Our History


The Early Years

In 1885, seven Worcester entrepreneurs bought the patent for a grinding wheel from Frank Norton, owner of the Water Street Pottery Shop, where the formula for the grinding wheel had been invented. They also bought his company name. And, Norton Company was born.

The founders purchased land in the city’s Greendale section, which was then farmland, and built their first grinding wheel plant. Norton has occupied that land ever since where two of the founders, John Jeppson and Milton Higgins, their sons, and grandsons, then managed the company until the 1970s.

Global Expansion

What began as a tiny start-up, Norton began to grow rapidly. By 1920, we were one of the 400 largest industrial companies in the United States. As we grew, we diversified into industrial products other than abrasives, and became a major multinational corporation. Norton became a publicly held company in 1962.

When we celebrated our 100th anniversary in 1985, we built our research center in Northboro, MA and employed 18,700 people across 130 plants in 27 countries.

Acquired by Saint-Gobain

In 1990, Norton was acquired by Saint-Gobain, one of the world’s largest industrial companies. Saint-Gobain began an ambitious program of acquisitions and joint ventures to strengthen its North American business, and undertook extensive modernization in Worcester. In 2001, Norton Company changed our legal entity name to Saint-Gobain Abrasives.

Over the next decade, we would build our North American center of R&D excellence in Northboro, MA and revitalize the Norton name with endorsement of the Saint-Gobain name in our logo to allow both well-known names to become more recognizable in the marketplace.


After 130 years, the world headquarters for the Abrasives business remains in Worcester and we continue to maintain our entrepreneurial spirit as we focus on our continued evolution to bring solutions to our customers with choices that matter to them.