History Timeline

As the company's history timeline illustrates, A. O. Smith’s history is one of finding creative ways to solve customer problems and make them more successful. It also is a history of achievement – the innumerable contributions of the men and women who make up the company. By following the credo of Integrity, Innovation, and Customer Satisfaction, A. O. Smith’s employees will ensure the company’s prosperity and success for another 145+ years.

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1874

Charles Jeremiah Smith establishes Charles J. Smith-Machinist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, beginning as a machine shop making metal parts for baby carriages and other hardware specialties. He was later joined by two of his sons and changed the name to C. J. Smith and Sons.

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1889

Company enters the bicycle industry by introducing the concept of forming steel tubing from sheet metal, this innovation was later employed in making bicycle frames.

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1895

C. J. Smith and Sons is the largest U.S. bicycle parts manufacturer, eventually becoming the largest in the world. 

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1899

Arthur O. Smith, a son of the founder, develops the world’s first pressed steel automobile frame; a lighter, more cost-effective alternative to existing frames.  

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1902

C. J. Smith and Sons received its first order of auto frames from Peerless Car Company. Orders soon followed from Cadillac, Packard, and Oldsmobile. 

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1904

Arthur O. Smith incorporates A. O. Smith Company in Milwaukee. 

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1906

Henry Ford orders 10,000 steel automobile frames, leading the company to develop the world’s first mass production process for assembling frames. Within four years, A. O. Smith is North America’s largest frame manufacturer. 

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1914

The company introduces the Smith Motor Wheel, a gasoline-powered device for bicycles. Three years later it developed the Smith Flyer, known as the world’s first 'sports car.' This technology was eventually sold to Briggs & Stratton Co. of Milwaukee. 

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1918

As part of the World War I effort, Smith engineers develop a coated welding rod. This breakthrough influenced the development of arc welding as a mass production method. The company remained in this business until 1965. 

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1921

Under the direction of L. R. Smith, A. O. Smith unveils “the Mechanical Marvel,” the world’s first fully automated automobile frame assembly plant. Capable of making a frame every eight seconds (10,000 frames a day), the plant operated until 1958.

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1925

The first arc-welded, high-pressure vessel used to refine oil is introduced. A. O. Smith pressure vessels were used in a wide variety of chemical processing, refinery, and related applications. The company remained in the business until 1963.

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1927

The company perfects a method of economically forming and welding large-diameter steel line pipe. This new mass production technique was instrumental in launching the natural gas industry and transcontinental oil pipeline business. A. O. Smith was a leading supplier of line pipe until it exited the business in 1972.

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1933

Expanding on earlier research in the process of fusing glass to steel, the company introduces the first large, single-piece glass-lined brewery tank. Over the next 32 years, A. O. Smith made more than 11,000 glass-lined brewery tanks.

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1936

A. O. Smith patents the process of the glass-lined water heater. This concept quickly became the standard of the industry, making hot water an affordable convenience for homeowners.

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1939

The company began producing residential water heaters, but shifted all production to war-time use during World War II.

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1940

Extending its reach in the oil field, the company acquires Sawyer Electric of Los Angeles, California, a manufacturer of electric motors. One of their products was a pump motor that could be used in oil well applications.

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1942

As part of the war effort, A. O. Smith begins producing bomb casings, aircraft propellers and landing gear, torpedo air flasks, and other material.

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1945

A. O. Smith had built 4.5 million bombs, 16,750 sets of landing gear, and 46,700 propeller blades, as well as nose frames for the B-25 bomber, water heaters for military barracks, jeep frames, and components for the atomic bomb project by 1945. 

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1948

A. O. Smith acquires the Burkay Company of Toledo, Ohio, and enters the market for coil-type “instantaneous” commercial water heaters. Five years later, the company introduces the first glass-lined commercial water heater

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1949

Introduces the Harvestore structure, a glass-fused-to-steel silo targeted at dairy and livestock operations. Over the next 50 years, A. O. Smith installs more than 70,000 structures on farms throughout the world. 

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1950

A. O. Smith acquires Whirl-A-Way Motors of Dayton, Ohio, and consolidates its electric motor manufacturing operations. 

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1953

Glascote Products, Inc becomes a subsidiary of A. O. Smith, expanding its vessel manufacturing capabilities. The acquisition, combined with its existing water heater, brewery tank, and related businesses make A. O. Smith the world’s largest manufacturer of glass-coated steel products.

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1954

Water heater division introduces the first glass-lined commercial water heater, the A. O. Smith Burkay B-65. 

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1961

A. O. Smith-International opens a commercial water heater and boiler plant in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, its first water heater plant outside the U. S. 

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1972

Water heater division opens its first European operation in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. Originally a sales office serving Europe and the Middle East, the facility expanded to include assembly and eventually fabrication.

