History Milestones

A. O. Smith Corporation has come a long way since the Smith family started the business as a small machine shop on Milwaukee's north side in 1874. During those 132 years, the company has compiled a rich history of technology breakthroughs and introduced many innovative products and processes. Here are some of the highlights of our 132-year history.


The company enters the bicycle industry by introducing a concept of forming steel tubing from sheet metal. Originally used for the fork that holds the front wheel, this innovation later was employed in making bicycle frames. By 1895, C. J. Smith and Sons was the largest U.S. bicycle parts manufacturer, eventually becoming the largest in the world.


Arthur O. Smith, a son of the founder, develops the world’s first pressed steel automobile frame. Frames at the time were made by costly structural steel. Three years later, A. O. Smith began making frames for the Peerless Automobile Company.


A. O. Smith begins supplying frames to Cadillac, a supplier relationship that would last for nearly 90 years.


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


Henry Ford orders 10,000 steel automobile frames, prompting 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.


A. O. Smith dies. His son, Lloyd Raymond Smith, becomes the third generation of the family to lead the company.


The company introduces the Smith Motor Wheel, a gasoline-powered device for bicycles. Later brought out the Smith Flyer, billed as the world’s first “sports car.” The company eventually sold this technology to Briggs & Stratton Company of Milwaukee.


A. O. Smith Corporation incorporates in New York


A. O. Smith begins manufacturing bomb casings for the war effort. By the end of the war, it was the largest bomb maker in the United States.


Smith engineers develop the coated welding rod, a breakthrough that influenced the development of arc welding as a mass production method. The company remained in the welding products business until 1965.


The company, under the direction of L. R. Smith, unveils “the Mechanical Marvel,” the world’s first fully automated automobile frame assembly plant. Capable of making a frame every eight seconds, the plant operated until 1958.


Introduces the first arc-welded, high-pressure vessel used to refine oil. 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.


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.


Company constructs an Art Deco-inspired Research & Engineering building in Milwaukee, one of the first dedicated R&D operations in the U. S. At the time, A. O. Smith employed more than 400 engineers.


Capitalizing on 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 tanks.


A. O. Smith patents the glass-lined water heater. This concept quickly became the standard of the industry, making hot water an affordable convenience for homeowners. The company began mass-producing residential water heaters three years later, but shifted all production to war-time use during World War II.


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.


As part of the war effort, A. O. Smith begins producing bomb casings, aircraft propellers and landing gear, torpedo air flasks, and other material. By 1945, it 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, jeep frames, and components for the atomic bomb project.


The company constructs a 400,000 square foot residential water heater plant in Kankakee, Illinois. Life Magazine proclaims it “the most modern water heater factory in the world.”


A. O. Smith acquires the Burkay Company of Toledo, Ohio, and enters the market for commercial water heaters. The coil-type “instantaneous” heaters served as the foundation for the development of the company’s commercial water heater line.


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 North America.


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


The motor division introduces the hermetic motor, a critical component of air conditioning and refrigeration compressors, to meet the growing demand for residential and commercial air conditioning.


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


Establishes glass fiber division to commercialize its research in the use of fiberglass to replace steel in many applications. Business expands into supplying oil field pipe and pipe for service stations, eventually becoming Smith Fiberglass Products in 1986.


Opens a commercial water heater and boiler plant in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.


Motor Division invents the enclosed canopy, two-compartment motor, a design that improves the reliability in pool pump motors by separating the switching components from the motor windings.


Lloyd B. Smith elected chairman and chief executive officer, the fourth generation of the Smith family to head the company.


A. O. Smith produces its 10 millionth residential water heater.


Water heater division opens its first European operation in Veldhoven, the Netherlands.


A. O. Smith’s 100th anniversary. Introduction of the Conservationist ® line of residential water heaters.


Motor Division opens its first European operation in Bray, Ireland, supplying hermetic motors for large commercial applications.


The company enters the market for industrial and commercial storage tanks with the introduction of the glass-fused-to-steel Aquastore ® structure.


Automotive Products unit makes its 100 millionth passenger car frame in Milwaukee.


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


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


A. O. Smith develops the first hermetic motor insulation system compatible with R-134a non-ozone-depleting refrigerant.


Automotive Products unit produces its 50 millionth truck frame in Milwaukee.


The company acquires Peabody TecTank of Parsons, Kansas, doubling the size of its storage tank business and entering the bulk dry storage market.


A. O. Smith extends its geographic reach into Asia by entering into two joint-venture agreements. Smith Fiberglass Products and Harbin Composites Corporation to make fiberglass pipe for the China petroleum industry; and Water Products Company and Yuhan Water Heater to make residential water heaters in China.


Water Products introduces the Cyclone ® XHE commercial water heater, at 94 percent, the most efficient water heater in its price range. Four years later, the company expands the line with a 99 percent efficient model.


A. O. Smith exits the automotive industry after more than 90 years by selling its Automotive Products Company to Tower Automotive.


The acquisition of UPPCO, Inc. broadens the company’s electric motor product line and makes A. O. Smith the world’s leading manufacturer of C-frame subfractional horsepower motors.


The company acquires General Electric’s domestic compressor motor business, becoming North America’ leading manufacturer of hermetic motors.


Water Products Company buys out its joint venture partner and opens a water heatermanufacturing plant in Nanjing, China.


A. O. Smith completes the largest acquisition in its history, purchasing the world-wide electric motor operations of MagneTek.


A. O. Smith acquires State Industries, Inc., and its APCOM Inc. subsidiary, nearly doubling the size of its water heater business.


Electrical Products Company establishes a presence in China with the acquisition of Shenzhen Speeda Industrial Co. Ltd. The operation becomes a subfractional horsepower motor assembly plant.


A. O. Smith solidifies its position as a leader in the hermetic motor market segment with the acquisition of Athens Products. The Athens plant supplies hermetic motors for scroll compressor applications.


Electrical Products acquires the Changheng Group of Changzhou, China, a manufacturer of fractional horsepower motors for HVAC applications. The company transfers additional fractional horsepower motor product to better serve its global customer base.


A. O. Smith expands its ability to serve hermetic motor customers worldwide with the acquisition of Taicang Special Motor Company, Ltd., of Suzhou, China.


Further enhancing its position in the commercial hermetic motor market, A. O. Smith acquires Yueyang Zhongmin Special Electrical Machinery Co. Ltd.


In the largest acquisition in company history, A. O. Smith purchases GSW Inc. GSW manufactures residential and commercial water heaters for the Canadian market, and the American Water Heater Company supplies residential and commercial products in the U. S. AWHC also is the exclusive supplier of water heaters to Lowe's carrying the Whirlpool ® brand.


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


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’s operations in India.



A. O. Smith and Takagi Industrial Company enter into an 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.   



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



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