11 March 2012

A Brief History of the Lunkenheimer Valve Company

In 1845 19-year old Frederick Lunkenheimer left Germany and emigrated to the U.S. This was a bit unusual since he was a skilled and well-trained metal worker and would have easily found good employment in Germany. After coming the the U.S., he worked in NYC for a while, including some work on Samuel Morse's telegraph. In 1851 he headed west down the Ohio River, first to St. Louis and then New Orleans. Things did not work out in New Orleans so he headed back up the river to NYC. 

Unfortunately, things got worse and someone robbed him and took all his money & belongings. He got off at Evansville and worked there for a few months and then came up to Cincinnati, where he began work at the Greenwood Works foundry. He worked there for several years, got married, had children, and in 1862 he started his own company which he called Cincinnati Brass Works. He manufactured parts for steamboats and military equipment (the Civil War was good for the metalwork business).

Lunkenheimer ran a profitable business that continued to grow and hire more employees. The company made a series of moves into bigger spaces and Lunkenheimer made parallel moves into bigger homes. His son, Edmund, got into the family business (which at some point was renamed "Lunkenheimer Valve Company") and as president of the company he really took it to the next level. He acquired many patents and was a forward-thinking businessman. He is the one who bought a parcel of land in Fairmount where the company eventually built the big factory in the photo above (reputedly the first one in Cincinnati made from reinforced concrete rather than brick).

The company continued to grow & profit thanks to the burgeoning automobile industry and later, the airplane industry. World War I brought record profits. After the war, however, the company lost major contracts and had to tighten up and restructure. It started a window-manufacturing division which provided the windows for Vernon Manor.

By 1921 Edmund's son Eshelby was now president of the company, which had expanded again to Carthage. Eshelby had an interest in flying and had a pilot's license. When Charles Lindbergh made his transatlantic flight in 1927, the company promoted the fact that it made parts for Lindbergh's plane. 

Eshelby's enthusiasm for flying rubbed off on his father, who bought a parcel of land in Turkey Bottoms to use as a flying field. In 1927 he donated the land to the city which bought several hundred more acres to establish a proper airport. By this time the family had shortened its name to "Lunken" and that is how Lunken Airport got its name.

Over the next few decades the company struggled but remained profitable. WWII was good for business but having Eshelby at the helm was not the same as having Edmund at the helm. Family members were company officers and members of the board but over the years they retired and younger family members did not enter the business. In 1963 Eshelby's sons Homer and Edmund P., the last remaining Lunkenheimers in the company, left the company 101 years after their great-grandfather founded it.

The Lunkenheimer Valve Company officially came to an end in June 1968 when Condec bought out its shareholders in a hostile takeover.


Anonymous said...

Lunkenheimer com,
The Lunkenheimer Co

did survive the purchase by condec,
and was bought in 1984 by a cincinnatian,
Dr bernard de silva
with 3 partners,
pl look up Supply house times, on July to sept 1094 for a full ,detailed article,

it continues to produce at the foundry,
and recently ,via strategic Alliances and JVs,
too the sales volume and profitability,
to a level that did not exist for several decades, before its purchase,
Cast carbon steel exceeded 50 million in sales,
and recently Lunkenheimer slurry valves, ,with a joint venture,
exceeded Slurry sales by 150 to 200 million[could be more,when the total sales are determined]
in a 100-11 yr period,

another new venture is contemplated with a giant in the water and sewer plant industry,
that could benefit the combined companies,
and the cincinnati, OKI and Ohio region,
returning the sales volumes, to much higher levels ,than in it history,

for more details
call 513 831 0770
and Speak with Dr De Silva
more more details, to be added,

we still retain Mr F Lunkenheimers original seak and the picture of him, that hung above the desk.

Unknown said...

Hi, Just to let you know, Homer was not Edmund P. Lunken's brother. Homer was E. P.'s half uncle, though Homer was a few years younger than E.P. Edmund P, only had a sister, her nickname was Midge. Edmund was married to Dorothy Lunken, and they had two sons, Edmund B. and Eshelby F. Edmund B, never married and has no children. Eshelby F married to Gayle Osborne, had two daughters, Kristan and Pattison, which is myself. Thanks for doing the history piece about the family. Its nice to find stuff about this, as there are things I don't even know.

Anonymous said...

It took us a while to figure it out, but now our great grandfathers can finally lay to fitful rest. There is not only guilt in the founder of this company... a man who stole the ingredients necessary for quick dry cement from my ancestor after killing, but also his decedents responsible for the abduction of high standing German Engineers from the Wehrmacht to the US under operation Paperclip to Lunken Airport for quick transport to Dayton AFB. EB you have a lot to answer for, you knew your father was guilty as well as your great grandfather and you were against us through every conflict from WWII onward. Pattison was right to flee from you and pretend to hide in Oregon. We're circling in on you Ebeneezer Scrooge, it's only a matter of time before we reveal what you did to our country and to what you did to Pattison personally. You're nasty and inhuman and you know living a lie cannot persist to your grave or you're doomed to meet an even nastier fellow with a pitchfork, red skin and haughty laugh and permanent eternal reconciling.

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fasdewy57 said...

When I was a plumber back in the late 80`s we did some work on that building in the office area, I remember installing exspansion joints in several of the heating lines.Well Dr.De Silva was unhappy with the bill and argued with my boss for months and finally paid with 100 IPS gate valves with the Lunkenheimer name embossed in brass and we did use quite a few of them.

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Umer said...

great knowldge recently i read an article on types of valves and after reading both of content now I satisfied

Donna said...

Hi i found a box in a antique store with this name on it i bought because it look interesting and i can see ot has a stoy and i read it i took a pic not sure if i can send it does anyone know if any of the family is still alive

Anonymous said...

Worked for a year as a security guard (CCP security) at this factory site in 1984. Despite the minimum wages I look Fondly back at this time and still drive around the bldgs occasionally. I had the time to explore while doing my rounds of every nook and cranny of that bldg including going up on the catwalks on the roof of the 6th floor brass casting area and looking for the supposed tunnel under Beekman street connecting the bldgs..never found it. Just a cool bldg(s) with sections from multiple eras.

Anonymous said...

I have a picture of my grandfather at a lunkenheimer conference in 1962. Any employee files left from that time?