Fonds PR-2308 - Weldwood-Westply Limited fonds

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Weldwood-Westply Limited fonds

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  • textual record
  • cartographic material
  • technical drawing
  • multiple media

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  • Source of title proper: Fonds title reflects the company name during the predominant date period of the records.

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  • 1910-1988; predominantly 1945-1982 (Creation)
    Weldwood-Westply Limited

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Physical description

Ca. 34.6 m of textual records and ca. 575 technical drawings

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Administrative history

Weldwood-Westply Limited was a prominent Canadian forest products company with a significant presence in British Columbia. Western Plywood Company Limited, renamed Weldwood-Westply Limited in 1961, was founded by the Vienna-born John Bene, whose family operated a plywood plant in Budapest. After coming to Canada in 1938, Bene worked for Canadian Forest Products before establishing his own company in 1944. With investment capital arranged through Rogers Sugar, among others, Bene formally established Western Plywood, otherwise known as Westply, in 1944. Timber limits were secured around the Quesnel and Skeena River areas of British Columbia. Westply built the Kent Avenue plywood plant in Vancouver a year later. Kent Avenue was Western Plywood's first plant; it began production in 1946. The plant initially used peeled cottonwood harvested in the Quesnel area and gradually converted to Douglas fir. Westply operations were expanded by new plywood plants built in Quesnel in 1951 and in Edmonton, Alberta in 1956. When the company's manufacturing security was strained by scarce timber holdings, Westply began purchasing companies in order to secure timber resources and introduce specialty manufacturing capability. Acquisition of the J. R. Murray plywood plant at Surrey in 1955 provided extensive timber limits. Despite purchasing J. R. Murray, Westply continued to experience timber shortages and debt, common problems for a mid-sized company in the centralized and capital-intensive BC forest industry. As a result, Westply sought outside acquisition to raise the investment capital needed to operate competitively as a manufacturer. Western Plywood's successful acquisitions and diversification convinced United States Plywood to purchase the company 1961. It was renamed Weldwood-Westply Limited - known informally as Weldwood of Canada- and would be known as such for the rest of the its history. In 1963, the Kent Avenue plant became the British Columbia Head Office for Weldwood-Westply. Backed by US Plywood's investment capital, John Bene finally overcame the threat of timber shortages through Weldwood's acquisition of Canadian Collieries Resources in 1964. The move expanded Weldwood's manufacturing capabilities as Canadian Collieries brought with it the lucrative Squamish Tree Farm licence and a number of plants and subsidiary operations, such as the Timberland sawmill in Surrey. These assets would allow the company to benefit from economies of scale and compete effectively with other heavily centralized manufacturers. The company continued to look to Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec for expansion opportunities. In 1964 it began plywood and waferboard operations in Longlac, Ontario and acquired a hardboard plant at Sprague, Manitoba from Columbia Forest Products in 1965. The change in name to Weldwood-Westply Limited brought together the various Western Plywood companies. Specialty production strategy required inventive managerial talent as well as timber, particularly as John Bene favoured a collaborative management style. While his preference for companies that operated independently under the Westply umbrella was a benefit to that smaller organization , that model became troublesome as mergers and acquisitions in the 1960s brought new conflicts requiring the streamlining of decision-making authority. While the US Plywood deal secured Weldwood's stability, the company was limited by the lack of a strong pulp and paper division. After pursuing pulp and paper projects from the early 1950s, and finding them financially unfeasible, Bene was able to negotiate agreements needed to begin operation of the Cariboo pulp and paper plant at Quesnel in 1969. Weldwood continued to successfully operate as a mid-size, integrated forest products company throughout the latter half of the 20th century, largely through flexibility in strategies and markets. From a focus on plywood production, the company increased its involvement in pulp and paper and lumber. Its holdings began to decrease in the late 1970s, starting with the closure of the Timberland sawmill in Surrey. While expanding operations in Hinton, Alberta, the company continued to sell and close operations throughout the 1980s. Between 1989 and 1993, Weldwood closed the remainder of its coastal BC operations and continued to liquidate assets elsewhere until their operating region was limited to the Cariboo and west-central Alberta. Finally, in 2004, West Fraser acquired Weldwood from its parent company, International Paper.

Custodial history

Records were retained on site at West Coast Plywood's Kent Avenue plant, Vancouver, until donation to the Royal British Columbia Museum in 1993 and at the Cariboo Plywood plant, Quesnel, until donation to the Royal British Columbia Museum in 1994. In 2012 the records were transferred to the BC Archives.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of broad-ranging records pertaining to the management and operations of the Western Plywood Company Limited and the Weldwood-Westply Limited group of regional and national companies, subsidiaries, divisions and branches in Canada and the United States. Records in this fonds are from the British Columbia Head Office of Weldwood-Westply and include material to do with management and operations of various plants, particularly the Kent Avenue plywood plant in Vancouver, where the head office was located, and the Cariboo Plywood plant in Quesnel. The fonds includes records of the following companies, subsidiaries, divisions and branches: Alwest Wholesale, Canadian Collieries Resources Limited, Cariboo Pulp and Plywood (Quesnel), Empire Lumber Company, Hay & Company Limited and Hubbell Lumber Company (both Ontario), Flavelle Cedar Limited, J.R. Murray Timber Limited, Kent Avenue plant (Vancouver), Keeley Lumber Company, Kirk Coal Company, Mount Baker Veneer Company, Tepson's Wholesale (Ontario), Timberland Plywood, United States Plywood, Weldwood of Canada and others. The fonds consists of eight series: Series 1. Executive papers, 1934-1970, predominant 1960-1969. Sub-series: President's files, Vice-President's files, Secretary files. Series 2. Correspondence, 1956-1963, predominant 1960-1962. Sub-series: General Correspondence 1960-1961, General Correspondence 1961-1962. Series 3. Financial records, 1910-1973, predominant 1945-1966. Sub-series: Financial files, annual reports and statements; General accounting correspondence; Tax files; Ledgers and account books. Series 4. Head Office general files, 1946-1969. Sub-series: Topical files, Forest Industry Summaries. Series 5. Labour and personnel files, 1951-1988. Sub-series: Set 1, Set 2. Series 6. Old files, 1907-1967. Sub-series: Companies, Log and timber sale files. Series 7. Cariboo Plywood plant, 1950-1982. Sub-series: Quesnel timber files, General files, Correspondence and reports, Financial files. Series 8. Timberland Sawmill, 1946-1982. Sub-series: Timberland Sawmill technical drawings, Reference drawings, Sawmill and machinery files. Original series, series/sub-series titles, and arrangements have been retained. Arrangements are alphabetical, chronological or numerical.

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Finding aids

Series descriptions and file lists are available. File list is based on a list produced by the BC Provincial Museum, Human History department, ca. 1995. Some file titles are abbreviated or paraphrased versions of the full file titles.

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Further accruals are possible.

General note

Accession number(s): 2012.250.1

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