The company was founded by Bruno V. Nordberg and Jacob Elias Friend in 1886 in Milwaukee. Nordberg had previously been working at steam engine and sawmill maker E. P. Allis & Co. Friend became the company's president, and later his son, Robert E. Friend, was president and chief executive officer.
By 1926, they were manufacturing diesel engines, steam engines (poppet-uniflow corliss), air Compressors, gas compressors, mine hoists (steam, air, and electric) and blowing engines.
Nordberg was acquired by Rex ChainBelt Inc (formerly Chain Belt Company) in 1970, and was to become a division of Rex. By that time, Nordberg had been manufacturing mineral and rock crushing equipment, screens, grinding mills, and hoists, heavy duty diesel and gas turbines, railroad maintenance machinery, hydraulic valves presses and other components.