Sweeney Cooperage Ltd.
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"Cooperage" A Film byPhilip Borsos
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Family History--Joe Vallee, son of Don Vallee, Husband of Margaret Sweeney, Daughter of M. Leo Sweeney. I have nothing but great memories of visiting The Sweeney Cooperage all throughout my youth, my father Don Vallee was the Acountant for more than 30 years and worked right up to the closing. Grandpa was always good for a ice cold Coke and some sweets and the ladies at the office just loved all the grandchildren.The Cooperage was a kids paradise, full of exciting secret walkways and cubby holes plus lots and lots of cats ! This film is to me a captured bit of my childhood and I thank the dearly departed Mr. Borsos for this skillfully filmed documentary that I will always cherish.

M. Leo Sweeney  fonds. -- 1902-1971. -- 85 photographs (0.06 m) and 0.04 m of textual records. M. Leo Sweeney was born in London, Ontarioon April 17, 1886. He was the son of Michael and Helena Sweeney. In 1889,the Sweeney family moved to Victoria where Michael Sr. opened up Sweeney Cooperage. In 1912, M. Leo became the managing director of the Company, and in 1923, he and his wife Mary moved to Vancouver after relocating the Company headquarters. Sweeney remained involved withthe business for the next fifty years. Besides his work for Sweeney Cooperage, M. Leo Sweeney also served in the executive of many private organizations including the B.C. Automobile Association, the Kiwanis Club, the Elks and the Knights of Columbus. He also participated in many sports in his youth including rugby, rowing, cricket and lacrosse. M. Leo and his wife had five sons and three daughters, many of whom also worked for Sweeney Cooperage. Fonds consists of photographs and miscellaneous files. Photographs depict M.Leo Sweeney's participation in sports and the Sweeney Cooperage. Miscellaneous files consist primarily of family reminiscences, a history of Sweeney Cooperage Ltd., Christmas cardsand newspaper clippings.
Sweeney Cooperage was established in 1889 in Victoria. In 1921 the Company was amalgamated with VancouverCooperage to create the Canadian Western Cooperage Company. In 1939, M. Leo and his wife Mary bought out all outstandingshares of the Company and changed the name back to Sweeney Cooperage. In 1942, the Company purchasedthe business John Paxton & Company in Montreal and changed the name tothe Sweeney Barrel Company Ltd. Branchplants were later set up in other areas of Canada and the United States.In 1948, the Victoria Mill was shut down and operations transferred to Vancouver.
Location: 26 G 2, 26 G 4, 27 A 9, 27 D 4, Map 2 A 12, third floor 113 B 13.
The Cooperage as a Film Location
 Cooperage (1975),Phillip Borsos's   fonds. -- 1954---1995. --  first film after graduating from the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr College of Art) was the first of three Borsos films to win Canadian film awards for best short and helped to establish him as a western presence in Canadian filmmaking.  Phillip followed up Cooperage with Spartree and then the Academy Award nominated short, Nails.  By then Borsos' interest turned to feature films and his first, The Grey Fox, cemented Borsos' position in the industry and helped pave the way for future B.C. and western filmmakers. 
 The Grey Fox, released in 1983 when Borsos was just 29, becameone of the most acclaimed movies in the history of Canadian filmmaking.  The film, about the life and times of B.C. train robber Bill Miner (Richard Farnsworth), found commercial and critical success in Canada and abroad, and won seven Canadian Film Awards (now the Genies) including best film,best director and best original screenplay.  Critics have rated TheGrey Fox as one of the 10 best Canadian films of all time in two nationalpolls
 The Grey Fox was the first B.C. feature film to get funding from Telefilm Canada and proved that a "big-budget" film could be made witha western setting and subject.  "It was a breakthrough movie, no doubt about it," says longtime Vancouver film writer Ian Caddell.  "It showed you could set your film, in the west and tell your story in the west -you didn't have to make it somewhere else."  Borsos' success with TheGrey Fox sent a signal to other western directors that they could make afeature film, and get financial backing and support.
 Borsos was instrumental in getting Telefilm Canada to set up an office in B.C. and the success of The Grey Fox helped give another B.C. director - Sandy Wilson - the support for her landmark film My American Cousin, which was produced by longtime Borsos friend and The Grey Fox producer, PeterO'Brian.
 Borsos went on to make several more feature films from his home base on Mayne Island, including The Mean Season, One Magic Christmas and Bethune.  Borsos was working on the final editing stages of Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog, when he was diagnosed with leukemia in1994.  He passed away just before the film was released but his influenceon B.C. filmmaking lives on and many of the films on display at this year'sFestival are a tribute to his ground breaking work. 
Paul Smith.
The Barking Dog
The first film by Phillip Borsos (The Grey Fox, Bethune), made at the old Vancouver Art School, shot at the old Sweeney Cooperage, and serving up a tongue-in-cheek, student-film hybrid of Western and gangster films. Phillip Borsos/1973. B&W,16mm. 5 mins.
Cooperage  (1977, 35mm, Colour, 15 minutes)
Cooperage begins the trilogy of 'process films' that were such an important aspsect  of Borsos' emergence as one of Canada's foremost filmmakers.  Borsos would later film his first feature the Grey Fox at this same Sweeney Cooperage, Canada's only wooden barrel-making factory, located in Vancouver.  This film, like the later Spartreeand Nails, provides a romantic glimpse of the 'way things used to be'; theuse of human labour in contrast to mechanization of the modern world. This is a rare opportunity to see the three films together, all shown on35mm and in their original aspect ratio.
Grey Fox
One of the most admired and acclaimed works in the history of Canadian cinema, Phillip Borsos' remarkable debut feature made good on the promise of his award-winning short films and had critics hailing the emergence of a major new talent.  Richard Farnsworth has the title role as gentleman bandit Bill Miner, an aging Old West stagecoach robber released into the 20th century after 33 years in San Quentin prison.  His introduction to modernity includes a mesmerizing first exposure to the miracle of movies. Filmed at the Sweeney Cooperage,
The Machinery Lives On

