Bethlehem Steel

Bethlehem Steel Corporation was an American company that in the 20th century was one of the world’s largest steel production and shipbuilding companies. Its roots go back to an ironmaking company organized in 1857 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania , and later renamed the Bethlehem Iron Company. In 1899, the iron company’s owners established the Bethlehem Steels Company. Five years later, Bethlehem Steel Corporation was created as the corporate parent of the steelmaking company.

Bethlehem Steel existed through the decline of American steelmaking during the 1970s until its bankruptcy in 2001 and eventual dissolution in 2003, when its remaining assets were sold to the International Steel Group .

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s subsidiaries – Bethlehem Steel Company and Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation – were two of the most powerful symbols of American industrial construction leadership. His demise is often mentioned [ by whom? ] As one of the most prominent examples of the US economy’s shift away from industrial manufacturing, its failure to compete with global competition, and management ‘s propensity for short-term profits.


Roots: Bethlehem Iron Company


The Saucona Iron Company was founded by Augustus Wole. [1] The Panic of 1857 , a national financial crisis, prevented the creation of further organization and functions of the Company. Eventually, the organization was complete, the site moved elsewhere in the Borough of South Bethlehem , and the company was renamed the Bethlehem Rolling Mill and Iron Company . [1] On June 14, 1860, the new company’s board of directors elected Alfred Hunt as chairman. [1]

On May 1, 1861, the company’s title was changed again, this time to the Bethlehem Iron Company . [1] Construction of the first blast furnace began on 1 July 1861, and it went into operation on 4 January 1863. The first rolling mill was built between the spring of 1861 and the summer of 1863, with the first railroad railing rolled on 26 September. A machine shop, in 1865, and another blast furnace, in 1867, were completed. During its early years, the company produced rails for the rapidly expanding railroad and armor plating for the US Navy .


Although the company continued to prosper in the early 1880s, its share of the railroad market began to decline due to competition from growing Pittsburgh and Scranton -based firms such as the Carnegie Steel Company and Lackawanna Steel . The country’s decision to rebuild the United States Navy with steam-powered, steel-hulled warships reshaped the fortunes of the Bethlehem Iron Company.

After the American Civil War , the Navy quickly downsized after the end of hostilities, as national energy was settled west and the war-ravaged South was directed toward reconstruction. Almost no new armament was created, and new technology was neglected. By 1881, international events highlighted the poor condition of the American fleet and the need to rebuild it to protect American trade and reputation.

In 1883, Secretary of the Navy William E. Chandler and Secretary of the Army Robert Todd Lincoln appointed Lieutenant William Jacques to the Gun Foundry Board. Jacques was sent on several fact-finding tours of European ordnance manufacturers, and on one of these trips he formed a business relationship with the firm of Joseph Whitworth of Manchester, England . He returned to America as Whitworth’s agent and, in 1885, was granted an extended leave to pursue this personal interest.

Jacques knew that the US Navy would soon seek bids for the production of heavy guns and other products such as armor that would be needed to further expand the fleet. Jacques approached the Bethlehem Iron Company with a proposal to act as an intermediary between it and the Whitworth Company, so that Bethlehem could build a heavy forging plant to produce armaments. In 1885, John F. Fritz (“father of the American steel industry”), Robert H. Sawyer, director of the Bethlehem Iron Company, Elisha Packer Wilbur (president of the Lehigh Valley Railroad), William Thurston, and Joseph Wharton (who founded the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1881) ) met Jacques in Philadelphia. In early 1886, a contract was executed between Bethlehem Iron and the Whitworth Company.

In the spring of 1886, Congress passed a Naval Appropriations Bill that authorized the construction of two armored second-class battleships, one protected cruiser, and one first-class torpedo boat, and the complete rebuilding and modernization of two Civil War-era monitors. The two Class II battleships (USS Texas and USS Maine) would have both large caliber guns (12 inches and 10 inches, respectively) and heavy armor plating. Bethlehem secured both the forging and armoring contracts on June 28, 1887.

Between 1888 and 1892, the Bethlehem Iron Company completed the first American heavy forging plant. It was designed by John Fritz with the assistance of Russell Davenport, who entered Bethlehem’s employment in 1888. By the autumn of 1890, Bethlehem Iron was providing gun forgings to the US Navy and completing facilities to provide armor plating.

