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The J & J Taylor Safe Company

Recently while on the internet I came across an advertisement for a J & J Taylor safe for sale.  I immediately felt a rush of excitement, not only because it was a beautiful old safe in onto itself, but because it connected to my avid interest in this particular safe company and its history.

My interest in the J & J Taylor Safe Company began a few years back when I was commissioned to write the history of a beautiful Victorian home in Cabbagetown.  After vetting the history of the house I discovered that it was the home of John Taylor, a prosperous safe manufacturer, the first in Canada. 

John Taylor and his brother James arrived from Scotland as young boys in 1838.  In 1855, they established their safe manufacturing business J & J Taylor Safe Company, on Palace Street (198 and 200 Palace).

 ay

J & J Taylor Safe Ad
J & J Taylor Safe Ad

 

Goads Map 1893
Goads Map 1893

 

Although James Taylor returned to the British Isles shortly thereafter, reportedly because of ill health, the business thrived.  Eventually it became known as the Taylor Safe Company, most likely coinciding with the return of James to Great Britain, and subsequently the Toronto Safe Company.   The Taylor Safe Works was one of the most successful manufacturers of its kind in North America during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th.  Their safes were distributed extensively throughout Canada and the U.S.  John Taylor ran the company for most of this period.  He died in 1913.

 

John Taylor obit 1913
John Taylor obituary 1913

 

In 1871 the Taylor Safe Company moved to what is now 139-145 Front St, located at Front and Frederick St.  The factory expanded  in 1877 to occupy most of the east end of the block.  Another  addition was made in 1883.

 

J & J Taylor Manufacturing Factilities Late 1800's
J & J Taylor Manufacturing Factilities Late 1800’s
139FrontStE
139 Front St E. 2011

 

It is  interesting to note that during its tenure of the warehouse on Front St., the company used Taylor’s Wharf to ship their safes.  Although there is some question as to whether the wharf was named after the safe-making Taylors or Captain Archibald Taylor who had a coal and wood business at the wharf, it is certain that the Taylors were substantial users of the wharf. 

 

Goads Map 1893
Goads Map 1893

 

In recognition of the Taylor’s, either Captain Archibald or John Taylor’s activities in the area, the laneway which runs behind 135 George St. is named Taylor’s Wharf Laneway.  In addition, if you look on the wall of the building at 145 Front St. E., you can see a sign which reads Taylor Safe Company.

 

20130319_115654
J & J Taylor Safe Workers. Date Unknown
J & J Taylor Safe Workers.  Date unknown.
J & J Taylor Safe Workers. Date Unknown
20130319_132201
J & J Taylor Safes Pulled From Fire of 1904

 

In 1959, the Taylor Safe Company was acquired by the safe manufacturing company Chubb- Mosler and became part of manufacturing operations in Brampton under the name Chubb-Mosler and Taylor Safes.  This company currently remains in operation.

Having done all of this research I became quite the Taylor safe aficionado and am always on the lookout for them whilst on my travels.  One of the first times that I stumbled upon a Taylor safe was when I went to the St. Veronus Restaurant in Peterborough.  There in the hallway as I went to the washroom was a big beautiful specimen of  the J & J Taylor safeworks.  I subsequently learned that the venue used to be the site of an old bank, and that they in fact did not use it to lock up their unruly customers.  Later when following the reconstruction of Maple Leaf Gardens and the removal of the time capsule etc., I saw a picture of a J & J Taylor safe that had been found there highlighted on the front page of the Toronto Sun.  I have even phoned the Canadian Mint in order to try to verify reports that many of the safes used by the mint are in fact Taylor safes.  Though I was disappointed to hear from their public relations spokesman that unfortunately this was, for obvious reasons, information that was not passed on to the general public.   Sometimes I go online in order to  look for any Taylor safes that may have emerged from the woodwork so to speak.  And so it was that this week that I eventually was in contact with Viraf of Toronto’s Transition Squad.  The company helps people deal with downsizing, or clearing up of estates.  They had taken on a client who had a Taylor Safe on their property.  Apparently the one time owner of the house had a store and when retiring from the business brought the old safe home with him.  Now the family is moving on and are in a bit of a conundrum as to what to do with it.  In reflection, I can say that I truly hope this lovely bit of Toronto and Canadian history finds its way to a place where it can be looked after.

 

The Safe of which I write.
The Safe of which I write.

 

61 comments

  1. Brian Mayhew says:

    An interesting article, at least to some of us like myself who worked in the field. A couple of minor corrections:-

    1) I worked for Chubb for many years and when I first joined them in 1958 the J. J. Taylor Co. was still an independent manufacturer on Front Street in Toronto. In addition to their manufacture of locks, safes and bank vault doors and equipment; they were also involved in the construction of many of the institutions of the Canadian Penitentiary Service. Many of the head offices and major branches of all Canadian banks, including the Bank of Canada, used massive vault doors supplied by the company and many of them are still in use today. In 1959 the company was taken over by the Mosler Safe Company of Hamilton Ohio who also purchased the Dominion Safe Company of Niagara Falls and formed the Mosler-Taylor Safe company. In 1960 a controlling interest in the Mosler-Taylor company was purchased by Chubb Safe Company who were the Canadian Branch of Chubb Lock and Safe Company of Wolverhampton, England and who renamed the combined companies as Chubb Mosler and Taylor Safes.

    2) While it is true that the J. J. Taylor operation theoretically still exists today, it is now buried so deep in multiple layers of company buyouts that it would be essentially impossible to untangle it all. In the early eighties Chubb, which had in the meantime bought out the Mosler interest and eliminated Mosler and Taylor from the name took over and combined the Canadian operations of the Diebold Safe Company of Canton, Ohio (which had already acquired earlier operations of the Goldie McCulloch of Galt, Ontario and the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe companies) into Chubb Lock and Safe Company. By this time the company had expanded into the fire protection and alarm business and also the burglar and security alarm business in addition to its original safe, vault and prison equipment manufacturing. In turn Chubb itself worldwide was taken over first by Racal Electronics and later by Williams which were essentially conglomerates based in the UK and who between them broke up the Chubb operation into separate pieces with the electronics and alarms being sold to a US company, the lock manufacturing being sold to the Swedish company Assa-Abloy and the safe and vault manufacturing to Gunnebo another Swedish company.

    When I retired from Chubb in 2000 the only trace remaining of the J. J. Taylor operation was microfilm copies of many of their Engineering Drawings and of course many of their safe and vault products which are still in use throughout Canada.

    • House Stories says:

      Interesting. Thanks for your input. Interesting. I wonder if there is any way to get access to those drawings.

      • Betty says:

        Thank you so much for the history. We purchased an “old general store” built in 1936 which has a JJ Taylor vault. I have just removed the plaque to clean which has prompted me to investigate the best way to clean the door without disturbing the beautiful hand painting. I have come across this article and found it very interesting, and it has provided us with a lot of information we were curious about.

    • Mark Leroux says:

      Hi, I have seen a tonne of articles about j&j taylor, taylor safe company, but a friend was gutting a house and discovered a safe in a wall that said John Taylor, safe manufacturers. Any idea what period of time this name may have been put on the safes?

      • House Stories says:

        It may have been installed when the house was built. Do you know when the house was built? If it coincides with the dates when the company was operational.

    • Timothy Michael says:

      Hi would you be able to assist me I just purchased a J&J Taylor sAfe and would appreciate assistance on how to remove the door ,can reach me on Tim at michaelfta dot co dot za

      • House Stories says:

        Hello there. Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I am a historian and wrote this after having done a history of the house in which John Taylor lived. I have no specific knowledge of how the safe works etc. I do encourage you to consult with a locksmith. Sorry I can not help. Robin

  2. Nathan Ng says:

    Hello. It is my suspicion that Taylor’s Wharf was named for Archibald Taylor. (rather than the Taylors of the safe company). In 1885 there was litigation involving this wharf and the adjoining one where one of the witnesses — Archibald Taylor — describes how he constructed the wharf.

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=CyYwAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PA712&ots=-d7GeXgvXc&dq=archibald%20taylor%20wharf&pg=PA712#v=onepage&q=archibald%20taylor%20wharf&f=false

    [p712 is where Taylor describes how he built the Wharf; p707 describes the location of said wharf, matching the 1889 Goad Insurance plan plate depicted in this post.]

  3. Allan Cunningham says:

    My family have a Dominion Save and Vault of Niagara Falls Ltd safe. Is there somewhere to look for a model number the safe is open but we don’t have the combination and we would like to get it so we can lock it. It’s a floor model about 4x3x3 with one door and the dial is in the middle and the handle on the left hand side If anyone can help it would be deeply appreciated Thank you

  4. Allan Cunningham says:

    we have a Dominion Safe and Vault Ltd Niagara Fall safe that we don’t have the combination for. It is Open but would like to be able to lock it and of course open it. Is there a Model number some where that we could find the combination from that. The safe is a floor model about 4x3x3 with the dial in the middle of a single door safe and the handle to it’s left. If anyone can give me some advise it would be appreciated. Thank YOu

    • Gord L says:

      Hello Allan,

      First of I would like to thank the author for this great article and add that the reason I found this article is because I serviced a beautiful Taylor today (I am a part time locksmith) . It was a beautiful floor safe with hand painted wilderness murals.. Spectacular…
      In any case, in keeping with the spirit of maintaining and reviving old vaults, I would suggest that you call a reputable locksmith. The locksmith to either tell you the combination or re code the lock itself — the latter being preferable. This is a very straightforward task and should cost you a relatively small amount

      Hope this helps!

