The history of the American iron and steel industry was shaped by the personalities involved in the founding of the industry. Isaac Pennock founded the Brandywine Iron Works and Nail Factory in the early 19th century, reasoning that the area, located along the Brandywine, had the right run and depth to power a mill. The company would eventually expand to become Lukens Inc. Pennock's son-in-law, Dr. Charles Lukens, a physician by training, gave up his medical practice to partner with his father-in-law in the iron business.
Dr. Lukens' successful foray into iron plate production passed to his wife after his untimely death at the age of 39. Rebecca Lukens, a young mother, demonstrated the foresight to eventually modernize the mill and make it capable of responding to the demands of the industrial revolution. She rebuilt and expanded the mill through the 1820s and 30s and became the nation's first female industrialist.