Steel and the Population

    Throughout the era of Grace’s leadership, the town of Bethlehem grew ever more closely linked to the expanding steel company.  The managers who lived in the northern and western parts of the city were economically powerful, even though small in number.  During an early labor strike they were able to convince local merchants to withdraw lines of credit to the striking workers until they returned to the South Bethlehem neighborhoodcompany.  However, the workers as a group formed a formidable political power, especially on the south side of town.  (315)  Around 1920, over 70% of Slovak males in Bethlehem had worked for the steel at least once in their life, and more than 40% would remain with the company throughout their careers.  (116)  Even with a diverse and dominant ethnic population, Bethlehem remained "lily white in attitude"  up through the passing of the Civil Rights Act.  Only about a thousand blacks lived in the now bustling city of 70,000.  Many were hired as housekeepers or gardeners on Bonus Hill, or were hired by the Steel for only the dirtiest and most strenuous jobs.  Strohmeyer notes that Bethlehem at that time was  "a tight community of no ghettos but unscalable walls."  (88-9)  The steel company did bring many other positive changes to Bethlehem, besides a larger population.  The city benefited from firms hired by the Steel to do expensive engineering, traffic, and urban renewal studies.  The New York firm of Clarke and Rapuano did studies in Bethlehem that led to center city planning, redevelopment, and an expressway link to the interstate highway, all with the bill paid by the Steel.  (34)