  5. david kennedy says:

    I have a old very big jj taylor safe I’d like more info on I’m looking to sell and need more info is there a website to find model?

  6. I have an account in a renowned bank in Toronto.
    Recently, i lost the key of the locker. And what a bad luck, i
    don’t have the duplicate key with me. Can any Locksmith company in Toronto make a duplicate key of that lock without the original key?
    Please answer soon..

    • House Stories says:

      Hi there

      Unfortunately I am a historian and know nothing of the workings of these safes or how to deal with these sorts of problems. Sorry, wish I could help.

    • House Stories says:

      Hello there. Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I am a historian and wrote this after having done a history of the house in which John Taylor lived. I have no specific knowledge of how the safe works etc. I do encourage you to consult with a locksmith. Sorry I can not help. Robin

  7. Greg says:

    Enjoyed your writing. I own a J&J Taylor safe which was used in the family business, now sold. To me it’s an antique… To the people who broke in and bashed the knobs off with a sledge hammer, well, I guess they thought there was something of value inside. After almost three years, I finally got it open again with the help of a machinist who helped reattach the broken off dial shafts. I am now hunting for some new dials and shafts and found your story in the process.

    As for the contents of the safe… Some steal wool, WD40, BBQ paint and some sheet metal. Just stuff for working on a fun project with my brother. One of the guys who broke in is enjoying a stay at a free resort, with steel bars. They stole a bunch of stuff, but it’s the damage and pointless vandalism that really hurts.

  8. Paul Gagnon says:

    My sister’s mother in law just passed away, in the basement of her house is a J&J Taylor Safe. It looks to be over a 100 years old. The family do not want anything to do with it. I wonder if it’s worth removing from the house. It’s in very good shape, have pictures of it.

  9. ed kowalski says:

    I have an old j j taylor and sons safe for sale. Bought it off car when they were closing rr station in chilliwack bc.any idea of value? Original printing etc on safe.

  10. Terry Palmay says:

    My father worked at Chubb Mosler and Taylor until his death in 1970. He shared some patents with Brian Mayhew and I would love to connect with him.

  11. Gordon West says:

    The Taylors only owned the company for a few years. By the mid 1870’s J&J Taylor had been acquired by my great-grandfather, Thomas West. The company remained in the West family until the majority sale in ’59 to Mosler who then split their holdings with Chubb (thus Chubb Mosler and Taylor). The West family holdings were fully sold off in the late 70’s. A side note – J&J Taylor acquired Dominion in the mid ’50s.

    My grandfather, Howard West ran the company for many years and my father, William began his career in ’48 working in the factory. He was eventually responsible for the Detention Equipment division but left and formed his own company in ’73. Dad passed away a few months ago. He shared many stories and much of the company history over the years. One of these days I will put time aside to write them down and share them with whoever might find them interesting.

    • Joseph Resendes says:

      Hello Mr. West

      I’d be very interested to hear more about your families connection to the J & J Taylor safeworks. I am working on my PhD dissertation in which my area of my research focuses on this company, and the formation of the Taylor Safe Works Band (Marching / Concert Band). It was conducted by a famous cornet soloist who lived a short time in Toronto, and played for many esteemed ensembles such as the John Philip Sousa Band. Any information, stories, or photographs you could provide about the company and/or this band would be of great interest.

      Best,
      Joseph Resendes

    • Joseph Resendes says:

      Hello Mr. West.

      I was wondering if the stories passed on by your family ever mentioned the creation of a company band? (like a marching band, music band) Recent research towards my dissertation has come across the name of a band called the Taylor Safe Company Band. It was made up of employees of the firm and at some point around the late 1880s hired a renowned professional musician by the name of Herbert L. Clarke.

