Farm Collector

When Steam Was King… and Cincinnati Was Queen

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

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
). 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

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
. 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

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
. 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

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

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

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,

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.

STEMGAS, 1980.

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

to Greater Cincinnati: A Portrait of Two Hundred Years.

Historical Society, 1988.

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

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):

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

Cincinnati: Times-Star, 1895.

  • Published on Jan 1, 1996
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