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Sampler: Bethlehem Steel Corporation


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Bethlehem Steel - 1912 (p.74) Bethlehem Steel - 1912 (p.75) Bethlehem Steel - 1912 (p.76) Bethlehem Steel - 1912 (p.77)
Bethlehem Steel Corporation

Mass production of iron and steel made possible the railroads, ships, bridges, and automobiles that constitute America's transportation system. Steel is also the backbone of most large buildings, whether in the form of rods that strengthen poured concrete or beams that support the walls and floors of skyscrapers. As with most major industries, the evolution of the iron and steel plants of America can be traced through fire insurance maps.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania developed early as a major center of steel production. In 1857, the Saucona Iron Company was established there. It changed its name to the Bethlehem Iron Company in 1867. The company prospered through the last half of the nineteenth century by producing iron rails, heavy forgings, and armor plate. In the early 1900s the company expanded by adding iron mines overseas and shipyards on both the East and West Coasts.

The Sanborn Map Company's fire insurance map of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for 1912 depicts the main facilities of Bethlehem Steel Corporation on three sheets. The massive capital investment required for such an industry is clearly evident in the size of the buildings in this facility. The combined blacksmith shop/open-hearth department/steel foundry is shown to be nearly 2,100 feet long and as much as 150 feet wide. Machine Shop Number 2 is nearly 1,500 feet long and the Armor Plate Department is 800 feet long and nearly 200 feet wide. Of particular interest is the detailed portrayal of the array of railroads on which raw materials were brought to the plant and finished steel and iron products shipped from it. The map also represents a wide variety of specialized buildings and activities, including a brass foundry, a drop forge, a structure described as a "shears", and a large field of traveling cranes. A bridge shop (Bethlehem Steel produced major structural elements for the Golden Gate Bridge, among others) and a tempering room for naval guns reflect some of the specialized functions of steel and iron mills.

With literally hundreds of furnaces of various types in use, Bethlehem Steel was deeply concerned about fire protection. An extensive note on the fire insurance map provides insights into the types of alarm systems and fire fighting equipment available. It is notable that the company had a private fire company consisting of 150 men. This note provides further insight into the industry with its statement that the Bethlehem Steel Corporation employed approximately 12,000 workers.

Detail of Bethlehem Steel Corporation Detail of Bethlehem Steel Corporation
Graphic details of Bethlehem Steel Corporation

Gary L. Fitzpatrick


Baltimore and Ohio Railroad| Bethlehem Steel| Chicago Union Stockyards| Cripple Creek| John Deere| Ebbets Field| Ford Motor Company| Ryman Auditorium | Tuskegee Institute| Waikiki


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  August 9, 2010
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