The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Plate for Steam
By the early 1800s, steam power had created a new market for iron, the new metal that was used to make boilers. Dr. Charles Lukens, looking for new plate applications, turned his focus to steam technology. He believed iron would be a stronger and less expensive alternative to the copper traditionally used to form boilers. Under Dr. Lukens' supervision, the Brandywine Iron Works became the first site in America to roll iron boiler plate. The order appeared in the account books on December 30, 1818.

At a time when most small iron works produced strips, kettles, and nails, the Brandywine Iron Works rolled boiler plate for the new steam engines. Dr. Lukens and his employees rolled iron plate that was wider and more uniform in strength — they bought good pig iron and good charcoal, employed skilled labor, and built a reputation for quality. The steam engine was widely used, which created a strong demand for reliable and inexpensive boiler plate. Dr. Lukens and the Brandywine Iron Works established a reputation as a quality boiler plate manufacturer.