Summary Information
Title: Videotapes from the Rockwell Documentary Project,
Collection Number: MSMI#509
Creator: Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania
Collection Dates: 1992-1993
Extent: .75 linear feet (1 box)
The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, in 1992, coordinated the production of a documentary film on the lives and business activities of Colonel Willard F. Rockwell (1888-1978) and his son Willard F. Rockwell, Jr. (1914-1992). The tapes in this collection contain interviews with Willard Rockwell and Steven Kent Rockwell, as well as Rockwell family home movies.


The material in this collection is in English.


Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania
Senator John Heinz History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Date Published:

August 2009

The guide to this collection was written by William A. Freil.

Encoded by Matt Strauss on August 24, 2009, from an existing finding aid.


The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, in 1992, coordinated the production of a documentary film on the lives and business activities of Colonel Willard F. Rockwell (1888-1978) and his son Willard F. Rockwell, Jr. (1914-1992). The production was underwritten by the Rockwell Foundation. A steering committee from the Historical Society managed the project and included Tom Carroll (Deputy Director of Museum Programs), Bart Roselli (Museum Programs), Marilyn Zoidus (Museum Programs), Betty Arenth (Director of Development), and Carolyn Schumacker (Director of Library and Archives). The Historical Society contracted with Brian Haughlin of Miracle Films to conduct interviews and produce the documentary. Haughlin had previously worked with the staff of the Historical Society on video projects for Schenley Park and Homestead exhibits. The final product was a 30-minute video documentary entitled “Twin Empires.” WQED’s Pittsburgh History Series, KDKA/TV and PBS’s American Experience, were discussed as possible broadcast venues for this documentary.

At the same time that this project was underway the Historical Society was planning its expansion and move into the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. There is evidence that the Rockwell documentary or portions of it were considered for exhibition at the center. However, it is clear that neither the public broadcast nor the exhibition of the documentary ever materialized.

The records in this collection were collected during the planning and production of the documentary.

Willard F. Rockwell (1888-1978)

Colonel Willard F. Rockwell was born on March 31, 1888, to Frederick and Katherine (Herr) Rockwell in Boston, Massachusetts. Rockwell was educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Class of 1908) in the Mechanic Arts School. Following his graduation from MIT, Rockwell was employed by Torbenson Axle Company in Cleveland and became factory manager and later vice president. In 1919, he reorganized a bankrupt axle company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and renamed it the Wisconsin Parts Company. While still serving as the executive of the axle company, he was recruited, in 1925, by the Mellons of Pittsburgh to direct their Pittsburgh Equitable Meter and Manufacturing Company, which led to his relocation to Western Pennsylvania.

Eventually, the Pittsburgh Equitable Meter and Manufacturing Company became Rockwell Manufacturing Company. Later in his career, he merged several of the companies he controlled, known for specialty manufacturing and aeronautics, into Rockwell International. During his long life, Rockwell served on the board of directors of many corporations and banks. He also held membership in a number of professional societies and social clubs in Boston, Detroit, and Pittsburgh.

Col. Rockwell was known for his outspoken views on business and politics and was the author of at least two books: The rebellious colonel speaks; selected papers of Willard F. Rockwell (1964) , and Historical record of the Rockwell polar flight, November 14 to17, 1965; first around-the-world flight over the North and South Poles (1966) .

Col. Rockwell served as a lieutenant colonel in Army Quartermaster Corps in 1930 and also served as director of the production divisions of the U.S. Maritime Division during the Second World War.

Col. Rockwell married Clara Whitcomb Thayer (1889-1965) on June 4, 1908. They were the parents of five children: Katherine Thayer Rockwell, who married William S. Potter; Janet Ella Rockwell, who married Charles S. Bygate; Willard F. Rockwell, Jr.; Margaret Eleanor Rockwell, who married H. Campbell Stuckeman; and Elizabeth Thayer Rockwell, who married Orin M. Rapheal. Following the death of Clara Rockwell, Col. Rockwell married Dorothy Morgan (?-1974). The family made their home at a five-acre estate at 140 West Hutchison Avenue in Edgewood, Pennsylvania.

Colonel Willard F. Rockwell died on October 17, 1978, and is buried in Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh. For a more complete biographical sketch of Rockwell, researchers may wish to consult his obituary by Alvin Rosensweet that appeared in the Tuesday, October 17, 1978, issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the 1955 biographical sketch that appears in F. Clever Bald’s Michigan Through the Centuries (Volume III, pages 24-25).

