The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
The Launch of the Codorus
Five months after Charles Lukens’ death, the Codorus launched on the Susquehanna River to fanfare and front page news. Its success cemented the Brandywine Iron Works' reputation for producing quality, specialty plate.

In association with the firm of Davis, Gartner and Webb, proprietors of a machine shop and foundry in York, John Elgar completed and launched his vessel in November 1825. Named Codorus for a York County tributary of the Susquehanna, Elgar’s creation was the first steamer to operate on that river. More importantly, the Codorus was the first iron-hulled vessel built in America — a significant event in marine engineering and construction, and the Brandywine Iron Works played a significant role. The graceful 60-foot steamer caused great excitement in Harrisburg and other river towns as she progressed from York Haven to Binghamton, New York, during a historic trip in 1826.

Although the inherent problems of navigating the Susquehanna River on any regular basis prevented the Codorus from having commercial success, the vessel was an engineering landmark. It established the relationship of iron (and later steel) hulls with steam engines and mechanical propulsion, a combination that made possible the development of modern navies and commercial fleets. Dr. Lukens’ work with the Codorus marked the beginning of the company’s enduring association with the American shipbuilding industry.