“Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!” The Blo-All domestic / home snowblower of Autocanner Registered of Montréal, Québec

A very appropriate piece of equipment given the season, well, that which affects the northern part of the northern hemisphere of planet Earth, the domestic / home snowblower of Autocanner Registered of Montréal, Québec. Anon., “–.” Montréal-Matin, 6.

Happy New Year, my reading friend. And yes, our topic this week is a domestic / home snowblower, a very appropriate piece of equipment given the season, well, the season which affects the northern part of the northern hemisphere of planet Earth, and a demonstration of my unwavering will to be briefer in 2023.

Before going any further, allow me to quote, in translation, the caption which accompanied the photograph of the domestic / home snowblower which appeared in January 1948 in the daily newspaper Montréal-Matin of…Montréal, Québec.

Brace yourself. It is a doozy.

The citizens of the metropolis have had the opportunity on many occasions to admire, after a violent snowfall, the fine work carried out by the snowblowers of the city of Montréal. So they soon expressed the desire to have a similar one, but obviously much smaller and easier to handle. Today, thanks to Autocanner Reg’d, that dream has become a reality. Yesterday afternoon, journalists from the metropolis were invited to attend, on Sherbrooke Street near St-Denis Street, a demonstration of a snowblower. There the journalists could see the magnificent work of that instrument in a short time. That Montréal-made snowblower is powered by a gasoline engine and mounted on skids. It can throw snow a distance of [nearly 23 metres] 75 feet and weighs only [approximately 23.5 kilogrammes] 52 pounds. Needless to add that its handling is very easy. It removes a width [46 centimetres] 18 inches of snow at a time. In a country like ours prone to violent snowfalls, it is a very useful and much appreciated toy.

By the way, did you know that the Quebecer Arthur Sicard was / is generally credited as the inventor of the first really practical snowblower? He completed a street cleaning prototype in 1925 but might, I repeat might, have been cogitating about snow clearance since the mid 1890s. The residents of Outremont, Québec, were the first human beings to benefit from the use of a street clearing snowblower. That vehicle went into service during the winter of 1927-28.

Sicard founded the Compagnie de machines à neige Sicard Limitée, in Montréal, in September 1929. In November 1937, the latter became Sicard Limitée, a firm which should apparently not be confused with Sicard Industries Limited of Montréal, a firm founded in March 1945.

As of 2023, Groupe Sicard SSI Incorporé of Knowlton, Québec, was a division of an American entity, SMI-Snowblast Incorporated.

Before I forget, did you know that a snow blower operated by the city of Outremont well after the Second World War was / is in the collection of the Canada Science and Technology Museum of Ottawa, Ontario, a sister / brother institution of the stupendous and tremendous Canada Aviation and Space Museum? And yes, the Canada Science and Technology Museum is not bad. Alright, alright, it is not bad at all. Jeez, what a grouch you can be, my reading friend.

Incidentally, the vehicle on which the Canada Science and Technology Museum’s Sicard snow blowing doodad was / is mounted, was built in Kitchener, Ontario, in the 1950s, by Four Wheel Drive Auto Company Limited, the Canadian subsidiary of an American firm, Four Wheel Drive Auto Company, but back to our story.

Although the Montréal daily Le Devoir did not publish a photograph of the Autocanner snowblower in a January 1948 article, it nevertheless specified that the demonstration was done at the Canadian Club, the Montréal branch of a movement founded in 1893 which spanned the dominion, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

The Montréal daily Le Canada specified that the demonstration, “although convincing, was not entirely satisfactory, snow being rather scarce.”

According to Le Devoir, the Autocanner device was “a very practical snow plow for schools, garages and in general for any business or private house that has some dependencies.” It went without saying that someone could also use it to clean an ice rink, yard or sidewalk.

Indeed, according to Le Canada, the caretaker of a Catholic parish in Montréal had used a U.S. Army Truck, ¼-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance all-terrain vehicle, in other words a “Jeep” bought from war surplus, and an Autocanner snowblower, since December 1947 to clean “the very large surroundings of the church, the sidewalks, the school ice rink […].” He stated he was delighted with the product of the small Montréal firm.

For example, one person working alone could clean an average-sized rink covered with about 20 centimetres (8 inches) of snow in less than an hour. How many arms and shovels and how much time would it take to do such a chore?

And yes, the preceding quotes were all translations. You are welcome.

It should be noted that the Autocanner snowblower did not seem to be available in stores yet in January 1948.

Its designer was said to be the founding owner of Autocanner, Henri Guay. In fact, it was quite possibly him who pushed the snowblower visible in the photo with which yours truly launched this issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee. Guay seemingly began to work on that project around the middle of 1946.

