The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Rebecca Leads the Way
During and after the launch of the Codorus, Rebecca Lukens cared for herself, her family, and her business. Fortunately, Dr. Lukens had family and friends who remained loyal to his widow. Charles’ brother, Solomon Lukens, assumed the day-to-day supervision of mill operations, assisted in the management of the business, and remained as mill manager for many years. After delivering her sixth child, Rebecca took on the commercial side of the business — buying materials, making contracts and negotiating sales.

Drawing support from the old Pennsylvania families, Quaker congregation, and Brandywine and Philadelphia communities, Rebecca kept her family and business intact. While struggling to keep her creditors at bay, she reassured customers that orders would be filled as promised. The workmen were loyal and she had friends. An especially true friend was Charles Brooke, ironmaster of Hibernia, located on the Brandywine River, north of Coatesville. He supplied bar iron on generous credit, loaned money when needed, and was an able witness in various legal actions Rebecca faced.

In addition to the challenges of supplies, markets, and credit, there were those provided by nature. Sudden thaws and heavy rains flooded the valley and destroyed parts of the water-powered mill. In times of drought, the mill would not operate. Rebecca faced those challenges, overcame them, and nurtured the Brandywine Iron Works into a successful business and herself into a respected ironmaster.

Intelligent and practical, Rebecca Lukens proved to be a shrewd business manager and a sharp judge of character. She developed, among other talents, the knowledge about when to extend credit and when it was best to hold her plates in the warehouse. She also had a strong ability to determine prices for her products — high enough to make a profit, yet not so high as to go above the market. Rebecca weathered financial panics, the vagaries of sales agents, and a protracted local lawsuit over water rights.

The building of the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, in the 1830s, brought new market opportunities for Rebecca’s mill. It passed directly through the valley, linking Coatesville with Philadelphia, and eventually Pittsburgh. The railroad allowed Brandywine Iron Works' product to reach markets located throughout the United States. In time, Rebecca paid off her debts, settled the estate claims, and completely rebuilt her mill.