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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Albertans sell torch Invention

A farmer’s son with an idea has put the city of Red Deer, Alberta into Canada’s international trade.

In January, 1938, August Matthews watched a man repairing an auto radiator with a torch – a job that took six hours the two of them had expected to spend at dinner and a friendly visit – and from that developed the Matthews Manufacturing company which handles gas welding torches.

It hasn’t been easy sailing. Soon after the war came along and August Matthews could not obtain materials to make his torches. But in the post-war period there has been plenty of flame attached to his idea and today he lists his customers all the way from Tel Aviv to Athens, Greece; Brazil, Burma, central America, texas and Mexico.

As exprts mist be paid for im United States funds or sterling, Matthews figures his plant im the past three years has earned canada $15,000 in U.S. exchange, and it’s a fair domestic trade, too, for his company’s postage bill in December, 1950, totalled $500.

Matthews hasn’t had things as tough as his father. The father, Adam Matthews, came from Estonia in 1905 and homesteaded 45 miles northwest of Red Deer. The first three times Adam visited red Deer, he made the trip on foot.

Adam Matthews had three sons, August, now 49; Elmer, 46, and Herbert, 37, and they are associated in the manufacturing plant and a retail farm implement business in Red Deer. August is the guiding light of the manufacturing end.

In the thirties, August turned to writing at one stage and entered a contest sponsored by a true story magazine, for one yarn earned $5,000, for another $1,000, he said.

When his health gave out he quit teaching for piano tuning in Calgary. When he ran out of pianos to tune he went to Red Deer in 1936, and met an old friend, Tim Enno. Tim was in the auto radio and battery buisness.

Matthews had one or two pattents to his credit, and Enno asked him what he could do about developing a torch.

“I didn’t give it much thought. I spent six hours watching Enno repair the radiator, and could see why he wanted the torch.”

Then Matthews developed a torch that works from compressed air and gasoline or from compressed oxygen and gasoline. The hydro carbons of the gas take the place of those acetylene.

He also developed 11 different heads by which a fellow can get a flame so fine he can repair the nose piece of a pair of spectacles or so strong he can cut through a piece of railway rail.

The flame can be worked right inside the honeycomb of an auto radiator. It will curl itself around a circular object, gripping the object like a finger. By adjustments, the operator can get 40 different types of flames from one head using the air-gasoline equipment.

Matthews developed the torch but found himself stymied in his manufacture when the war cut off materials. It was in 1946 that he began manufacturing and since has sold 800, running in prices from $115 to $250 a torch with all accessories.

Some of the letters come in foreign languages and Matthews, if an order results, does the translation and sends the equipment C.O.D.

“In our foreign trade,” he said, “I’ve found that people are remarkably honest.”

Ken Liddell


Matthews

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