Professor Robert T. Rhode Guides Students Through Steam Engine History

Letting off Steam: A letter from the editor, Richard Backus, on the history of the steam engine.

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Robert T. Rhode should be no stranger to the readers of Steam Traction. A lover of steam and the history of the steam engine, his writings on various aspects of steam traction engines have graced these pages many times.

Writing comes naturally to Bob, who, in addition to owning a 1923 65 HP Case, is an English professor in the department of literature and language at Northern Kentucky University.

For the past 10 years, Bob has been teaching a seminar on the literature and the history of the steam-power era. The class, which is offered every third semester, invites students to study the role of steam power and agriculture as it relates to U.S. history.

For the fall 2005 semester, Bob decided to put a spin on the class by directing his students to prepare original research that could be shared with the readers of Steam Traction.

Fourteen students enrolled for the course, and during the semester they applied themselves to researching and writing about steam-era subjects, including looking into long-defunct company histories and the influence of steam and agriculture in art.

Not surprisingly, the students came away from the seminar with more than just written papers.

The class, one student told me, “has opened up not only the world of steam engines and the industrial revolution, and the influence of both on American literature, but also the amazing history and the number of steam manufacturers.”

The final papers afford fascinating insights into the power of steam in American culture and history. A prime mover in so many ways, the power of steam has shaped our country in ways most people can never appreciate.

Beginning with this issue, we’re happy to share some of the papers written by Bob’s students, starting with the intriguing history of Lane & Bodley, a little-known manufacturer of steam engines based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The article starts on page 14.

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