Main content

Lukens Steel Company records


Held at: National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum [Contact Us]50 S. 1st Ave., Coatesville, Pennsylvania, 19320

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Lukens Steel Company was founded in 1810 by Isaac Pennock (1767-1824) in Coatesville, Chester Country, Pennsylvania. The company manufactured the first rolled boiler plate iron in the country in 1818, a critical innovation that solidified its prominence in the iron and steel industry. Pennock's daughter, Rebecca Webb Lukens (1794–1854), who controlled the business for several decades beginning in 1825, was the first female chief executive officer of an industrial company in the United States. At its peak, Lukens Steel Company was a hugely successful holding company with subsidiaries that manufactured carbon-, alloy-, and clad-steel plates and stainless-steel sheet, strip, plates, hot band, and slabs.

In 1810, Quakers Isaac Pennock and Jesse Kersey established the Brandywine Iron Works and Nail Factory on the site of what is now Coatesville, Pa. "By 1817 Pennock had purchased Kersey's interest in this facility and leased it to his son-in-law, Dr. Charles Lloyd Lukens [husband of Rebecca Webb Pennock]. The following year this mill became the first in the United States to manufacture boiler plate--high-quality iron essential to the making of steam boilers. It soon established a fruitful and enduring association with the shipbuilding industry, providing plates for the first iron-hulled vessel built in America, an early river steamboat." (Lukens)

"After [Charles] Lukens died in 1825 his widow, Rebecca, took over the business while rearing her young children... She not only saved the mill from the threat of bankruptcy, but also made it the nation's chief manufacturer of boiler plate. Boiler plate from the mill was conveyed as far as England, where it was used to build some of the first railway locomotives. Later two sons-in-law of Rebecca Lukens, Abram Gibbons, Jr., and Dr. Charles Huston, became active in the firm, which became Gibbons & Huston in 1849. A new, steam-powered mill was built in 1870 and another mill added in 1890 that was believed to have been the largest mill in the United States at the time. The company began turning out steel as opposed to iron products in 1881." (Lukens)

"Gibbons & Huston was renamed Charles Huston & Sons in 1881 and Lukens Iron & Steel in 1890, when it converted from a family partnership to a corporation. After Huston died in 1897, one son, Abram Francis Huston, succeeded him as president, while the other, Charles Lukens Huston, became works manager. During this period the firm became one of the largest producers of open-hearth steel and steel plates in the eastern United States." (Lukens)

"Over the years Lukens contributed iron and steel plates and products to the military, engineering and skyscraper industries. In 1942, the United States Navy presented its Navy "E" award to Lukens in appreciation for the steel used in production of war materials. The nation also bears the mark of Lukens steel, from the steam locomotives of the past to the St. Louis Gateway Arch to the Walt Whitman Bridge of the present. In 1968, 152 steel "tree" beams, or arched support columns, produced by Lukens were used in the construction of the World Trade Center because of their immense weight-bearing capacity. [In] 1985, Fortune recognized Lukens Steel Company as one of the 500 largest industrial corporations." (McCullough)

In 1998, Lukens was purchased by Bethlehem Steel. The Coatesville mill operations are now owned by ArcelorMittal Steel. As of 2014, the mill is the oldest continuously operating steel mill in the country.


Quoted text from: McCullough, Britain. "A Pennsylvania Giant: Lukens Steel." Pennsylvania Center for the Book; Penn State University Libraries. Accessed October 11, 2013.

Quoted text from: "Lukens Inc." Gale Directory of Company Histories Accessed October 11, 2013.

This collection consists of various materials that document the Lukens Steel Company from the mid 19th century to the late 20th century. The materials fall into seven categories: I. Administrative and employee records; II. Research and Development records; III. Financial records; IV. Executive records; V. Lukens Store records VI. Special formats; and VII. Publications.

The grouping, Administrative and Employee records, includes a nearly complete run of annual reports. There are also: Sales Department records; new product meeting minutes; correspondence; files relating to Charles L. Huston, Sr.; files relating to employees, such as benefit and compensation papers, personnel notices, and files of specific employees; stockholders information; insurance papers; various reports; legal documents relating to subsidiaries and mergers; purchase orders; files relating to specific projects, such as Coatesville Hospital; legal files; shipping and tonnages; A & SP releases; Lukens Athletic League papers; ephemera; printed and published materials, including pamphlets, brochures, manuals, directories, and reference books; framed oversize documents; and awards and certificates.

The second grouping, Research and Development records, consists of: Steel Research Division files, organized by employee, including reports and "clad" materials; and Technical Services Department correspondence and files that include technical articles (reprints). Publications by Lukens Company employees are featured.

The third grouping, Financial records, is made up of various materials such as: payroll records; cash books; debts; invoices; controller's organization annual reports; customer sales by bank; bank information; sales and budget forecasts; accounting logs; voucher records, and stock ledgers.

Executive records make up the fourth grouping, and include board materials from Lukens as well as board materials from subsidiary and related companies, especially Bethlehem Steel (which purchased Lukens in 1998). The records date from the 1970s to 2000, and include: meeting minutes and secretary's office notes from board meetings; files relating to the Finance Committee, Executive Development and Compensation Committee, Committee on the Board, and Audit Committee; and Board Books with materials relating to the incorporation and dissolution of subsidiaries including Washington Steel Corp., Services and Materials Companies, GCP International, Inc., Steward Inc., Stewart Holding Co., and Lukens International.

As the headquarters of Lukens Steel, Coatesville (Pa.) was a company town with Lukens providing many services and amenities for its employees. The fifth grouping, Lukens Store records, includes documentation of the company-operated store. The materials consist of mostly financial with a small amount of administrative records, such as: cash receipts, payroll deductions, employee information, daily balance forms, invoices, checks, tax information, banking information, board minutes, shareholders lists, and correspondence. Most materials date from 1980 to 1993, although some items predate those years, including papers from the 1920s.

The sixth grouping, Special formats, consists of photographs as well as various audiovisual materials and computer storage units, many of which were created and used by the Advertising and Sales Department. The photographs come in various formats, including oversize framed photographs, film negatives, and slides and slide carousels, circa 1920-2000 (bulk 1960-1995). They depict Lukens factories, buildings/properties, employees and corporate officers/management, products, lab work, factory work, and processes. There are some indices for the slide and negative collections. The series also includes promotional 16mm films, circa 1940s; audiocassette tapes; DVDs; VHS tapes; and floppy disks.

The final grouping, Lukens publications, includes various types of company publications, such as annual reports and catalogs, newsletters, pamphlets and brochures, advertisements, manuals, and directories.

Note that the bulk of Lukens Steel's historic records are held at Hagley Museum and Library in Delaware.

Although most of the records in this collection were created by the company, a fair amount of materials were donated by former employees at various times.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum directly for more information.

National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Faith Charlton through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

Personnel files may be restricted to researchers. Contact National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest