Harbison-Walker Refractories Co.

The company known now as Harbison Walker Refractories was founded in 1865 by J.K. Lemon and his partners as the Star Fire Brick Company. In 1875 the business changed hands and was rechristened with its current name. Harbison Walker is now part of a family of companies called ANH Refractories that operates under the trade, brand and service names A.P. Green, North American Refractories, and Harbison Walker.

Harbison Walker Refractories manufactures fireproof ceramic products and services for applications involving high temperatures and cement, lime, metals, chemicals, and glass, among other things. The company began researching in 1910 to diversify its offerings. This initiative resulted in the addition of new super-duty silica refractories and high temperature blast furnaces for industries as diverse as steel and glass. This helped bring Harbison Walker into a new era of prosperity as it landed Andrew Carnegie’s iron mills as one of its customers.

The early to middle decades of the 20th century saw Harbison Walker expand into Canada, Peru, and Mexico. The company became Canada’s largest refractory producer and started producing kilns for the pottery industry in addition to its services to heavy industry. Several acquisitions in the 1960s were followed by the company merging with Dresser Industries in Dallas, Texas, and becoming a subsidiary.

The 1990s saw record profits for the company after a decade of cutbacks in the 1980s. In 1992 Harbison Walker was spun off from Dresser Industries and became INDRESCO. However, the company faced financial hardship from claims against their use of asbestos in refractory products over the years. Harbison Walker’s use of asbestos could have exposed many in steel plants, chemical plants, workers in shipyards, miners, potters, glazers, boilermakers and others. Asbestos exposure can result in the deadly respiratory cancer known as mesothelioma.

With hundreds of thousands of pending claims, Harbison Walker filed bankruptcy in 2002. In 2005, Halliburton finalized a deal to purchase the defunct company and pay settlement on outstanding claims. The Harbinson Walker Refractories Company is now part of the Halliburton family of companies after a long and rich history of ups and downs spanning almost a century and a half.