Robert Gardner likely never imagined the legacy he would inspire when his company designed the first effective speed controls for steam engines. In 1883, the Gardner Governor Company earned a medal for best steam engine governor at the Southern Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, and by the turn of the century, Gardner had sold more than 150,000 governors across the United States and Canada.
Two big trends had an outsize impact on the future of Gardner Denver: the rising popularity of the automobile and America's first oil boom. The high demand for oil required new equipment to bring it up from the ground, for which purpose Gardner drilling pumps, or mud pumps, were developed. It was also about this time that Gardner began manufacturing high speed vertical air compressors, which were sold to gas stations that had sprung up to serve the burgeoning automobile market.
Gardner Governor products discovered a ready market with the onset of Colorado's mining industry. The Denver Rock Drill Company proved to be one of Gardner Governor's most productive agents. Gardner Governor sold many compressors, which customers used alongside the drills Denver Rock Drill manufactured and marketed. The long-suggested merger came to fruition in 1927 when Gardner Denver was created, joining one of the best-run manufacturers of rock drilling equipment for the mining industry with the dominant player in portable air compressors for the construction industry.
Gardner Denver was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1943, a huge milestone along the company's growth trajectory. Going public launched Gardner Denver into a series of critical acquisitions, including Keller Tool Company and CycloBlower in the 1950s, and Apex Machine and Tool Company and Martin Decker Corporation in the 1960s.
The company in 1973 announced the relocation of its headquarters to Dallas. By the end of the decade Gardner Denver was acquired by Cooper Industries. Between 1985 and 1988, Cooper also purchased Sutorbilt and DuroFlow blowers, OPI well servicing pumps and Joy compressors. As Cooper Industries' strategy changed, the Gardner Denver Industrial Machinery Division was spun off in 1994 as an independent company. Gardner Denver, Inc. then became a publicly held company trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Gardner Denver, Inc. continues to acquire complementary companies to broaden its product portfolio. Since the 80s, Gardner Denver has acquired more than twenty-five firms, including beloved brands like CompAir, Nash and Robuschi.
On July 30, 2013, Gardner Denver was taken private when its outstanding shares were purchased by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (together with its affiliates, “KKR”). Founded in 1976, KKR has grown into a global investment firm that invests in a variety of industries all over the world. KKR's approach to private equity investments is simple: it seeks to partner with strong management teams to build and grow great businesses over the long run. Since Gardner Denver was taken private, we have made several other strategic acquisitions: Conroe Plastics, a specialty consumables manufacturer for the oil and gas industry; Garo, the leading manufacturer of liquid ring compressors; Tricontinent, an innovative syringe pump and fluid handling system manufacturer; and most recently, ILS laboratory equipment and Zinsser Analytic fluid and powder handling solutions.
Gardner Denver, Inc. is a recognized leader in the markets it serves, delivering highly engineered flow control solutions for thousands of applications in dozens of different industries. Our worldwide customer commitment is the reason Gardner Denver has built a thriving business out of Robert Gardner's big idea in 1859. Gardner Denver's innovative engineering is in our DNA - it's why we're here today, and it's why we'll be here for your business tomorrow.