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Harris Manufacturing Company



William Pond Harris (1846-1915), a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, came to Johnson City, Tenn., in 1890 to serve as construction superintendent in the building of the Charleston, Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad (“The 3 C’s”). When the Panic of 1893 ended the construction project, Harris worked for a few years as division superintendent for the Plant rail system before returning to Johnson City. In 1898, he established the Harris Manufacturing Company at Buffalo and Ash Streets. The following year, it moved to East Walnut Street. Initially, the company produced a variety of wooden products, including plow handles, golf club shafts, slats, broom handles, and wagon wheel rims. In 1908, the firm began to focus on making strip flooring. In time, Harris Manufacturing became one of the largest producers of hardwood flooring in the world. It formally incorporated under the laws of Tennessee on June 20, 1910.

During the early 1900s, the firm prospered. Harris Flooring Company was established in 1912 in New York City to sell the company’s flooring in the large northeast market. As manufacturing expanded at the Johnson City plant, other plants were established or competing companies purchased. This included the establishment of Harris Hardwood Company in Roanoke, Virginia., in 1919 and acquisition of the existing Cherokee Flooring Corp. at Burlington, North Carolina, in 1928. Upon W. P. Harris’ death in 1915, his son, Allen Harris, Sr., succeeded him as company president.

Harris Manufacturing expanded through the 1920s and survived during the difficult period of the economic depression of the 1930s selling its products throughout the United States and Europe. During World War II, the company produced over 100,000 dummy shells and over 250,000 inner cans for the radio proximity projectile for the U. S. Navy, as well as 22 million tent pins for the U. S. Army. After the war, the company prospered during the postwar housing and construction boom. The introduction by the company of BondWood, a parquet flooring manufactured under Swiss license, greatly increased the company’s revenues and revolutionized both its product lines and the American flooring industry. BondWood and plank flooring would become the company’s primary products in the years that followed. In 1960, Harris acquired Miller Brothers lumber business in Johnson City.

Allen Harris, Jr., who joined the firm in 1929, succeeded his father as company president in 1968. He would hold this position until 1983, when the firm was sold to the Swedish Match Company, which merged it with the Swedish flooring company Tarkett AB into Harris-Tarkett. Allen Harris, Jr., remained as vice chairman of the new company until his death on April 24, 1992.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Harris Manufacturing Company Records and Harris Family Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AppMs-0409
Arrangement Sub-Group 1 is arranged into 20 series organized by the records of the various individual companies as well as the Harris Foundation established by the Harris family. Photographs and film related to these enterprises has been housed in a separate Series 20. The Sub-Group 1 series are as follows: Series 1, Harris Manufacturing Company Records, 1903-1990 and undated; Series 2, Harris Flooring Company Records, 1912-1984 and undated; Series 3, Harris Hardwood Company Records, 1919-1984 and...
Dates: 1850-1990 and undated