During the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, a structure that was designed to create world wonders received its giant axle from Bethlehem Iron. The world’s first Ferris wheel needed enough steel to assemble a 140-foot tower to support the entire steel wheel, making a 264-foot (80 m) structure in total. The iron produced in Bethlehem Steel’s blast furnace was responsible for the largest cast iron piece in the world that had been made up to that time. [3]

In 1898, Frederick Taylor joined Bethlehem Steel as a management consultant to solve an expensive machine shop capacity problem. Taylor and Mounsell White, along with a team of assistants, applied a series of management principles established by Taylor and what would later become known as scientific management to increase mass production.

The Bethlehem Iron Company was very successful and profitable. Corporate ownership of the Bethlehem Iron Company believed it could be even more profitable. To accomplish that goal, corporate ownership of the Bethlehem Iron Company turned to steel production; Steel production became known as a new company called the Bethlehem Steel Company .

Bethlehem Steel Company

Establishment and partnership with Bethlehem Iron Company

The Bethlehem Steel Company was established in 1899 . It was the first company to bear the name Bethlehem Steel. The Bethlehem Steel Company ( also known as the Bethlehem Steel Works ) was incorporated to take on all the liabilities of the Bethlehem Iron Company. [4] [5] [6] Bethlehem Iron Company and Bethlehem Steel Company were separate companies under the same ownership. The Bethlehem Steel Company leased properties owned by the Bethlehem Iron Company.

In 1901, Charles M. Schwab (no relation to stockbroker Charles R. Schwab) bought the Bethlehem Steel Company and made Samuel Broadbent vice president. [7] [6] During this time, the company’s lease with the Bethlehem Iron Company was terminated (cancelled) as the Bethlehem Steel Company took control of all assets from the Bethlehem Iron Company; Bethlehem Iron Company ceased operations. [6]

Operating as a subsidiary of United States Shipbuilding Company

Schwab transferred his ownership of the Bethlehem Steel Company to the United States Steel Corporation (US Steel), the company of which he was chairman. This period was brief; Schwab repurchased the Bethlehem Steel Company, then sold it to the United States Shipbuilding Company. The United States Shipbuilding Company briefly owned the Bethlehem Steel Company. The United States Shipbuilding Company was in turmoil; Its subsidiaries, including the Bethlehem Steel Company, contributed to the United States Shipbuilding Company’s problems. Schwab again became involved with the Bethlehem Steel Company through the parent company, the United States Shipbuilding Company. [7] [6]

The United States Shipbuilding Company planned to reorganize as the Bethlehem Steel & Shipbuilding Company in 1903, to be the second company to use the Bethlehem Steel name. However, the United States Shipbuilding Company was not reorganized as the Bethlehem Steel and Shipbuilding Company; Instead plans were drawn up to form a new company to replace the United States Shipbuilding Company. The new company will take the name “Bethlehem Steel and Shipbuilding Company”. The plan was implemented in 1904, but the new company did not take the name “Bethlehem Steel and Shipbuilding Company”; Instead, it was renamed Bethlehem Steel Corporation . [7]

Bethlehem Steel Corporation

Establishment and early development

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation was formed by Schwab, who had recently resigned from US Steel, and Joseph Wharton founded the Wharton School in Philadelphia. Schwab became the first chairman and first chairman of the board of directors. citation needed ]

Following its formation, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation purchased the Bethlehem Steel Company and the remaining subsidiaries from the United States Shipbuilding Company; Bethlehem Steel Corporation did not buy the United States Shipbuilding Company. [7] [6] The Bethlehem Steel Company became a subsidiary of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, although the Bethlehem Steel Company also had its own subsidiaries. Bethlehem Steel Corporation with the help of its subsidiary Bethlehem Steel Company became the second largest steel provider in the United States. The Bethlehem Steel Company and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation both existed together after 1904. The Bethlehem Steel Company was eventually merged into the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in the 1960s.

