When Steam Was King... and Cincinnati Was Queen

The Boiler Shop-lane & Bodley

THE BOILER SHOP-LANE & BODLEY.

Content Tools

3982 Bollard Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45209

Shortly after Cincinnati became known as 'the Queen City' a moniker probably derived from a line of Longfellow's poem 'Catawba Wine' agricultural steam power in this southwestern Ohio metropolis was on the rise. C. M. Giddings, the mechanical engineer who gave Russell engines their distinctive look and sound, spoke of Cincinnati when The American Thresherman and Farm Power magazine published his series of articles on the historical development of the traction engine in the United States. Giddings told that, in the fall of 1872, an Aveling-Porter engine imported from England by George W. Dick of Venice, Ohio, was put to use during an equestrian epidemic to haul dead horses out of Cincinnati. Giddings also reported that Cincinnati experimented in constructing gigantic steam plows, which 'left builders with a deficit as big as the machine, and were only heard of afterwards by the junk man' (Giddings 3, 16). Intriguing as they are, these incidents barely hint at Cincinnati's prominent place in the chronicles of agricultural steam power.

Perhaps best known for her fire engines, railways, steamboats, and carriages, Cincinnati enjoys a noteworthy although often overlooked legacy in farm engines and related equipment. Numerous manufacturers of traction engines turned to Cincinnati engravers to purchase woodcuts and, later, copper cuts to illustrate their catalogues. The artists employed by companies like Bogart, Clegg-Goeser, C. A. 0Black, R. J. H. Smith, and Cincinnati Process Engraving painstakingly transformed photographs (which, in the nineteenth century, could not be reproduced in print) into the impressions much admired today for precise shading achieved through hairlines and crosshatching. Among builders of stationary engines, frequently employed in agriculture-related industries, were Niles and Company, founded in 1834 (more widely recognized for its locomotive engines) and I. E. Greenwald Company, a large firm at 248 East Pearl Street. Greenwald began in 1847 and was incorporated in 1885 (Roe 117). A Greenwald stationary engine is displayed each year at the Central Kentucky Steam and Gas Engine Association Show.

The Cincinnati steam story begins with Miles Greenwood. Born in 1807, Greenwood came to Cincinnati in 1829 and located his Eagle Iron Works on the Miami & Erie Canal (Cincinnati: Days in History 178, Giglierano and Overmyer 392). An innovator who championed the newest technologies, Greenwood, in 1848, erected a five-story brick building at 6th and Vine as a permanent home for the Ohio Mechanics' Institute (where the young telegraph-operator Thomas A. Edison studied), helped finance experimentation on a steam pumper for fire protection, and funded the building of an engine house for Cincinnati's fire department (Harlow 154, Cincinnati: Days in History 178). On February 12, 1861, Greenwood, as grand marshall, led the parade when Cincinnati turned out to see President-Elect Abraham Lincoln in a carriage drawn by six white horses (Cincinnati: A Guide To the Queen City 63). An advocate of research into steam plowing, Lincoln would have appreciated the fact that Greenwood's foundry specialized in various applications of steam power. During the Civil War, the Eagle Iron Works' seven-hundred employees could rebuild eight-hundred muskets into rifles with percussion locks in a single day. As president of the Covington & Cincinnati Bridge Company, Greenwood had contracted for the building of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, a prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge and now a Cincinnati landmark, but the War interrupted that effort. Greenwood's foundry beside Walnut Street made gun-carriages, caissons, and cannons (Harlow 229). He even built a sea-going iron-clad monitor (Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City 67). Copperheads probably were responsible for the repeated arson attempts against Greenwood's property, one of which destroyed much of the Eagle Iron Works (A Guide 211). Greenwood died in 1885; a Cincinnati suburb bears his name (Giglierano and Overmyer 582).

