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
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 paper-making 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’
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. E-mail Ashley at:
Ashley would like to express her deep appreciation to
the staff of the Promont House Museum. Contact the Promont House
Museum at 906 Main, Milford, OH 45150; (513) 248-0324.