Donovan H. Pollitt & Campbell Manufacturing (Campbell of Canada)
“Canada’s Largest Sports Manufacturing Company in Canada”
Donovan Hoult Pollitt President Campbell Manufacturing Co.
In order to fully understand the success of the Campbell Manufacturing Co. it is necessary to investigate the lessons Donovan Pollitt’s learned at the De Forest Crosley Radio Company from 1923 – 1932. At De Forest Donovan successfully specific markets for the radio and the potential income the company could receive from that market. The information for this article came from various Campbell ads and company announcements that appeared in Canadian local newspapers. Strangely no Campbell ads appeared in any Maritime newspapers.
We are especially grateful to Allan Fletcher, the Chairman and CEO of the Fletcher Leisure Group, for placing us in contact with Cliff Gabel, the retired Sales Marketing Manager for Cooper Canada. Cliff worked for Campbell Manufacturing from the mid 1950’s thru the late 1960’s. He served Campbell as the sales and marketing manager. His recollections concerning the Campbell operation greatly enhanced this article. Duncan Pollitt, Donovan’s son, provided valuable insight into the golf ball production part of Campbell Manufacturing. Chris Torkos, President of TNT Golf, answered the final question for the history of Campbell Manufacturing.
Research does not indicate how Donovan became interested in badminton. One can speculate he saw the game being played on the prairies during one of his many trips across the country while working for De Forest Crosley. Pre WW 2 badminton had the highest participation numbers for any sport in Canada especially on the prairies. In 1933 the Canadian patent office issued D.H. Pollitt a new patent for the construction of a shuttlecock. At this time all shuttlecocks came from Britain. The positive thinking marketing guru, Donovan Pollitt, foresaw an opportunity to supply the Canadian market with a longer lasting cheaper shuttlecock than the British version.
Peter Campbell (Campbell Manufacturing Co. named after him)
Duncan Pollitt, Donovan’s second son, related the origins for the Campbell Manufacturing Company. “In 1933 my father was the managing shareholder for his two partners, Duncan “Bud” McDougald and Peter Campbell. Within a decade my father had sole control of Campbell. Because Peter had a good Scottish name, the three partners chose Campbell Manufacturing as the name for their new company.” The Canada Golf Ball Company commenced business in 1923. In a 1924 ad in the Globe & Mail the company stated; “The Canada Golf Ball Company is the first company to manufacture a golf ball entirely in Canada.” In 1932 the company applied for bankruptcy. Donovan purchased the assets from the bankrupt Canada Golf Ball Co. for his newest venture.
Bud McDougald, well known Toronto businessman, owned D.J. McDougald an investment banking company. “In 1938 his daughter, Nan McDougald, married my father.” Gordon Peter Campbell was born in Ridgetown ON, graduated from Osgood Hall, and admitted to the Bar in 1923. Before becoming a Senator in 1943, he was a senior partner of the legal firm of Arnold, Parry, Campbell, Pyle, and Godfrey.
Donovan’s patent outlines how he planned to manufacture a superior shuttlecock for the Canadian market. ‘This invention relates to Badminton Shuttlecocks and more particularly to the weighting thereof. It is essential that Badminton Shuttlecocks be of a consistent weight. A variation of 1 grain in the weight means an approximate variation of one foot in a full back line serves. … The large variation in the weight of the shuttlecocks today is avoided in my invention by the construction of the base and the manner in which the feathers are arranged. “
Pre 1940 container of Campbell’s Shuttlecocsk
In 1934 Campbell joined several other fledgling businesses in the old abandoned 400,000 square foot Dominion Motors Plant building in Leaside, a neighborhood in Toronto, occupying 8,000 sq ft of the building. For the next four years the company focused on producing the best shuttlecock in the world. In the October 1957 issue of Canadian Sport Magazine, Frank Dowsett retold his story about working for Campbell Manufacturing in the earliest days of its formation. Frank illustrates Duncan’s marketing philosophy. “ I shall never forget the intense conviction and enthusiasm which DH (Duncan H. Pollitt) envisioned for Campbell’s future. He told us Canadians are going to have a lot more leisure hours. We are in for good times ahead, shorter working hours, and better wages. Believe me, Canadians are going to spend a good percentage of their extra money on pleasure – why not the sporting goods field.” This was the genesis for developing the largest sporting goods manufacturing company in Canada. With his marketing background from De Crosley Forest, Donovan had all the tools necessary to succeed.
