A Celebration of Serving Manufacturing for 90 Years: MMS Looks Back

A brief history of Modern Machine Shop and its contribution to the industry.


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Time passes, conditions change, the world progresses — 
those who are found keeping pace with the new order of things 
are those young enough in mind and spirit to recognize 
the value of the new and make themselves a part of it.

— Don G. Gardner, Founder, Gardner Business Media

With those words, my grandfather Don Gardner and his business partner Howard Campbell launched Modern Machine Shop magazine. Those words are prominently displayed in our corporate lobby in Cincinnati, Ohio, today, and they perfectly express our mission as a media company.

Don Gardner came from Monticello, Indiana, where his father owned a movie theater in nearby Delphi. Don attended Wabash College and worked early in his career as a salesman for newspapers, notably the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado. He moved to Cincinnati when he became Iron Age magazine’s Southwestern sales manager. Along the way, he met Howard Campbell, who was Midwestern editor for American Machinist magazine.

Don Gardner and Howard Campbell did two very innovative things: They started Modern Machine Shop as a digest-size magazine, which was very different from the 7- by 10-inch-magazine format at the time, and they distributed it free of charge to qualified individuals in metalworking plants. The driving force behind the magazine was, and still is, the content. Helping manufactures be more competitive, more productive and better able to produce quality products remains the cornerstone of the MMS brand.

In our 90 years, we have had six editors at the helm: Howard Campbell, Fred Vogel, Ken Gettelman, Tom Beard, Mark Albert and Peter Zelinski. This continuity of service has served us well. Each of these editors maintained a clear and consistent vision of our purpose and reason for being.

Second Generation

Modern Machine Shop publisher Gardner Business Media Inc. is a family business. Don Gardner had two daughters, and one of them, Helen, married my father, Richard S. Kline, who took over the company in 1947 when Don Gardner died. As a natural-born salesman, my father realized the value of content and was a big supporter of our editorial purpose. Also, following the advice of Ken Gettelman, he encouraged our attendance and efforts internationally. By that participation, we have been able to follow trends and make friendships that have served us well since technology and innovation come from all over the world now.

Third Generation

Helen and Richard S. Kline had four children: Margaret, Steve, Don and I, the oldest. My brother Don Kline died several years ago. Margaret and Steve Kline are no longer involved in the business. My brothers and I each have two children, and five of Don Gardner’s six great grandchildren currently work at Gardner Business Media, all in key positions.

People sometimes ask me how I manage a company with five close relatives. My flip answer is that you have to pick them very carefully (like you really have a choice). I have been very fortunate in that all of them are smart and have found positions that meet their aptitudes and their needs.

Fourth Generation and Today’s Values

Our fourth generation agrees upon four foundation values that are important as Gardner Business Media grows and progresses:

  • Run the business with integrity.
  • Build a successful business.
  • Make the work personally rewarding.
  • Provide a fun environment.

These values are for all employees, not just family members. I would add that we work hard to treat customers, suppliers and each other with respect. When we make mistakes (and we do make them), we try hard to exceed our customers’ expectations. Often, we know about mistakes before customers do, and we “make good” by offering a solution that we hope far exceeds what they would ask for. If we do that, we end up with a customer who is not only appreciative, but has great loyalty moving forward.

My dad and Don Gardner believed that in any enterprise, the leader is wise to pick associates smarter than they are. Our employees would probably tell you that in my case, it wasn’t hard.

In any event, I have learned that smart people with different aptitudes and interests lead to a richer, more balanced company. I feel compelled to add that women comprise about 50 percent of our company in a variety of roles, many of which are leadership. These women add great value and richness to our business.

I hope you can tell I am very proud of our company and the contribution it has made to manufacturing. You can rest assured that we will continue to value content, and we will do our best to help our audience better understand technology, products, processes and trends that will affect and transform manufacturing.