Lane and Bodley

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A 20 HP portable engine on skids. (All images courtesy of Cincinnati Historical Society.)
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Left: A cut from the 1872 Lane & Bodley illustrated catalog showing a 10 HP farm engine.
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Home of Philander P. Lane, 5501 Montgomery Road, Norwood, Ohio. Now the Vorhis Funeral Home. (Photo by S. Seidman.)
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Right: The cover of the 1872 Lane & Bodley illustrated catalog.

When Philander P. Lane opened his first small
machine shop in downtown Cincinnati, in 1850, he owned only three
machine tools. Ten years later, he was one of the most noted and
distinguished industrial representatives of the city. In 1852, Lane
took a partner, Joseph T. Bodley. While Lane promoted the company,
Bodley saw to the manufacturing. Together they developed the firm
into one of the most successful and important manufacturing
companies in Cincinnati’s early history.

Lane became “one of the most distinguished representatives of
Cincinnati and a conspicuous figure in the city’s material
development and progress.” He was not only a civic leader but also
a founder of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, a member of the board of
school examiners, and clerk of the new town of Cumminsville. Lane
also served as colonel in the Eleventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry at
the battle of Antietam during the Civil War. Bodley continued to
run the company in Lane’s absence.

BUSINESS HISTORY

After a modest beginning, company growth soon necessitated a
move to larger quarters. In 1852, Lane & Bodley moved the
company from Pearl Street to the southeast corner of John and Water
streets. At their new location they shared space with the already
well-established manufacturing company Reynolds & Kite. The two
companies were similar and shared a large complex that consisted of
five buildings divided into six departments and a foundry, boiler
shop and finishing shop. Lane & Bodley bought out Reynolds
& Kite in 1858.

Business growth slowed during the Civil War (1861-1865) but
rapidly picked up at the war’s end. Bodley died in 1868 just as the
business had begun to expand. Known as J.T., Bodley had earned “… a
high reputation among Cincinnati’s many notable and distinguished
manufacturers … his acts survive and his name belongs to the
incorporated title, a fitting and honorable memorial.” Lane &
Bodley employed over a hundred workers and was shipping products
throughout the United States. Eight years after Joseph Bodley’s
death, Lane incorporated the company with a capital stock of
$375,000. The company now employed as many as 300 workers and began
expanding and remodeling their existing buildings with all the
latest improvements and laborsaving devices. For its time it was a
modern, efficient factory. The firm also had begun shipping
products all over the world as well: “The reputation of the
manufacturers of the Lane & Bodley Co. is so effectively
established as to have created for them a large demand throughout
the United States and a growing trade in the East Indies, Russia,
Sweden, Germany, France, England, Australia, the West Indies, South
America and Japan.”

PRODUCTS

The Lane & Bodley Co. was at the forefront of the steam
engine industry with their Corliss-type automatic cut-off engines.
They produced both stationary and portable steam engines with 2 to
10 HP capacity. As advertised, these engines were unrivaled in
economy and durability. A standard single-cylinder stationary
engine, for example, had an operating capacity of 100 psi and
weighed about 70,000 pounds. These engines, beginning at $700, were
tough, durable, and reasonably priced. Many different types of
engines were made for various purposes, and this diversity made
them even more popular and useful.

The Cincinnati stationary steam engine was designed for printing
offices, corn mills, cotton gins, sawmills and small factories.
This style of engine, made from 8 to 25 HP, had a heavy cylindrical
bedplate to which all parts were attached. These engines were built
for high speed, and Lane & Bodley declared they would “develop
as large a percentage of power as any engine in the market.”

Lane & Bodley also manufactured portable steam engines. They
had a large firebox and a steam dome made of wrought iron and were
quite mobile for their time: “Our smaller sizes for farm and
plantation uses are permanently mounted and can be moved with as
much facility as a loaded wagon.” These engines were advertised as
costing between $900 to $1,850.