Greenwood s enterprising business established a climate conducive to the manufacture of a wide variety of steam machinery in the Queen City. Founded in 1828, the firm of Reynolds and Kite was located at John and Water Streets. In itself, it was an important concern in Cincinnati's industrial heritage, but it gains yet greater significance when the historian recognizes that Lane and Bodley replaced Reynolds and Kite. Lane and Bodley were destined to become Cincinnati's premier builders of agricultural engines. Philander P. Lane's father had made the journey from Connecticut to a farm in northeastern Ohio's Portage County. Having spent his boyhood at the hard manual labor of early-nineteenth-century agriculture, Lane learned the machinist trade and moved to Cincinnati. In 1850, with only three machine tools, Lane started a small shop on Pearl Street near Race Street. The following year, Lane formed a partnership with Joseph T. Bodley, a Cincinnati native who had just completed his apprenticeship with Miles Greenwood. Soon they began manufacturing power mortising machines, which they sold nationwide. Mean while, Lane married Sophia Bosworth, and a son, Henry Marcus, was born August 15, 1854 (Roe 118). By 1856, Lane and Bodley's woodworking machinery business had outgrown their location, and they became tenants of Reynolds, Kite & Tatum in part of a building which later would be one of Lane & Bodley's five buildings (Roe 117, Kenny 274).

Around 1856, Lane & Bodley added portable sawmills and steam engines to their list of products. The Civil War slowed the rapid expansion of Lane & Bodley's business (Roe 117). During the wartime years, Lane commanded the Eleventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In winter quarters at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in 1861 and 1862, he was accompanied by his seven-year-old son. The next winter, Sophia Lane attempted to bring her children to the 11th O. V. I.'s location in the West Virginia mountains, but she was ordered back 'owing to bushwackers and impassible roads' (Roe 118). By about 1863, when business outlooks at home were improving, Lane & Bodley acquired the patterns and took over the manufacture of Latta steam fire engines from the Buckeye Iron Works of Alexander Latta, who, in 1852, had joined Cincinnatian Abel Shawk in building North America's first successful steam fire engine. About four years later, Lane & Bodley sold this promising business to C. Ahrens, the former foreman at Buckeye (Giglierano and Overmyer 93). Both Bodley and Lane predicted a boom in the engine and sawmill line and decided to concentrate their efforts there while gradually pulling out of the wood-working machinery trade. In 1868, when Lane & Bodley's prospects were the brightest they had been since before the war, Bodley died.

Retaining the Bodley name, the company focused its efforts on the production of high-quality sawmills and engines but added a lucrative business in steam-driven elevators and in hydraulic elevators all designed with the express purpose of doing away with suspension from a rope. An early catalogue in the possession of the Cincinnati Historical Society shows that Lane & Bodley sold elevators as far as Chicago, Memphis, and Baltimore. From 1873 through 1874, young Henry Marcus Lane took courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, and, in the following year, he returned to Cincinnati as a draughtsman and foreman in his father's pattern shops (Roe 118). By 1875, the Lane and Bodley Foundry and Machine Works consisted of six departments which made stationary and portable engines, boilers, sawmills, grist mills, castings, machines for mining silver and gold, smelting furnaces, shafting, 'car, hub, spoke, wagon, and furniture machinery' (Lane & Bodley Hydraulic Elevators 20). The factory employed three-hundred workers (Kenny 275), and three engines of two-hundred horsepower ran the works. In 1876, Lane & Bodley incorporated with capital stock worth $375,000.

