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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

HARRIS CALORIFIC CO.

HARRIS CALORIFIC CO.

HARRIS CALORIFIC CO., a pioneer in the production of gas welding and cutting apparatus, was founded by John Harris, who discovered the oxyacetylene (oxygen flame) method of cutting and welding tools in 1899 while conducting research on the manufacture of synthetic rubies. His discovery led to the manufacture of the nation's first flame-cutting torch. After exhibiting his cutting torch at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, he established the company in a small shop on Cleveland's West Side in 1905. Harris continued to refine its gas torches and began to produce related accessories, such as gas pressure regulators. The U.S. Welding Co. of Minnesota purchased Harris in 1926 and U.S. Welding's founder, Lorne Campbell, Jr., became its president, serving until the 1950s. After World War II, the company found new markets for its products in research laboratories and aircraft and missile applications. Under Clarence Taylor, Harris expanded its national distribution system, developed new equipment, stepped up its advertising program, and established subsidiaries and distributorships abroad.

Between 1957-63 Harris's annual sales quadrupled to over $4 million and employment increased to 150 people. By 1963 the company began to diversify into the area of anesthesia equipment for medical purposes at its new plant on Cass Ave. Harris Calorific was acquired by the Emerson Electric Co. of St. Louis in 1973 and benefited from Emerson's growth in the late 1970s, expanding its domestic and European facilities and markets. By 1983 the firm was considering moving its Cleveland manufacturing operations to a new assembly plant in Gainesville, Georgia. In addition to the operations in Georgia, Harris Calorific had plants in Los Angeles, California; Rathnew, Ireland; and Bologna, Italy by the end of the decade. In 1990, LINCOLN ELECTRIC , a Cleveland-based manufacturer of electrical welding equipment, purchased Harris Calorific from Emerson Electric Co. By 2003, Harris Calorific was one of the largest makers of gas cutting and welding equipment with distribution to over 85 countries worldwide. The company produced a wide line of gas flow control devices for the scientific and medical communities.