Drexel Furniture Company was established on November 10, 1903 in Drexel, North Carolina. Although Samuel Huffman managed the enterprise, he and five other men founded the business with an investment of $14,000. By 1935, Sam Huffman died, and his son Robert O. Huffman became president.
The younger Huffman made several changes in operations, including manufacturing medium-priced furniture instead of low-priced and spending more on advertising. By 1950, Drexel had grown from a small factory of fifty workers who made dressers and washstands to being a leading manufacturer in traditional and modern furniture.
In the process, the company had partnered with other manufacturers to create new product lines. In 1951, for instance, Drexel acquired Table Rock Furniture and Heritage Furniture Company, and in 1956, Morganton Furniture Company. By 1957, Drexel employed 2,300 workers, and its furniture was sold nationwide in approximately 2,500 stores.
By the late 1960s, the company manufactured laboratory, dormitory and hospital furniture and increased sales even more. Furniture design also included Italian styles in addition to carpets and accessories. In 1960, Drexel Furniture became Drexel Enterprises, Inc., and in 1961, the company merged with Southern Desk Company to produce furniture and supplies for libraries, schools, and churches. In 1968 U.S. Plywood Champion Papers purchased Drexel Enterprises, and the company became Drexel Heritage Furnishings, Inc.
In 1971 Drexel expanded its product line once again to include high-end Mediterranean style furniture and furniture for interior living space. In 1977 Drexel Heritage was sold to investment bank Dominick International Corporation and retail sales increased drastically. In 1986, Drexel Heritage became a branch of Masco Corporation, which became one of the country’s biggest furniture manufacturers by the late 1980s.
For many decades Drexel manufactured and sold furniture in the U.S. and overseas. Drexel maintained partnerships with various hotels, the U.S. State Department, and government agencies across the globe. In 1994, Drexel Heritage maintained ten factories in North Carolina and one in South Carolina. By 2004 Drexel Heritage Furniture, Inc. was based in High Point and employed 1,300 workers across the state. Today, Drexel Heritage Furniture Industries, Inc is one of the leading furniture manufacturers in the world.
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006); "Drexel Heritage Furnishings Inc." www.fundinguniverse.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2012. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Drexel-Heritage-Furnishings-Inc-company-History.html; "the Company." www.drexelheritage.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2012. http://www.drexelheritage.com/about-drexel-heritage.
By Shane Williams, North Carolina History Project
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