On January 1, 1878, the Lane & Bodley Company began the monthly publication of an oversized folio magazine called The Cincinnati Artisan. Filled with news and articles about science and technology, this unusual journal devoted most of the front page of each issue to extolling the virtues of Lane & Bodley engines and sawmills. The opening page of the first installment announced that the Lane & Bodley Company had 'received the two gold premiums, $100.00 and $200.00 on stationary and portable engines at the last Cincinnati Industrial Exposition, after an exhaustive test with their competitors, lasting two weeks.' The lead article stated that the 'test was conducted by three paid experts, and is said to have been the most thorough and complete test of steam engines ever yet made in the United States.' These awards formed the basis for much of the company's future advertising. The second issue of The Cincinnati Artisan proclaimed that Lane & Bodley's ten-horse farm engine had been chosen from a field of six exhibitors to receive the grand premium of $100.00 in gold at the latest Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. The fourth issue's front page described several of the special features of Lane & Bodley engines: 'The gauge-cocks, glass water-gauge, steam-gauge and drip cup are now all in one piece, making a neat, compact and convenient combination. The fire door has a wood handle so it can be opened and closed by hand' The company also preferred wood for the pulley of its governor and recommended that, 'to decrease the speed, reduce the size of the pulley by turning it smaller, using care to do it truly else you will get an unsteady motion' (Illustrated Engine Catalogue 14). To replace the fusible plug, the owner of a Lane & Bodley engine had to remove a plate on top of the steam dome, crawl inside the boiler, replace the fusible rivet, tap the new one with 'a small hammer to form the head of the rivet, and do it with care to ensure a steam joint.' (Illustrated Engine Catalogue 16). The Artisan article promised readers, 'We can send each customer an indicator diagram of his engine if he wishes it.' Indicator diagrams graphically illustrated the efficiency of an engine's power at both ends of the cylinder. The Artisan continued, 'We are possibly the only manufacturers of steam engines in the country who incur the expense of taking those diagrams from every engine built.' The Lane & Bodley Company claimed (in the April 1878 Artisan) that its agricultural engine used five and three-quarters bushels of coal for ten horsepower for a running time of ten hours.

In 1878, Lane & Bodley's agricultural steam engines ranged from six to twelve horsepower, while the firm's stationary engines had bores from six to twenty-four inches. The Lane & Bodley Company's emphasis on stationary engines, which were sold throughout the United States and in foreign countries, would slowly eclipse its reliance on the sale of agricultural machines. As R. Douglas Hurt has noted, 'By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the growth of industry and the expansion of the railroad network effectively fostered the concentration of population in cities with more than five thousand inhabitants, twenty-six of which existed in Ohio by 1870.' Hurt added, 'While the national work force engaged in non-agricultural pursuits did not reach 51 percent of the population until 1880, by that time 60 percent of Ohio's workers were employed in off-the-farm activities' (3). Capitalizing on the boom in urban industries, the Lane & Bodley Company adopted the Corliss automatic stationary engine and soon gave it 'a more modern design, one of more graceful shape, and more scientifically proportioned' (Roe 118). The firm built fixed cut-off engines from ten to two hundred horsepower and Corliss automatic cut-off engines from thirty-five to one-thousand horsepower. In 1879 and 1880, Henry Marcus was designing the machinery for a few of Cincinnati's renowned inclines, and he superintended the machinery division of the 1881 Cincinnati Exposition (Roe 118). For the next eight years, he designed, constructed, or consulted in the building of cable railways, power-houses, and machinery in Cincinnati, Denver, Providence, St. Louis, St. Paul, and Boston. On January 1, 1895, he became Lane & Bodley Company's new president. In February, his father passed away. Henry Marcus Lane ordered the building of a new foundry 'with twenty-ton traveling cranes, pneumatic air lifts, and convenient methods for handling pig iron and coke, and railway connections to all rail tracks entering into Cincinnati' (Roe 118). Although an entirely new line of slice-valve engine patterns came from the drawing board to the factory floor in 1895, the company dwindled. Cincinnati directories show that the Lane & Bodley Company had ceased by 1910.

Cincinnati's contributions to steam power, however, did not vanish with Lane & Bodley. Back in mid-1862, a foreman at Miles Greenwood's Eagle Foundry resigned and set up his own machine shop specializing in brass. His name was Frederick Lunkenheimer. Born in Germany on October 21, 1825, Lunkenheimer sailed to New York in 1845 (Laux 17). There, he worked for Samuel Morse. Next, he worked in St. Louis, then New Orleans, where he made, among other things, needles for sewing machines. Returning north by way of the Ohio River in 1854, Lunkenheimer was robbed. He found employment at the Heilman Machine Shop in Evansville, Indiana. Soon, he had gained enough money to complete his journey to Cincinnati, where he went to work for Greenwood.

