William Franklin Norman, founder of W.F. Norman Corporation, began one of the most successful businesses in tin ceiling manufacturing. Starting as a traveling salesman for the Wheeling Corrugating Company out of Wheeling, West Virginia, Norman excelled in his work. At that time, Wheeling Corrugating was a large steel mill that also made products from their steel sheets such as roofing and siding. They became the leading tin ceiling manufacturer in the late 1800s. Because of his enterprising nature, Norman decided to open up his own shop and manufacture the line of Hi-Art® tin ceilings and products that are still sold at W.F. Norman Corporation today.The W. F. Norman Corporation was started by William Franklin Norman and John Berghauser in 1898. Two sons and a grandson followed in his footsteps and continued successfully running the business until 1978. It was believed that there were as many as two dozen similar type companies producing and manufacturing these stamped tin ceilings around the late 1800s and early 1900s. Only a few were prosperous enough to stay in business even though tin ceilings were a very popular building material during that time. The tin ceilings were made in Nevada, MO until the late 1930s when they went out of style and steel materials were scarce during the ramping up for World War II. In order to stay in business, the company continuously made other sheet metal products unrelated to ceiling and ornamental sheet metal until Bob and Annette Quitno came along in 1978. Bob Quitno purchased the business from W.F. Norman’s grandson, Franklin Norman. In the 50,000 square foot factory Quitno found old dies and machinery that made the tin ceilings, and in 1979 and 1980, tin ceilings were put back into production and started the revival of that look. The Quitno family owns and operates from the same location where William Franklin Norman started his small business in the late 1800s.
The original building where the present day W.F. Norman Corp. factory currently sits was once a roller skating rink, then a Christian church dating back to 1892. Even though a fire burnt the roof off the building in 1909 and later an east room addition added thousands of square feet, the office and the rest of the factory are surprising similar to the way they looked by 1910 after the fire.
W.F. Norman’s home can still be found on South College in Nevada, MO which is now owned and operated by Cottey College as the Center for Women’s Leadership.
For more information about W.F. Norman Corporation history, watch the You Tube video.
The Legacy of W.F. Norman
January 3, 2014 by