loading background

Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...


Haney School Furniture Co.

1889 - 1978

Headquarters and factory: Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sales offices: London, England; Chicago, Illinois; New York, New York.

Successor to Empire Iron Works.

SEE ALSO Empire Furniture Co. (Listed below)


1872: Elijah Haney founds Empire Works.

1875: Empire receives large contract to cast iron components for school desks.

1878: Company begins production exclusively of complete school desks for the Beckley – Cardy Co. of Chicago; company name changes to Haney Manufacturing Co.

1886: Haney ends contract with Beckley – Cardy and begins producing desks under its own name.

1888: Elijah Haney receives patent for his automatic folding seat desk.

1889: Company reorganizes as Haney School Furniture Co.

1891: Haney wins suit against Grand Rapids School Furniture Co. for infringing on its automatic folding seat desk patent.

1900: Haney produces 35,000 desks on contract for American School Furniture Co.

1901: Haney reaches an agreement allowing American School Furniture Co. to buy annual right to use Haney’s patent in its own lines.

1912: George M. Haney leaves the company and begins Empire Furniture Co.

1919: Haney School Furniture Co. declares bankruptcy.

1922: George M. Haney is awarded a patent for his pedestal desk and begins a new Haney School Furniture Co. under his control.

1966: Company is purchased by Joseph Kiraly and its name changes to Haney Equipment Co.

1978: Haney Equipment Co. ceases production.


Elijah Haney was the company’s founder and first president. An inventor and mechanic at heart, he initially had his foundry produce small agricultural implements. After switching to school furniture, he received patents for his improvements, which eventually became standard in that segment of the industry. Control of the company rested solidly in family hands, with Elijah as president, Ida Haney vice-president, Alberta Haney as secretary, and George M. Haney as treasurer. Elijah remained president until the company’s bankruptcy in 1919.

George M. Haney left the firm in 1912 because of disagreement over how the company was being managed, but restarted the bankrupt company after its original charter expired in 1922. Stricken with a sudden illness in 1923, George M. Haney was forced to turn over management to his wife Rose, and two sons Elijah William Melvin (Mel) Haney and George Francis (Fran) Haney. After George died in 1926, Rose served as president until her death in 1949. Fran succeeded his mother as president until the company was sold in 1966.

At that point control of the company for the first time moved out of the hands of the Haney family. It was purchased by Joseph Kiraly, formerly a sales representative for another company.


Although the legs, frames, and other parts were cast iron, the desktops and seats were fashioned from Michigan maple. Elijah’s automatic folding seat desk featured a fold-up seat in the front, and a writing surface in back. Each seated student used the writing surface attached to the desk unit in front of him or her. This innovation allowed for easy cleaning of floors and rearrangement of the desks. Its success was phenomenal. Haney produced 50,000 of the desks for the Chicago school district in 1893 alone, and sold millions more throughout the United States, Europe, South America, China, and India. As the company grew so did its product line, to include teachers’ desks, office desks, opera seating, and church seating.

In 1922 George M. Haney received a patent for his modernized “pedestal school desk”. It too featured a seat on the front of the unit, but it was mounted to a cylindrical pedestal that allowed for adjustment in the height of the seat. During World War II Haney produced desks for American military training centers.

After the war, light aluminum table and chair units with hard maple tops and chair backs were introduced. In 1960 “The Coloramic Line,” with freestanding desks and chairs in soft colors, went into production. “Coloramic” desks were constructed of tubular steel, with plastic over hard maple tops.

With the sale of the company in 1966 came changes in the product line to mostly library furnishings. With a heavy emphasis on metals and plastics, the new line included checkout desks, library tables, lecterns, study centers, book carts, and newspaper racks. An innovation for the classroom was the “Selectern,” a teacher’s desk with a pop-up lectern.


A detailed history of the company including a finding aid of papers relating to the company was compiled by descendant David Haney in an unpublished thesis in 1972.


School desks made after 1889 were marked with “PAT’D SEPT 18, 1888/HANEY SCHOOL FURNITURE CO. GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.” cast on the side of the leg or trestle. Even if Haney produced a desk for another company and another name is stamped in the ironwork, you can tell it was actually produced by Haney if the tongue and groove joints between the boards in the seat form a zigzag pattern. During the period following WWII, the company trademark included the name Haney school furniture” in script, surrounded by a rectangular shape with concave sides. Pieces after 1966 will be marked simply “Haney” or “Haney Equipment Co.”


Empire Furniture Co.

1912 – 1922

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Founded by George M. Haney when he parted ways with the Haney School Furniture Co. Contract manufacturer, for Steel Furniture Co. and others, of components for school desks and seats.


The source, with permission of the author, is Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City by Christian G. Carron, published by the Grand Rapids Public Museum. 1998. 

Full Details

TitleHaney School Furniture Co.
AddressGrand Rapids, MI
Year Opened1889
Year Closed1978
Also Known AsHaney Equipment Co., Haney Manufacturing Co.
Locationlocation on map

Like Us on Facebook
site by GRCMC