This article is presented in partnership with W.F. Corporation.

William Franklin Norman, founder of W.F. Norman Corporation, began one of the most successful businesses in tin ceiling manufacturing. Starting as a traveling salesman for the Wheeling Corrugating Company out of Wheeling, West Virginia, Norman excelled in his work. At that time, Wheeling Corrugating was a large steel mill that also made products from their steel sheets such as roofing and siding. They became the leading tin ceiling manufacturer in the late 1800s. But because of his enterprising nature, Norman decided to open up his own shop and pioneered steel ceiling manufacturing in the West. The same line of Hi-Art® tin ceilings and products are still sold at W.F. Norman Corporation today.

The W. F. Norman Corporation was founded by William Franklin Norman and John Berghauser in 1898. Two sons and a grandson followed in Norman’s footsteps and successfully continued running the business until 1978. It was believed that there were as many as two dozen similar type companies producing and manufacturing these stamped tin ceilings around the late 1800s and early 1900s. Only a few were prosperous enough to stay in business even though tin ceilings were a very popular building material during that time.

Norman’s tin ceilings were made in Nevada, Missouri until the late 1930s when they went out of style and steel materials were scarce during the ramping up for World War II. In order to stay in business, the company continuously made other sheet metal products unrelated to ceiling and ornamental sheet metal until Bob and Annette Quitno came along in 1978. Bob Quitno purchased the business from W.F. Norman’s grandson, Franklin Norman. Quitno found old dies and machinery in the 50,000 square-foot factory, and in 1979 and 1980, tin ceilings were put back into production. This new production of its original products helped revive the ornamental pressed metal industry and aided in the restoration of historical landmarks.

Franklin (left) and Bob (right)

Today, the Quitno family owns and operates from the same location where William Franklin Norman started his small business in the late 1800s. However, the original building where company factory sits was once a roller skating rink, then a Christian church dating back to 1892. Even though the roof was destroyed in a fire in 1909, and later an east room addition added thousands of square feet, the present-day office and the rest of the factory are still remarkably similar to the way they looked by 1910 after the fire. The original home of William Franklin Norman can be found on South College in Nevada, Missouri which is now owned and operated by Cottey College as the Center for Women’s Leadership.