Oil Field Engine News

The Lunkenheimer Co., part one


| May 2006



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Lunkenheimer, an uncommon name, is familiar to most engine enthusiasts. The Lunkenheimer Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of the most prolific builders of "engineering specialties" of all sorts, mostly brass goods. Lunkenheimer products can be found on hundreds of different types of engines and machinery. Valves of all sorts, oilers, fittings and whistles were just some of the many products built in the Lunkenheimer plant.

The company's namesake Frederick Lunkenheimer was born Oct. 21, 1825, in Neider-Ingelheim in the Rhineland of Germany. At 14 years of age he decided to pursue the metalworking trade and apprenticed himself to a machinist in the town of Mainz 10 miles from his hometown. After completing this apprenticeship, his aspirations turned to America and in 1845 he joined the many thousands of other European immigrants seeking opportunity in the U.S.

Lunkenheimer found work for a short time in New York working for Samuel Morse on his printing telegraph. By 1851 Lunken-heimer was moving west, first settling in St. Louis for about two years and then on further south down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where he set up shop making sewing machine needles and other small metalwares.

This first business was short lived because in 1853 a terrible Yellow Fever epidemic struck New Orleans. Lunkenheimer contracted the dreaded disease but was fortunate to recover from it - 7,800 did not. With so many thousands dead and the possibility that the fever epidemic could return, Lunkenheimer decided to return north to New York. The epidemic and what he had witnessed of the slave system in the south appalled him, and convinced Lunkenheimer to pursue his business in the north.

During the voyage up the Ohio River on a riverboat, Lunkenheimer was robbed of all his money and possessions and found it necessary to disembark at Evansville, Ind., recouping his finances working for the Heilman machine shop. After a short while he moved further up the river to Cincinnati in 1854 and found employment at the brass goods section of the Miles Greenwood shops, which at the time employed about 500 men.

Lunkenheimer, then 29 years old, soon decided to establish himself in Cincinnati after he met and married Louisa Meyer in 1855. Children soon came to the Lunkenheimer family: Albert (born 1856 died 1858); Ella (born 1858 survived until her 84th year); Edmund (born 1861 eventually head of the company, lived until 1944); Ottilie (born 1863 died 1864); Marie Louise (born 1867 died 1891); Carl Frederick (born 1869 died 1908); and the seventh child, Clara (born 1871 died 1925).