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1974

A. O. Smith’s 100th anniversary.

Introduction of the Conservationist line of residential water heaters. 

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1982

Company produces its 100 millionth passenger car frame. 

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1984

A. O. Smith opens its first electric motor assembly operations in Juarez and Acuna, Mexico. 

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1986

The acquisition of the Westinghouse small motor division substantially increases the size and scope of the company’s electric motor business.

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1988

A. O. Smith and L. R. Smith become the first father and son to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. 

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1995

A. O. Smith enters the China market with three joint ventures – automotive products, fiberglass oilfield pipe, and residential water heaters. 

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1997

A. O. Smith exits the automotive industry after 98 years by selling its U. S. business and a Mexican subsidiary to Tower Automotive. 

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1997

Electrical Products makes the first of a series of strategic acquisitions with the purchase of UPPCO, Inc. The following year, it acquires General Electric’s domestic compressor business and then in 1999, buys MagneTek’s global motor operations. 

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1998

Two years after creating a water heater joint venture in China, Water Products Company buys out its partner and opens a new plant in Nanjing. 

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2001

A. O. Smith acquires State Industries, Inc., nearly doubling the size of its water heater business. The acquisition enables Water Products to enter the retail market segment for the first time in more than 40 years. 

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2001

A. O. Smith acquires Shenzhen Speeda Industries, Ltd., the first of four strategic electric motor acquisitions in China. 

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2006

A. O. Smith completes the largest acquisition in company history, purchasing Canadian water heater and building products manufacturer GSW Inc. and American Water Heater Company.  The addition of the American, Whirlpool, GSW, and John Wood brands make A. O. Smith the leader in the North American water heater industry. 

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2008

A. O. Smith begins to market residential and commercial water heaters in India, one of the first U. S. companies to participate in this market. 

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2009

The company enters the water purification industry with a new venture, A. O. Smith (Shanghai) Water Treatment Products Co. Ltd. The new company supplies reverse osmosis water treatment and water filtration products to the China residential and commercial markets as well as export markets throughout the world. 

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2010

A. O. Smith opens a 76,000 square foot residential water heater manufacturing plant in Bangalore. The facility also will serve as the headquarters for A. O. Smith operations in India.

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2010

A. O. Smith and Takagi Industrial Company enter into agreement under which A. O. Smith would acquire Takagi’s North American operations as part of a joint venture to market and manufacture tankless water heaters in North America. 

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2011

A. O. Smith embarks on strategy to become a leading global water technology company. Company sells its electric motor business to Regal Beloit Corporation. 

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2011

A. O. Smith acquires Lochinvar Corporation, a leading manufacturer of high efficiency condensing residential and commercial boilers for hot water and hydronic heating applications. 

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2013

Executive Chairman Paul Jones (second from right), a co-founder of the Milwaukee Water Council, takes part in the grand opening of the Water Council’s new Global Water Center.  A. O. Smith has a global water treatment lab on the first floor of the Global Water Center, where engineers conduct controlled testing on water treatment products sold in China, India, and Turkey.

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2014

A. O. Smith celebrates 140 years of Integrity, Innovation, and Customer Satisfaction with celebrations at many of its facilities around the globe.

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2016

A. O. Smith acquires Aquasana, Inc. The Texas-based direct-to-consumer water treatment company assembles and sells premium performance water treatment products, including whole-house systems, at-home and on-the-go drinking water solutions and shower filters. 

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2017

A. O. Smith completes the purchase of Ohio-based William R. Hague, Inc. (known as Hague Quality International). The family-owned business, based in Groveport, Ohio, manufactures a comprehensive line of water softener products. 

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2017

A. O. Smith (NYSE:AOS) named to the S&P 500 Index. 

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2017

A. O. Smith brand becomes the primary supplier of residential water heating (2017) and water treatment (2018) products for all Lowe’s home improvement stores.

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2018

A. O. Smith unveils its new L. R. Smith Corporate Technology Center in Milwaukee, Wisc. The 42,700 sq. ft. state-of-the-art center supports advanced research and development in the areas of potable and hydronic water heating, water treatment and air purification.

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2019

A. O. Smith acquires Appleton, Wisconsin-based Water-Right, Inc., a water quality solutions provider with a complete line of residential and commercial products and systems for a series of applications. 

A decade after launching its strategy to become a leading global water technology company, A. O. Smith is ranked 11 in Harvard Business Review’s “Top 20 Business Transformations of the Last Decade.”

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2021

The Company continues to grow its North American business in water heating, through acquisition of Montreal, Quebec-based Giant Factories, Inc., and in water treatment, by purchasing Pottstown, Pennsylvania-based Master Water Conditioning Corp.