Owens, Lane & Dyer Machine Co.: Rare Photo of Steam Engine Found

Research at Milford, Ohio's Promont House Museum proves fruitful

| Fall 2007

  • Owens_Lane_Dyer_Web
    An Owens, Lane & Dyer Machine Co. steam engine pulls a threshing machine in Hamilton, Ohio, in this undated photo.

  • Owens_Lane_Dyer_Web

As a student at Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, I took an upper-level seminar hosted by Dr. Robert Rhode. We studied the age of steam power, which was new to me. My final project was to find a photo of a farm steam engine.

I started my search at the Promont House Museum, in Milford, Ohio. The librarians and I looked through books, photos and newspapers for hours. Just as we began to think our luck had failed us, we ran across two photos from the steam era. A family, the Sellers, had donated the photos to the museum. I took copies to Dr. Rhode for further examination. He identified the photos, and, much to my surprise, I learned that one image depicted a steam traction engine seldom photographed.

Dr. Rhode suggested I read his article in Iron-Men Album, March/April 1997, on “Hamilton, Ohio’s Contributions to Agricultural Steam Power.” After reviewing his story and the photos in great detail, I am convinced that Owens, Lane & Dyer of Hamilton manufactured the engine in the photo I found.

Job E. Owens was born in Morganshire, Wales, in 1819. In 1824, he arrived in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to Hamilton where he founded Owens, Ebert & Dyer Co. in 1845. Two years later the firm was renamed Owens, Lane, Dyer & Co. Owens won a contract to make iron portions of a new jail in 1846, which made the business boom. Seven years later, the company was producing steam engines and papermaking machinery, and by the 1860s and 1870s, became known for its steam threshers and other farm machinery. Around 1874, the firm was renamed Owens, Lane & Dyer Machine Co. That year, Owens was presented with a gold medal for the first traction engine built west of Pittsburgh. Probably built a few years later, the steam traction engine in the Promont House Museum image had a gear drive and an inclined cylinder. In 1879, Owens’ company closed.

After all the research and excitement of finding such a rare photo, I am happy others can now appreciate and enjoy it in the pages of Steam Traction.

Student Ashley Seta attended Robert T. Rhode’s seminar at Northern Kentucky University on the literature and the history of the steam-power era, and her final project for the semester was researching and composing this article.


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