HISTORY OVERVIEW

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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. Lembcke 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.


Early successes.

Quick to put cash into their operation, rather than take it out, Lembcke and Knell were committed to building 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 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.


Our foray into office furniture design.

The company's 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 or workplace requirements.

The company grew in two directions, manufacturing 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 design, just as the white-collar workforce became the new driver in economic growth.


The lateral file is born.

Perhaps no single event cemented the Allsteel reputation for leadership and progressive thinking 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.

Today, we’re continuing the rich Allsteel legacy with furniture design focused on innovative, easy-to-use functionality. We continually test materials to ensure durability, recyclability, 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 stands the test of time. And being true to our heritage, we continually seek to create products that are the best in their class.

We've worked collaboratively with some of America's leading designers, including Mitch Bakker, Bruce Fifield, Marcus Koepke, and BMW Group DesignworksUSA. Our product work often wins awards from the Industrial Designers Society of America, the International Interior Design Association, the American Institute of Architects, and Best of NeoCon, and is frequently recognized by design and architectural magazines.​​​