2017 marks the 160th anniversary of Roper Pump Company.
We celebrated 150 in style, but like most others that don’t end in a five or zero this one will probably pass without much fanfare - maybe just a card and start planning a big trip at 175. It’s still a good chance to reflect on how we got here, and more importantly ensure transfer of the Roper legacy to future generations.
We proudly trace our roots to the W.D. Trahern Pump Company of Rockford, IL that was founded in 1857 and purchased by our namesake, George D. Roper, in 1906.
At the time Roper also owned the massive George D. Roper Corporation that included the largest gas stove factory in the world. The pump and stove operations were split in 1957 with the latter sold off. Roper Hydraulics (as it was called then), relocated to our current home of Commerce, Georgia in 1959 and became modern day Roper Pump Company.
Back to the beginning in 1857, when Trahern/Roper was founded James Buchanan was President of the United States and the American Civil War was still four years away. Edison hadn’t invented the lightbulb yet and the first automobile wouldn’t be sold until almost 60 years later. One thing that hasn’t changed in 160 years though, the world has neededpumps and Trahern/Roper has delivered.
Trahern manufactured a line of iron and brass hand pumps that helped transform America; our current innovations do the same for industries here and around the world. Our earliest literature from the 1800s notes: “The Trahern Iron Pump is the most simple in construction, the easiest working, and most durable pump on the market. These pumps are adapted for the House, Yard, Farm, Barn, or any place else pumps are needed. Whenever you want a pump for any purpose be sure and get the Trahern Iron Pumps…”. We could update the grammar and use this statement almost word for word with our products today.
Over the years, virtually everything in our company has changed along with the world around us. While the products are vaguely similar, the ways they’re bought, sold, and used couldn’t be more different.
Likewise, the way our pumps are made today vs. 1857 look nothing alike; the first plant didn’t even have electricity while now nearly our entire plant incorporates CNC technology. We’ve evolved over many decades surviving The Great Depression, multiple recessions, multiple wars, reengineering & other “improvements”, yet still prospered, innovated, and grew. On first glance, it’s easy to think this longstanding success came from a strong brand legacy and not much more.
While the Roper Pump brand is most certainly solid, the business world is littered with examples of once equally strong companies/brands who came and went in the past 160 years. The simple answer to what’s made the brand solid is our people who “bleed Roper red”. Most companies tout something similar but without question Roper Pump wouldn’t be where we are today without generations of employees who’ve viewed the company as more than just a job. This manifests itself as genuine pride in workmanship and fierce promotion or defense of the company and brand. It drives making something that was great to start with even better – over and over. This started in Rockford, and even with only a handful making the move to Commerce in 1959, the ethos was passed along and took hold. As one original Rockford to Commerce transplant said, “You either get it or you don’t.”
Some generational transfer of the Roper way has literally been just that. From the beginning it’s been common for second and third generations of the same families to also be a part of ours. Most true denizens of Roper Pump either retire or unfortunately pass – way too many way too soon; few who get it actually leave for other jobs and many who do eventually come back.
As American generations evolved from “Greatest” to “Silent” to “Baby Boom” to “X” and now “Millennial” so have views on careers. Fewer people graduate now looking for a long-term job and even less want to follow their parents or grandparents professional path. As long as we ensure newer generations continue to “get it” though there’s no doubt Roper Pump will prosper for another 160 years.