Iron and Industrialization

 Bethlehem Iron Co. Ad from 1890
     Soon to be Bethlehemís dominant industry, iron working had an earlier history in the area.  Since colonial times local iron deposits had been worked.  Bethlehemís first anthracite-fired blast furnace started in 1838.  (8-9)  Since large volumes of water were needed to cool critical parts of the furnace, it needed to be built along a river or lake, specifically the Lehigh River.  (41)  In 1857, Augustus Wolle established the Saucona Iron Company with plans to build a blast furnace and produce pig iron, drawing upon ore from Saucon Creek.  Charles Brodhead, a Bethlehem attorney, persuaded him that that company would be more profitable near the Lehigh River and producing rails for the Lehigh Valley Railroad.  (164)  In 1861 the name changed to the Bethlehem Iron Company, even though the opening of its first blast furnace was delayed until 1863 by the Civil War.  (3)  The company prospered since it was at the junction of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Reading Railroad, which together served Philadelphia, New York, and eastern Pennsylvania.  (9)  In fact, railroad rails remained their exclusive product until 1882.
Bessemer Steel Process     By 1873, chief engineer John Fritz convinced the company to adopt the new Bessemer Steel process and join the Bessemer Rail Association.  Within the next decade, railroad expansion slowed and Bethlehem Steel needed to diversify.  In 1885 they began to make heavy forgings (i.e.- guns and engine shafts), which was rewarded by the 1887 Navy contract for $4 million of armor plate and gun forgings, and the 1891 Army contract for $4 million of large caliber guns.  By 1896, the rail manufacturing plant was obsolete, and soon dismantled. (164-165)

     Also around this time, Lehigh University was formed as businessmen realized the need for trained scientists and engineers in the growth following the Civil War.  The University was founded in 1865 by Asa Packer, who had built the Lehigh Valley Railroad and controlled many eastern Pennsylvania coal mines.  With Packerís endowment, tuition was free for the first 20 years.  Its campus is located on the northern slope of South Mountain.  (www)