Stevens Water Monitoring Systems is approaching an important milestone in 2011: our 100 year anniversary. As we prepare to bring exciting new products and services to market in 2011, we’d like to take a look back at our heritage as America’s first water level instrumentation company and reflect on what has made Stevens Water the company it is today.
Foundation and First Products
Stevens Water Monitoring Systems was originally founded as “Leupold & Voelpel” in 1907 by brothers-in-law Marcus Friedrich (Fred) Leupold and Adam Voelpel. The firm, located in Portland, Oregon was primarily focused on the repair and manufacture of surveying equipment.
In 1911, Leupold and Voelpel were introduced to John Cyprian (JC) Stevens, who has been a hydrologist for the U.S. Reclamation Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, but was now involved with his own consulting firm due to the interest in his considerable engineering skills by companies outside of the U.S. Government.
In the early 20th century, stream gaging was primarily done by daily visual level inspection of a staff gage. Stage data from this collection method was not always consistent or reliable, especially in areas that were more remote and hard to access during winter months. To solve this problem, JC Stevens invented the first continuous water stage recorder, which was known as the Type A Recorder, which became the world-wide standard of water level measurement for most of the 20th century.
The Design for the Type A Recorder was given to Leupold and Voelpel in 1911 to manufacture and sell while JC Stevens was out of the country on an engineering project in Spain for 2 ½ years. Upon his return, the product had done well enough that JC Stevens was offered a position in the firm, where he could continue to innovate products for the growing water resources market. In 1914 the firm was renamed to Leupold, Volpel & Co., with the Type A Recorder receiving a patent in 1915.
The company continued to grow slowly during the following years during World War I, with company growth moving faster after the economic recovery during the early 1920s. JC Stevens and his partners continued to refine existing products and invent new technology. By the end of the 1920s nine patents had been awarded to Leupold, Volpel & Co., with eight of those being products invented or improved upon by JC Stevens himself.
Besides technical innovations, the company is also credited for creating the initial designs for the now standard public-domain staff gage styles: A, B, C, E and M.
Telemark Takes Company to New Heights
Despite the economic depression during the 1930s, Leupold, Volpel & Co. continued to grow through technical innovation. In 1937, the company released JC Stevens’ most recent invention for water level measurement, the Telemark.
The Telemark provided a revolutionary way to receive stage data. Rather than going to a site and collecting a paper chart, anyone could simply call a telephone number and be provided the current stage by simply counting the number of beeps broadcast by the Telemark. Each Telemark was given its own number by the telephone exchange, so data from any station could be called and remotely recorded. Some stations were even equipped with automatic radio transmission of the Telemark’s signal, in effect creating the first wireless telemetry system for water resource management.
The introduction of the Telemark led to successful growth and to accommodate the increasing work force, the company moved to new headquarters in 1940, and changed its name to "Leupold & Stevens Instruments Company" in 1942.
Leupold and Stevens Instruments were still manufacturing and repairing surveying equipment, transits, levels, and other related equipment at this time, which was marketed under the "Leupold" name. Water level, flow, and other monitoring equipment were marketed under the "Stevens" name.
World War II brought about big changes for Leupold and Stevens. The company spent much of the war as a contractor, manufacturing sextants and peloruses for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Merchant Marine. Leupold and Stevens Instruments also did repair work on Merchant Marine gun sights, gaining valuable knowledge on manufacturing optics for harsh, wet conditions. During this same time, the company’s first Leupold gun scope was made, which altered the company’s focus significantly in the future.
The scope and optics business, combined with the water technology business, proved so popular that the company headquarters, along with 150 employees by this time, were moved to Beaverton, Oregon in 1968.
Technological and Company Changes
The 1970s and 1980s brought further changes to the company, with computer technology and advancing telecommunications networks moving the “Stevens” side of the business further away from traditional mechanical manufacturing and into the computer age. While mechanical chart recorders were still very popular instruments, new technology brought along the development of the first electronic data loggers, flow meters, and remote telemetry devices.
In 1985, Leupold and Stevens released the first Quartz Multispeed Timer, a precision motor for the Type A and F chart recorders that was more precise than previous mechanical drivers. The QMT was a very successful product for the company, due to the large number of existing chart recorders in the field that could be easily upgraded to the new technology, which allowed for the end-user to easily change chart speed without complicated gear and pulley changes to the chart recorder itself.
Beginning in the 90’s, Leupold and Stevens began a transition from mechanical instruments toward new products utilizing the latest in electronic technology. Today Stevens designs and manufactures a broad line of sensors, data loggers, and communication instruments in additions to data management software systems.
Leupold and Stevens Become Separate Companies
Since the first scope was introduced in 1947, the two divisions of Leupold and Stevens had been diverging in terms of markets and customer needs. In order for both business units to better serve their core markets, the board of Leupold and Stevens decided it would be best to divest the Stevens water monitoring division to buyers who would be able to focus their complete energy on running a company specalized in monitoring water in the environment.
