Ora M. Alger began the Alger Press after making a dramatic career change in the early 1900s. A schoolteacher by trade, Alger began publishing a weekly newspaper after purchasing the Embro Courier in Oxford County. The change in careers seemed to agree with Alger, as he sold the Embro Courier after seven years and purchased the Tweed News, a larger newspaper.
While in Tweed, Alger expanded his focus to include commercial printing, as well as running another weekly newspaper, the Pembroke Standard. During this time, Alger’s two sons Ewart and Stewart joined the family printing business. Although the business flourished, in 1919 Alger decided to sell his holdings in Tweed and Pembroke and move to Oshawa to begin a new printing business.
Alger purchased a small parcel of land across from the Oshawa Post Office and constructed a two-story plant. This new business focused on commercial printing. However, Alger soon returned to newspaper publishing and began the Oshawa Telegram. The newspaper was a success, switching from a weekly to a daily newspaper, Oshawa’s first daily newspaper. In 1926 however, the commercial business was so successful that Alger decided to sell the newspaper holdings to Charles Mundy and Arthur Alloway, partners in The Ontario Reformer and focus solely on commercial printing.
The company faced its first major setback when a fire destroyed the building. The company quickly built a new single story building on a location approximately a block away. A four-story office building, the Alger Building, was then constructed on the old site.
In 1936, the Algers began to feel as though they were falling behind other printing presses, as they had no lithographic equipment. After a research tour of various sites throughout Canada and the U.S., the Alger Press Limited entered into the lithographic field.
The outbreak of World War II saw business rapidly expand and it became necessary to enlarge the bindery and finishing departments. Space was rented in the old Williams Piano Building, but this was only temporary. In 1946, the company happily accepted the opportunity to purchase a building at 61 Charles Street. For many decades, this was known as the Alger Press Building.
This building had a long history beginning in 1903 when the T. Eaton Company of Toronto began the manufacturing of textiles in the three-story brick facility, built by noted builder John Stacey. In the late 1910s, the Oriental Textile Company operated out of this building for approximately 18 years, producing fabrics for General Motors prior to the depression; they closed their doors in 1934. During the war years, it had been home to the General Motors War Parts plant.
The Alger PRess remained a successful entity in commercial printing and bookbinding and is known in Oshawa for printing the very popular Pictorial Oshawa series. However, this success was not ongoing, and in 1993 the company declared bankruptcy.
In 2010, the building was renovated and refurbished for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (now Ontario Tech University), and students started using the building, now known simply by its address as 61 Charles Street, as another downtown campus building in 2011.
“61 Charles Street,” Ontario Tech University website. Accessed from: https://ontariotechu.ca/about/campus-buildings/downtown-oshawa/61-charles-street.php
Cole, Melissa. Alger Press Building, 61 Charles Street. 2006. Accessed from: https://www.oshawa.ca/city-hall/resources/Heritage-Research-Rpt_Charles-St-61.pdf
Doole, William E. The Alger Story, Canadian Printer and Publisher. Offset Lithographic Section, November 1948. 36-56.
Follert, Jillian. “Durham students go to school in old underwear factory,” Oshawa This Week, February 24, 2011. Accessed from: https://www.durhamregion.com/community-story/3515510-durham-students-go-to-school-in-old-underwear-factory/
Hood, McIntyre. Oshawa: The Crossing Between Waters, A History of “Canada’s Motor City” and Oshawa Public Library. Oshawa: Alger Press, 1978.
McClyment, John. “90 Jobs Are Lost as Alger Press Goes Bankrupt,” The Oshawa Times, June 8, 1993.
Oshawa Museum Archival Collection: Oshawa Telegram file.