A Top Manufacturing Company Made Their Mark

The history of a top manufacturing company, Lane and Bodley Co., and it's founders Philander P. Lane and Joseph T. Bodley.


| May/June 2006



20HP-Lane-and-Bodley-engine

A 20 HP portable engine on skids.

Image courtesy of Cincinnati Historical Society

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 a top manufacturing company of 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.”

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.