The old Biblical saying that a house built upon the sand is destined to fall is exemplified every day of every year in the commercial records of every country in the world. Many men have, apparently, been successful in business without acquiring a thorough knowledge of their special line of activity, but such successes have almost invariably been short-lived. They were the result of fortuitous circumstances and could not withstand the change to adverse influence. Experience has abundantly demonstrated the necessity for a firm foundation upon which to build a career. Science is able to estimate with exactness the pressure which a given quantity of brick, stone, wood, or steel will bring to bear upon its foundation, but in the rapidly changing conditions affecting the modern business man, it is impossible to tell today just what pressure he will be called upon to resist in the work of tomorrow. The fact confronts the young man starting out in life, therefore, that if he expects to gain and hold a position in the particular business in which he engages, he must have the foundation of a complete knowledge of that business in all its details. He may fail, nevertheless, but without such equipment he will fall as surely as the house will fall when the waves wash away the unstable sand which is its only foundation.
One need not go outside of lumber manufacture and distribution for a demonstration of the above truisms. They constitute a commercial law as unalterable as that of supply and demand. Examples of the value of laying a proper foundation for a business career are numerous, and a striking one is found in the business history of John Harker, secretary and treasurer of the Wiley, Harker & Camp Company, of New York City.
John Harker, like many other men who have achieved marked success in the lumber industry, was not a native of this country. He was born in Liverpool, England, June 14, 1856, and was the son of Richard Harker, a wholesale fruit dealer of that city. Young Harker received his education at the Liverpool Collegiate School, graduating when fifteen years of age. One year later, in 1872, he entered the service of Robert Coltart & Co., one of the oldest and best of the timber brokerage concerns of the great English seaport. He remained there until 1886, when he migrated to Norfolk, Virginia.
In his fourteen years of service with Robert Coltart & Co. Mr. Harker had acquired a fair knowledge of lumber and lumber methods in England, but he realized that in the United States he would be confronted by trade conditions to meet which he had not had an opportunity thoroughly to prepare himself. This, however, was a difficulty which he lost no time in overcoming. He at once entered the employ of Tunis, Eccles & Co., a concern then engaged in purchasing the mill cuts of North Carolina pine manufacturers and disposing of the same to the trade. The firm's principal office was at Baltimore, Maryland, but Mr. Harker was put in charge of the buying end of the business and was located at Norfolk, where he had charge of the office and was, in fact, general utility man. He remained there five years, gaining an intimate knowledge of North Carolina pine manufacture. In 1888 he became the first secretary of the original North Carolina Pine Lumber Company (now the North Carolina Pine Association). He did not immediately sever his connection with Tunis, Eccles & Co., but as his association work became more arduous he gradually withdrew from that concern until he devoted his entire time to the association.
In 1893 Mr. Harker associated himself with E.M. Wiley, of New York City, and they established the firm of Wiley, Harker & Co. They engaged in the business of selling lumber on commission. The firm was successful from the start and in 1902 Wiley, Harker & Co. were handling close to 100,000,000 feet of North Carolina pine annually.
The success of their business had been so marked and the reputation of the gentlemen engaged in it for business sagacity was so well established that, early in 1903, the Camp Manufacturing Company, of Franklin, Virginia, a heavy manufacturer of North Carolina pine, began negotiations looking to an alliance, and on May 1 of that year an organization was effected called the Wiley, Harker & Camp Company, which took over the selling end of the Camp interests.
The merging of the interests of these two concerns gave the new Wiley, Harker & Camp Company control of the output of the Carolina Manufacturing Company, at Franklin, DeWitt, Norfolk and Beverly, Virginia; the Cape Fear Lumber Company and the Angola Lumber Company, at Wilmington, and several other North Carolina pine manufacturing plants in various parts of the two states mentioned. The new company retained the interests it controlled when operating as Wiley, Harker & Co., and, after the organization of May 1, 1903, the total output of the Wiley, Harker & Camp Company aggregated 200,000,000 feet annually. Since that date this business has been increasing and the company is now the foremost North Carolina pine handling institution in the world. Its interests have extended rapidly and include an immense area of North Carolina pine stumpage.
Mr. Harker is treasurer of the Wiley, Harker & Camp Company, has general supervision over the financial affairs of that great concern and is, as well, a prominent figure in the dictation of the company's operations. His business is not confined to this organization, however, as he is president of the Angola Lumber Company, of Wilmington, North Carolina; president of the Charles T. Stran Company, a North Carolina pine wholesaling corporation, of Baltimore, Maryland; president of the Carolina Timber Company, which is a timber holding company, of Norfolk, and treasurer of the Cape Fear Lumber Company, of Wilmington, North Carolina, which also is allied to the Wiley, Harker & Camp Company and markets its output through that organization.
From the foregoing outline it will be seen that Mr. Harker's rise to success has been steady and has been the result of a thorough knowledge of all the departments of the North Carolina pine business, which has come from a close and conscientious study since boyhood. He made himself thoroughly conversant with operations in the woods and at the mill. As secretary and manager of the North Carolina Pine Association -- or its predecessor—he became familiar with the statistics of the North Carolina pine business and with the methods employed by the men who had been most successful in the manufacture and sale of this wood. Later, he went to New York and there neglected no details which would help him solve the problem of how to sell a great quantity of North Carolina pine in a short space of time and at a profit. In connection with his earlier work in the lumber field he acted as correspondent for "The Timberman" and the "Northwestern Lumberman", which, later, were merged into the American Lumberman.
Mr. Harker is a man of penetrating mind and careful judgment, and is a painstaking student. It goes without saying that his integrity is unquestioned by those with whom his business brings him into contact. He is a big, broad-shouldered, strong man, with an erect carriage, whose manner is hearty and cordial, and who has made a host of friends within and without the circle of his business acquaintance.
John Harker married Miss Jane Hamilton Gunson, of Liverpool, England, in 1881, a boy and a girl being the result of this union. Mrs. Harker died in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1887. In 1902 Mr. Harker married Miss Mary J. Morgan, of Norfolk. Their family consists of four children -- two boys and two girls. Mr. Harker is domestic in his tastes, and although he is a thirty-second degree Mason and a member of the New York Athletic Club, the greater portion of time he can spare from his extensive business interests is spent with his family.