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British Industrial History

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John Steptoe

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John Steptoe (c.1804-1888)

American machine tool maker.

John Steptoe was a foundling, born in Oldham, Lancashire.

He served a seven year apprenticeship, married, and emigrated to the USA some time in the 1840s. He worked for a time for Miles Greenwood of the Eagle Iron Works, Cincinnati, before starting up on his own to make woodworking machinery. He then branched out into making metalworking machinery, by copying the Putnam lathe.

Steptoe and Thomas McFarlan, another British immigrant, founded Steptoe, McFarlan and Co of the Western Machine Works. By 1870 they employed about 300 men, some of whom went on to establish their own businesses (including William Lodge, Thomas P. Egan, William E. Gang, Mr Oesterlien, and Mr Dietz).

Described as 'not an originator, or an inventor. He was a rough man, plain, honest, and well informed.' On his death in 1888, Thomas P. Egan (administrator of Steptoe's estate on behalf of his widow) sold the business, apparently to Otting and Lauder, with the stipulation that the John Steptoe name should be retained. The John Steptoe Co subsequently made shaping and milling machines.

'Steptoe's name should be remembered, for Cincinnati tool building owes its start more to him than to anyone else, with the possible exception of William Lodge, who was himself one of Steptoe's workmen.'

The above information is taken from 'English & American Tool Builders' by Joseph Wickham Roe, 1916.


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