Front View of Thomas House

Ward-Thomas Museum

Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums

Five images of buildings and grounds

The Harris Family Story

Ward — Thomas Museum
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503 Brown Street Niles, Ohio 44446

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Of the 54 lots platted in 1834, James and Warren Heaton owned 23 parcels including the lot at the intersection of South Main Street and West James Street( now Park Avenue).


From 1842-1865 the Harris House, located on this site, served as a hotel. It became the Harris family residence from 1865-1905. From 1905-1929, it was used for businesses. Finally, it was sold by the Harris heirs and was demolished on August 29, 1929 to make way for the Niles Trust Company Bank building.


This early picture, ca 1895, of South Main Street shows two very old landmarks.This early picture, ca 1895, of South Main Street shows two very old landmarks. On the left corner is the old Ward residence built in the early 1840's. After the Wards moved to their new, more elaborate house on Brown Street, this house was turned into a hotel and used for this purpose for many years. It was torn down to make way for the Dollar Bank Building in 1918.

The house on the right was built in 1842 as a hotel. In 1865 it was purchased by the Harris family who occupied it until 1905. From then until 1920 it was used as a store & warehouse.

In 1920, the Harris heirs sold it to the Niles Trust Co. In 1930, the Niles Bank Building was built on the site. PO1.912


The first building erected in 1842 on the present site of the Niles Trust Company.

The first building erected in 1842 on the present site of the Niles Trust Company.
Photo dated September 1866.

Pictured L-R are:
Martha J.Robbins, Sarah A.Pew, Hannah M.Taylor, A.F.Harris, C.G.Harris, Mrs. James Harris, F.W.Harris and H.J.Harris.

 

The corner of South Main Street and West Park Avenue showing the newspaper stand

The corner of South Main Street and West Park Avenue showing the newspaper stand, the Lor-A-Lee diner in the right-hand back, the tower of the old City Building, the advertisement is on the side of Krieger's Pool Hall. Later, Reisman's would build between Krieger's and the bank building. PO1.226

Photo of newsboys in front of the Niles magazine and newspaper store at the corner of South Main Street and West Park Avenue.

Photo taken November 19, 1929 before it was torn down prior to the construction of the Niles Trust Company.


Construction of the Niles Trust Co. took place beginning in November 25, 1929.

Construction of the Niles Trust Co. took place beginning in November 25, 1929. A partial record of the construction process was taken by P.T. Alfonsi, a photographer in Niles for many years. PO1.17

Construction of the Niles Trust Company, January 3, 1930.

Construction of the Niles Trust Company, January 3, 1930. PO1.18

Completed building of the Niles Trust Company

Completed building of the Niles Trust Company, 1930. PO1.33


Photo of the Harris Automatic Press Co. located in Niles for many years.

Photo of the Harris Automatic Press Co. located in Niles for many years. Constructed about 1904 with a Board of Ttrade grant of $1500.00 and free site. Operated until 1914, after a prolonged strike moved operations to Cleveland. Used as a soup kitchen during the Depression and dismantled shortly thereafter. PO1.546

The employees of the Harris Automatic Press Co. around the turn of the previous century.

The employees of the Harris Automatic Press Co. around the turn of the previous century. Charles and Alfred Harris are the fourth and fifth gentlemen from the right. The house in the picture was the boyhood home of William McKinley; later it served as the Harris Company's first plant. The house stood on the site of the proposed reconstruction of McKinley's home, and the Old Main Ale & Chowder House. PO1.550

Photo of the crew of the Harris Automatic Press Co.

Photo of the crew of the Harris Automatic Press Co. Man with young boy standing in front of him is George F. Snyder. PO1.552


Harris Automatic Press Co. This is an architect's rendering of suggested expansion of the Niles Plant, which never occurred.

Harris Automatic Press Company. This is an architect's rendering of suggested expansion of the Niles Plant, which never occurred. The plant was sold in 1914 after a costly and prolonged strike which forced management to move operations to Cleveland. PO1.551

Actual flyer advertisement for the rotary feed on the rotary press.

an example of the Harris Automatic Press Company's rotary press.

Top: an example of the Harris Automatic Press Company's rotary press. PO1.549

Left: Actual flyer advertisement for the rotary feed on the rotary press. The company now had offices in Niles, Ohio, New York City and Chicago.



