Most of Canada’s fireworks were once made in Cooksville in the pre-Mississauga days


Published May 22, 2023 at 4:53 pm

The burning schoolhouse was one of the most popular products made by the Hand Fireworks Co. in Cooksville

For people of a certain age, Victoria Day brings back many great memories of fun, excitement and a good dose of danger.

While modern attitudes have changed towards fireworks, from the 1930s through the 1970s the time leading up to the long weekend was full of constant mini explosions as firecrackers were sold weeks in advance of the big day. In fact, most people referred to the holiday as “Firecracker Day” without ceding respect to former British Monarch Queen Victoria.

While firecrackers were officially banned in Canada in 1972 for being too dangerous, a company with strong ties to the future Mississauga once flourished here and is still one of the country’s leading manufacturers of fireworks.

T.W. Hand Fireworks Co., now known as Hands Fireworks, manufactured fireworks at its plant on Cawthra Rd. from 1930 to about 1972 employing dozens of workers and keeping the public entertained each Victoria Day and then on July 1 when the focus of large displays shifted to Canada’s birthday.

During its time operating in Cooksville, the Hand name marked most every piece of firework you bought in this country from several varieties of Roman candles, snakes and sprinklers to everyone’s favourite (and very politically incorrect) burning schoolhouse. In fact, the burning schoolhouse was a uniquely Canadian product introduced into the market by Hand Fireworks in the 1930s and for decades children stood around and cheered as the cardboard replica building went up in flames.

As if some otherworldly retribution from the educational gods prevailed, the Hand plant in Cooksville itself burned down in the 1970s eventually forcing the operation into Quebec and later to Milton.

Hands Fireworks continues to this day with offices and a warehouse in Ontario, but now is partnered with Chinese fireworks company Lidu and is manufactured in other parts of the world.

(Workers from Hand Fireworks Co. leave the Cawthra Rd. plant after a day of work)

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