McGinnis Wood Products, Inc.McGinnis Wood Products, Inc. (MWP) of Cuba, Mis-souri
With financial backing from alocal bank, McGinnis purchased complete barrel-making machinery from Sweeney Cooperage in Vancouver, British Columbia. This Canadian firm had gone out of business in the early 1980's. The equipment was shipped to Cuba, Missouri, and set up to start turning out barrelsby mid-1987.Today the plant operates year round, with 48 employees at fullcapacity. The product line also includes blocks of rough staves, circledheading, and sets of kiln-dried, jointed, and bent staves that are soldto other barrelmakers. The annual output of 25,000 barrels and hogs headsfor the wine and whiskey trade constitutes the main stay of this family-operated business. The majority of wood used is native Ozark white oak. In addition,some oak is obtained from Illinois and Kentucky. Last year MWP purchased logsworth about $1 million.Turning out a precisely fitted, tight barrel requiresuse of specialized wood working machines and much hand-work-the ancientcraft of the skilled cooper. The payroll for labor at MWP runs $5 millionto $6 million ayear.The conversion of raw logs to barrels begins with washingand sawing the oak into rough stave bolts. The stave is then quarter-sawnwith a "drum saw," producing the familiar curved shape that becomes the circumference of the finished barrel. The green staves are next sent through a steam tunnel and bent end-to-end. Sets of staves are then carefully planed, fitted, and routed toreceive the heads.The heading mill involves flat sawing and planing to create circled barrel ends. Matched sets of staves are finally forced together over the heading, and steel hoops are applied to complete eachcoopered vessel. Bourbon makers usually specify black iron hoops, whilewinemakers (who age their products longer) prefer galvanized hoops.SomeEuropean wine makers believe that American oak is too strong and "woody"to properly age their redwines. They would greatly prefer barrels made fromFrench Limousin oak. But when the price of the best French barrels reached$650 a few years ago, all but afew vintners found the cost too high.

Coopers Park      http://www.concordpacific.com/ourneighbourhood/cooperspark.html




British Columbia Archives
Non-Government Records Catalogue
Email: access@www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca

SWEENEY COOPERAGE.  Vancouver; manufacturers of barrels, staves and headings.
Originals, 1921-1966, 85 cm
Sweeney Cooperage was established in Victoria in 1889.  Over the
next ninety years, the cooperage grew from a small business into a
Vancouver-based international organization with branches in
Montreal (ex John Paxton and Company) and Seattle (ex Western
Cooperage).  Development of Vancouver's False Creek industrial
area, the site of the cooperage, forced the closure of the
business in 1981. Records include articles of incorporation,
minutes, by-laws and financial records of the Sweeney companies,
John Paxton and Company and Western Cooperage.  Also included are
industrial appraisement books which give a complete appraisal of
plants and equipment and contain photographs and drawings.
Finding aid:  file list.

