Today's #WorkerWednesday photo dates to around 1890 and shows the trimming group of the Lukens Steel Company. As employees of the trimming group, the workers shown here would have been responsible for cutting or otherwise removing excess material from around the edges of shaped steel products.
Few of the men in this photograph are identified, but text from the reverse of the image does identify one of the men as head trimmer Vince Riley; census records suggest that this is the same Vincent Riley born in Maryland in 1854 and working as a steel worker in Coatesville in 1910. If this is the case, he would be one of the Black workers sitting to the right. One of the men next to Riley is also identified, though with less certainty. Text naming him may read 'Homer Neadman', though this name does not appear in local records.
Lukens Steel is located in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. First established in 1793 by Isaac Pennock (1767-1824) as The Federal Slitting Mill, it is the oldest steel mill still in commission in the United States. In 1810, Pennock went into a partnership with Jesse Kersey to form Brandywine Iron Works and Nail Factory.
After seven years as partners, Pennock bought Kersey's share of the business and then leased it to his son-in-law, Dr. Charles Lloyd Lukens (1786-1825). The firm was incorporated as the Lukens Iron and Steel Company on February 5, 1890.
Over time, it grew to become a medium-sized producer of specialty steel products and one of the top three producers of steel plate in the country. It is also notable for being the first industrial company in the United States led by a woman.
Rebecca Lukens (1794-1854), the daughter of Isaac Pennock and the wife of Charles Lloyd Lukens, first operated the mill alongside her family members from a young age. After Charles died in 1825, Rebecca became the mill's sole operator until 1847, when she retired and became a silent partner to the mill's new operators, her sons-in-law Abraham Gibbons and Dr. Charles Huston.
This photograph is from Hagley Library’s collection of Lukens Steel Company photographs (Accession 1972.360). The collection has not been digitized in its entirety, but a selection of materials in our Digital Archive offers views of woodcuts showing the early history of the mill, interior and exterior views of factory buildings, various depictions of machinery, employees both at work and leisure, floods in 1955 and 1973, and twentieth-century aerial views of the Coatesville plant.
Other items depict the owning families, company anniversary celebrations, and philanthropic activities supported by Charles Lukens Huston, the son of Dr. Charles Huston and Rebecca Lukens' grandchild. To view the collection online now, click here.