In 1998, "Stevens" was sold to private owners, and "Stevens Water Monitoring Systems, Inc." was formed, with their headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Leupold remained as "Leupold and Stevens, Inc." and is a very successful manufacturer of sports optics.
Stevens Water Grows, Enters New Markets in Soil Monitoring, Weather, and Data Communication
Besides the direct monitoring of water level and flow, Stevens Water now monitors water in other places, such as in the atmosphere and in the soil.
In 2000, Stevens acquired Vitel, Inc to expand the data communication offerings using the GOES satellite. While the acquisition did not materialized as planned, Vitel had a soil sensor with a limited customer base. Stevens later met with some customers interesting in the soil sensor, work with them to make recommended changes and ultimately launch the Stevens Hydra Probe, a very accurate soil sensor that easily allows the measurement of soil water content, salinity level, temperature, and other parameters. With several major upgraded from its original introduction, the Hydra Probe quickly gained popularity and has been selected the standard soil sensor for many Government and university research projects and irrigation companies.
Telemetry communication also became a focus for Stevens. In recent years, Stevens introduced two important products: The Stevens HDR Satellite Transmitter for use on the GOES network, and The Shark, a Bluetooth-enabled RS232/RS485 serial adapter for short-range applications. These products, as well as other radios offered by Stevens enabled unprecedented ease of customer access to their monitoring data. Stevens Water was also the first company to transmit environmental monitoring data over the ORBCOMM satellite communication network.
100 Years Young: The New Stevens
As Stevens Water approaches its 100 year anniversary, we look back upon the previous century and see all that has been accomplished by the founders and employees of Leupold and Volpel, Leupold and Stevens, and finally Stevens Water Monitoring Systems. As a company built upon a foundation of ingenuity and innovation, we are constantly looking for ways to better serve our customers, and to make data collection and analysis easier than ever before.
Please join us in celebrating our special anniversary and "The New Stevens" in 2011 as we prepare to release exciting new products and services throughout the year with innovative designs in sensors, communications and data acquisition technology.
Stevens Water Timeline
1911: JC Stevens invents the Type A chart recorder, the first continuous stage recording device. This original design is the basis for today's Type A and Type F recorders.
1914: JC Stevens joins Marcus Leupold and Adam Voelpel's company, firm renamed to "Leupold, Volpel & Company".
1937: The Telemark, the first remote water level reporting device, was introduces by JC Stevens. The product was patented two years later in 1939.
1940: Leupold, Volpel & Co. move to new offices as the business continues to grow.
1942: The company was renamed "Leupold and Stevens Instrument Company" after the death founder Adam Volpel and to better reflect the company's current focus.
1944: JC Stevens helps found the Oregon Museum Foundation, which would later become the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in 1949. JC Stevens would serve as president of OMSI for 13 years.
1947: Leupold and Stevens Instruments designs and sells their first hunting sight, setting the future for the "Leupold" side of the business to focus on sport optics while "Stevens" continues to pioneer the water measurement business.
1968: The continued growth of Leupold and Stevens Instruments is cause for a move to new, larger manufacturing facilities in Beaverton, Oregon. The new 66,000 square feet headquarters was built to handle 20 years of expansion - instead, the space was used up within four short years, necessitating further expansion.
1985: Leupold and Stevens releases the Quartz Multispeed Timer, a new chart drive mechanism that can be retrofit onto existing Type A and F Chart Recorders, providing the ability to easily change chart speed without changing gears or other equipment.
1993: Leupold and Stevens releases the AxSys MPU, the company's first digital water flow recorder.
1998: The optics side of the company and the water monitoring side of the company are separated from each other, with Stevens becoming "Stevens Water Monitoring Systems, Inc.", a privately-held company with its primary focus on monitoring water in the environment.
2000: The original "Stevens Hydra Probe" is released onto the market, soon becoming a best-seller for Stevens as a way to quickly measure water content, salinity, and temperature of the soil.
2004: The Stevens High Data Rate (HDR) GOES satellite transmitter is certified by NOAA/NESDIS, allowing end-users to easily transmit environmental data over long-distances utilizing the GOES weather satellites.
2004: Stevens releases The Shark, the first Bluetooth radio transmitter specifically designed for the environmental monitoring and testing market. It can link devices from up to 300 feet apart, and features true RS232/RS485 serial cable emulation.
2007: Stevens moves to its new corporate headquarters in Portland, Oregon near Portland International Airport, affording more room to grow as the company expands its business.
2008: The Stevens DataLogic 3000 is released, the first environmental data logger featuring over 1 Gigabyte of built-in memory as a standard feature.
2009: Stevens Water partners with Hach Hydromet to bring enhanced water quality monitoring sensors to a wider customer marker.
2011: Stevens Water Monitoring Systems celebrates its 100 year anniversary of monitoring the Earth's environmental resources.