Otto Kuhler was born in Remscheid, Germany in 1894. He was the sole heir of the family’s steel business, the Kuhler Forges. His attention, early, on, was focused on the steam locomotives and engines which were used to move the steel around the forge. He studied engineering and drew for his own enjoyment.
During World War I Kuhler was sent to maintain the commandeered engines in Belgium. The family fortune and the Kuhler Forges were in ruins after the war so he moved to Dusseldorf and became a commercial artist. In 1919 he met Jospeh Pennell who inspired him to take up etching. In 1923 Kuhler and his Belgian wife emigrated to America, settling in Pittsburgh. He quickly put together enough money to purchase an etching press and he started producing prints of locomotives and steel mills.
Kuhler’s dream was to design steam locomotives. After years of submitting designs, a locomotive was built from one of his plans. The engine, Hiawatha, rolled out of the Schenectady, New York yard in May of 1935. It was the first streamlined steam locomotive to be built from scratch in America. After the Hiawatha, Kuhler began the next phase of his career in the industrial design field. Kuhler died at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1977.