      I would be very interested to know more about your family’s connection and welcome you to contact me at joseph.resendes1@gmail.com

      Regards,
      Joseph Resendes

    • Joseph Resendes says:

      Hello Mr. West. I have heard of a band or brass band being created by the Taylor Safe Company. I would presume it was made up of employees/workers. I wonder if you heard of any stories relating to this band as it appears to have been created around the time of your great grandfathers time with the company. Any information would be welcome!

  12. Darren Kelly says:

    Hi, Helped my girl friend move into her new apartment yesterday and she has an intact J&J Taylor safe in what is now her living room…It is the same as you see when you google J&J Taylor safes “images” where someone was selling just the the same model door for 800.00 ..Black about 2.5 feet wide by about 7 feet tall with 2 white piping lines ..This safe is complete with inner door about 1 foot after the outside door it has 2 retractable folding doors that meet when close and shut..then a storage room about 5 feet by 5 foot..Really neat !..Darren Kelly

  13. Elena says:

    Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some
    of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely
    glad I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

  14. francois says:

    we have a small safe 14 inches scare i thing i remenber the combination but what is the procedure to open it.

    thank francois

    • House Stories says:

      Hello there. Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I am a historian and wrote this after having done a history of the house in which John Taylor lived. I have no specific knowledge of how the safe works etc. I do encourage you to consult with a locksmith. Sorry I can not help. Robin

  15. George Lloyd says:

    today in Old Town, Victoria, B.C. we observed a J&J Taylor Safe door with a combination lock having a date of 1855…..flashed back to June 1961 when I was hired as a bank clerk in a branch of BNS located within the Notre Dame Bay of Newfoundland……the store clerk declined my offer to re-set the combination lock.

  16. Joseph Resendes says:

    This is fascinating! My own research of the J&J Taylor Safe Works company stems from a musical history perspective. Given the photos, and history you have provided, I am curious if you may have come across some of of information, or any of the ‘missing pieces’ I have yet to find.

    c.1887, a new concert band (marching band) had appeared in Toronto founded by ‘The Taylor Safe Works Band’ (aka. the J&J Taylor Safe Works Company). They had hired Herbert L. Clarke to conduct their band which was made up of 35 musicians who were employees of the firm. Herebert L. Clarke’s is recognized as one of the greatest cornet soloists in history, who also lived in toronto, whose father was the organist at Jarvis St. Baptist Church, and who grew to become a regular soloist with acclaimed ensembles such as John Philip Sousa’s band.

    I’m curious if any of this information came to surface while you were researching this company, or if you came across any photos, or news clippings that point towards this band and its history within Toronto.

    Any information would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Joseph

  17. Shirley Hall says:

    There are two of the same safes described by Darren Kelly above on the second floor of the Oddfellows Hall building at 2 College Street in downtown Toronto. It housed a Bank of Commerce at one point in its history. Perhaps that is why they are there. They are quite spectacular.

  18. james Haley says:

    hi Robin, ran accross your article when I did a search on J and J taylor safes, i was looking at a house for sale at 73 Gerrish Street, Windsor, Nova Scotia B0N2T0 and they had a picture of a large walk in Taylor safe so I did a search and found you. not sure if their is anything interesting here but I guess these taylor safe’s travelled everywhere to businesess in Canada.
    https://cdn.realtor.ca/listing/TS635991851385900000/reb107/highres/7/201609597_6.jpg
    the above is a property for sale with one of the taylors safes in it still intact. the for sale article had this to say…..
    Prime commercial property located on the busy main street (Gerrish Street) in Windsor. The main level has a large front room (with large display window) that was previously the Hants Journal office (and before that a bank- with the old safe still in tact), two additional rooms and 2 levels each offer 2 bedroom residential rental units. Parking at rear of building.
    so another lost gem of j and j taylor still keep record of the J and J taylor safe company.

    James Haley

  19. Clint Kimery says:

    Alfred Walker worked for Taylor Safe Co. in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1910. In 1910 Mr. Walker built a 2 1/2 story brick house with a stone foundation at 2900 Victoria Avenue in Regina. We are currently renovating this house and we are wondering if anyone as any additional information about Mr. Walker, and any details regarding his work with Taylor Safe during that period. The house made it through the 1912 Regina Tornado, while many others did not.

  20. Lynda says:

    My husband and I recently purchased a 1915 home and with it built in the basement wall is an old J & J Taylor safe. We are curious to know what is in it as well as the worth. How do we go about researching this?