A Glimpse at the Harris Brothers and their Press.

In 1976 the predecessor of Harris Automatic Press Co. of Niles, Ohio, Harris Intertype Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, donated the first automatic feeding press designed and built in 1896 by Charles and Alfred Harris to the Graphic Arts Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Most Nilesites have heard about Alfred and Charles Harris and their invention of the first offset printing press; but the story, as written by a family member, recently surfaced.
In 1931 A.F. Harris, son of Alfred F. Harris, then president of Harris Seybold-Potter Co. of Cleveland, wrote a story for Graphic Arts, a monthly magazine, which I'd like to quote:
"Many people recently by reason of the fact that this is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the building of the first commercially successful offset printing press, have asked me to tell them the story of the discovery of the offset by my father, A.F. Harris, and his brother, Chas. G. Harris."
"In 1870 when father was eleven years old, his first job was in a shoe store in Niles, Ohio. Back of the shoe store was a work shop equipped with tools which exercised a strange fascination upon him . When four years later his brother Charles came into the store, the two boys began in earnest to experiment in making things in their spare time. They next worked for Thad Ackley, a jeweler in Warren, Ohio, who possessed an experimental turn of mind and encouraged their mechanical ingenuity."
"Father then became a watch inspector for a railway company. During this time he worked with Charles on developing s twenty-four hour clock. Next they made a nail feeder. In 1889 they became Niles' only jeweler, but the business was too small to take the full time of both of them. Consequently, they had ample opportunity for research and invention, The jewelry store had a back room, which they quickly converted into a work shop."
"One day Charles Harris watched the installation of a new platen press in the shop of a local printer named Smith. Smith was very proud of his new press. Charles remarked that it was fed by hand, Smith, quick to defend his press, challenged Charles to perfect an automatic feeder."
"Shortly after this, a wagon drove up before the jewelry store with a device that looked like a clothes wringer. When father saw this unloaded, he protested, saying that it was certainly not his."
The driver, however, insisted on leaving it. Later Charles came into the shop, and rather sheepishly told of his talk with Smith some time before, and said that he had built an automatic feeder. The two brothers laughed heartily "at the joke on Smith"."
"One day while Charles was out, father had an inspiration, and with a yardstick, a saw blade, and a rubber blanket, made a contrivance that completed the invention Soon sheets were running through at 15,000 per hour."
"Their first press was a wooden model. During the winter of 1890 they built an iron model in the machine shop of a friend, who was located close to the jewelry store. Whenever some part of the equipment in the machine shop was not busy, the brothers were permitted to use it. The two worked busily. In the summer of 1892 Charles, and later Father, went to see the printing exhibits at the World's Fair in Chicago. Examination of the equipment there convinced them that they were far ahead of anything so far developed; so they decided to go into business."
"Their first press of the new company, which was incorporated in 1895, proved a failure, and so they started all over again. In 1896 another machine was completed. When it was offered for sale, no one believed the story they told-- the speed was so much greater than any press had ever been able to run. When they offered it to the next man, they made more modest claims with the result that they sold it."
"Their first job was postcards. They ran 12,500 postcards in fifty minutes. An all-tine record up to then. Their second job was an envelope one, and this required four months in order to perfect the machine so that it would feed them. But, at last the difficulty was solved and the press accepted. Press then followed press, in quick succession."
"One day while erecting one of their new automatic presses in a Cleveland plant, father heard a pressman become very indignant at one of his operators. The girl had neglected to trip the press when failing to feed a sheet. The result was an impression on the rubber blanket. The next sheet through was offset in reverse. Father and the pressman examined the sheet closely and were particularly interested in the sharp clear reproduction. Finally the pressman turned to him and said, 'If we could only print like that!' "
"The result was that Father and his brother set to work to make it possible to print like that. First, they built a press with a plate cylinder, impression cylinder, and two offset cylinders.This press proved that offset printing was possible; but there were a good many things to learn about it. Experiment followed experiment until finally the first successful offset press was a reality. Each succeeding press has been an improvement."
"During the twenty-five years since the installation of the first commercially successful offset press in Pittsburgh, the offset process has come to play an ever-increasing part in the graphic arts, The printers of America contributed immeasurable to putting the offset process over."
The late Clifton A. Bostwick, who at one time resided at 136 Salt Springs Road, Niles, worked for Harris Automatic as an erector and trouble shooter in 1912. At that time Harris Automatic Press Co. sold a press to Kline, Linderman and Bauer on New York City and Bostwick was sent to setup the new press before a designated deadline.
The press was shipped to Hoboken, New Jersey and ferried across to New York City on the day the longshoremen went on a one-day strike. The next day the longshoremen unloaded the press, but that day the riggers went on strike and another day of the delivery schedule was lost.
The press was finally delivered to a passenger elevator at Kline, Linderman and Bauer Co. on Pearl St., near Wall St., in New York City, where the elevator operator refused to transport it to the 17th floor destination.
After two days of coaxing, with a bribe to make things legal, the elevator operator relented and the delivery men and Bostwick proceeded to load the press on the elevator.
To erect the press, they had to use a 12-foot long I-beam. The only way to get the I-beam to the 17th floor was to drop the elevator to the basement and then tie the I-beam to the elevator cable. Guess who rode on top of the elevator to steady the I-beam? Well it wasn't one of the delivery boys. It was Clifton Bostwick!
There were also several crates of press parts, but one crate in particular created a real problem. The crate was larger than the elevator but smaller than the elevator shaft. So, the delivery men ran wooden timbers across the elevator shaft. Then, after moving the elevator up ten feet, they rolled the crate onto the timbers; and, after dropping the elevator down, used large ropes to secure the crate to the bottom of the elevator. Then they took the crate up to the 17th floor.
The accomplishments of Charles and Alfred Harris and the inequity of Clifton Bostwick are excellent examples of Nilesites and their spirit "Where there's a will, there's a way!"


