Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

C. Grant Head

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


A significant change occurred in the spatial pattern of Ontario’s distilling industry during the second half of the nineteenth century. Around 1850 there were approximately 150 distilleries and, by 1871, there were only 19. The industry went from numerous small, local distilleries to a few large industrial enterprizes. This industry was one of the manufacturing industries to lead the way during Canada’s industrial revolution. By 1871, the beginnings of whisky region was created for Canada in Southern Ontario, based on the “Big Five”: Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. located in Walkerville near Windsor; Joseph E. Seagram in Waterloo; Gooderham & Worts Ltd. in Toronto; H. Corby in Corbyville near Belleville; and J.P. Wiser & Sons Ltd. in Prescott. These five distilleries were producing millions of gallons of spirits and whiskey each year. It was these distilleries that continued to dominate the distilling industry in Ontario throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. No other substantial geographical work has been completed on the distilling industry in North America, consequently evidence was collected from a wide variety of primary data sources (building an extensive annotated bibliography). This evidence was used to explain the changing in spatial pattern and the geographical distribution of the distilling industry. These primary data sources included: the Canada Census with careful attention paid to the census taker’s manuscript census for the earlier years of 1951 and 1961; industrial records available at the Hiram Walker & Sons Archives, items such as person and daily ledgers, scrapbooks, personal correspondence, and advertisements; “Appendix A- Spirits” of the Canadian Sessional Papers (1868 to 1900); the Dun & Bradstreet Reference Books (1864 to 1900); assessment rolls; gazetteers and directories; newspapers; fire insurance plans, county maps; photographs; and the Lanman & Kemp correspondence. The factors of markets, transportation (namely rail), technological advances (especially in the production process), government influence (in the form of taxation and legislation) and the entrepreneurialism were examined; it was determined that each factor played a critical role in the location of the “Big Five” distilleries and contributed to the demise of the small local distilleries.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season