The Bethlehem Iron Company

The Saucona Iron Company was chartered on April 8th 1857.  The company’s name was changed on May 1, 1861 to The Bethlehem Iron Company.  Ground was first broken July 16, 1860, but most major construction was delayed due to the American Civil War.  The first blast furnace operated on January 4th 1863, with the first puddling process on July 27th later that year.  Finally, the first rails were rolled on September 26th 1863.  The Bethlehem Iron Company quickly became a major force in American iron making for two major reasons: a close proximity to ample supplies of iron and fuel (coal) and a dedication to engineering ingenuity, an idea espoused by individuals such as Asa Packer and John Fritz and embraced by the philosophy of institutions like Lehigh University.  Many of the methods and devices used throughout America for the manufacturing of iron and steel had their origins in Bethlehem.  By 1873, the Bessemer process of removing impurities from pig iron (essentially creating steel) had arrived through the simultaneous, independent efforts of William Kelly and Henry Bessemer. The company continued to grow in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, building much of the America’s new naval fleet.  For a more detailed article on the early history of the Bethlehem Iron Company visit:

More information on Bethlehem Steel can be found here.

Bethlehem Iron Company in 1879