|Born||January 6, 1794|
|Died||December 10, 1854(aged 60)|
|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.
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.
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. 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. In 1848, she built Terracina as a wedding present for her daughter Isabella upon her marriage to Dr. Charles Huston.
Legacy and honors
On January 6, 1994, the 200th anniversary of Lukens' birth, the Pennsylvania Legislature and City of Coatesville declared her "America’s first woman industrialist." 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. The mill is operating today under ArcelorMittal. In 2020, Lukens was one of eight women featured in "The Only One in the Room" display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
In March 2015, a cache of at least ten letters were found in the walls of Brandywine Mansion. The letters are awaiting study and after review will be displayed in Coatesville. They contain business correspondence from as far away as Albany, New York.
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- Jepson, Jill (2009). Women's concerns: twelve women entrepreneurs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-4331-0423-7.
- Smith, Richard P. (2010) Two hundred years of Rolling on the Brandywine, ArcelorMittal, Coatesville
- History of American Women, Rebecca Lukens
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- From the autobiography of Rebecca Webb Pennock Lukens, Grey Stone Society, accessed January 28, 2011.
- "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.
- From Rambles: Seven scenic driving tours in and around Chester County by Stewart Huston, accessed January 28, 2011.
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- "Rebecca Lukens". National Museum of American History. 2020-05-11. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
- Bond, Michaelle. "200-year-old letters of steel industrialist found in mansion walls". mcall.com. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
- Crimmins, Peter. "Lost letters shed light on Lukens steel from Coatesville, Pa". WHYY-FM. Newsworks. Retrieved June 9, 2017.