Changes at Bethlehem Steel

    Immediately after taking over the leadership of Bethlehem Steel, Schwab aimed the company towards expansion.  Realizing the precariousness of relying exclusively on government contracts, he built new plants geared towards commercial products.  To facilitate this expansion, Bethlehem Steel purchased over 250 acres of land, stretching from the South Bethlehem site to Freemansburg in the Saucon Valley. (169)(23)  The company had previously bought its furnace coke from the Lehigh Coke Company; however, Schwab had learned from Carnegie the importance of owning all stages of supply and production.  He contracted a coke company to work in South Bethlehem from Bethlehem Steel-owned coal mines.  Schwab even went as far as to buy the plantís gas by-products, which supplied most of the Steelís heat and power.  By 1910, Bethlehemís profits grew significantly from the rising sales and increased efficiency that Schwab brought.  (184) 
South Bethlehem plant ca. 1916


    One of the most notable of the new commercial products was the Grey Structural beam.  In the early 1900ís, Henry Grey invented a design for making a single piece of large beam used in creating Machine shop around 1900buildings.  This "H" beam was an enormous improvement over the old "I" beams which had to be riveted together out of a number of different pieces; yet few steel manufacturers were interested in trying this new product. (44)  Schwab embraced Greyís new design, and built a new structural mill, along with a rail mill, at Saucon.  For many decades the structural mill would be one of Bethlehemís great successes.  Edmund Martin even goes so far as to say:  "It is no exaggeration to say that the New York skyline is a monument to these mills."  (9) 

    One more significant change affected both the steel industry and the nation during the reign of Schwab.  In 1914, World War I broke out in Europe.  While it eventually removed some young men from the work force, the war more importantly meant increased demand for steel.  Bethlehem Steel was Americaís first company to get a "war order", thanks to Schwabís trip to Europe in 1914.  He brought back with him nearly $50,000,000 in contracts for guns, which were soon followed by more and larger orders placed with the company.  (34)  The war had the phenomenal effect of tripling Bethlehemís capacity from 1 million tons of steel per year in 1914 to 3 million tons in 1918.  (12)  Along with the growth in capacity, the work force also expanded from 9,712 in January 1915 to 21,705 in January 1918.  (54)
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