Elwood Lee Nickell, who passed in 1964, worked for his father-in-law, Harry Phillips, during WW-II designing and building machines that made a micro-sized beveled gear that made a single revolution to delayed a torpedo from exploding for 1/5 of a second which allowed the torpedo to penetrate an enemy ship before exploding. Harry Phillips started and owned the H.A. Phillips & Co. which held a number of patents relating to industrial refrigeration. Because of his patents on industrial refrigeration float vales and because he did not build pressure vessels near the end of WW-II he asked Elwood to start a pressure vessel manufacturing company. Elwood started the E. L. Nickell Co. in 1944 and built pressure vessels exclusively for the H.A. Phillips Co. for several years. His widow, Lyda Rose Nickell, took over the company and successfully oversaw the daily operations until 1977 when her son Shelby W. Nickell became CEO and President. He ran the daily operations until 2000 when Lyda sold the assets of the company but kept the legal entity. The reason for not selling the legal aspects of the company was any potential liability connected with past operations which the buyers did not want to assume. Then in 2015 when Lyda passed, Shelby inherited ownership of the company.
In its 57 year history E. L. Nickell Co., Inc. designed and fabricated about 60,000 pressure vessels for the industrial refrigeration, chemical, pharmaceutical, and process markets of which many are still in service today.