Using the straight-line manufacturing techniques learned from A. L. Ainsworth at De Forest Crosley, Donovan introduced several firsts to the badminton manufacturing industry. “Campbell was the first to develop accurate speed control through precise machinery (patent 343,728), the first to apply a cellulose coating for feathers – a major contribution to shuttlecock durability, the first to use automatic cutting and stitching special assembly equipment which ensures uniformity in the production process, the first to develop and popularize the pointed feathers with their crisper playing qualities, and the first to develop the Duroflex treatment process. (Patent # 406,351) “ The key to producing a better shuttlecock originated in the design of special machinery to drill the holes, to place the feathers precisely the same each time and to automatically double bind the feathers at a precise angle.”
Campbell’s key manufacturing motto for all the sporting equipment products the company produced became – “improve, improve, and then if possible improve the products to a higher standard”. Campbell strove to show the world that Canadians can compete against the world with goods of supreme quality built by Canadians. In fact Campbell took over the Canadian market within one year. The Windsor Star November 1, 1935 Scott Wilkinson Ltd. “We are the Agents for Campbell. Their Birds have taken the game by storm – Reliable, True, Sturdy, Economical.” Campbell distributed their new “Blue Goose” shuttlecock throughout the country. Because the original purchase included the old Canadian Golf Ball Company, Campbell also commenced golf ball production. Their brand names included: Blue Goose, Champion, Plus Four, Clinton, Two Bit, Campbell H/C, and Fly-Rite. Ironically in the research for this article no advertisements were found in any Maritime newspapers.
A box containing one dozen wrapped Blue goose golf balls
In 1938 Campbell began selling golf clubs, badminton, and tennis racquets. Duncan Pollitt, DH’s son, believed the racquets originated from the Slazenger factory. “I think my father signed an agreement with Slazenger where Slazenger supplied Campbell with racquets and Campbell provided shuttlecocks. Slazenger may have supplied the “vacuum cans of tennis balls.” The golf club definitely originated from the Kroydon factory in Maplewood, New Jersey. It is unclear if Campbell purchased fully manufactured clubs or just the heads, shafts, and grips. In their Leaside plant the employees probably assembled the clubs and stamped the finished club them with the Campbell logo. The Museum collection contains several pre 1940 cream coloured shafted clubs. We have no pre 1940 woods.
Campbell 1938 – 1939 cream coloured Campbell iron. The head is marked Kroydon
Sometime around 1945 – 1946, Campbell ads began appearing showing the factory was now located in another Toronto neighborhood – Lansing. The company produced golf balls in various compressions. The clubs still came from Kroyden. In 1947 Campbell purchased three acres in Willowdale, another Toronto neighborhood adjacent to Lansing. In 1951 Campbell Manufacturing opened their new modern 40,000 square foot premises at Willowdale. The company distributed their sporting goods to 33 countries. Cliff related, “I traveled to Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan to meet our local suppliers. We had local representatives in all provinces except the Maritimes. In some instances I actually visited the local pros individually.” In the mid 1960’s, Campbell became the largest sporting goods manufacturing company in Canada. Donovan’s prediction had come true.
Ad from the 1951 Canadian Professional Golfers’ Association (CPGA) Annual magazine
In the early 1950’s Campbell turned to the Burke factory in Newark, Ohio for their golf clubs. Burke’s main model “the Punchiron” became Campbell’s feature golf club line. Duncan Pollitt began a life-long obsession with the golf ball. “I recall going to the Campbell factory with my Dad as a teenager. I was always fascinated by the production of the golf ball. You could say that this first introduction commenced a passion to produce the best golf ball on the market.” Even though Duncan became known as “the golf ball guru” he never had any desire to play golf. In fact he admitted, “I have never actually personally hit a shot on a golf course.
