William J. D. Keuffel (1838–1908) and Herman Esser (1845–1908), both
recent immigrants from Germany, began in business in New York in 1867, selling
drawing materials and drafting supplies. K&E, as the firm was soon known, began offering surveying instruments in 1876, built a three-story factory in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1880. and was incorporated in 1889.
K&E introduced a new line of surveying instruments in the early 1890s, describing them as "a thorough departure from all the styles of similar instruments previously made," and noting that many of their improvements were "the product of the genius of our Mr. John Paoli." John Paoli was an Italian who lived in Hoboken, and who obtained several patents for such things as the twisted standards of a transit, the compass box, the leveling screws, and a telescope with stadia wires and cross hairs.
K&E obtained control of Young & Sons in 1918, and made it the Y&S department of their firm. K&E ceased production around 1969.