A brief digression if I may. Yours truly wonders if the Guay of Autocanner was the merchant Henri Guay who had founded Henry Machine Shops Limited of Montréal in August 1942, with garage keeper Rouville Rocheleau, owner of Rocheleau Automobile Limitée of Montréal.

Curiously perhaps, it was not Montréal-Matin which published the Autocanner advertisement that yours truly found after hours, what am I saying (typing?) centuries, of hard work. Nay. Said advertisement appeared in January 1948, in another Montréal daily, La Patrie, as well as in the only francophone daily in Ottawa, Le Droit. Knowing your insatiable curiosity about science and technology, I present it to you without further ado.

An Autocanner Registered advertisement for its domestic / home snowblower. Anon., “Autocanner Registered.” Le Droit, 24 January 1948, 13.

You will notice that the technical data present in the doozy caption that you have just had to endure was also in that advertisement.

A February advertisement in Le Devoir revealed that Autocanner now used the designation Blo-All to identify its snowblower.

Yours truly must here express some doubt regarding the power of the Autocanner snowblower. Snow thrown almost 23 metres (75 feet) away?! In 1948?! What do you think?

Said snowblower was also a fairly expensive toy. The $ 185 plus taxes mentioned in the ad indeed corresponds to approximately $ 2 330 in 2022 currency, or more than 4 times the price of certain types of domestic / home snowblowers available in Québec and Canada in 2022.

One of the most interesting details in our story was that the well-known American firm Toro Motor Company, mentioned in a November 2021 issue of our amazing blog / bulletin / thingee, had introduced its Snow Hound domestic / home self-propelled snowblower in… 1952.

That same year, another well-known American firm, Ariens Company, launched the Sno-Thro domestic / home snowblower. That self-propelled device could throw a strip of snow 43 centimetres (17 inches) wide a distance of 4.5 metres (15 feet). Would you believe that the Sno-Thro seemed to be part of a family of 3 devices using the same basic chassis? The other 2 members of the family were the Yardster rotary tiller and a rotary blade mower. Each member of the family sold for around US $ 150 in 1952-53, or just under $ 2 300 in 2022 Canadian currency.

Also in 1952, a small American firm, Tate Equipment Company, offered its customers a family of 3 devices using the same basic chassis, the Roto-Hoe rotary tiller, a rotary blade mower and a snowblower. Yours truly cannot say how / if that product was linked to a similar trio of devices, which also included the name Roto-Hoe, introduced no later than January 1952 by another small American firm, Roto-Hoe & Sprayer Company.

No later than the fall of 1952, the George Garden Tool Division of Community Industries Association, an organisation founded by a small Protestant church, was offering a snow blower attachment, one of the 15 different attachments available, to the people who bought one of its lawn and garden tractors. The attachment and tractor respectively cost US $ 29.50 and US $ 119.50, sums which correspond to something like $ 440 and $ 1 780 in 2022 Canadian currency.

This being said (typed?), Rome Riebeth, a columnist for an American daily newspaper, Minneapolis Morning Tribune of… Minneapolis, Minnesota, tried out a domestic / home snowblower in December 1949. He unfortunately did not give the name of the manufacturer of the device in question, capable of throwing a strip of snow 41 centimetres (16 inches) wide a distance of 7.5 metres (25 feet). Riebeth, however, mentioned that said snowblower cost US $ 159.50, or about $ 2 725 in 2022 Canadian currency.

That same year 1949, at the very beginning of the year in fact, the American firm Maxim Silencer Company marketed a snowblower intended more for businesses than for families. The Maxim Snow Thrower, a self-propelled device, could throw a strip of snow 71 centimetres (28 inches) wide a distance of more than 15 metres (50 feet). It cost a modest sum of US $ 415, or about $ 7 100 in 2022 Canadian currency.

This being said (typed?), Maxim Silencer put on the market in 1949-50 three models of snowblowers, of which at least one, if not two, were intended more for families than for businesses.

And you have a question, do you not, my reading friend. What types of silencers are we dealing with? We are dealing with silencers for firearms. Maxim Silencer’s founding president, Hiram Percy Maxim, seemed indeed to have invented the first commercially successful firearm silencer, around 1902. And yes, the firm later developed silencers for automobiles.

Maxim’s daddy was none other than Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, an American-British inventor best known for his machine gun, the first truly successful automatic weapon, initially made in the United Kingdom but subsequently manufactured under license, between the 1880s and the 1940s, in several / many countries, including Canada, I think.

The Maxim machine gun and its derivatives proved their murderous efficiency in countless occasions during the First World War. They had, however, shown an inkling of what they could do in one-sided colonial campaigns in Africa in the 1890s. One only needs to think of the sinister lines written by the controversial Franco-English writer / soldier / satirist / sailor / poet / orator / historian / activist Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc: “Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim Gun, and they have not,” lines found in the 1898 verse collection The Modern Traveller.