    • House Stories says:

      Hi there

      If you want to figure out what is it worth you can do is go on to the internet and find what others are asking. Other than that I don’t know much about the safe business other than information about this one particular company and its operations. If you want to know more about your house and potentially who installed the safe, I would be happy to do some research for you if you are in Toronto. Go to my website http://www.housestories.ca or you can contact me at 647 435 5076. Cheers Robin

  21. Cindi says:

    I am currently doing historical research on a building owned by members of my family in Guelph, Ontario. The building has six J & J Taylor Safe Co. walk-in vaults within its walls. I have read your blog and have learned some interesting things about the Toronto based company.

    A local locksmith has taken a look at these safes, and a few are missing a part of the locking mechanism. They are usable, just not lockable. Do you have any suggestions to pursue parts?

    I understand you are always on the look-out for J & J Taylor safes, and thought I would share the knowledge of the existence of these six if you want to take a trip to Guelph!

  22. Wendy Baxter says:

    Hi, im a cleaner for service masters in port colborne ont and i just recently got the local high school day care account, while cleaning the day care i noticed a safe in the wall of one of the rooms that had pics and drawings over it, i took pics of it and trying to find info on it and came across this page, it indeed says J&J taylor company on it, was wondering if anyone else knew any info on this safe or the age of it, thanks Wendy

    • House Stories says:

      Hello there. Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I am a historian and wrote this after having done a history of the house in which John Taylor lived. I have no specific knowledge of how the safe works etc. I do encourage you to consult with a locksmith. Sorry I can not help. Robin

  23. I have a J and J Taylor built safe still intact and a J and J Taylor, Standard Bank of Canada sign, all in great condition with many safety deposit boxes and I have even been told, many buried in the floorboards of this amazing antique bank, we even have the Original tellers wicket. Does anyone have any idea of value?

  24. James Reese says:

    A J & J Taylor vault is still to be found in the J. D. Higinbothan building in Lethbridge, AB. Canada Post is still there but the vault has not been used in decades.

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  26. Gaëtan Lafrance says:

    Bonjour,

    I just bought a house in Saint-Georges-de-Clarenceville, Québec, with a safe of J.J. Taylor in. The house was built in 1914 and was a bank (I don’t know the name of the bank).
    If somebody know something?

    Merci.

  27. Robin E Newton says:

    Hi. I see this thread is quite old so not sure if someone can help. On Ancestry – my DNA and tree lead me to a great-uncle, Samuel Graham, born in Ireland in 1867. He was employee of J & J Taylor Safe Works when he died in an accident at work at 145 Front Street in Toronto on 1 Nov 1898 (according to the Registration of Death). I would dearly love a copy of a newspaper article or any other supporting document for this. He was only 31 years old at the time but had listed his employment as “safe maker” in the 1891 Canada Census, so he was not totally inexperienced. If anyone can help me – it would be wonderful to have that information to share. He left a widow and four children under the age of 10.

    • House Stories says:

      Hello there

      I am so sorry it took so long. Just recognized this now. I have found an article about your great uncle. I will send it to your email. Best Robin

  28. Shane Foster says:

    Hi I have a full Walk in J and J Taylor double set of doors safe in my living room which is now my pantry. My building was the New Westminster post office and was converted to residential units. Unfortunately in the early 2000s fake signage was put on which is very inappropriate to the age and design of the safe. I would love to restore its calligraphy to something in keeping with its heritage. I would like to know if any one has connection to a sign writer in the lower mainland of Vancouver and images of what the proper writing would look like. I would upload images of it but not sure how on this site

    S. Foster
    New Westminster, BC

  29. R Watts says:

    I have a TAylor floor safe 30” high 24”/24” approx, if love to get into it and restore it to its former glory. BUT I can’t get it open Sincerely Rorie Watts. Email wattsr4@cnc.bc.ca or call (250)255-7496

  30. Mark Campbell says:

    I have a J. & J. Taylor Safe that has the name of the Hotel “Interlaken” barely readable on the front door. This hotel is in Switzerland. I note that Robert Bain (one of the owners of the Taylor Safe Company from 1875) moved to Switzerland when he retired. I would love to find out if this safe moved with him. Is anyone in contact with the Bain family?

  31. Mark Campbell says:

    Don Mortimer, did you ever get a hold of Gordon West? I too would love to contact him regarding a J&J safe that I own.

    Would love for you to pass on my email to him, or send me his if you have it.
    mark@pdsmetal.com

  32. Francois Marineau says:

    hi have a safe 14×12 inches probably 1950 aprox and i have the number but what is the process to open

    thank. françois

    • House Stories says:

      Hello there. Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I am a historian and wrote this after having done a history of the house in which John Taylor lived. I have no specific knowledge of how the safe works etc. I do encourage you to consult with a locksmith. Sorry I can not help. Robin

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