Alexander and Charles Meston





Country of origin: Scotland

Businesses: Emerson (1890), Copeland (2023)

Headquarters: St. Louis, MO

2022 revenue: $19.6 billion (Emerson)

Worldwide employment: 85,500 (Emerson)

Ranked 206 in the 2023 Fortune 500

  • Emerson sold the first electric fans in America, invented by two orphans from Scotland.

  • Today, Emerson is a global technology leader serving a range of  industries.

Charles and Alexander Meston were orphaned brothers from Scotland living in St. Louis in the late 1800s.

Summers in St. Louis are famously hot and sticky. The Meston brothers had the idea of attaching an electric motor to a fan to cool off. Electricity was still a fairly new technology, and the Mestons saw the unique business potential of developing a reliable electric motor. They sought a patent from the U.S. government and funding from John Wesley Emerson, a former Union army officer, judge and lawyer, who also lent his name to the new company. In 1890, Emerson Electric Manufacturing Company was born.

In 1892, Emerson introduced electric fans to America, which quickly became their signature product. As the company grew, it added electric motors to new products, including sewing machines, dental drills and power tools.

Emerson (as the company is now named) is a diversified global manufacturing and technology company that employs 85,500 people in 170 manufacturing locations around the world. In 2023, private equity manager Blackstone acquired a majority stake in Emerson’s Climate Technologies business, renaming it Copeland.

Updated April 2024