After five years with the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska, Frank Barks went to work for the Commonwealth Steel Company in Granite City, Illinois, where his cousin, Clarence L. Howard, was president. Two years later, in January 1910, they recruited several investors and formed the Steel Roof Truss Company in Valley Park, Missouri. The company made tubular steel roof trusses, but showed a first year loss of $3,000. Most of the investors sold their interests to Barks, Howard and Edward H. Barstow.
In October 1912, the company changed its name to Barks and Barstow Manufacturing Company. Expanding their operation, they began making prefabricated steel buildings, barns and cotton gin structures. They hired a 20-year-old, Alex P. Fox, to serve as a draftsman.
In August 1915, the Valley Park location suffered damage from a flood on the Meramac River and two tributaries, Fishpot Creek and Grand Glaize Creek. (Case Study) They began looking for another location for their plant and eventually purchased 4 acres (16,000 m2) of land at Goodfellow and Natural Bridge in north St. Louis for $2,500 per acre. Fox was promoted to assistant treasurer and later to vice president when, in 1916, Clarence Howard resigned and Frank Barks succeeded him as president. The company relocated to 5701 Natural Bridge and changed its name to Lincoln Steel and Forge Company. It was said that Barks named the company after the Civil War president.
Lincoln began to manufacture what became their first principal product – coal mine car frames including the axles using anti-friction bearings supplied by the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company. The company quickly became a standard in the industry. It was the roller bearing designed by Hyatt coupled with Lincoln's design for the car itself that made the product successful.
Continued emphasis on improving productivity in the mines led to the development of the first automatic, power-driven grease gun to be marketed commercially. Used for lubricating the mine cars, the unit included a 400 Lb pressurized tank, one or more hoses and valves that automatically dispensed a predetermined amount of grease. The first Lincoln Lubrigun, introduced in 1923, was mounted on a mine car truck.