History

Where we’re going is built on where we’ve been

At Indiana Furniture, we build our future on our history. We’re proud to relate our company’s development, achievements and history as a good corporate citizen to you here. Be sure to check out what we’re doing these days in our News section, and our Press Releases.

March 17, 1905 – St. Patrick’s Day

Jasper Novelty Works was established in response to efforts of the Jasper Business Men’s Association to provide employment to the town’s citizens. According to a report in the Jasper Courier, the venture was to be “a novelty factory to manufacture wood articles of use and adornment…”

1906

The new factory, a 4-story structure including 3 floors and a full basement and incorporating the latest state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, was completed at 12th and Mill Streets in Jasper. The neighborhood grew as workers soon began building their homes nearby to be within walking distance of their new jobs.

Early manufacturing at the Jasper Novelty Works focused on creating desks of all styles and purposes. The quality and variety of the company’s desks became highly respected throughout the nation.

The Model 100 Ladies’ Typewriter desk was one of the most popular items in the Jasper Novelty Works early product line-up. It featured a mechanism for storing the typewriter when not in use.

1911-1920

During the teens, Jasper Novelty Works thrived: adding an expansion to the plant in 1911, paying its first dividend to stockholders in 1913, and building a rail spur directly to the plant in 1914 to handle the large volume of shipments. The plant produced 1,000 – 1,200 desks per month by then.

During World War I, two factory additions were built and manufacturing volume remained high. Being a War Industries Board member gave Jasper Novelty Works high-priority status in accessing manufacturing materials.

1921-1930

Jasper Novelty Works continued to specialize in quality desks into the 1920’s. More than 19,000 desks were manufactured in 1926. Recognizing their area of expertise focusing on office desks, teachers’ desks, secretaries’ desks, and other office furniture, the company officially changed their name to Indiana Desk Company in 1929.

Business went into sharp decline with the stock market crash in October, 1929. During the years of the Great Depression, Indiana Desk experienced severely reduced orders but kept production going using part-time scheduling. However, because of wise investing and financial stability, the company was able to purchase the A. Robineau Furniture Company in the nearby community of Dubois in 1932. This facility became Indiana Desk Plant #2 and was set up for manufacture of flat and roll-top desks.

With the outbreak of World War II, Metal was needed for the war effort and was strictly rationed, so demand increased for wood filing cabinets. Both Indiana Desk plants were kept busy filling orders for desks as well as filing cabinets.

Post-War expansion of the economy brought unprecedented growth during the 1950’s. Indiana Desk added furniture lines, manufactured at the Dubois plant, Indiana Cabinet Company, to the product selection to fill the homes of new families. The company also increased production of student desks and school office furniture to accommodate new schools built for children of the Post-War Baby Boom.

1960 – 1992

Business at Indiana Desk was less vigorous during the economic slowdown of the 1960’s and 1970’s. However, with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 a new optimism was evident. In 1981 the Dubois plant, known as the Indiana Cabinet Company, discontinued manufacture of household furniture and merged with Indiana Desk to concentrate on the manufacture of office furniture.

In 1986 Indiana Desk bought Indiana Chair Company which added upholstered office seating to the company’s product lines.

In the vigorous business climate of the 1990’s Indiana Desk was thriving and made many significant changes to the operations. The Dubois plant was updated with new equipment and a 120,000 square foot addition to accommodate new product-finishing lines.

1993 – Present

In April 1993, the company name was changed to Indiana Furniture Industries, shortened by employees and people in the industry and community to IFI. Later, during the company’s centennial year in 2005, the name was shortened to Indiana Furniture.

Also in 1993, preparing to be even more competitive in the industry at the turn of the century, Indiana Furniture Industries built and equipped a 60,000 square foot plant on the south side of Jasper to manufacture their own plywood. By 1997 they added 57,000 square feet and moved the veneer operation to this new plant.

At the turn of the century, production was going full-force as was the national economy. However, with the attacks of September 11, 2001, the economic climate went into a period of recession that affected business at Indiana Furniture Industries and lead to staff cut-backs.

In 2001 Indiana Furniture Industries constructed the new Flatline plant and implemented an innovative manufacturing process which involved cutting and finishing components prior to assembly of the finished products. The result is increased quality, reduced cost, and greater responsiveness to customers’ timelines.

By early 2003, it became apparent that a change in company focus was needed in order to remain competitive in the world market as the company entered their second century of business. Strategic Planning and Smart Manufacturing plans were introduced to allow the company to become more responsive to customers’ needs.

In 2005, Indiana Furniture celebrated 100 years of continuous manufacturing business – a rare milestone. In addition to Strategic Planning and Smart Manufacturing, several new manufacturing processes contribute to the company’s competitive edge. The “Desk Express” product lines allow a customer to select a product from the catalog and have a new desk delivered in a week. Product components are kept in stock for quick final assembly and shipment.

UV finish technology was added for select furniture lines. The UV finish produces a more durable and attractive finish for a better quality, longer lasting product at a competitive price. Because the UV finish does not emit toxins into the air after it’s cured, it is also considered environmentally safe, and it was awarded GREENGUARD certification, a coveted third-party endorsement of products that safeguard indoor air quality. The products also meet BIFMA standards for low-emitting office furniture systems and earn points for LEED Credit 4.5 – standards for environmentally conscious building construction.

As we enter the 21st Century and the second century of our business, we continue to introduce new product lines and business and manufacturing innovations that will result in continued high quality and competitively priced office and commercial furniture lines for our existing and new customers. Our showrooms located throughout the U.S. provide convenient access for customers and dealers and are updated to showcase our ever expanding and improved line of fine office furniture.

Source: Company history compiled as Indiana Furniture: Celebrating 100 Years of Excellence 1905-2005, by Robert R. Morris; © 2005, Indiana Furniture.