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Cooper History

Cooper Industries was founded in 1833 by brothers Charles and Elias Cooper. The company started as a foundry located in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, and was initially called the C&E Cooper Company. Cooper’s initial product offerings included plows, hog troughs, kettles and stoves. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Company had shifted its focus to manufacturing steam engines in hopes of leveraging the country’s growing trend towards rail transportation. It was during this period that the Company developed the Cooper Traction Engine, an innovation that is credited for helping to power our nation’s move from an agrarian to an industrial society.

As the use of steam power declined in the late 1800’s, Cooper again shifted its focus, this time to gas engine technology. By the time the 20th century arrived, Cooper Industries had become the national leader in pipeline compression engines, products that enabled the development of the growing oil and gas industry. This period was also highlighted by the historic merger with Bessemer Gas Engine Company, which is still referenced to this day in Cooper’s stock symbol (CBE).

In the 1940’s, Cooper played an integral role in the U.S. World War II effort, supplying engine components that powered almost all of the ships in the Navy’s minesweeper fleet, as well as the famous Liberty Ships, which carried 75% of the cargo used by Allied armed forces. After the war, Cooper again embarked on an effort to diversify itself in a changing world economy. As the company looked to increase its product portfolio, Cooper expanded its offering into electrical products, electrical power equipment, automotive products, tools and hardware. Cornerstone acquisitions during this period included Crouse-Hinds (1981) and McGraw-Edison (1985).

In the last decade of the 20th century, Cooper underwent a period of portfolio rationalization, reducing its exposure to more cyclical industries such as automotive and petroleum. Ultimately, Cooper emerged focused on the two business segments that remain in the portfolio today – Electrical Products Group and Energy and Safety Solutions. As Cooper embarks on an era of operational excellence, it is focusing on a core set of strategic initiatives, improving management practices, strengthening the balance sheet and re-focusing its product portfolio on key technology platforms. As a result, Cooper Industries is well positioned for sustained growth in the years ahead.