Dresser Industries was a multinational corporation headquartered in Dallas, Texas, which provides a wide range of technology, products, and services used for developing energy and natural resources.
It was founded by Solomon Robert Dresser (1842-1911), who manufactured a product that he devised for drillers to keep oil and water separated underground.
Dresser created a "packer," using rubber for a tight fit, and after taking out a patent on May 11, 1880, he began advertising and selling his product, the Dresser Cap Packer, from Bradford, Pennsylvania, in the heart of the oilfields.
Dresser's packer was one of many available on the market, and it was another invention that put his company on the map-- a coupling that he built in 1885 to join pipes together in such a way that they would not leak natural gas. This coupling also used rubber for a tight fit, and it was so successful that it permitted for the first time the long-range transmission of natural gas from the fields where it naturally occurred to faraway cities.
As the natural gas industry prospered and expanded after 1900, Dresser's company grew as pipelines were built over great distances. By 1927 the company's annual sales had reached $3.7 million, and some 400 workers were required to keep up with the demand.
Following Dresser's death, his descendants decided to sell it, and in 1928 the Wall Street investment-banking firm of W. A. Harriman and Company, Inc., converted the firm into a public company by issuing 300,000 shares of stock.
H. Neil Mallon was selected as president and chief executive officer; holding that position until his retirement in 1962. Under Mallon, a Yale University graduate whose earlier experience had been in the canning industry, Dresser began a program of acquisitions designed to survive a new threat to its coupling business-- the introduction of welding for joining pipes together.
Between 1930 and the entry of the United States into World War II, Dresser acquired companies that manufactured valves, heaters, pumps, engines and compressors. After the war, expansion continued, as the company diversified into such products as oil derricks, blowers, drill bits, refractories, and drilling mud.
Future United States president George H. W. Bush worked for the company in several positions after the war. His father, Prescott Bush, had been a W. A. Harriman and Company executive who had been involved in the conversion of Dresser to a public company, and he served on the board of directors for twenty-two years.
In 1950 the company headquarters moved to Dallas, center of the nation's major oil and gas fields. It continued to purchase well-known companies involved in manufacturing such things as overhead cranes, gasoline-dispensing pumps, and heavy equipment for mining and construction.
During the 1980s, as the oil industry began to decline, Dresser's chairman, John Murphy, began to streamline the organization of the company, eliminating its insurance, mining, and construction-equipment divisions.
In 1988, Dresser Industries acquired M.W. Kellogg.
It struck a joint agreement with Komatsu of Japan in 1988 to manufacture construction equipment such as tractors, loaders, and hydraulic excavators., and during the early 1990s the conglomerate purchased two European businesses.
By 1993, it generated sales of more than $4 billion, and employed 31,800 people in fifty countries. The company had three major divisions: Oil Field Products and Services, Industrial Operations, and Energy Processing and Conversion Equipment. It spun off some of its manufacturing divisions, but crucially agreed to retain asbestos claims filed before the spinoff.
In 1994 the company expanded through acquisitions of Wheatley TXT (a manufacturer of pumps, valves, and metering equipment) and the Baroid Corporation (an oil-services firm in Houston that had been a direct competitor).
To comply with federal antitrust regulations, Dresser sold off its interest in M-I Drilling Fluids Company and Western Atlas International. Upon completion of the Baroid merger, Dresser became the third-largest oil-services company in the world.
Merger with Halliburton
In 1998, Dresser merged with its main rival, Halliburton, and is now known as Halliburton Company. Dick Cheney negotiated the $7.7-billion deal, reportedly having done so during a weekend of quail-hunting. In 2001, Halliburton was forced to settle the asbestos lawsuits that it acquired as a result of purchasing Dresser, causing the company's stock price to fall by eighty percent in just over a year.
- Business Week, February 22, 1988.
- Forbes, November 14, 1988, February 14, 1994.
- Hoover's Handbook of American Business (1993).
- Darwin Payne, Initiative in Energy: The Story of Dresser Industries, 1880-1978 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979).
- Damon Robinson, "Tool Exporter Finds Key to Success," Journal of Commerce and Commercial, February 22, 1991.