Bethlehem Steel Corporation installed the gray rolling mill and designed the first wide-bladed structural shape to be made in America. These sizes were partly responsible for starting the era of the skyscraper and establishing Bethlehem Steel as a major supplier of steel to the construction industry.

In the early 1900s Samuel Broadbent led an initiative to diversify the company. The corporation grew out of steel, with iron mines in Cuba and shipyards across the country. In 1913, under Broadbent, it acquired the Four Rivers Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Massachusetts, thereby taking on the role of one of the world’s leading shipbuilders. In 1917, it incorporated its shipbuilding division as Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd. In 1922, it purchased the Lackawana Steel Company, which included the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad as well as extensive coal holdings. [8]

1930s and 1940s

During World War I and World War II, Bethlehem Steel was a major supplier of armor plates and armament for the US Armed Forces, including armor plates for the Navy and large-caliber guns.

In the 1930s, the company built steel sections and parts for the Golden Gate Bridge and a new oil refinery in La Plata City, Argentina for Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), the tenth largest in the world. During World War II, 70 percent of airplane cylinder forgings were made by Bethlehem Steel, one-quarter of armor plate for battleships and one-third of large cannon forgings for the US armed forces.

Bethlehem Steel ranks seventh among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts. [9] Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation’s 15 shipyards produced a total of 1,121 ships, more than any other builder during the war, and nearly a fifth of the US Navy’s two-ocean fleet. It employed 180,000 people, the bulk of the company’s total employment being 300,000.

Eugene Grace was chairman of Bethlehem Steel from 1916 to 1945, and chairman of the board from 1945 until his retirement in 1957. Eugene Grace organized the wartime efforts of Bethlehem Steel. In 1943, he promised President Roosevelt one ship per day, and exceeded the commitment by 15 ships. [10]

The war effort removed Bethlehem from most of its male staff. The company hired female employees to guard and work on the factory floor or in the company’s offices. After the war, female workers were promptly fired in favor of their male counterparts. [11 1]

On Liberty Fleet Day, 27 September 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was present at the launch of the first Liberty ship SS Patrick Henry at Bethlehem’s Bethlehem Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland. Also launched that same day were the Liberty SS James McKay at Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard, Sparrows Point, Maryland, and the emergency vessel SS Sinclair Superflame at Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts.

1950s and 1960s

When peacetime arrived, the plant continued to supply a variety of structural shapes to construction businesses. Under the name BETHCON galvanized sheet steel was widely produced for use as duct work or spiral conduit. [12]

Additionally, the company produced counterfeit products for defence, power generation and steel producing companies. [13]

From 1949 to 1952, Bethlehem Steel contracted with the United States federal government to roll uranium fuel rods for nuclear reactors at Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna, New York, plant. The workers were not aware of the dangers of the hazardous substance and were not provided with protective equipment. Some workers have since attempted to receive compensation under a 2000 radiation-exposure law. The law requires the Department of Labor to compensate workers up to $150,000 if their work history includes enough radiation exposure to significantly increase their cancer risk. Bethlehem Steel workers are not compensated because the radiation dose involved in processing fresh uranium fuel is low, and poses a small risk relative to baseline exposure. [14] [15]The major danger in processing uranium is chemical poisoning from the heavy metal, which does not cause cancer.) [16]

The steel industry in America prospered during and after World War II, while the steel industries in Germany and Japan were devastated by Allied bombings. Bethlehem Steel’s high point came in the 1950s, when the company began manufacturing 23 million tons per year. In 1958, the company’s president, Arthur B. Homer was the highest-paid American business executive. The firm built its largest plant in Burns Harbor, Indiana, between 1962 and 1964.

The late 1960s presented a harbinger of difficult times to come. In 1967, the company lost its bid to provide steel for the original World Trade Center. The contracts, one of which was for 50,000 tons of steel, went to competitors in Seattle, St. Louis, New York and Illinois. [17]

from the 1970s to the 1990s

American profits lasted for nearly two decades, during which the American steel industry operated with little foreign competition. But eventually, foreign firms were rebuilt with modern techniques such as continuous casting, while profitable American firms resisted modernization. Bethlehem experimented with continuous casting but never fully adopted the practice.

