Ron Fawcett Motors, a well-established restoration shop, in Whitby, Ontario, who offered it for sale in 2009.

Little is known of Smith Bros. activities during the Second World War other than the products they produced were built for the Army Services Division of the Canadian Dept. of National Defense. Similar firms produced truck bodies, truck cabs, ambulances and trailers, and it likely the same products were turned out by Smith Bros.

As early as 1940 Smith Bros were getting contracts for war work, the first, a $32,100 project for the Canadian Dept. of National Defense, Army Services div. was received during the week of September 7, 1940.

The 1945 edition of 'Public Accounts of the Dominion of Canada for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1945, states the Canadian Dept. of National Defense, Army Services div. lists total payments to Smith Bros. Motor Body Works, at $275,219.63; The following year's report (fiscal year ending ended March 31, 1946) lists a much smaller number, $29,545.21.

1952 advertisement:

"SMITH BROS, truck bodies. The right truck body, designed and equipped for a specific job, is just as important to ... Smith Bros. Motor Bodies, Duke and Parliament Sts., TORONTO 17"

A 1958 directory lists 173 Bartley Dr., Toronto as another Smith Bros. Motor Bodies address, but which activites were prerformed there are currently unknown.

Smith Bros. is also known to have produced small numbers of fire apparatus,  patrol cars, hearses and ambulances into the Post-War era, but the details are scant and only a couple of older pictures survive.

Percival's sons, J.A. (Jack) Smith (b. 1925) and William S. (Bill) Smith (b. 1927) assumed control after his 1963 retirement, taking turns at the Presidency every three years. William held the senior post from 1963 to 1965 at which time Jack took over the reins.

In 1956, when Jack Smith met a young inventor named Ray Pitman (Raymond F. Pittman) at a U.S. convention, he saw possibilities for Pitman's rotating, hydraulic crane for setting poles for utilities. Soon Smith Bros. started producing hydraulic derrick diggers. The company then entered into a manufacturing agreement with the Pitman Mfg. div. of AB Chance Co., Grandview, Missouri. Aerial booms were added to the mix and by 1976 Smith Bros. offered a complete product range covering 36 different models of derricks and aerial devices.

In 1977 the Smith family sold a controlling interest in the firm to Wajax Industries. Ltd. a Vancouver-based distributor of industrial equipment, and relocated the firm into a modern 92,000-square foot plant located northwest of Toronto at 7400 Woodbine Ave., Markham, Ont.

In 1979 the Smith Bros, name was retired and the firm reorganized as Wajax UEC Ltd. In 1983 it became the Pitman Mfg. div of Wajax Industries, and in 1990, Pitman Crane Corp. More recently it was acquired by the Weldco division of NorTerra Group of Companies. NorTerra is owned equally by the Inuvialuit Development Corporation, representing the Inuvialuit of the North West Arctic, and Nunasi Corporation, representing the Inuit of Nunavut. Today the Pitman Hydra-Lift line is manufactured by Weldco Hydra-Lift, the firm's Edmonton, Alberta subsidiary. The firm's truck-mounted cranes are offered in sizes ranging from 8-ton to 50-ton capacities.

A couple of firms produced scale model Labatts streamliners under license and today they're highly prized by beer and transport collectors alike.

Angela Smith just published a fantastic history of the Smith Bros. which includes 100's of pictures never seen before, including pics of the LaBatt's streamliners during their construction - highly recommended - click here to purchase!

©2012 Mark Theobald for with special thanks to Angela Smith and the Labatt Brewing Co.

Some Pics ©2012 Labatt Brewing Co.

Appendix 1

A small collection of 1920s-30s Smith Bros. photographs and a few later documents dating to their takeover by Wajax can be found at the Canadian Government's Library and Archives in Ottawa ( Their mailing address: Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0N4, Canada

Included below are descriptions of some of the photographs, which are mostly undated:

Bus #6 Sudbury Transit Co. Ltd.
Bus, Belleville-Picton Coach Lines
Bus, The New Pines operated by Dominion Atlantic Railway
Stewart truck, O'Keefe's Beverages Ltd.
Dump Truck - inscr. Smith Bros.
Van, Parisian Laundry Co. of Toronto
3 trucks, McClary Mfg. Co.
Stake body truck Erwin & Sons Transport Toronto-Hamilton
Van, Felker Bros. Cleaners Dyers
Gotfredson van, Acme Dairy Ltd.
Bell Telephone Co. of Canada Truck 575
Rugby fire truck, Scarboro Fire Dept.
3 buses, La Cie de Transport D'Abitibi, Ltee.
Truck - White's Fish Co., Ltd.
Hearse, G.W.C. Graham Co.
G.M.C. truck, General Steel Wares Ltd.
Hearse, Washington Johnston
Oliver's Ambulance
White bus
Rocky Mountain Tours Co., Lake Louise and Banff Bus
Bell Telephone Co. of Canada Ltd. Truck 575
Leyland Truck, Brading's Old English Hop Ale, Brading's Breweries Ltd. Ottawa #9.
Truck, Canada Bread Co.
Bus, Sudbury Transit Co. R.R., Observation Car style rear end
Tank truck, Opaline Motor Oil
H.E.P.C. Bus 350 Niagara Falls District
Furniture van truck, Kitchen The Mover
Rugby panel delivery truck, North York Hydro Electric Commission
T.T.C. Bus, White Chassis, (Side view) Nov. 4, 1924








Angela Smith - Smith Bros.: Four Generations,  pub. 2014

Toronto Industrial Fair: An Illustrated Souvenir of Canada's Great Exhibition, September 2nd to 14th, 1895. Pub. by Canadian National Exhibition,  1895

John Douglas Southerland Argyll – Industries of Canada: Historical and Commercial Sketches of Toronto and Environs, pub. 1886

1931 Barron Buick - The Classic Car - March 1973 pp38-40

Streamlined Trucks: When Industrial Styling Went Wild - Custom Classic Trucks, Dec. 2001 issue

Michael E. Keller - The Graham Legacy: Graham-Paige to 1932, pub.1998

Industry '67 Centennial Perspective, published by The Canadian Manufacturers' Association in May 1967

Smith Bros. of Toronto – Vintage Canada, Vol. 2, No. 4, June 1976 issue (journal of the National Association of Antique Automobile Clubs of Canada)

Charles Pelham Mulvany, Graeme Mercer Adam & Christopher Blackett Robinson - History of Toronto and county of York, Ontario, Vol. 1, pub. 1885

Alex Tremulis - Created By The Measured Mile: 1940 Chrysler Newport and Thunderbolt, a remembrance by Thunderbolt designer Alex Tremulis; Special Interest Autos #28, May-June 1975 issue

David Traver Adolphus - Modern Day Classics, Hemmings Classic Car, June 2012 issue.

Thomas Edward Champion - The Methodist churches of Toronto, pub. 1899.

Rolland Jerry - Coachwork Trucks, Special Interest Autos #44, April 1978 issue

Donald F. Wood - American Beer Trucks, pub. 1999

Donald Wood - Delivery Trucks, pub. 1999

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

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