Once Lunkenheimer had established his own small shop, called the Cincinnati Brass Works, on Seventh Street east of Main, he sold bearings and grease cups to Greenwood. In 1862, Lunkenheimer was competing with nearly a dozen other brass founders (Laux 18). With the steamboat trade close at hand, the Cincinnati Brass Works prospered. By 1865, valves, gauge cocks, and whistles veritably flooded from Lunkenhe-imer's factory, which moved to slightly larger quarters in an empty synagogue on the east side of Lodge Alley in 1867. Three years later, Lunkenheimer was also selling steam gauges and valves. In 1881, business growth brought Lunkenheimer to move again, this time to the south side of Eighth Street between Main and Sycamore. Like Lane and Bodley, Lunkenheimer, in the 1880s, began to concentrate on the increasing market for stationary steam engines in factory settings and designed more and more brass items suitable for them. The company did not neglect the considerable demand for lubricators, valves, whistles, and gauges for agricultural steam engines. By the 1880s the growing firm employed between one-hundred and one-hundred-thirty workers (Laux 20). On February 4, 1889, the Lunkenheimer Brass Manufacturing Company was incorporated with $250,000 capital. On April 13th of the same year, Lunkenheimer died. His older son, Edmund H., at age twenty-seven took over the firm.

The business s name was shortened to the Lunkenheimer Company in January of 1893. Edmund Lunkenheimer, who had changed his name to Lunken in 1892, wanted to abbreviate the firm's name to Lunken, but family members rejected that idea (Laux 21). Lunken sought a wider market for his business. He vigorously promoted Lunkenheimer products in journal advertisements and opened branch houses in New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, London, and Mexico City. In 1900, the Lunkenheimer Company won three silver medals at the World's Fair in Paris. By the turn of the century, the inventive Lunken had secured thirty-five patents for improvements in lubricators and valves. Two years earlier, he tried unsuccessfully to sell another of his new ideas to Wrigley. Called a 'Peggy,' it was 'a small brass container with a spike inside to store used chewing gum' (Laux 21). An expanded Lunkenheimer Company dedicated a new, spacious plant in Fairmount northwest of downtown in 1900. Located near the railroads, the facility offered five times the room available in the firm's former quarters on Eighth Street. Electric streetcar lines brought workers to the factory.

1901, 1902, and 1903 witnessed further growth and building. Lunken returned to Cincinnati in 1903; he had spent the past eight years in Denver, Colorado, where he had failed at a gold-mining venture (Laux 22). The prosperous Lunkenheimer Company experimented with the idea of manufacturing gasoline automobiles but soon abandoned the scheme. It did, however, design a lucrative valve for use in the Texas and Oklahoma oil fields. Lunken achieved part of his automobile wish when his company began production of water gauges for steam cars, as well as strainers, pumps, and lubricators for gasoline vehicles. The Lunkenheimer name gleamed on parts used in Cadillacs, Packards, and Hudsons (Laux 22). With the exception of the recession of 1907-08, the first decade of the new century proved quite profitable for the Lunkenheimer Company. After a construction delay in 1908, a rein-forced-concrete factory building rose five stories by 1910. The company now employed over eight hundred workers.

Beginning in the period of World War I, the Lunkenheimer Company substituted the word 'bronze' for the word 'brass' in its advertising. An alloy of copper and zinc, brass is cheaper than bronze, composed of copper and tin. Lunkenheimer products had long been bronze, although the formulas for creating the bronze remained carefully-guarded recipes. Meanwhile, in 1921, Lunkenheimer turned down a merger with smaller manufacturers. Had the proposal carried, the resulting firm would have competed favorably with the Crane Company of Chicago, the nation's largest valve maker (Laux 28). Despite Lunkenheimer's failure to become perhaps the biggest bronze-valve firm in the United States, the Lunkenheimer name was somewhere to be found on most farm traction engines. By 1923, Edmund H. Lunken had shifted leadership to his son Eshelby. Company advertising in 1927 boasted that Charles Lindberg's Spirit of St. Louis had Lunkenheimer fuel cocks (Laux 29). Intrigued by flight, Edmund and Eshelby founded Lunken Airport. The dedication ceremonies in September, 1930, featured 'Paul White-man and his band playing at the airport between stunt flights, and special showings of the aviation film, Hell's Angels, at the Schubert Theater' (Laux 29). Stunt fliers received their prizes from the movie's star Jean Harlow.

