As an engineer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Harold E. Williams founded the H.E. Williams Company in Carthage, Missouri, in 1921. It all started with just Harold and his assistant in a rented 25’-by-50’ room. In the beginning, H.E. made kitchen utensils, static signs, cold storage lockers and even bicycle parts. He would finish operations for the day and sell products door-to-door at night.

H.E. Williams portrait
106 E. 2nd Street facility; the original H.E. Williams, Inc. warehouse
A potato masher, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
A bike kickstand, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
An erasable message board, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
A cold storage locker, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions

The Automobile Years

By the mid-1920s, the company was making various gadgets for automobiles, including folding luggage racks that mounted to running boards, canopies for rumble seats, radiator bug screens, underslung creepers and seat cushions.

A foldable luggage rack, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
A rumble seat canopy, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
Assembly seat cushions, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
Airflow cushions, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions

Never-ending ideas

H.E. acquired many different patents for products and their production. By the 1930s, gas and radiator caps, sun visors and antennae were being produced under H.E. Williams’ patents.

Williams gas tank caps, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
A sun visor, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
Vehicle radio antennae, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions
Vehicle window defroster, one of the original H.E. Williams inventions

A light went on

In 1939, H.E. attended the World’s Fair in New York City. There, he witnessed the introduction of fluorescent lighting, which he knew would transform his company. He immediately began engineering and manufacturing fixtures to house the new light source. By December of that year, he was ordering machinery to produce lamp brackets.

The Williams engineering office, with engineers hard at work
A Williams engineer hard at work

First in fluorescent

By the early 1940s, H.E. had engineered a suite of fluorescent fixtures and began exhibiting his products at industry trade shows. During World War II, Williams also made ammunition casings, cable pulleys, and bomb clips for various aircrafts. By the late 1940s, lighting was at the forefront of the business, and the factory – which was located on historic route 66 – was expanded to double the square footage.

H.E. Williams at Fluorescent Futurama showcasing Williams lighting fixtures
The Williams factory floor in the 1940s with machinists at work

Engineering excellence

Through the 1950s and 60s, Williams continued to introduce new products for educational facilities, retail shops, and commercial office spaces. H.E. developed a line of outlet and switch boxes which featured preset nails to save time on the job site – an industry standard today. Not only did H.E. engineer the products, but he also designed manufacturing equipment that would meet his production standards. It was during this time that John Williams, H.E.’s son, began learning the lighting business under the direction of his father.

Application photo of the Williams Model VB 402 over a factory floor
Application photo of the Williams Model 1421 in continuous rows over an office space
Photo of the Williams assembly line in the 60s
H.E. Williams and John Williams showcasing fixtures with the First in Fluorescent slogan
The fabrication area of the Williams factory in the 50s

Room to grow

Staying at the center of the American lighting industry, the operation moved to our current home on Fairview Avenue in 1971. Still in Carthage, Missouri, the new facility offered more than double the square footage for our growing company.

The Williams assembly line in May 1973
The Williams fabrication line in the 1970s
Williams engineers hard at work in the 1970s
Ron Snyder working the fabrication line in the 1970s

An era of change

The second generation of Williams leadership began in 1980 when John became the CEO. Keeping the tradition of exceptional quality alive, our powder-coat paint system was installed, immediately setting Williams apart from the competition. In the late 80s Globe Illumination was purchased, and the equipment was relocated to Carthage, allowing Williams to manufacture parabolic fixtures.

John Williams in front of the 80s Williams sign
Williams fabrication line in the 80s
Williams factory floor in the 80s
Mark Duncan on the factory floor in the 80s

Three generations strong

Having worked part-time at the business throughout his youth, Mark Williams, John’s son, joined the firm full time as Customer Service Representative in the late 1980s. For several years, he worked in various departments from production to marketing. In the early 90s, Infinity Lighting was acquired – expanding the product line to include downlighting. In the mid 1990s, Mark became CEO, starting the 3rd generation of Williams leadership. Under Mark’s direction, the first CNC fabrication equipment was purchased enabling Williams to grow the product line more quickly and offer custom modifications.

John Williams and Mark Williams looking at finished fixtures on the factory floor in the 90s
The Trumatic 200 machine on the Williams factory floor in the 90s
Infinity lighting group photo next to The Underground entrance
The old Williams tradeshow booth, showcasing our products in the 90s
Assembly of cylinders on the factory floor

Cultivating success

To meet the increasing demands of the lighting industry, the facility was added on to in 2005. A first-class showroom, additional office space, fabrication equipment, an enhanced powder-coat paint system, more assembly lines, and warehousing capabilities were included in the 100,000 square foot expansion. The Williams portfolio grew, once again, with the acquisitions of outdoor and healthcare lighting companies.

Williams truck and trailer in front of the H.E. Williams, Inc. office entrance
An aerial view of the modern H.E. Williams factory floor
Application photo of the OSC12R at the patient entrance of the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare
Application photo of the AMD in one of the birthing rooms at the VCU Hospital

The future is now

When LED took hold of the commercial lighting industry, Williams engineered new solutions around the source. With the advancement of technology, lighting quickly evolved to include a more dynamic offering, including connectivity solutions for smart buildings and human centric lighting.

AT3 recessed troffers in a grid ceiling lighting a modern office space with a white desk and blue and gray chairs in a sitting area.
MX4 continuous fixtures suspended at an angle below an open ceiling in a school cafeteria with a blue accent wall and  round tables with blue chairs.
4DR downlights illuminating a modern sitting area with blue couches, marble floor, and white coffee table.
Surface mount orange RND round fixtures lighting a corridor with an orange mural along the wall showing people dancing.

Legacy of illumination

For 100 years, Williams has manufactured to the exacting standards established from the beginning – with quality and performance in mind. Still made in Carthage, and still the best.