Rebecca Lukens

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Rebecca Lukens
Born January 6, 1794
Died December 10, 1854
Known for Owner and manager, Lukens Steel Company
Spouse(s) Dr. Charles Lukens

Rebecca Lukens (1794–1854) born Rebecca Webb Pennock was an American businesswoman. She was the owner and manager of the iron and steel mill which became the Lukens Steel Company of Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Fortune Magazine called her "America's first female CEO of an industrial company" and its board of editors named her to the National Business Hall of Fame in 1994.[1]


Rebecca was the daughter of Quaker Isaac Pennock who founded the Federal Slitting Mill near Coatesville about 1793. She grew up in the business often accompanying her father in the mill. She went to boarding school in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, where among other subjects, she studied chemistry. The slitting mill processed iron from other mills into barrel hoops and nails. It was called "Federal" in honor of the new constitution. By 1824, when Isaac died, the mill was known as the Brandywine Iron Works and Nail Factory, after Brandywine Creek which provided the water power for the mill.[1]

Brandywine Mansion in 2010

She married Dr. Charles Lukens in 1813. He soon entered the iron business, and together the Lukens leased the mill from her father. Starting in 1816 they lived in "Brandywine Mansion," which is now located within the Lukens Historic District. Charles experimented with new products, such as rolled steel plate, in the early 1820s. The steel plate was used to construct the first metal hulled steamboat in America, the Codorus, and was later used as boilerplate in steam engines and locomotives. Charles died in 1825, leaving Rebecca in charge of a company near bankruptcy.[2] An inheritance dispute and the Panic of 1837 further complicated matters.


She ran the company until 1847, making it into the country's premier manufacturer of boilerplate. During her retirement she wrote an autobiography for her grandchildren.[3] In 1848, she built Terracina as a wedding present for her daughter Isabella upon her marriage to Dr. Charles Huston.[4]

On January 6, 1994, the 200th anniversary of Lukens' birth, the Pennsylvania Legislature and City of Coatesville declared her "America’s first woman industrialist."[5] The company remained independent until 1997, being ranked number 395 on the FORTUNE 500 industrial list in 1993. As of 1994 the mill was considered the oldest continuously operating steel mill in the U.S.[1] The mill is operating today under ArcelorMittal.

She is buried in Ercildoun, south of Coatesville, in the Fallowfield Orthodox Friends Burying Ground.[6] The Liberty Ship, the SS Rebecca Lukens, which was built in 1944, was named in her honor.


In March 2015, a cache of at least ten letters were found in the walls of Brandywine Mansion.[7] The letters are awaiting study and after review will be displayed in Coatesville, PA.

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Nulty, Peter; Patty de Llosa (April 4, 1994). "The National Business Hall of Fame". Fortune. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ Gustaitis, Joseph (August 19, 1995). "Woman of Iron". American History. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  3. ^ From the autobiography of Rebecca Webb Pennock Lukens, Grey Stone Society, accessed January 28, 2011.
  4. ^ "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System.  Note: This includes Maureen L. Carlson (n.d.). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Terracina" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  5. ^ McCullough, Britain (Fall 2010). "A Pennsylvania Giant: Lukens Steel". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ From Rambles: Seven scenic driving tours in and around Chester County by Stewart Huston, accessed January 28, 2011.
  7. ^

External links[edit]