Edmund passed away in 1944, Eshelby in 1945; however, the Lunkenheimer Company continued. Today, its valves are made elsewhere, and the firm has little presence in the Queen City. Its long-term competitor, the William Powell Company, however, remains a major Cincinnati business, regardless of the fact that much of its manufacturing is handled in South Carolina.

The Englishman William Powell was born in 1790. He arrived in Cincinnati in 1836. A decade later, he began a brass-making factory. Certain historians give Powell credit for 'founding the brass trade in the West' (Giglierano and Overmyer 252-53). Choosing a site on Fifth Street between Plum and Elm Streets, Powell established his foundry to produce brass fittings for plumbers. His firm also sold items to the Cincinnati Gas-Light & Coke Company. When sons Henry (1821-1888) and James (1832-1908) joined the firm, the name was changed to William Powell & Company.

When the Civil War disrupted national life, Powell made spurs and sword-belt hardware for the U.S. Cavalry. Following 1865, Powell enjoyed a period of sustained growth in the engineering brass-work business, and the manufacturer moved into more spacious quarters on Plum Street in 1882. Like Lunkenheimer, Powell specialized in valves which could be reground easily for a better fit; over 100,000 of these valves already were in use by 1875. The factory also made lubricators for locomotive, stationary, and agricultural engines, drainpipe, bathtubs, sinks, and toilets. The William Powell Company emerged as a reorganized stock firm in 1886 when James Powell took exclusive leadership over the business. James shared with his father the knack for inventing new tools used in the factory. In 1893, the expanding company moved again, this time to Spring Grove Avenue northwest of the downtown area. A most modern facility, Powell's 'Union Brass Works boasted a power plant to supply electricity for incandescent lights, an inter-departmental telephone service, and the use of spent steam to heat the building' (Giglierano and Overmyer 253). Throughout the early 1900s, steam engines across the fields of North America displayed Powell bright-work. The trade in engine fittings and related industries led Powell to add, in 1926, another factory, this one at Colerain Avenue. Powell already had been a major firm for over thirty years and was well on its way toward becoming a hallmark of Cincinnati business success.

Although agricultural steam engines began to vanish in the 1930s and 1940s (closely followed by stationary engines and railway locomotives), Queen City manufacturers had put their own stamp on the history of steam power. Today, at threshing reunions and shows of antique equipment may be seen more Powell and Lunkenheimer valves than anyone has the right to expect. Despite the evidence that no Lane & Bodley engine appears to have survived, that firm dedicated sixty years to the invention and production of labor-saving machines. And the image of Miles Greenwood, foundryman extraordinaire, proudly leading Lincoln's Cincinnati inaugural parade will remain a portrait of nineteenth-century prosperity.

Works Cited

Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City. Cincinnati: WPA, 1943. Rpt. as

The WPA Guides to Cincinnati. Cincinnati: Historical Society, 1987.

The Cincinnati Artisan 1.1-11 (1878).

Cincinnati: Days in History. Cincinnati: Post, 1988.

Cincinnati: The Queen City. Bicentennial ed. Cincinnati: Historical Society, 1988.

Giddings, C. M. Development of the Traction Engine in America. Madison:

American Thresherman and Farm Power, 1917. Rpt. Lancaster.

STEMGAS, 1980.

Giglierano, Geoffrey, J. and Deborah A. Overmyer. The Bicentennial Guide

to Greater Cincinnati: A Portrait of Two Hundred Years. Cincinnati:

Historical Society, 1988.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Serene Cincinnatians. New York: Dutton, 1950.

Hurt, R. Douglas. 'Ohio Mainstream America.' The Ohio Almanac. Ed.

Damaine Vonada. Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer, 1992

Kenny, D. J. Illustrated Cincinnati: A Pictorial Hand-Book of the Queen City.

Cincinnati: Robert Clarke, 1875.

Lane & Bodley Co. 's Illustrated Engine Catalogue. Cincinnati: Lane & Bodley, 1876.

Laux, James M. 'The One Great Name in Valves: A History of the

Lunkenheimer Company.' Queen City Heritage 41.1 (1983): 17-38.

Roe, George Mortimer, ed. Cincinnati: The Queen City of the West.

Cincinnati: Times-Star, 1895.