H. K. Porter Company, Inc. was originally organized in 1866 as Smith & Porter. In 1878 the name was changed to H. K. Porter & Company and in 1899 to H.K. Porter Company.
Porter's early business was primarily in the manufacture and repair of locomotives. In 1926 Porter claimed to be the largest manufacturer of locomotives in the United States. As a result of decreased demand for locomotives and increased competition from the trucking industry the company filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy on November 10, 1937.
On January 12, 1939 a new H.K. Porter Company was incorporated in Pennsylvania. It would engage in the manufacture and sale of various industrial products. In the 1950s H. K. Porter acquired the first of several companies that engaged in the manufacture, sale and/or distribution of asbestos-containing products. The companies included Thermoid Corporation, Southern Asbestos, Asbestos Manufacturing Company, Carolina Asbestos, LaClede Christy, Russell manufacturing and Southern Textile Company.
As a result of litigation resulting from H.K. Porter's involvement with asbestos, and after paying over $200 million in settlements, the company filed for bankruptcy on February 15, 1991.
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