Allsteel was founded and operated in Aurora from 1912 until the 1990's. Charles Lembcke, George Hurteau and Axel Nelson each pooled $1,000 to start the company. As the summary from indicates below, it was the vision and partnership of Lembcke that provided the leadership which facilitated Allsteel success until Lembcke's death in 1933. Knell who was an Aurora native continued to provide leadership to Allsteel until his death in 1962. Karl Grube joined Allsteel in 1948 and assumed the Presidency in 1955 when Knell advanced to Board Chairman. Grube continued as head of Allsteel until his 1973 retirement. We are including the background below until an AllSteel profile is developed. The Evolution section includes information on the ownership changes from the when Allsteel was acquired by CIT Financial in 1966.

Allsteel Company

Allsteel is located in Muscatine, Iowa, and brings a friendly, Midwestern work ethic to everything it does. Headquartered in an award-winning building not far from the Mississippi river, the corporate headquarters facility reflects Allsteel's most important values: honesty, openness, and commitment to customers. Allsteel is part of the HNI Corporation, the second largest office furniture manufacturer in North America, and named annually as one of the best-managed companies in the world.

A legacy of leadership
From its establishment in 1912 as the All-Steel-Equip Co., the Allsteel name has been associated with leadership. That leadership had its roots in the unique working relationship shared by Charles H. Lembke and John Knell, the entrepreneurs who guided the company through its early years. These two individuals, one a self-driven visionary and the other a gregarious "people person," understood each other’s distinct abilities. Together they forged a model of teamwork that was quite uncharacteristic for independent-minded business people.

A solid reputation
Quick to put cash into their operation, rather than take it out, Lembke and Knell strove to build the fledgling metal shop into a top-quality enterprise. Their integrity and cooperative spirit attracted individuals of similar caliber, and the All-Steel-Equip Co. built on its solid reputation. An early entrant in the fledgling power industry, All-Steel-Equip produced metal enclosures used by electrical contractors.

The best in its class
The Allsteel legacy of leadership demonstrated itself repeatedly over the decades that followed. The growing management team often capitalized on new opportunities through acquisitions. More than once, management’s first act would be to shut down the newly acquired company for several weeks while the engineering staff completely redesigned its products and manufacturing processes. Thus, even in its early days, the Allsteel brand became associated with its founders’ passion to produce nothing that wasn’t the best in its class.

Leadership in office furniture
Their early lockers and steel cabinets were popular accessories in office environments and, near the end of the Great Depression, the product line expanded to include vertical files. When steel became readily available after World War II, Allsteel introduced a line of steel desks. Described as "knock down" in design, these modular units could be custom-configured at the dealership to meet a myriad of individual requirements.

The company grew in two directions: electrical components and office furniture. Eventually the electrical division would be spun off into a separate enterprise within CIT, Allsteel’s new parent company. This allowed the Allsteel management team to focus on office furniture, just as the white-collar workforce became the new driver in economic growth.

Birthplace of the lateral file
Perhaps no single event cemented the Allsteel reputation for leadership like the development and popularization of the lateral file. First created in 1967 by B.K. Johl (later to be known as Allsteel of Canada), the lateral file revolutionized records management.

The lateral file offered many advantages over the traditional file. Its wide drawers held records in side-to-side, or lateral, format. Files displayed in this manner were easier to identify, remove, and replace. The shallow front-to-back dimensions and short distance of drawer travel made the lateral file a more space-efficient storage solution. Moreover, the clean, uncluttered appearance was far more appealing than a conventional vertical file.

Driven by functional design
At Allsteel, great design transcends any particular type of style. We make decisions carefully focusing on innovative, easy-to-use functionality. We continually test materials to ensure durability and their ability to look great through a whole life cycle of use. Our products cover a range of styles, but offer a classic look that lasts through many years of fads and trends. Being true to our heritage, we continually seek to create products that are the best in their class.