Every year the Harris family would hold a family reunion at Waddell Park.

Every year the Harris family would hold a family reunion at Waddell Park. This may have been the last one, due to the age of the generations. In this picture are the remaining children of James Harris (One of the brothers that settled in Niles from England) George and Frederick are the others). They are Olive Allison Harris(First cousin to William McKinley), her husband George Harris, Sarah Harris Pew, Henry Harris, Hannah Harris Taylor, her husband George Taylor and Alfred Harris (President and founder of the Harris Printing Press). PO11.14

Residence of W.S.Harris on West Park Avenue.

Residence of W.S.Harris on West Park Avenue.

Niles soldiers going to the service. 1918

Niles soldiers going to the service. 1918…This photo was taken at the old Erie Train Station, My Grandfather (William Harris) and his brother, Frederick Kent Harris were on the train. The train was taking new draftees for processing in 1918. Their father (Frederick Harris) is seen left-of-center, next to the woman with the white collar—Richard Harris
PO11.13


Harris Residence on Cedar near Bean Alley.

Harris Residence on Cedar near Bean Alley.

The man wearing the long coat, and holding the fishing pole, is my Great-Grandfather

The man wearing the long coat, and holding the fishing pole, is my Great-Grandfather; Frederick Harris. Fred's first cousin was Sarah A. Harris, who married Benjamin Frank Pew. Sarah was a sister of Alfred Harris, of Harris Printing Press fame. Fred dabbled in race horses, and stabled them at Frank Pew's place. The photo seems to be from the 1890s, so it may have been taken around Cedar Street and Bean Alley, where Fred and Maria lived at that time. One of the men is probably Frank Pew, but I am not sure which one. Judging by their mischievous grins, they were having a good time. Perhaps the horse won—Richard Harris

1898 CedarStreet Grocery Store.

1898 CedarStreet Grocery Store. Frederick and Maria Harris owned quite a bit of property around the Robbins Avenue/Cedar Street area. This structure was built at the corner of Cedar Street and Bean Alley as a grocery store for Maria's brother, William Kent, Jr.

In this photo are William Kent, his sister Maria Harris, unknown man, Harry Harris(Maria's brother-in-law) and William Harris. William Kent died in the Philippines as a soldier in the Spanish-American War, one of only a few from Niles to do so. PO11.12
Richard Harris


Apartment building at the corner of Cedar and Robbins Avenue, known as the Harris Apartments.
Built by Frederick and Maria Harris early in 20th century.
PO11.11

 

 


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