Meanwhile, the average age of the Bethlehem workforce was rising, and the ratio of retirees to workers was rising, meaning that the value created by each worker had to cover a larger portion of pension costs than previously. Former top manager Eugene Grace had failed to adequately invest in the company’s pension plans during the 1950s. Pension payments should not have been made when the company was at its peak. As a result, the company faced hardship when it faced rising pension costs and dwindling profits. [18]

Until the 1970s, imported foreign steel was generally cheaper than domestically produced steel. [19] The company faced increasing competition from mini-mills, smaller-scale operations that could sell steel at lower prices.

In 1982, Bethlehem reported a loss of US$1.5 billion and ceased many of its operations. Profitability returned briefly in 1988, but restructurings and shutdowns continued through the 1990s. [11 1]

In the mid-1980s, demand for the plant’s structural products began to decline and new competition emerged in the market. Light construction styles, in part due to low-rise construction styles (i.e., low-rise buildings), did not require the heavy structural grades produced at the Bethlehem plant.

In 1991, Bethlehem Steel Corporation ceased coal mining (under the name BethEnergy). Bethlehem Steel Railroad went out of car business in 1993.

In late 1995, it ceased steelmaking at the main Bethlehem plant. After nearly 140 years of metal production at its Bethlehem, Pennsylvania plant, Bethlehem Steel Corporation closed its Bethlehem operations.

Bethlehem Steel Corporation ceased shipbuilding activities in 1997 in an effort to preserve its steelmaking operations. Bethlehem Steel Corporation would file for bankruptcy in 2001 and dissolve in 2003.

Winding up and bankruptcy

Despite the closure of its local operations, Bethlehem Steel Corporation tried to reduce the impact on the Lehigh Valley area with plans to revive the south side of Bethlehem. It hired consultants to develop a conceptual plan on reusing the property on a large scale. The general consensus was to rename the 163-acre (66 ha) site to Bethlehem Works and to use the land for cultural, recreational, educational, recreational and retail development. The National Museum of Industrial History, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and the Bethlehem Commerce Center, which comprises 1600 acres (650 ha) of prime industrial property, will be built on site along with a casino and a large retail and entertainment complex.

The failure to import and manage cheap steel to innovate, adopt technology, and improve labor conditions contributed to the demise of Bethlehem Steel.

In 1998, after pension benefits were denied, a lawsuit was filed in the Third Court of Appeals in Philadelphia: “Lawrence Holyfield, Fiduciary for the Property of Collins Holyfield v. Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Subsidiaries Pension Plan;” This was settled in Holyfield’s favor in 2001. A class action lawsuit was filed by the labor union shortly thereafter. This agreement led to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PGBC) accepting all pension payments from Bethlehem Steel, the largest such assumption in American history. [20]

In 2001, Bethlehem Steel Corporation filed for bankruptcy. In 2003, the company was dissolved and its remaining assets, including six plants, were acquired by International Steel Group. International Steel Group was acquired by Mittal Steel in 2005, which merged with Arcelor in 2006 to become ArcelorMittal.

In 2007, the Bethlehem property was sold to Sands Bethworks with plans to build a casino where the plant was once drafted. Construction began in the fall of 2007; The casino was completed in 2009. Ironically, the casino had difficulty finding structural steel for construction due to global steel shortages and pressure to build Pennsylvania’s tax-generating casinos. 16,000 tons of steel were required to build the $600 million complex. [21]

SteelStacks, the site of the company’s original plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is an arts and entertainment district. The plant’s five blast furnaces were left standing and served as a backdrop for the new complex. SteelStacks currently houses the Artsquest Center, a contemporary performing arts center, Wind Creek Bethlehem Casino Resort (formerly Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem), a gambling emporium and new studios for PBS member station WLVT-TV (Channel 39). [22] The arena also includes three outdoor music venues – the Levitt Pavilion, a free music venue with lawn seating for 2,500 people, Air Products Town Square at SteelStacks, and PNC Plaza, which hosts concerts by renowned artists. Is. [23]The Levitt Pavilion and the casino resort are connected via Hoover-Mason Trestle Linear Park.

