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From economic to demographic boom

Aerial photo of the Bruck Mills factory with the adjacent railway and workers' houses.

Aerial view of the Cowansville plant, circa 1945

“Between 1920 and 1955, Cowansville’s economic, social, sporting, and cultural life depended largely on the Bruck Mills. So much so that in 1945, the Bruck factory employed more than 1,200 people while the population of Cowansville was barely 3,600.”

– Michel Racicot, president of the Société d’histoire de Cowansville

Two superimposed black and white panoramic photos, both showing large groups of people, men and women, looking at the camera.

Employees in front of the Bruck factory in 1932 and at the company picnic at Lac Brome in 1939

The growth of the company and the evolution of the production drive the Bruck’s managers to increase and transform the Cowansville facilities. Successive expansions quadruple the factory’s surface area in less than 15 years. The company, which has been operating 24 hours a day since 1933, becomes the town’s main employer. From the initial 30 employees, it grows to 300 in 1926, 600 in 1936, and 1,200 in 1945, which—according to the Sherbrooke Daily Record—represents one third of the town’s population at the time.

Letter on Bruck factory letterhead requesting a construction permit for the expansion of a weaving mill

Expansion building permit application, 1935

New workers arrive from many regions of Quebec, including the Beauce and the lower St-Lawrence. Others come from Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, which will earn a neighbourhood in Cowansville the nickname “Little Poland”.

Housing workers
To meet the housing needs of the influx of workers, the Bruck partakes in investments with Cowansville Realties Limited, a real estate company co-founded by several of the city’s entrepreneurs in 1923. Bruck Mills immediately buys land that enables the rapid growth of subdivisions and new streets. About 20 houses are built near the factory on the new Westmount, Willard, and Saint-Antoine roads. Employees have access to new houses that can be rented at low cost or bought with the help of their employer. Some of these houses still exist today.

Ten similar houses built on either side of the street.

Houses built near the factory for the workers. Excerpt from the Entre-Nous employee newspaper, 1950

Three employees, a man in a white shirt and tie, a man in work clothes and a woman wearing an apron, pose in front of a long table in a factory.

Dyeing department employees, circa 1945