70 Years of Haworth

How a family company grew from modest beginnings in a Michigan workshop to a global enterprise creating workplace and technology solutions.

1940s

1948

Industrial arts teacher G.W. Haworth outgrows his home workshop, where he manufactures wooden toys, and construction begins on the first, 4,480-square-foot plant in Holland, Michigan. The move to the new facility is followed by more orders.  

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1949

Using a loan of $10,000 from his parents’ life savings, G.W. Founds Modern Products. He hopes to earn enough money to put his children through college.

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1949

The company’s first wood products include a tie rack and a shoe display.

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“The money that started the business was earned the hard way,” says Dick Haworth. “Grandpa went from farm to farm selling Watkins cosmetics and spices; that’s where the money came from. I’m particularly proud of that. It’s a great foundation for a business.”

1950s

1951

  A freelance salesman pitches G.W. a sketch of some proposed bank-type partitions for the United Auto Workers headquarters in Detroit in 1951. G.W.’s first foray into floor to-ceiling movable walls, the X & L series, is realized.  

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1955

G.W. considers uses for the scrap material created by the manufacture of partitions, which leads to the production of planters and room dividers in 1955.

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1956

50 employees (or “members”) and $472,000 in sales; the company makes an addition to the plant.

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1959

Modern Partitions, Inc., is formed.

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1960s

1961

G.W.’s teenage son Dick Haworth sweeps floors and operates plant machinery.  

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1962

Study carrels are launched as a new product line.

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1964

First national sales meeting is held in Holland, Michigan, for 55 manufacturers, representatives, and dealers.

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1964

Dick is an assistant sales manager, and within two years is promoted to vice president for research and development before leaving to serve in the U.S. Army.

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1965

Members and sales of nearly $2 million.

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1969

Dick returns from the army and assumes responsibility for manufacturing and new product development. His goal is to produce an office module system.

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“My father ended up going to a hardware store, getting a lot of bits and pieces and dumping them on a table — and inventing the prewired partition. Right as he developed it, the personal computer came to the office, and we boomed!” says Matthew Haworth.

1970s

1971

Dick introduces the Modern Office Modules (MOM) system and significantly alters the company’s direction, with sales of $6 million the following year.

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1976

Company name and logo change from Modern Partitions to Haworth.

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1976

G.W. retires as president to become full-time chairman of the board; Dick is appointed president and CEO. With Dick, 33, at the helm, the company increases in size by 400 percent over next 20 years.

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1976

MOM is renamed UniGroup. The company exclusively focuses on contract office furniture and sells its partition and movable-wall business to Trendway.

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1976

Dick Haworth helps devise a way to prewire panels, and patents the most innovative workplace product since open-plan office systems.

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1977

Haworth International, Inc., is formed to set up foreign licenses for the manufacture and marketing of office interior systems.

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1978

National showroom opens in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

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1980s

1980

830 members and sales of $67 million.    

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1981

Company moves to its current location at One Haworth Center. Showrooms open or are renovated in 18 North American cities and four international locations.

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1981

1981: New products include System Seating, electronically supported work surfaces and tables, and an adjustable keyboard pad (1982).

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1984

The company’s one millionth panel is produced on the steel line. 1986: The Power Base electrical system is introduced.

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1987

Wood case goods are launched.

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1988

DataThing introduces plug-and-play voice and data cabling to panels.

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1988

Haworth goes global, undertaking a strategic expansion. The business acquires 15 companies in Europe and North America, then builds in Asia to expand its sales and dealer network.

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1988

The company acquires German-based seating manufacturing, making Haworth a multinational corporation with factories in Germany and Switzerland.

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1988

First office is established outside the U.S. (in London).

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“As a company, we manufacture in the markets where we sell our products,” says Dick Haworth. “Our plants in China aren’t there to supply the North American marketplace, because they supply the Asian markets. It means we have high-quality jobs in all of the markets that we are involved in.”

1990s

1990

4,240 members and $600 million in sales.  

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1991

The company reorganizes into regions: 1) North America, 2) Europe, 3) Middle East/Africa, 4) Asia Pacifi c & Central America/South America.

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1992

Matthew Haworth formally joins the team as a dealer associate.

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1992

First office furniture manufacturer to achieve ISO 9001 certification.

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1995

Ideation Group is formed, applying user-based research to breakthrough concepts and products such as Crossings, Irrigator, Flo, Eddy, Drift, and Wake.

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1995

30 percent of sales derives from overseas.

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1997

Manufacturing expands with production at the Shanghai plant; over ten years, the company acquires 25 companies in Europe, North America, and Asia.

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2000s

“We recognized that our deep insight into the physical workplace could be translated into user experience in a virtual workspace,” says Dick Haworth.

2000

14,790 members and $2 billion in sales.  

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2000

Haworth acquires architectural interior companies to bring to market raised-access floors and movable walls.

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2004

Organic Workspace strategy launches to take a comprehensive view of entire floor plates and all types of spaces. The Chicago showroom, Haworth’s LEED-CI Gold certified building, becomes the showcase for these adaptable workspaces.

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2006

Beloved founder of the company G.W. Haworth passes away at the age of 95.

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2008

New corporate headquarters, an LEED-NC Gold–certified facility, opens as a living lab.

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2009

The American Society of Interior Designers awards Haworth its Patron’s Prize for exemplifying the value of interior design.

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2009

First company in the industry to achieve zero waste to landfill in all U.S. manufacturing facilities.

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2009

Dick Haworth steps aside. His son, Matthew, 40, becomes chairman of the privately held, family-owned corporation.

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2010s

2011

Curated selections from Haworth, Poltrona Frau, Cappellini, and Cassina are brought together as the Haworth Collection.  

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2013

Bluescape is launched to support virtual work and visual collaboration.

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2014

Haworth acquires the Poltrona Frau Group, including iconic Italian design brands Cappellini, Cassina, and Poltrona Frau.

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2016

Haworth acquires JANUS et Cie for premium contemporary outdoor and interior furniture.

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2017

The company’s headquarters are given a refresh by Patricia Urquiola.

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2017

Haworth Collection partners with Pablo Designs and GAN rugs to improve and support collaborative environments.

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2017

7,500 members, 650 dealers, and global sales reaching $2.04 billion.

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2018

70th anniversary celebration of Haworth’s history of craft, innovation, 400 patents, and inspiring spaces around the the world.

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“Underpinning everything we do is the fact that we are a values-led organization. And things like design, knowledge, and learning are part of that,” says Matthew Haworth. “We believe that our strong principles and culture give us a competitive advantage.”