Fishing Line Display rack circa mid 1950’s
About this time Campbell occupied their new facility in Willowdale, Campbell advertisements for fishing equipment (line rods and reels) began appearing in the Canadian Sport Magazine and various newspapers in BC, Alberta and Ontario. At this time further research is required to determine if Campbell produced equipment for basketball, baseball, and skiing.
Jim Johnstone showing test club heads plus the final product
In 1956 Campbell introduced their “Power-Mated golf clubs. Campbell, in partnership with Jimmy Johnstone, totally created this revolutionary club in their Willowdale factory. In the April 1957 issue of the Canadian Sport Magazine Jim Johnstone related the history of the development of his Power-Mated golf clubs.
Power Mated iron
“If ‘x’ equals ‘Power-Mated’ and ‘y’ equals ‘a normal golf swing’ – it does not take a mathematical genius to find the answer. It is BETTER GOLF” What was the new revolutionary principle introduced by Campbell in their Power-mated club heads? Working as a club maker at his local club in the hickory era, Jim Johnstone noted that hooks and slices could be corrected by weighting the toe or heel of the golf club. He used the same principle with modern steel shafted clubs. In the early 1950’s he approached DH to see if Campbell could mass-produce irons with specific toe and heel weighting. Because Campbell produced their own forgings, Johnston could have many heads cast, milled and finished for experimenting purposes. By 1956 he had produced a finished set to his specifications.
“In each individual club head, the weight is meticulously measured and perfectly balanced with such precision that the full power of the club is mated to its task. This scientific weighting and balancing is given full release in action through a precision in loft, weight, and balance that is unique in golf club design.” Basically Campbell produced the first heel –toe weighting principle to a golf club.
1963 Campbell advertisements listed the Company’s achievements: – “first to totally manufacture a golf ball in Canada, first to forge and fully fabricate an iron club in Canada, first to electronically laminate and fully fabricate a wooden head golf club in Canada, and first to receive the National Industrial Design Council Award for excellence in design.” The company stated the basis for receiving this prestigious award was based upon “appearance, usefulness, and consumer acceptability.”
Gary Player Black Knight iron. The clubs came with steel shafts or cream or black Shakespeare Wonder shafts
To supplement their Power Mated line of golf clubs Campbell signed an agreement (1961 – 1965) with Shakespeare to manufacture the “Gary Player Black Knight” clubs with cream or black coloured fiberglass shafts in their factory. Campbell also used the fiberglass shafts in their own Staff Model line of golf clubs.
On April 3, 1965 Donovan Pollitt, at age seventy, decided to retire from Campbell. Interestingly he turned to an old friend – Canadian Industries Limited (CIL). Major Hahn and DH formed CIL in 1931 to oversee the expanded product divisions De Forest Crosley introduced.
Arnold Palmer iron
CIL signed an agreement with the Arnold Palmer Corp to produce his golf clubs in their Willowdale factory for the Canadian Market. “We cast all the heads, and finished them to the specifications set down by Arnold Palmer.” Duncan Pollitt, the golf ball guru in North America introduced the Dyna-Max ball. “Under USGA rules, the maximum initial velocity for a golf ball is 250 feet per second plus a 5 – foot tolerance. Most top grade balls go 250 feet per second. Molded golf balls go somewhat slower, about 244 feet per second. The new Dyna-Max golf ball, wound for maximum dynamics is precision tested and engineered to drive 255 feet per second. That means the new Dyna-Max golf ball travels the fastest and the farthest of all golf balls that conform to the USGA rules. “
Left to right Duncan Pollitt, unknown, Tryg Wenn club professional , Bud Rykeman Photo taken at Burnaby Mountain GC circa 1968 1969
Duncan Pollitt (Mr. One Piece Ball) left Campbell in 1969 or 1970 for Princeton Chemical Research (PCR) to set up the production of the Bartsch patented one piece ball. “This was the ball I set up PCR to manufacture in spite of recognizing its shortcomings. At PCR we advanced the technology for one piece ball construction. I was involved in two patents involving zinc salt technology, a distinct advance over the Bartsch patent. These two patents are the precursor to virtually all of today’s top golf balls. In 1972 I left PCR to form the Yardley Ball Corp. At YBC we continued to develop the zinc salt (Z-Max) ball which we sold to various major golf ball companies.”
