Local History

Bethlehem Area Public Library is a great place to learn more about the rich and diverse history of our city, region and people. BAPL’s Local History pages provide convenient online access to historical content from a variety of sources.

» Bethlehem Room  — BAPL’s Local History Collection and Archives

» Local History Timeline  — Bethlehem’s history from 1741-present.

» Local Historical Newspaper Archives (including obituaries)

» WWII Article Index — Includes local news article extracts pertaining to WWII personnel from the pages of the Bethlehem Globe-Times.

» First Annual Message of Archibald Johnston — Text of the Mayor’s speech, delivered in 1918

» House Research Guide — Prepared by Bethlehem’s North by Northwest Neighborhood Initiative, this general guide is a how-to on researching the hands of a home’s ownership, with some helpful tips and informative websites.

» Express-Times Archives 

» Morning Call Archives

» Black Bethlehem Project — This oral history collection was spearheaded by M. Rayah Levy of the Bethlehem Area Public Library, with support from collaborators Sholomo Levy and Matthew Rothfuss. The collection focuses on the Black experience in Bethlehem, PA, from the mid-twentieth-century to the present

» Interested in the history of Bethlehem’s churches and religious communities? Check out the book: A journey of faith : brief histories of Bethlehem’s religious communities.

Historical Maps

Historical Books and Magazines

» “Bethlehem Steel” / “Bethlehem Booster” — Bethlehem Steel Company’s Bureau of Labor and Safety published a semi-monthly employee news magazine “devoted to the interest and general health and welfare of all employees.” It was title Bethlehem Steel for the first four issues before changing to Bethlehem Booster.

» Issue One (BETHLEHEM STEEL, VOL 1, MAY 1, 1918, NO 1)

» Issue Two (BETHLEHEM STEEL, VOL 1, MAY 15, 1918, NO 2)





» Men of Bethlehem — 1918 Fred Shankweiler publication offers a look at “men prominent in the commercial professional, political and social activity of Bethlehem.” [PDF 2.3 MB]

» Semi-Centennial The Borough of South Bethlehem — This “souvenir history” was issued for South Bethlehem’s October 3-5, 1915 semi-centennial celebration. [PDF 222 pages]

» South Bethlehem Business College Catalog— This catalog for prospective students detailing “scope of the work, the methods, and the facilities of the College”, as well as fees. [PDF 558 KB]

BAPL History


Pennsylvania State Fair poster (1891, held in Bethlehem) [102 MB]

Scans of historical postcards (Bethlehem, early 20th century):

  • Postcard 1
    • This image is of a trolley car at the 4th Ave. Hotel, located at 345 W. Broad St., West Bethlehem, PA. This hotel was located at the corner of Broad St. and 4th Avenue. It was last listed as a hotel in the 1911 Bethlehem city director. In the 1917 directory it had become a saloon. Year Unknown.
  • Postcard 2
    • This image is from the Beckel personal collection. It is a view of 3rd St. looking east. The decorations are believed to be part of the semi-centennial celebration.

The Bethlehem Room

An invaluable resource for those interested in the rich history of our city, region and people, the Bethlehem Room (Main Library) offers visitors onsite access to non-circulating books, journals, pamphlets, directories, clippings, photographs, maps and other research materials housed in our local history collections. Visit us in-person (Main Library) during regular library hours to see items such as the below:

Records of the Greater Bethlehem Area Council of Churches, 1956-2005
Reports, minutes, financial accounts, newsletters, publications, subject files, and clippings document the organization from its founding in 1956 to its dissolution in 2005.

Papers and Artwork of Christian Friedrich Hellener include materials relating to the history of the Hellener and Morey families, but perhaps more significantly include a fascinating collection of watercolors done by Mr. Hellener throughout the 19th century.