history

Historic Dartmouth: The Starr Manufacturing Company

Where the Starr Manufacturing Company once stood.

Where the Starr Manufacturing Company once stood.

There’s a plot of land in downtown Dartmouth that’s steeped in heritage. Many of us pass by it each day, unaware of its importance. It’s where Pleasant Street meets Prince Albert Road and where the Starr Manufacturing Company made history.

But before they made history, they made skates.

“Even the king of Spain had a pair of gold Starr skates,” says Martin Jones, who wrote about Starr in his best selling book, Hockey’s Home.

It was the early 1860s, and there was a problem plaguing skaters in Dartmouth. Skates were crude blades on wooden frames. You had to strap them to your boots. They often came loose, and didn’t allow for much control when skating.

Young Starr employee, John Forbes, noticed the problem, and set out to fix it. Forbes joined forces with fellow employee, Thomas Bateman, and together they worked on a new design.

The pair came up with the Starr ACME Skate. Its revolutionary design automatically adjusted to fit your boot, giving skaters more control on the ice.

An original Starr Skate

“They made it much easier to turn and skate faster, which resulted in the game of skating and hockey being much more popular amongst men and women.” says Jones.

 

Starr continued to innovate. The business grew. Offices opened up across the globe, and millions of skates were sold.

Jones says by the early 1900s Starr had sold over 19 million pairs of skates. He says in today’s numbers that would be equivalent to selling 70 million pairs.

The Dartmouth factory was heralded as the best skate factory in the world, producing the finest skates on the market. Both professional hockey players and amateurs used Starr skates.

“The Montreal world champions of 1902, 6 of 7 players wore the Star Skate,” says Jones.

Not only was Starr at the forefront of skate production, they also sold hockey sticks, carved by the Mi’kmaq people, which only added to Starr’s influence on the game of hockey.

Starr stopped producing skates in 1939, but continued to make lots of other historically important products, such as the gold gates at the entrance of Point Pleasant Park and parts for the Canadian railway.

There are fewer things as characteristically Canadian as hockey and skating, so it’s important to note Starr Manufacturing’s impact on our culture. They revolutionized the way skates were made and their innovations helped make ice-skating and hockey the sports they are today.

2 Comments

  • It is interesting to note that the Shubenacadie Canal Co. and Starr Manufacturing are linked. When Starr began they made use of the same Turbine as was used by the Canal. In fact they constructed their building around and over the Canal Power House and Turbine Chamber and you could go below the floor of the Starr Plant directly into the stone chamber previously used by the Canal. Also the streambed which carried the water from the Chamber could be seen under the floor of the Starr buildings. So the flow of water which had been used for countless years by the Mi’maq became the power source for a new form of transportation and later for a world renowned manufacturing business.
    Work has been going on for a number of years on ways to properly commemorate these accomplishments and as this is being written excavation is underway on the former Starr site which will lead to the opening of the Turbine Chamber and eventually the reconstruction of the Power House as well as construction of a replica of the Cradle and a depiction of the manufacturing of the world famous Starr Skate.

  • It is interesting to note that the Shubenacadie Canal Co. and Starr Manufacturing are linked. When Starr began they made use of the same Turbine as was used by the Canal. In fact they constructed their building around and over the Canal Power House and Turbine Chamber and you could go below the floor of the Starr Plant directly into the stone chamber previously used by the Canal. Also the streambed which carried the water from the Chamber could be seen under the floor of the Starr buildings. So the flow of water which had been used for countless years by the Mi’maq became the power source for a new form of transportation and later for a world renowned manufacturing business.
    Work has been going on for a number of years on ways to properly commemorate these accomplishments and as this is being written excavation is underway on the former Starr site which will lead to the opening of the Turbine Chamber and eventually the reconstruction of the Power House as well as construction of a replica of the Cradle and a depiction of the manufacturing of the world famous Starr Skate.