Campbell’s solid core ball 1971 – 1975
In 1970 CIL announced a major change to the Dyna-Max woods. “Designed by CIL the DynaMax woods can be adjusted simply by changing a threaded plug at the back of the head with a special tool. Seven different size weights can provide a swing weight from D-0 to D-6.” In 1970 CIL introduced a new weight distribution concept that placed all the power directly behind the ball. After Duncan’s departure Dennis Nesbitt at CIL patented a solid ball called “The Brute,” The Company manufactured the Brute from 1971 – 1975. In 1972 CIL introduced their UNI-MAX irons and woods. The UNI-MAX woods placed the weight under the sole plate in two positions unlike the standard wood with only one weight under the sole plate. This expanded the sweet spot on the face. Each iron had a hollow in the centre of the back of the club. Therefore each iron ‘s weight was concentrated at the toe or the heel of the iron to keep the face tracking straight at impact. At this time CIL changed the cover of their DynMax and Uni-Max balls to surlyn. ”The extremely hard Surlyn outer casing is formed around the rubber threaded winding. Using our own unique method two things happen: first the core and the casing become one preventing the core from moving independently from the casing at impact and two the casing is absolutely even thickness, ensuring the core is centred producing a true ball track at impact.”
On November 17th, 1973 CIL joined forces with a group of Canadian investors to form Sportsphere. The company intended to supply the growing demand in Canada and abroad for sporting goods and leisure products. Campbell was in the golf market for forty years exporting golf products to seventeen countries. At this time Campbell was the largest Canadian-owned producer and supplier of golf clubs, balls, and equipment in Canada. Sportsphere immediately announced plans to construct a new factory to manufacture investment cast irons.
At their new factory Sportsphere introduced their Excalibur irons featuring stainless steel investment cast heads with aero dynamic woods. Both the woods and irons featured the heel toe weighting to improve accuracy and control. Sportsphere introduced Junior Shotmaker irons, woods, and bag for the junior golfer market.
On January 14th, 1978 the Campbell Manufacturing Division of Sportsphere was placed in public auction bankruptcy sale. Duncan Pollitt described how he purchased the golf ball division from Sportsphere. “From 1978 – 1982 I formed a new company, Campbell Golf Ball Co. to exploit the new Yardley Ball Company technology. We sold the new ball under the DynaMax brand. The ball was good, at least equal to anything else out in the market, but it’s hard to make a commercial success of a Canadian product competing against the US dominant Titleist and Spalding. When Daiwa wanted to buy we were quite willing to sell.”
One question remained to be answered in the Campbell story. What company purchased the club manufacturing assets from Sportsphere in the 1978 bankruptcy auction? A search of advertisements in the Canadian newspapers showed a company continued to produce Campbell equipment using the 1970’s logo until about 1995.
Just prior to publication Chris Torkos, the owner of TNT Golf, supplied insight to this question. In the early 1960’s Chris’ father Nick and his uncle Tom began working for Campbell in the golf division. “My dad Nick supervised as the foreman the manufacturing of the laminated wooden heads. My uncle Tom worked as foreman in the assembly area. Around 1980 the two formed TNT Golf Company. In the 1980’s Lloyd Marsh sold golf clubs under the Campbell name. I think he had them manufactured in China. He definitely had his metal headed clubs, the M.A.X. brand, made in China.”