A.O. Smith


1874 The company was founded by Charles J. Smith as a machine shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
1889 The company introduced the concept of forming steel tubing from sheet metal. This process was adapted to produced lighter-weight, lower-cost bicycle frames.
1895 Smith became the largest U.S. manufacturer of bicycle frames and parts — world’s largest by 1898
1899 A.O. Smith developed the world’s first pressed-steel automobile frame. The company began producing such frames for the auto industry in 1903.
1906 A.O. Smith developed the first techniques for mass producing frames when Henry Ford ordered an unprecedented 10,000 to be delivered in four months.
1819 Smith introduced the Smith Motor Wheel, which utilized a single-cylinder gasoline engine — forerunner to small engines used today on power yard and garden equipment.
1917 Smith became the largest manufacturer of bomb casings in World War I.
1918 Smith developed the first coated weld rods made in the U.S. This was a major breakthrough in development of welding as a mass-production method. AOS continued in the welding products business until its sale in 1965.
1921 The company built the world’s first automated assembly plant in Milwaukee. It was capable of producing an automobile frame every eight seconds. The plant continued in operation for 37 years.
1925 Smith introduced the first electric arc welder high- pressure vessel used for oil refining. The company made pressure vessels, heat exchangers, and related equipment for many industries until 1963.
1927 AOS perfected a method for forming and arc welding line pipe from steel plate, launching the natural gas industry and the nation’s first transcontinental pipeline system. An even faster flash-welding method for line pipe was developed in 1929.
1930 Smith built a Research and Engineering building in Milwaukee. It was one of the nation’s earliest research centers and today is a historical landmark. It was and still is an outstanding example of modern office and laboratory architecture.
1933 AOS produced the first large, single-piece glass-lined brewery storage tank. (Some 11,000 were produced by 1965, when the product line was discontinued.)
1937 AOS entered the meter business with the acquisition of Smith Meter Co. of Los Angeles.Oil well casings were flash-welded for the first time, providing the industry’s first high-strength casing for deep wells.
1939 AOS successfully mass produced the first glass-lined water heaters, setting a standard for the industry.
1940 AOS entered the electric motor field with the acquisition of Sawyer Electrical Manufacturing Co. of Los Angeles.
1940-45 Smith became the leading wartime producer of bomb casings, hollow steel propeller blades, aircraft landing gear and steel nose frames, torpedo air flasks, and other defense items. AOS was the world’s foremost manufacturer of bomb casings, producing almost 5 million of them, or about 80% of U.S. requirements. The company also made equipment for the first atomic bomb project.
1946 AOS introduced Harvestore glass-fused-to-steel storage and processing system, radically improving livestock feeding methods. AOS constructed the world’s largest water heater plant at Kankakee, Illinois.
1948 AOS expanded its petroleum-handling product line with the purchase of a service station pump division of Neptune Meter Co. The line was further expanded in 1958 with the acquisition of Erie Meter Systems, Inc.
1949 A pipe mill was constructed at Houston for the newly formed A.O. Smith Corporation of Texas.
1950 The electric motor business was expanded with the purchase of Whirl-A-Way Motors in Tipp City, Ohio. A new plant was constructed there to house the Electric Motor Division.
1951-55 AOS produced bomb casings, landing gear assemblies, steel propeller blades, and aircraft components for the Korean War.
1954 The second automobile frame plant was constructed in Granite City, Illinois.
1958 The Automatic Frame plant in Milwaukee was taken out of service after 37 years.
1959 AOS established the Reinforced Plastics Division, which now operates as Smith Plastics, producer of glass-fiber-reinforced epoxy pipe and automobile bodies.
1961 The company started production of automotive frames in Mexico through affiliate, Manufacturas Metalicas Monterrey, S.A. Commercial water heater and boiler production was begun in a new plant in Stratford, Ontario. Shinko-Smith Company, Ltd., was formed at Kobe, Japan, to produce multi-layer pressure vessels and related products.
1962 AOS developed a new die-quench heat-treating process, enabling first mass production of high -trength side rails for truck frames.
1985 The company produces its 40 millionth truck frame.
1988 A.O. and L.R. Smith are inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
1989 AOS builds its last frame for Cadillac after 87 years.