Mind you, Maxim had inventions as varied as a curling iron and a mousetrap in his portfolio.

By the way, did you ever play Mouse Trap Game / Mouse Trap, the 3-dimensional board game launched in 1963 by the American toy giant Ideal Toy Corporation? Yours truly never had the pleasure, but I digress.

The ginormous steam aeroplane, a simple test vehicle in fact, whose construction Maxim supervised, in England, managed to lift itself off its rails for a few moments in July 1894, but let us return to our subject of the week, if indirectly.

You see, at the start of the winter of 1948-49, W.H. Perron & Compagnie Limitée, the informal / unofficial name of W.H. Perron & Company Limited, offered its customers a rototiller from the American firm Gravely Tractor Company equipped with a snowblower capable of throwing a strip of snow 64 centimetres (25 inches) wide a distance of 23 metres (75 feet). The set retailed for $ 506, or nearly $ 6 550 in 2022 currency.

People who already had a Gravely tractor could obviously buy separately the snowblower which could be attached to it. The cost? $ 156, or nearly $ 2 025 in 2022 currency.

You have not forgotten, I hope, that W.H. Perron & Company / W.H. Perron & Compagnie was mentioned in a May 2021 issue of our you know what.

Interestingly, the corporate name in French seemed to appear for the first time in Gazette officielle du Québec in 1974.

Also interestingly, the December 1948 issue of the American monthly magazine Popular Mechanics published a snippet with a photograph on a snow blower attached to a lawnmower whose manufacturer was unfortunately not identified. The device in question seemed very versatile. A person could indeed buy attachments which transformed said device into a tiller, pesticide spreader (liquid or powder), etc.

Could Autocanner’s domestic / home snowblower have been the first on the market in the world? That is possible, but probably impossible to confirm. It was certainly among the first on the market.

Before yours truly forgets, my reading friend, how about a few lines on Autocanner? And yes, that was a purely rhetorical question.

The (brief?) adventure of that firm seemed to begin with the Madelon electric can seamer, a device capable of closing 12 cans per minute. If that can seamer was famous according to advertisements published in October 1945 in the weekly L’Étoile du Nord of Joliette, Québec, I must admit that I have found nothing about it, especially not the name of a manufacturer.

This being said (typed?), Autocanner announced in April 1946 that said Madelon can seamer, the only electric automatic can seamer then manufactured in Canada, it was stated, would henceforth bear the name of Autocanner can seamer. The question was whether the manufacturer X of the can seamer changed its name to Autocanner or whether the latter acquired the rights to produce the can seamer.

A version of the Autocanner seamer available no later than August 1947 appeared to be able to seal fairly large cans. It was largely offered to the many religious institutions in Québec.

Incidentally, the contraption in question sold for between $ 69.50 and $ 85, or nearly $ 1 120 to $ 1 370 in 2022 currency. Incidentally, a typical electric automatic can seamer seemingly sold for about $ 2 600 in 2022.

Mind you, Autocanner seemed to be the Montréal-based seller of the electric washing machines of the American firm Young Corporation. In 1948, the Montréal firm added Little Giant electric washing machines from the American firm Little Giant Incorporated to the products offered to its customers. Said washing machine sold for $ 99.50, which translated to more than $ 1 250 in 2022 currency. Incidentally, an electric washing machine sold for around $ 700 or more in 2022.

In April 1948, Autocanner announced that it was going to produce aluminum tubs which could be used for washing kitchen utensils, and other things of course. You will tell me that such an announcement was not very important. That could not be more accurate. This being said (typed?), yours truly must note that the aluminum of said tub had a thickness of more than 6 millimetres (0.25 inch). The Autocanner tub was solid.

It should be noted that, at the latest when the winter of 1948-49 ended, Autocanner sold a snowblower which could be attached to a farm tractor manufactured by Ford Motor Company, an American giant mentioned several / many times in our you always know what since December 2018.

A Montréal manufacturer of evaporators used by maple product manufacturers, Évaporateur Dominion (Enregistré? Incorporée?), acquired the production rights of the Autocanner can seamer around June 1950. Might that acquisition mean that Autocanner, the firm of course, had gone bankrupt? That was quite possible. Indeed, Autocanner had not been mentioned in the daily newspapers of Québec since the end of the winter of the year 1948-49.

And so ends this first issue of the year 2023 of our incomparable blog / bulletin / thingee. I had told you that I would try to be briefer in my perorations. And you who did not believe me, o my reading friend of little faith…

See you soon.

Profile picture for user rfortier
Rénald Fortier