Oil Field Engine News

The Lunkenheimer Co. Part 2


Lunkenheimer exhibit at the 1915 San Francisco International Exposition.

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From the beginning of Frederick Lunkenheimer's son, Edmund's, presidency, the company began to expand. During the 1890s it expanded its 8th Street plant. Employment there rose from 199 in 1891 to 254 in early 1893.

In January 1893 "Lunkenheimer Brass Mfg. Co." officially changed its name to "The Lunkenheimer Co." Edmund had legally changed his name to Lunken the year before, but the family refused his request to change the company's name in the same style. At this time, the company capital was raised to $500,000, with almost all the new shares allotted to Edmund in payment for some of his patents. He then held just over half of the total shares.

Not all of Lunken's initiatives prospered, however. Two new lines of valves, the "Lunken" and the "Elk," proved disappointing and were dropped.

In 1898 he invented the "Peggy," a small brass container with a spike inside to store used chewing gum until the next use. He failed to sell this device to the Wrigley Co., but he and his associates certainly derived much amusement from it.

In 1896 Edmund moved to Denver, Colo., to pursue a venture into the mining business as president of the Little Jane Gold Mining Co. The gold mining business eventually proved to be a disappointment and, after paying off the losses incurred by Cincinnati investors, he returned to the city in 1903.

Also during this time, the company explored the possibilities of manufacturing a gasoline-powered automobile. It contracted the services of Harry W. Sumner to design two prototype models in 1902. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on the first automobile races in the Midwest held in Cincinnati on Oct. 5, 1901:

"The first race was for gasoline powered autos. Three cars were entered, but S.H. Leavenworth's 350-pound 2-1/2-horsepower machine failed to start, so the race was between two 2,000-pound machines. One was a 9-horsepower Winton driven by Charles Hanauer. The other was a 10-horsepower machine built locally by the Lunkenheimer Co., driven by Harry Sumner. The Hanauer vehicle had to stop several times to adjust the fuel mixture, so the Lunkenheimer won.

"But Mr. Sumner drove on. Thinking the race was for five miles rather than one, he kept circling the track convinced the people trying to flag him down were cheering him on. The climax of the day was a five-mile race open to both gasoline and steam autos. Mr. Sumner in the Lunkenheimer gasoline machine repeated his five mile run, officially this time winning the race and the gold medal in 10-1/2 minutes."

Notwithstanding the successes experienced by Sumner at the racetrack, the company decided to drop the idea of producing its own cars. However, it adapted its traditional line of business to this new industry, supplying, lubricating and making other brass equipment for cars.

"In 1898 he invented the 'Peggy,' a small brass container with a spike inside to store used chewing gum until the next use."

Ranging further afield, in 1903-1905 Lunken developed a steel frame window for residential and commercial use. He established a separate window sales company in Chicago and had the Lunkenheimer Co. begin making them in 1907. It abandoned this activity four years later. It had been discovered that in major cities the building trades workers refused to install metal windows unless they had been made in union shops.

Lunkenheimer management chose not to risk a union in the window making shop, for it might encourage unionization elsewhere in the company. Later, in 1919, Lunken once more persuaded the company to take up the manufacture of windows. Lunkenheimer bought a large interest in the Lunken Window Co., which used the money to build a plant in the Cumminsville area of Cincinnati. Sales of the relatively expensive windows rose in 1920 and 1921 but did not come close to the break-even point. The recession of 1922 ended the window company's chances of success, and Lunkenheimer sold out at a loss of $384,000.

World War I was especially profitable for the Lunkenheimer Co. Between 1915 and 1918 sales for the company more than tripled. Early in 1918 the firm was making about 4,000 each of the "Clip" and "Ferrenwo" valves weekly and could have sold even more.

The average hourly wage rose and in 1917, reaching just over $.36 per hour. The large earnings the company made during the war years also allowed gifts to war charities, as in December 1916 when $250 was forwarded to the German Widows and Orphans Fund, and also, $250 to the British Red Cross. The company invested $50,000 each in British and French 5.5 percent war loans in October 1916. After the United States entered the war in April 1917, Lunkenheimer invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Liberty Loans and other government debt.

Following WW I, a major concern of the management was whether the company plant, spread over a variety of buildings, was capable of improvement. This led to construction of a $2,817,590 plant along Mill Creek in a northern area of Cincinnati called Carthage.

Early in 1923, Lunken, then 61 years old, turned over active management of the company to his son, Eshelby, who was 32 years old, although Lunken retained the post of chairman of the board. Lunken's achievements had come primarily in the early years of his leadership of the company. He had expanded it from one serving a regional market in 1889, to a firm of national and international scope.

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