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William Oesterlein

Modified on 2018/03/01 20:07 by Jeff Joslin Categorized as Biographies

William Oesterlein, president of the Oesterlein Machine Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, died May 10 at his residence in Cincinnati, aged seventy-two years. With 'the passing of Mr. Oesterlein, Cincinnati loses one of her enterprising citizens and a pioneer machine tool builder.

Fifty years ago Mr. Oesterlein was a mechanic in the shop of Hilles & Jones of Wilmington, Del. Later he left Delaware and traveled through the country, working at his trade in various cities and eventually reaching Cincinnati, where he found employment with the John Steptoe Co. While with them he worked alongside men such as Ford Holz, William Lodge and William E. Gang, all of whom became prominent in the machine-tool industry.

Mr. Oesterlein was later appointed superintendent of the Cincinnati Workhouse. In the Workhouse shops were many lathes on which were used tight and loose pulley countershafts; to eliminate the troubles caused by the shifting of the belts, he designed a clutch and equipped the shop with these clutches. The Oesterlein clutch proved to be the nucleus of his manufacturing career. In 1886 he started in business for himself in Cincinnati, with a borrowed capital of $325 and for the first four months worked entirely alone, but by 1892 his business had grown so that he had to seek larger quarters. In addition to his clutches he was then building machine tools on contract for Davis & Egan.

He entered into several partnerships, but later carried on a business entirely of his own under the firm name of William Oesterlein, which name was kept until he incorporated under the present name of the Oesterlein Machine Co. His general machine business consisted of inventing and building machines for specific purposes, and his experience In this special machine work was valuable to him later when he specialized in the manufacture of milling machines. Some of his special machines and attachments are in use today in the Oesterlein shops.

In connection with the manufacture of clutches, Mr. Oesterlein developed, in 1897. a milling machine which became the basis of a business that grew until it gradually crowded out the clutches, and he decided to specialize on the production of milling machines. Again he sought larger quarters and in 1899 moved into a building that is now a part of plant No. 2 of the Lodge & Shipley Machine Tool Co. In 1904 his business had grown to such proportions that a four-story building was constructed on Spring Grove Ave. At first his business occupied two floors, then three, and then the entire building. In 1918 the company moved to Its present location on Colerain Ave. opposite the Workhouse in which his original product was conceived.

His unusual mechanical ability, constant attention to detail, and continual striving for perfection of workmanship were fundamental reasons for his success. In later years, when he was not in the best of health, jig and fixture designs and production problems had his close attention. Mr. Oesterlein's friendliness and sincere hospitality earned him many friends, especially among the travelling men who solicited his trade. He was one of the founders of the Casino Club. Of music he was passionately fond, and for many years sang in the Cincinnati May Festival.

Information Sources

This biography was combined from two similar obituaries:
  • June 1920 Machinery, p. 1002
  • 1920-05-27 American Machinist, p. 1166.

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