History

Eureka! Photo The Eureka! Tent Division of Johnson Outdoors Gear, Inc. (JOI) has more than a century of tent and soft shelter experience and is the only full line tent manufacturer with design capabilities that serve camping, military, and commercial canopy/rental markets.

Though the exact year is unknown, Eureka!'s long history begins prior to 1895, in Binghamton, NY, where the company still resides today. Then known as the Eureka! Tent & Awning Company, its first wares were canvas products-most notably, Conestoga wagon covers and horse blankets for nineteenth century American frontiersmen- as well as American flags, store awnings, and, of course, camping tents.

The company increased production of its custom canvas products locally throughout the 1930s, and during the 1940s, even fabricated and erected the IBM "tent cities" just outside Binghamton. The seven acres of tents housed thousands of IBM salesmen during the company's annual stockholders meeting, which had since outgrown its previous locale. In the 1940s, with the advent of World War II and the increased demand for hospital ward tents, Eureka! expanded operations and began shipping tents worldwide. Ultimately, upon the post-war return of the GIs and the resultant housing shortage, Eureka! turned its attention to the home front during the 1950s, supplying awnings for the multitude of mobile homes that were purchased.

Our "camping" tent history began in the late 50's and early 60's. That's when work on the Eureka!'s new and innovative Draw-Tite® began. The Draw-Tite tent, with its practical, free standing external frame, was used in a Himalayan Expedition to Nepal by none other than world renowned Sir Edmund Hillary-the first person documented to summit Mt. Everest only six years earlier. Then in 1963, Eureka! made history during its own Mt. Everest ascent, with over 60 of its tents sheltering participants from fierce 60+ mph winds and temperatures reaching below -20°F during the first all American Mt. Everest Expedition.

From these benchmarks, innovation grew. A new chapter in Eureka's history was written in 1973 when Eureka! Tent was sold to S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. and became a division of Johnson Wax Associates.

For backpackers and families, the 1970s were a time for "getting back to nature." For them, Eureka! introduced its legendary Timberline® tent. Truly the first StormShield® design, the completely self-supporting and lightweight backpacking tent became one of the most popular tents the entire industry had ever witnessed, with sales reaching over 1 million by its ten year anniversary.

Brass hooks were used to speed set-up, an early predecessor to clips. Truly our first StormShield® design, over 27,000 Timberlines were sold the first year, and by its tenth anniversary, sales of the Timberline® topped one million! And in 1978, Eureka! was with the American Women's Himalayan Expedition to Annapurna every step of the way. In fact, Eureka! tents have accompanied all the North American "first ascents" of Mt. Everest, including the first Canadian woman in 1986 and the first American woman in 1988.

In 1987, the late Sam Johnson, CEO of S.C. Johnson Wax and the spirit behind the original purchases, separated Johnson Wax Associate companies from S.C.J. forming a publicly held company. Today, Johnson Outdoors Inc. directs some of the leading outdoor brands in the industry.

For 75 years, we ran a successful party tent rental business. During that time, we learned a lot about what our customers wanted, what worked well for different rental applications and what it is that people want in a rental tent. The Eureka! commercial tent division has earned a reputation for quality products and innovative designs in manufacturing. Along the way, we have been the recipient of multiple IFAI Achievement Awards for tent design and excellence in manufacturing. Keeping up with the growth of our business, Eureka!'s facilities have grown to over 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space and a state of the art 33,000 square foot distribution center.

While Eureka! tents have traveled as part of several historic expeditions, including the American Women's Himalayan Expedition to Annapurna I in 1978; the first Mt. Everest ascents by a Canadian woman, 1986; and by an American woman, 1988; they have also stayed closer to home with some very historic families. Our large party rental tents made by Eureka! have appeared at lavish Kennedy family parties, while a Eureka! camping tent was reported to be the only purchase made during a July 4, 1991 visit to a Missouri sporting goods store by then President George Bush.

The experience gained in over 100 years of building soft shelters, from covered wagons and tents in 1895 to the Genesis® tension tent in 1986 to the Fifth Season Expedition Tent in 2002, has forged the way for the Military Division, which currently manufacturers both structural and sleeping tents for all branches of the U.S. Military.

Eureka! began developing the Modular General Purpose Tent System (MGPTS) design in 1997. Through extensive research and development, the MGPTS evolved into an efficient system and we achieved extensive knowledge and experience in the production of the MGPTS. This tent system incorporates the latest design and manufacturing technologies to provide the Government with a multi-purpose weatherproof shelter for any environment. The MGPTS is significantly different from any other tent previously produced for the U.S. Government.

Our commitment to innovation in all phases of design and manufacture led us, in 2006, to the design and introduction of the Rapid Deployable Shelter (RDS). Through a partnership with Hoberman Designs, Inc., and based on a Hoberman design, this frame supported system uses synchronized gears for faster, easier set-up. The RDS can be mission ready in under 12 minutes . . . a critical component for operations in all branches of the armed forces.

Eureka!'s history, professionalism and quality products has earned quite a reputation in the "cut & sew" market. This reputation and experience has brought other government solicitations to Eureka!. Over the past 10 years, we have been a leading supplier to the military, including the Tent, Combat One Person (TCOP), the U.S. Army Lightweight Extreme Weather Shelter (LEWS), the Marine Combat Tent, the Extreme Cold Weather Tent (ECWT), the Individual Combat Shelter (ICS) and the Chem/Bio Liner for the MGPTS tent.

And, over the past 100 years, Eureka! has been making history as the innovation leader in the tent industry . . . all including superior craftsmanship, attention to detail, consistent innovation and excellent creature comforts. Eureka's commitment is the same as it was 100 years ago: to provide the best gear at the best price. You can be sure that your Eureka! tent, shelter or pack will provide years of trouble-free service, no matter where your adventures take you.