Norman Wait Harris

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Norman Wait Harris
Norman Wait Harris.png
Born (1846-08-15)August 15, 1846
Becket, Massachusetts
Died July 15, 1916(1916-07-15) (aged 69)
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Alma mater Westfield Academy (1863)
Years active 1867–1916
Employer N.W. Harris & Co.
Harris Trust & Savings Bank
Harris, Forbes & Co.
Known for Banker, Philanthropist

Norman Wait Harris (August 15, 1846 – July 15, 1916) was an American banker. He founded Chicago-based N.W. Harris & Co., the predecessor of Harris Bank as well as its affiliate Harris, Forbes & Co. and later Harris, Hall & Co.


Harris was born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts in 1846, to Nathan Wait Harris and C. Emeline Wadsworth Harris. Harris was educated at Westfield Academy, graduating at age 17 to pursue a career in business. In 1867, at age 21, Harris joined the Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati, which he helped to found, as secretary.

In 1882, Harris founded the banking firm that would bear his name, N.W. Harris & Co. The firm was initially based in Chicago and would later open offices in New York City and Boston. In 1907, Harris reorganized his banking business, founding the Harris Trust and Savings Bank, based in Chicago and Harris, Forbes & Co. based in New York.[1]

Harris was also a director of AT&T.

In 1916, during a tour of Asia, Harris suffered a heart attack in Japan. He arrived in Seattle in May 1916, where he remained briefly before returning home. Harris died just two months later in July 1916 at his summer home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[2]


In his later years, Harris was a philanthropist supporting a wide range of institutions, particularly in Chicago. Harris made substantial gifts to the University of Chicago, which in 1924 endowed an "Institute of Politics";[3] the Field Museum, where a $250,000 gift was used to fund a public school expansion; and the YMCA. In 1913, Harris gave $250,000 to Northwestern University for the construction of Harris Hall of Political Science and History (today known as Harris Hall), which is located at the front gate of the University.

Harris also gave a substantial gift to the Chicago Training School for Home and Foreign Missions, the largest training school of its kind for Methodist missionaries in the United States. Harris, who was actively involved with the Methodist Episcopal Church, donated the land for the construction of its main campus and chapel.[4]


  1. ^ NEW BANK IN CHICAGO.; Harris Trust and Savings Institution Has $3,000,000 Deposits. New York Times, February 05, 1907
  2. ^ N.W. Harris Home, Ill. New York Times, May 1916
  3. ^ Watered Gruel. TIME Magazine, May 5, 1924
  4. ^ "Norman Wait Harris". National Cyclopedia of American Biography. 17. 1927. p. 323. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 

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