The company produced a number of other goods as well. Early
products were woodworking machines, circular sawmills and hydraulic
elevators. They also sold flooring machines, sash molding machines
and surfacers. A 30-inch railway cut-off saw was listed at $175 in
their 1871 price list. Every article was tested and examined before
being shipped.

Direct-action hydraulic elevators were popular (understandably)
and were used widely in Cincinnati in such places as the Cincinnati
Gas Co., the Cincinnati Public Library, the Grand Hotel and H.
Closterman, as well as the Exposition Hall in Chicago and locations
in Louisville, Memphis, Baltimore and St. Louis. Lane & Bodley
also offered wire cable, hydraulic and steam-powered elevators, as
well as valves used in the elevators.

THE FIRE

On Thursday night, Dec. 13, 1900, the worst nightmare of any
business struck the foundry of Lane & Bodley, destroying the
building. The headline of Dec. 14 in the Cincinnati
Enquirer
screamed, “IN RUINS is Lane & Bodley Plant …
Disastrous Conflagration in the Lower Part of the City Last
Evening.” The fire was believed to have started in the cupola and
spread quickly. The only piece of luck that saved the rest of the
plant was a huge firewall between the foundry and the remaining
departments.

The company was still at the southwest corner of John and Water
streets. The entire Cincinnati fire department responded, but the
fire was quickly out of hand. The water supply was limited, and at
times not even one hose was playing water on the blaze. To
complicate matters further, freight trains were blocking Waters
Street, and the fire department could not bring water to that side
of the building.

Upon returning to the city the day following the fire, Henry M.
Lane, son of the founder and now president of the company, assured
all his customers that the company was insured and all orders could
and would be filled, as the machine shop, drafting room and office
were intact. He would be reopened the following Monday! In the
meantime, 200 men were out of work and 50 years worth of patterns
stored on the fourth floor were destroyed.

Not everyone was as sanguine in the aftermath of the fire as
Henry Lane. Thomas P. Egan, owner of a nearby plant, the J.A. Fay
& Egan Co., loudly criticized the handling of the fire. He said
that the firemen were untrained and unorganized and that many stood
by not knowing what to do. The fire chiefs were incompetent, trying
to do too much themselves, and were not putting enough effort into
directing the operations. Egan believed that, had the fire been
fought correctly, the pattern works would not have been lost.

TWILIGHT OF THE FIRM

Philander P. Lane died in December 1889 and was buried in Spring
Grove Cemetery. He had retired some years earlier, financially
secure, and had already turned the business over to his sons. Lane
had built himself an impressive home on Montgomery Road just north
of Norwood, Ohio. That home still stands and today is the Vorhis
Funeral Home. His son Henry Lane became the president of the Lane
& Bodley Co. and expanded the business in new directions.

Henry a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
was responsible for the building of the first cog railroad up Pikes
Peak. He also designed inclines for several of Cincinnati’s hills,
which are still talked about today, as well as cable systems in
Denver, St. Paul and Providence.

The company continued to prosper under Henry’s leadership until
at least 1920. He had relocated the company to new premises at
Paddock and Tennessee streets in 1901 after the fire. Lane was
still listed in the 1920 Cincinnati directory as president of the
Lane & Bodley Co. on Paddock; however, in 1921 only his home
address at Lenox Place remained in the listings.

Henry’s life ended tragically. In May of 1929 there was a deadly
fire in the Cleveland Clinic where he had gone to receive
treatment: “Among those killed in the Cleveland Clinic disaster was
Henry Marcus Lane, 75 years old, one of the foremost engineers in
the country.”

Cory Ament and Sandra Seidman are students who attended
Robert T. Rhode’s seminar at Northern Kentucky University on the
literature and the history of the steam-power era, and spent the
2005 fall semester researching and composing this document. Cory
Ament can be reached at: e-mail: amentc@nku.edu Sandra Seidman can
be reached at: e-mail: seidmans@nku.edu

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