The firm was the successor to the firm of Owens, Ebert & Dyer (founded in 1845 by Job E. Owens) which went into receivership in 1876.
In 1882, George A. Rentschler, J. C. Hooven, Henry C. Sohn, George H. Helvey, and James E. Campbell merged the firm with the iron works of Sohn and Rentschler, and adopted the name Hooven, Owens, Rentschler Co.
In 1883 the firm begain the manufacture of Corliss steam engine, producing a total of 700 such engines by 1901.
By World War I, the Hooven-Owens-Rentschler Company operated the largest exclusive Corliss Engine plant in the country, employing nearly 800 men.
In 1928 the company merged with the Niles Tool Works to form the General Machinery Corporation. However, it continued to make diesel engines under the H.O.R. brand, and supplied many of the powerplants for United States submarines and liberty ships during World War II.
In 1947, General Machinery Corporation merged with Lima Locomotive Works to form Lima-Hamilton Corporation, which, in turn, merged in 1951 with Baldwin Locomotive Works to form the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation.