Willson, Thomas Leopold
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
Reference: 613-996-5115 or 1-866-578-7777 (toll free in Canada and the US)
40 cm of textual records. 25 photographs b&w.;
T.L. "Carbide" Willson, businessman and inventor, was born at Princeton, Ontario, and apprenticed to a Hamilton blacksmith. After patenting an electric dynamo in 1882, he moved to the United States where he invented an electric furnace, and discovered (1892) a means of producing calcium carbide, a substance which gives off acetylene gas when placed in water. Willson patented the process and several devices using acetylene gas, and sold the patents to Union Carbide and others. Returning to Ontario in 1896, he established a number of plants for the manufacture of calcium carbide and acetylene, before turning them over to Canadian Carbide in 1911. In 1906 he established the International Marine Signal Company in Ottawa, selling out to American interests in 1909.From 1910-1913 he worked at developing a cheap process for producing superphosphate fertilizer. Wishing to obtain capital to construct a hydro-electric project on the Saguenay for large-scale fertilizer manufacture, he mortgaged all his holdings to James Buchanan Duke, the American industrialist and lost all his property to him in 1913. He died in 1915, while trying to arrange financing for a hydroelectric development in Newfoundland. Fonds consists of biographical and personal material concerning Willson's life and work, 1905-1915, 1975-1977, 2 cm; legal and technical agreements relating to patents including notes on experiments, 1887-1915, 8 cm; business and personal correspondence including some letters which are illegible due to fading ink, 1882-1916, 20 cm; published material relating to acetylene, electricity, the International Marine Signal Company, the Newfoundland Products Corporation and related topics, 1891-1915, 10 cm.The fonds also contains copies of photographs depicting the International Marine Signal Co., Ottawa, Ont.; Ottawa Carbide Co., Lac Meech, Que.; portraits of the Willson family and of Rupert Brooke, 1900-1915.