In May 1927, the transatlantic flight of the
Lone Eagle, Charles Lindbergh, excited the world and gave a great
boost to civilian aviation.
It excited Lunkenheimer, too. Several of the fuel cocks and
fittings used in the Spirit of St. Louis were of Lunkenheimer
manufacture, which the company was not slow to advertise. By then,
the Lunken family had already developed a special concern with
President Eshelby Lunken, who had a pilot’s license, formed the
Grisard Co. in 1921 to build an airport in the Cincinnati suburb of
Blue Ash. It was named after 1st Lt. John K. Grisard, who was the
only Cincinnati pilot killed in World War I.
Four years later, Eshelby decided the Blue Ash location was not
practical. He then interested his father in this new sport and
business. In 1925 he prevailed on him to buy 200 acres of land in
Turkey Bottoms, just west of the Little Miami River, and develop it
into an airfield in 1928. Eshelby’s father leased this land to the
Grisard Field Co., who moved their operations to this new area and
named it Lunken Airport.
Two years later, Edmund Lunken acquired the airport again and
donated it to the City of Cincinnati. The city fathers then
purchased an additional 870 acres of adjacent land and improved the
site so that it could accommodate scheduled commercial aircraft.
The new field was dedicated in September 1930 in a three-day gala
celebration graced by speeches, Paul Whiteman and his band playing
at the airport between stunt flights and special showings of the
aviation film Hell’s Angels at the Schubert Theatre. One of its
stars, Jean Harlow, awarded prizes to stunt fliers. Charles
Lindbergh sent his regrets.
The airport’s low elevation, however, caused some problems, and
when the Ohio River flood waters spilled onto the field, wags
called it “Sunken Lunken.” Yet Lunken Airport served the city well
during the early days of commercial aviation and continues to this
day to provide a convenient haven for general aircraft.
“One of its (Hell’s Angels) stars, Jean Harlow, awarded
prizes to stunt fliers. Charles Lindbergh sent his
In the Great Depression that followed, the company hit bottom in
1932 with sales down 77 percent from their 1929 peak. Most factory
production workers lost their jobs. Average hourly pay for those
few who did keep their jobs did not fall however, and these people
enjoyed an increase in real income as consumer prices declined. The
company lost money in 1931 and 1932.
In 1933 sales began to increase slowly. Then Lunken-heimer began
to participate in the Second World War production boom. This war,
like the first, brought a rush of demand for Lunkenheimer products.
As American industry equipped itself to be the “Arsenal of
Democracy,” total employment climbed from 1,621 in 1937 to a high
of 2,317 in 1941. During the war, many industrial firms expanded
their operations by utilizing new equipment and buildings financed
by federal money, which after the war, they purchased from the
government at modest prices.
Lunkenheimer chose not to expand its capacity in this fashion
and invested only $1.25 million in improving its facilities during
Consequently, at the war’s end, its plant was well worn and
needful of renovation.
New leaders would have to make whatever decisions were required
for the Lunkenheimer Co., because Edmund Lunken, son of the
founder, died in 1944 after some 20 years in retirement. Then, his
son, Eshelby, president of the company since 1919, suddenly died
after shoveling snow one evening in January 1945.
During Eshelby’s tenure at the top, the company had not expanded
its share of the market value, but it had maintained a reputation
for high-quality and innovative metallurgy. Not known as a
hard-driving executive, his associates referred to him as a “prince
of a fellow.” Frank Rhame, moved up to replace Eshelby as president
and general manager – the first non-family member to head the firm.
The first order of business was that there was no choice about
renovating the company’s equipment. Thus, in 1947 Lunken-heimer
borrowed $2 million from two Cincinnati banks to help pay for the
In 1951, Paul Arnall, who had come to Lunkenheimer from The Ohio
Injector Co. of Wadsworth, Ohio, replaced Frank Rhame, who was
retiring. Arnall, the fifth Lunkenheimer president, would guide the
firm during its final 17 years of independence.
In the 1960s, Lunkenheimer remained a profitable company. Its
sales of $16.8 million compared well with the figures of its chief
competitors, Powell, Jenkins, Walworth and Crane.
In 1963, the Lunkenheimer family decided to sell its interests
in the company to a new Lunkenheimer firm organized by its current
After a lengthy legal battle for controlling interests, in
December 1967 Lunkenheimer ended its independent existence and
became a wholly owned subsidiary of the out-of-state-owned Condec
Today, Lunkenheimer exists as CVC (Cincinnati Valve Co.),
licensee of the Lunkenheimer brand name. The following is from the
CVC website (www.lunkenheimercvc.com):
“Cincinnati Valve Co. was founded in 1994, solely to become the
licensee of Lunkenheimer Valves. As such, Cincinnati Valve Co.
operates the Cincinnati Lunkenheimer plant and foundry, which has
been in continuous operation since Lunkenheimer started in
“Today, Cincinnati Valve Co. concentrates on manufacturing and
supplying the many special valves out of a broad line of quality
valves that Lunkenheimer is known for, in addition to producing
commodity bronze, iron and cast steel valves.”
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