Dominion Chair Company, sitting on 162 years of history

Posted on October 28, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


Dominion Chair Company’s factory on Bass River, Nova Scotia after being rebuilt in 1885 (photo credit: Colchester Historeum, Rachel Wilson Collection)


As one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in Atlantic Canada, Dominion Chair Company’s history goes back over 150 years. Although the business no longer makes wooden chairs and other furniture, Dominion Chair Company lives on as a general store.


Start rocking

Dominion Chair Company was founded by brothers George and William Fulton in 1860 in Bass River, Nova Scotia. Together they built a hydro-powered sawmill and operated using the name Bass River Building and Furniture Company. George was responsible for making the wooden chairs, tables and other furniture, while William handled marketing and sales.

The brothers remained business partners until 1870 when William suggested that they move operations to Truro to be closer to the railway. George wanted to remain in Bass River and they were not able to come to a consensus. So, George purchased his brother’s shares and began managing the business solo.


Dominion Chair Company chairs being delivered from Bass River by horse and buggy to be shipped via train or stored in the company’s warehouse (photo credit: Colchester Historeum)


New plans

In 1876, George did make some changes. First, he acquired Acadia Chair Factory to merge with his current operations under the name Union Furniture and Merchandise Company. George also restructured the business as a joint-stock company to generate more capital and remain competitive in the growing market.

In the early days, business primarily came from the Maritimes and grew over time as production improved. Lumber was cut from their own property and steam power was added to the manufacturing process, which ran on sawdust and other byproducts. Creating very little waste, Dominion Chair’s production process was considered one of the most modern in Nova Scotia.

Unfortunately, Dominion Chair Company’s factory burned down in 1885. But, it was quickly rebuilt better than ever within a year. The new factory produced chairs exclusively and over time production expanded to include desks and chairs for universities and colleges, as well as other products.

George Fulton retired in 1888 and his son Suther B. Fulton took over the business.


Catalogue celebrating 90 years of Dominion Chair Company (photo credit: Colchester Historeum)


Keep pushing

In 1903, the family-owned furniture business officially adopted the name Dominion Chair Company Ltd. Business continued to grow, expanding outside the Maritimes to the rest of Canada and eventually internationally. Dominion Chair’s product line included about 30 different tables and chairs, such as rocking chairs, folding chairs and office furniture. At its peak, annual production was 125,000 chairs.

Sadly, the fire in 1885 was not the only one at Dominion Chair’s factory. After surviving multiple tragedies over the years, a fire in 1989 caused damage that could not be repaired due to financial hardship and lack of government funding. So, manufacturing ceased for Dominion Chair Company.


The Dominion Chair Company’s office and store, located across the street from its factory (photo credit: Colchester Historeum)


Sitting still

While the company is no longer in the business of making wooden furniture, the Dominion Chair Company Store still stands. Originally constructed in 1890, it currently operates as a general store that sells giftware, groceries, hardware and other items.

Rearranged but still sitting, 162 years later.

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