It was founded by:
- Max Eugene Nohl, a diver who lived in Milwaukee. In the early 1930s he had national publicity for his salvage operations on a sunken steamship, the John Dwight.
- John D. Craig, a Hollywood movie producer, a pioneer in underwater photography, who wanted to film the possible salvage of the RMS Lusitania.
- Jack Browne, a diver.
- Edgar End, a physician who worked in hyperbaric medicine.
In 1935, Nohl, Craig and Browne designed a lightweight heliox diving suit to dive to the liner Lusitania, sunk in May 1915 by a German U-boat in 312 feet of water, 11 miles (18 km) off the southern coast of Ireland.
In 1946, DESCO was sold to Alfred Dorst, who expanded the company's product base of exclusively professional, commercial and military designs to supply a growing peacetime leisure market with water sports equipment. Introduced in 1947 and discontinued in 1960, the DESCO sporting goods range included regulators, masks, fins, snorkels, spearguns, aquaplanes and water-skis. DESCO published a commercial catalogue in 1949 and water sports catalogues in 1949–1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957.
DESCO continues in business in Milwaukee. They produce various models of diving helmets, and related diving gear, and represent Viking Dry Suits, Composite Beat Engel DeepSea helmets, and Broco Welding.
The DESCO "air hat", introduced in 1968, is still manufactured and is popular among air divers and particularly those working in contaminated environments; its free-flow, positive-pressure design affords an extra safety margin when contaminants are present. As compared to demand helmets, the air hat is simple and inexpensive to operate and maintain.
In 2016 DESCO purchased the assets of Morse Diving International out of bankruptcy. They went into production of Morse Helmet models under the brand name A J Morse and Son. DESCO Corporation has committed to keeping the Morse legacy alive and guarantees A J Morse and Son helmets retain their unique details and are not re-branded DESCO models. Morse helmets are hand tinned, not electroplated like DESCO helmets. Morse patterns are used to make castings. Current AJMS models in production are the US Navy Mark V and first generation commercial helmets in breastplate feed and bonnet feed variants. All helmets are available in polished or tinned.
- The People Who Built DESCO: Founders of Diving Equipment Company. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
- Rockwell, Kent (Winter 2002). "Desco Airmaster Two-Hose Regulator" (PDF) Historical Diver 10(1): 36. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
- Kane, John R (March 1998). "Max E Nohl and the World Record Dive of 1937" (PDF). SPUMS Journal. South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. 28 (1): 56–59. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Desco sporting goods. Retrieved on 17 October 2019.
- 1949 DESCO Commercial Catalogue. Retrieved on 17 October 2019.
- 1949-1954 DESCO Water Sports Catalogue. Retrieved on 17 October 2019.
- 1955 DESCO Water Sports Catalogue. Retrieved on 17 October 2019.
- 1956 DESCO Water Sports Catalogue. Retrieved on 17 October 2019.
- 1957 DESCO Water Sports Catalogue. Retrieved on 17 October 2019.
- Commercial Dive Equipment Products and Markets. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
- Air Hats for Commercial Diving. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
- Commercial and Deep Sea Diving Helmets. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
- http://www.therebreathersite.nl/03_Historical/Desco_B_Lung.htm (about rebreathers which they made or make)