The Lukens National Historic District
A new rolling mill was constructed in 1870 powered by a steam boiler to drive the larger rolls, which were 25" in diameter and 84" in length. The old mill was then converted to Pudding Mill to prepare stick for the new mill.
In 1890, the firm added another mill, this one with three rolls 34" in diameter and 120" in length between mill stands. The 3-high configuration permitted the passing of material in both directions through the mill. This is believed to have been the largest mill in the United States at that time. Driven by a large Corliss steam engine, the mill was equipped with cooling tables, hydraulic lifting equipment, and transfer apparatus to move the plates easily to shearing areas. When operated as a finishing mill, it facilitated the rolling of steel, which Lukens had begun to roll about 1881, and which was rapidly supplanting iron for the most industrial purposes.
A technological development that was to become a company speciality was the manufacture of heads, or bowllike shapes, by hot spinning. As a leading supplier of boiler plate, Lukens saw new market potential in being able to supply the builders of steam boilers, tanks, and pressure vessels with formed heads for end closures as well. Prior to the invention of spinning machines, heads were formed by hammering, or "bumping" hot plates with heavy mauls, done either over a stationary form, or using a forming pit dug into the ground. It was a long and laborious prices, often requiring several reheatings of the plate to complete the job. During a visit to St. Louis in 1883, Dr. Huston and his son saw an early spinning machine in operation and were sufficiently impressed to order one for Lukens. The company's first spinning machine was put into operation in 1885. The first machine was belt driven and could produce heads up to 7' outside diameter and up to 1" thick.