Willard F. Rockwell, Jr. (1914-1992)

Willard Rockwell Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps and had a distinguished business career. Born on March 3, 1914, in Boston, Massachusetts, he graduated in 1935 from Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering After being employed by Pittsburgh Equitable Meter Company and Timken-Detroit, he became vice president and controller of Pittsburgh Equitable Meter Company and was later named director in 1940. Rockwell was commonly referred to as “Al Rockwell.”

Rockwell served as a captain in the U.S. Army during the Second World War. Upon returning after the war, he served as vice president and general manager of the company, the name of which was changed to Rockwell Manufacturing in 1945. He was president of Rockwell Standard until 1964 when he became its chairman. He was chairman during its merger with North American in 1967 as well as during its merger with Rockwell Manufacturing in 1973. A major accomplishment for Rockwell was merging together the various family-owned companies into Rockwell International. Under his leadership, the companies manufactured spacecrafts, rocket propulsion systems, industrial automation products and automotive components. Willard Rockwell Jr. retired in 1979. In 1981, Rockwell formed Astrotech International Corporation with the mission to promote the commercial use of space exploration.

In 1942, Rockwell married Constance Templeton (1915-2005), who was born in Manila, Philippines. They were the parents of five children: George Peter Rockwell, Russell Alden Rockwell, Patricia Lynne Rockwell Boorn, Willard “Terry” Frederick Rockwell III, and Steven Kent Rockwell. Al and Constance Rockwell made their residence next to his parent’s home in Edgewood, Pennsylvania. Al Rockwell died Thursday, September 24, 1992, at his home. Mrs. Constance Rockwell died November 30, 2005, in Pittsburgh.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The videotapes of the Rockwell Documentary Project are housed in three archival boxes and are arranged in numerical order by the tape number assigned by the production company. Tapes 1-23 are all recorded on Sony Betacam SP cassettes. Tape 24 is a Konica video cassette Super SR VHS copy of the final documentary and Tape 25 is a 3M Betacam SP Master Broadcast Videocassette of the final documentary.

Tapes 1-6 include interviews given by Willard Rockwell, Jr. in 1992. Tapes 7-8 include recordings of hundreds of photographs and home movies that belong to the Rockwell family. Tapes 9-12 include interviews with Steven Kent Rockwell, who followed in his father’s footsteps as an executive in the family business ventures. Tapes 15, 22, & 23 are simply labeled “Rockwell” with no further indication of the content of the tape. Tape 21 is labeled “Father Mac Interview,” with no further indication of identity or content. Tapes 14 and 16-20 have little or no container information provided on the exterior labels and, therefore, the content is unknown. Most of the materials do not have dates indicated on the containers, with the exception of the interview tapes of S. Kent Rockwell. However, the project was completed over a short period of time in 1992 and 1993, so it can be assumed that all of this material dates from those years.

Controlled Access Terms
Personal Names
  • Rockwell, Willard F., Jr. (1914-1992)
  • Rockwell, Willard F. (1888-1978)
  • Rockwell, Steven Kent
Corporate Names
  • Rockwell International.
  • Rockwell Corporation.
  • Rockwell Art Museum.
  • Aerospace industries--United States.
  • Documentary films
Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No Restrictions.

Aquisition Information:

The records were not included in the formal acquisition process of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania/Heinz History Center because they were viewed as part of the institutions internal records. All work performed by the Miracle Films was deemed to be work products rather than a collection. However, the materials have been evaluated to have high research value and have been processed for public access. Therefore, no accession numbers were assigned to this material.

Preferred Citation:

Records of the Rockwell Documentary Project, 1985-1993, MSMI#509, Library and Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by William A. Freil, intern from Duquesne University’s Archives, Museum and Editing Program, on January 7, 2009.


Property rights reside with the Senator John Heinz History Center. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Library and Archives of the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Separated Material:
The Records of the Rockwell Documentary also include a small collection of papers arranged as MSS #509. They are arranged in seven folders and include correspondences related to the Rockwell Documentary, biographical information on the Rockwell family, corporate information on Rockwell International, the 1991 annual report of the Rockwell Art Museum and numerous periodicals on Rockwell International and the Rockwell family.

Contents List
Series I Working Video Footage

Box 1
Tape 01-06 Willard Rockwell (interview)
Tape 07 Rockwell Family (recordings of 8 mm film & photos)
Tape 08 Rockwell Family (recordings of photos)
Tape 09 Kent Rockwell Interview, December 17, 1992

Box 2
Tape 10-12 Kent Rockwell Interview, December 17, 1992
Tape 15 Rockwell

Box 3
Tape 21 Father Mac Interview
Tape 22-23 Rockwell
Series II Final Documentary Products
Tape 24 VHS copy of “Twin Empires” documentary
Tape 25 Beta copy of “Twin Empires” documentary