The Early American Industries 2018 Annual Meeting is only about 3 months away. On May 23rd through May 26th, 2018, we’ll celebrate EAIA’s 85th anniversary during our annual meeting in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. What follows are a few historical facts, some teasers, and hopefully an enticement or two that will convince you to come join us for all the fun.
Did you know that the Moravian church has been around for over 550 years? Founded in 1457, the Moravian Church, or Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren) as followers of John Hus gathered in the village of Kunvald, about 100 miles east of Prague, in eastern Bohemia, and organized the church. This was 60 years before Martin Luther began his reformation and 100 years before the establishment of the Anglican Church.[i] The eighteenth century saw the renewal of the Moravian Church through the patronage of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (What a great name!).
The Moravians settled in Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve in 1741 founded their communal society in Bethlehem. Here’s a fact – Moravian College in Bethlehem traces its origin to a girls’ school called The Bethlehem Female Seminary founded in May 1742 by sixteen-year-old Countess Benigna von Zinzendorf. The young countess, was on an eighteen-month visit to the Moravian settlements in the New World with her father, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf when she felt moved to start the school. Because the Moravians consider every human soul a potential candidate for salvation, they feel every human being should be educated. Their philosophy is summed up by one of their early bishops Amos Comenius who said, “not the children of the rich or of the powerful only, but of all alike, boys and girls, both noble and ignoble, rich and poor, in all cities and towns, villages and hamlets, should be sent to school.” The Moravians therefore considered schools secondary in importance only to churches. Come and see the wonderful architecture of the Moravians. Experience their culture and learn more about their communal society. We’ll visit not only the buildings, but we’ll have a chance to visit the Moravian Archives during an open house in the evening on Wednesday May 23rd. The Moravians kept great records of all of their activities, and these records, pictures, drawings, and artifacts are preserved in the Moravian Archives.
Bethlehem Steel can trace its roots to the Saucona Iron Company which was established in Bethlehem in 1857. On May 1, 1861, the company’s title was changed again, this time to the Bethlehem Iron Company. Construction of the first blast furnace began on July 1, 1861, and it went into operation on January 4, 1863. The first rolling mill was built between the spring of 1861 and the summer of 1863, with the first railroads rails being rolled on September 26. 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 railroads and armor plating for the U.S. Navy. During World War I and World War II, Bethlehem Steel was a major supplier of armor plate and ordnance to the U.S. armed forces, including armor plate and large-caliber guns for the Navy.
In the 1930s, the company made the steel sections and parts for the Golden Gate Bridge. During World War II, as much as 70 percent of airplane cylinder forgings, one-quarter of the armor plate for warships, and one-third of the big cannon forgings for the U.S armed forces were turned out by Bethlehem Steel. Bethlehem Steel ranked seventh among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation’s 15 shipyards produced a total of 1,121 ships, more than any other builder during the war and nearly one-fifth of the U.S. Navy’s fleet.
At the end of 1995, Bethlehem Steel discontinued steel-making at the main Bethlehem plant. After roughly 140 years of metal production, Bethlehem Steel Corporation ceased its Bethlehem operations. During the Thursday tours we’ll learn more about the history steel making during our guided tour of the blast furnaces and the buildings remaining on this historic site. We’ll top that off with an evening tour of the National Museum of Industrial History located in one of the 100-year-old Bethlehem Steel buildings. The museum which is within walking distance of our hotel is being closed to the public for our group and we’ll enjoy our Ice Cream Social and Whatsit’s session at the museum Thursday evening, May 24th. The museum staff will be on hand to answer our questions and the museum will be ours to enjoy. This Smithsonian affiliated museum houses a great collection of machinery that was displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. In addition, they’ve got great information on the steel industry.
Did you know that the Lehigh Valley was the home of America’s silk industry? More people including women and children were employed in the Lehigh Valley’s silk mills than steel mills. The museum has a wonderful display about the silk industry including a Jacquard silk loom.
There’s all of this and lots more to do and see during EAIA’s 2018 Annual Meeting. If you have registered already, do it now! I’ll tell you more in the next installment of Tales, Teasers, and Enticements.
by Paul Van Pernis
[i] John Hus (1369-1415) was a professor of philosophy and rector of the University in Prague. The Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, where Hus preached, became a rallying place for the Czech reformation. Gaining support from students and the common people, he led a protest movement against many practices of the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy. Hus was accused of heresy, underwent a long trial at the Council of Constance, and was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415