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A. O. Smith Water Products Company, a division of A. O. Smith Corporation NYSEAOS, headquartered in Ashland City, Tennessee, is a manufacturer and marketer of residential and commercial water heaters and boilers.



A. O. Smith began in 1874 as a parts maker for baby carriages and other hardware specialties. Fifteen years later, the company entered the bicycle industry, introducing a concept of forming steel tubing from sheet metal for bicycle frames.

In 1899, Arthur O. Smith developed the world’s first pressed steel automobile frames and incorporated the A. O. Smith Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1904.

After the end of Prohibition, A. O. Smith introduced the first large, single-piece glass-lined brewery tank in 1933, capitalizing on research in the process of fusing glass to steel. Using this concept, A. O. Smith patented the process to glass line a residential water tank in 1936. This concept became the industry standard, making hot water an affordable convenience for homeowners. The company began mass production of residential water heaters three years later but shifted all production to war time use during World War II.

By 1945, A. O. Smith had built 4.5 million bomb casings, 16,750 sets of landing gear and 46,700 propeller blades as well as nose frames for the B-25 bomber, water heaters for barracks and military installations, jeep frames and other war material.

After the war, A. O. Smith constructed a 400,000-square-foot (37,000 m2) residential water heater plant in Kankakee, Illinois, that Life magazine called “the most modern water heater factory in the world.” In 1948, the company acquired the Burkay Company of Toledo, Ohio, entering the commercial water heater market using Burkay’s coil-type instantaneous heaters, which served as the foundation of A. O. Smith commercial line. The company developed a glass-lined commercial water heater five years later. Beginning in 1949, A. O. Smith used its glass-fused-to-steel process in the production of silos targeted at dairy and livestock operations. The company installed more than 70,000 structures on farms over the next 50 years.

In 1961, A. O. Smith opened its first international water heater and boiler plant in Stratford, Ontario, Canada and seven years later, produced its 10 millionth residential water heater. With the 1972 opening of its plant in Veldhoven, The Netherlands, the company began operations in Europe.

A. O. Smith entered the China residential water heater market in 1995, and today is the number two brand in the market and the only American company with a significant presence in China. The acquisition of State Industries, Inc., and its APCOM Inc. subsidiary, in 2001, followed by the 2006 acquisition of GSW in Canada and American Water Heater Company helped make A. O. Smith a $1.3 billion (2006 sales) competitor in the global water heating industry.

Recent Years

From 2003 through 2006, A. O. Smith worked with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the technology development firm TIAX LLC to accelerate innovation toward increased efficiency in residential water heaters. This strategic partnership resulted in the development of the A. O. Smith Vertex – a residential gas water heater that combines higher gas input and more efficient combustion to deliver substantial amounts of hot water while reducing operating costs.


  • "A conversation with Ajita Rajendra, president, A.O. Smith Water Products Co.." Nashville Business Journal 25 Oct., 2007.

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