Presented by Frank K. Sweeney, Vancouver, 1981 and 1982.

Subject Headings
Business records - British Columbia - Vancouver
Business records - British Columbia - Victoria
Business records - Washington (State) - Seattle
Coopers and cooperage - British Columbia - Vancouver
Coopers and cooperage - British Columbia - Victoria
Seattle (Wash.)
Vancouver (B.C.) - Businesses
Victoria (B.C.) - Businesses

Secondary Entries
Canadian Western Cooperage
John Paxton and Company
Sweeney, Michael Leo, 1886-
Western Cooperage Company



655 Belleville Street,
Victoria, B.C.,

P.O. Box 9419,
Victoria, B.C.,
V8W 9V1,
PHONE: (250) 387-1952

Box   Fold  Contents                                  Date
1     1     John Paxton and Co. (Montreal) letters    1928
1     2     John Paxton and Co. (Montreal)            1928-1929
            incorporation, minutes, by-laws
1     3     John Paxton and Co. (Montreal) minutes    1930-1941
1     4     Sweeney Barrel Co. Ltd. incorporation     1941
            and organization, minutes, by-laws
1     5     Incorporation, organization, minutes      1941-1954
1     6     Sweeney Cooperage minute book, also       1921-1961
            contains minutes of Canadian Western
1     7     Western Cooperage Co. joint stock         1921-1938
            companies book, contains copies of
            Canadian Western Cooperage minutes,
            names of shareholders
            Appraisement books                       
2     1     Canadian WesternCooperage (Victoria)     1931
2     2     Canadian WesternCooperage (Vancouver)    1936-1938
3     1     John Paxton Company Ltd.                  1941
3     2     Sweeney Cooperage (Victoria)              1947
3     3     Western Cooperage (Seattle) appraisement  1931-1935
3     4     Western Cooperage (Seattle)               1937
4     1     Taxation papers,correspondence, tax      1926-1966
            returns, etc.
            Miscellaneous files and files relating   
            to companies purchased by Sweeney
5     1     Agreements M.L. Sweeney and various      
            cooperage companies
5     2     Canadian WesternCooperage salaries and   1926-1932
5     3     Canadian WesternCooperage bankbook      
5     4     Canadian WesternCooperage contracts and 
5     5     Champion Cooperage Co.                   
5     6     Log buying books(4 volumes)              1943-1947
5     7     Statements (includes Western Cooperage)   1909-1948
5     8     Western Cooperage price lists: barrels,  
5     9     Western Cooperage notes re wood, barrel  
5     10    Western Cooperage working agreement with  1942
5     11    Papers                                   
            Cash books and registers                 
6     1     Sweeney Cooperage (Seattle) cash book     1956-1960
6     2     Sweeney Cooperage (Seattle) cash book     1960-1964
7     1     Sweeney Cooperage (Seattle) voucher       1954-1959

Accession    Contents                                  Date
CM/A/17061   Washington Cooperage and Packing Co.,     9 Nov 1928
             Richmond Beach, Wash. 1:1200 scale
CM/A/17062   Washington Cooperage and Packing Co.,     9 Nov 1928
             Richmond Beach, Wash. 1:480 scale
CM/A/17063   Map of Sweeney Cooperage Ltd., Seattle,   Dec 1954
             Wash. 1:300 Scale
CM/A/17064   Map of Sweeney Cooperage Ltd., Seattle,   Aug 1959
             Wash. 1:300 Scale
CM/A/17065   Sweeney Cooperage Ltd., Seattle, Wash.    Dec 1954
             1:96 Scale
CM/A/17066   Sweeney Cooperage Ltd., Seattle, Wash.    Aug 1959
             1:96 Scale
CM/A/17067   Log slip for Canadian Western Cooperage   [19-]
             Co.1:48 and 1:8 scale
CM/A/17068   Refuse conveyor, Canadian Western         Dec 1924
             Cooperage Co. 1:48 and 1:12 scale
CM/A/17069   Wiring and machinery setting plan,        [19-]
             Canadian Western Cooperage Co. 1:48
CM/A/17070   Wiring diagrams for Canadian Western      [19-]
             Cooperage Co. plant