W. J. HARRIS
Few men in the Domestic Machinery trade are better known than Mr. William James Harris, the subject of our present sketch, and none are more respected. His record too is a long one, as we shall presently show. Born in Devonshire in 1852, Mr. Harris came to London in 1871 to seek his fortune, and at once entered the service of the Singer Manufacturing Company. He was at first attached to the Singer Company's Causeway depot as mechanic and general hand, and had for manager Mr. S.B. Cochrane, who was then one of the most successful men in the Singer Company's employ, and controlled the largest branch in the Kingdom. Before twelve months had passed, although not out of his teens, young Harris was paid a salary of £ 2 per week. He was now appointed a superintendent, and given the entire control of all the outdoor work of the branch office at which he was located. After six years (1877) service with the Singer Company, Mr. Harris received a very tempting offer from Bradbury Company, Lim., which induced him to attach himself to their chief London branch, under Mr. Douse, the then manager. As an instance of the rivalry which prevailed in the trade at this time, we might here mention that some thousands of circulars were distributed broadcast, informing the public that W. J. Harris was no longer in the Singer Company's employ. These circulars, however, did not prevent Mr. Harris from achieving such success with the Bradbury machine, that his account with the makers soon stood at close upon one thousand pounds. But the name of Harris is perhaps now better known in connection with perambulators than with sewing machines, and it came about in this wise. Mr. Harris happened in 1880 to make the acquaintance of a perambulator smith, from whom he gleaned the number of fittings that he made weekly for one perambulator maker alone, and this induced him to take up the sale of children's carriages. He soon found, however, that there were only a few makers in the trade, and that their output was comparatively so small and uncertain as to put him as a dealer to great inconvenience. This decided him to make his own carriages, which was no small step to take considering that he was not possessed of much capital, and his existing hire business kept most of this locked up. By dint however of hard work and perseverance, combined with his mechanical experience, he soon succeeded beyond his anticipations. After a short time he began to make for the trade, entering into contracts to make as many as a thousand carriages for a single firm. His reputation grew at such a pace that Messrs. J. G. Murdoch & Co. (Lim.), invited him to join them in partnership as perambulator makers, but this was not to be. In 1888 W.J. Harris & Co.(Lim) became the style of the firm, Mr. Harris finding that the business done at the several branches he had opened required more supervision and increased capital. Much of the office work of the concern is now done by the secretary, Mr, J. Dickinson; but Mr. Harris, the managing director, is as active as ever in controlling the factory and looking after the depots. Haymerle Works, Haymerle Road, Peckham, S.E., W.J. Harris & Co.'s factory and warehouses, are well worth a visit. Here many thousands of carriages are turned out yearly, and either dispatched to dealers in all parts of the country or sent to the company's own depots which are mostly located in the " Home Counties." At these depots sewing and washing machines, musical instruments and jewellery, as well as perambulators, are kept in stock for sale, either for cash or on easy terms. Mr. W. J. Harris, as our readers well know, is President of the Hire Traders' Protection Association, and is just the man for the post, being always prompt and regular in all he undertakes. He is now in the prime of life, and having a robust constitution has probably many years before him, during which he will no doubt continue to progress. He has, however, every reason to be satisfied if he continues to maintain his present position, for, considering his comparatively lowly origin he is entitled to rank, among the " men who have succeeded.”
Messrs. W. J. Harris and Co., Ltd., the well-known domestic machinery dealers of Peckham and branches, have taken an unusual step. It is nothing less than the opening of a depot in Stettin, Germany, and for which purpose extensive premises have been leased.