In 2012, Bethlehem Steel, a three-piece indie rock band, named themselves after the company to honor it. [24]

On November 9, 2016, a warehouse being used as a recycling facility that was part of Lackawanna, New York caught fire and burned down at the Bethlehem Steel Complex. [25]

Corporate records of Bethlehem Steel are kept at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware, and the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem.

On May 19, 2019, an explosion occurred in the former Bethlehem Steel headquarters building west of Bethlehem.


  • Four Rivers Shipyard – Massachusetts
  • Bethlehem Sparrow Point Shipyard in Sparrow Point, Maryland
  • Alameda Shipyard – California
  • Bethlehem Shipbuilding in San Pedro San Pedro , built destroyers built
  • San Francisco – Pier 70 in California (formerly “US Iron Works”, now BAE Systems San Francisco Ship Repair)
  • Mariner Harbour, Staten Island, New York – active for the years leading up to and after World War II [28]
  • * Bethlehem Pennsylvania Shipyard, Beaumont, Texas (1948–1989) The Beaumont yard was one of the major sources of offshore drilling rigs built in the United States, with seventy-two (72) offshore rigs built at the yard. [29] Seventy-one Type C1 ships were built during World War II by Pennsylvania Shipyards, Inc. [30] The shipyard dated back to 1917 owned by the Beaumont Shipbuilding and Drydock Company (1917–1922). The Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Company owned and operated the yard from 1922 to 1948. After Bethlehem Steel’s ownership (1948–1989), the yard was owned by Trinity Industries from 1989 to 1994.

Electric Multiple Units

In 1931/32, Bethlehem Steel manufactured 38 electric multiple unit carriages for the Reading Company. [31]

Freight cars

From 1923 to 1991, Bethlehem Steel was one of the world’s leading producers of rail freight cars through the purchase of the former Midwell Steel and Ordnance Company, which had its railcar division in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Despite its status as a major integrated steel manufacturer, the Bethlehem Steel freight car division pioneered the use of aluminum in freight car manufacturing. The Jonestown plant was purchased from Bethlehem Steel through a management buyout in 1991, creating Johnstown America Industries.

Impact on American sites

The company manufactured steel for several major sites in the country:

  • bridge:
    • George Washington Bridge
    • Golden Gate Bridge
    • peace bridge
    • Verrazano-Narrows Bridge; Staten Island Tower. [32]
  • Buildings:
    • Alcatraz Island
    • Empire State Building (Bethlehem supplied only a few very large structures. The building was constructed by the American Bridge Division of US Steel using steel manufactured by US Steel. citation needed ] )
    • World Trade Center (1973-2001)
    • Madison Square Garden
    • Merchandise Marty
    • One Chase Manhattan Plaza 53,000 ton steel frame. [33]
    • Rockefeller Center
    • Waldorf Astoria
  • Dam:
    • bonneville dame
    • Grand Kouli Dam
    • Hoover Dam
  • railway:
    • San Francisco Municipal Railway

Bethlehem Steel built the largest electric generator shaft in the world produced for General Electric in the 1950s. It also supplied the steel used for the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island.

  • game:
    • Bethlehem Steel FC (1907–1930), sponsored by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, was one of the most successful early American football clubs.
    • The Philadelphia Union II is an American professional football team that plays in the USL Championship as an official affiliate of the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer. The club was founded and was formerly based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where it was known as Bethlehem Steel FC in honor of the original club.
    • In February 2013, the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer unveiled a third uniform that honors and harms the original Bethlehem Steel FC [34] [35] [36] . Bethlehem Steel FC Jock Tag. [37] [38]


  • 1936 Sample Stock Certificate #0000
  • Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s flagship manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
  • “Bethlehem 177” railway gun on display at the Museum Militar Conde de Linhares, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Burns Harbor, Indiana Plant, built by Bethlehem Steel
  • Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard in Sparrows Point, Maryland, one of the company’s primary steelmaking and shipbuilding plants
  • Demolition of part of the original facility in Bethlehem in 2007
  • Blast furnace A at major plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 2009.
  • The Levitt Pavilion at SteelStacks, the former Bethlehem steel site, is being prepared for a show.
  • East Bethlehem Steel Company Headquarters Building, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, October 2011,
  • Projectile shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
  • Former Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation headquarters in San Francisco
  • one of the few buildings preserved