Social Growth and Change in Bethlehem
So how was the town of Bethlehem
effected by the growth of "the Steel"? One very concrete indicator
was the Bethlehem population:
In the South Bethlehem area alone, population increased
from 947 in 1861 to 20,000 in 1910! Of these 20,000, 14,000 were
foreigners from southern and eastern Europe. In fact, 8 out of 10
Slovak males worked for "the Steel". (92) Along with a population
surge, Bethlehem was helped by increased profits from the steel industry,
which were $10,000,000 in 1904 and $230,000,000 in 1916. (226)
Much of this money was reinvested in the company, paid out to workers and
stockholders, or given to local causes. Wages were also increased
from $2-$3/day in 1910 to $5-$7/day in 1918. (196)(98)
This money was then reinvested in the growing community.
1860 - 2,866
1890 - 17,094
1920 - 50,358 (11)
By the early 1900ís, the demographics
of Bethlehem had changed from those of the early Moravian Community.
While Moravians still inhabited Bethlehem proper, South Bethlehem was a
mixture of industries and south-central European ethnic communities, especially
on 3rd St. and the southeastern hillsides. On the western hillsides
was Lehigh Universityís campus and its facultyís houses. Even further west
was Fountain Hill, where the lavish homes of "nouveau riche entrepreneurs"
were found. (55) For many of the first generation
immigrants who lived in South Bethlehem, their dream was to save a "fortune"
of a thousand dollars so that they could escape the drudgery of work at
the steel mill and return home to Slovakia. (93) However,
for the second generation who knew of no other way of life, work at "the
Steel" was all their future held. Mark Stolarik describes it as follows:
"As the boys reached their mid-teens, they graduated
into "The Steel". Legally they could not be employed there until
age 18. But a cigar in the foremanís mouth, a five-dollar bill in
his pocket or a trip to the saloon at the fatherís expense, did the trick." (95)
Thus entered the next stream of workers who would
carry the company through a depression, through a world war, and into the
next half of the century.