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Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Bethlehem Ship Corporation photographs

Creation: 1786-1966
Accession: 1980-300
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.


At the turn of the century, under the direction of Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939) and Eugene Grace (1876-1960), Bethlehem Steel Corporation became the second largest American steel company; combined with its other venture, Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., it became a leading twentieth century American business. The collection includes a wide range of photography which documents the company’s long history and the breadth of its enterprises from east to west coasts and overseas. It contains eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century industrial and non-industrial images and of management and workers. As a research tool, its use will be as varied and extensive as the corporation itself was during its years as an American industrial giant.


  • Creation: 1786-1966



200 Linear Feet

Physical Description

8,326 photographic prints : b&w ; predominantly 16 x 20 in. or smaller; 15,991 negatives : film and glass; 35 items : blueprints; 2 items : drawings ; 60 x 76 cm.

Historical Note

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation was the second leading steel producer in the United States between 1916 and 1984. For a time it was also the largest shipbuilding firm in the world. The Bethlehem Steel Corporation was incorporated in New Jersey on December 10, 1904, to effect the reorganization of the United States Shipbuilding Company of 1902. Bethlehem was a holding company whose purpose was to control the older Bethlehem Steel Company and a series of shipyards in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Wilmington, Delaware, and San Francisco, California.

Bethlehem Steel Corporation in its earliest manifestation dates from 1861 when it was initially conceived as the Bethlehem Iron Company located in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania to produce railroad rails. This nomenclature changed to Bethlehem Steel Corporation at the turn of the century when the company under the direction of Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939) and Eugene Grace (1876-1960) became the second largest American steel company; combined with its other venture, Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, it became a leading twentieth century American business.

In 1949 Bethlehem Steel Corporation dedicated a new library within the company headquarters in honor of their deceased leader, Charles Schwab. Schwab, at the time, had already been dead for ten years, but Eugene Grace’s devotion to him lasted until his own death; before his passing in 1960, Grace chose a burial plot near Charles Schwab’s crypt. As the leader of the Corporation ending a fifty-year career, Eugene Grace made a final decision to dedicate the company library to his mentor, Charles Schwab. Members from the American Institute of Iron and Steel who consisted of the most powerful steel men in America attended the ceremony.

In 1950, at the close of Grace’s fifty-year career with Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the company renovated their auditorium. Grace’s service to the company was honored by rededicating the room to him. Extensive mural work was done in the auditorium and foyer by the artist Dean Cornwell. The artwork depicts themes from Eugene Grace’s life and from steel and shipbuilding motifs that illustrate the Corporation’s industries.

In addition to steel ships, Bethlehem was a major producer of armor plate and ordnance and soon ranked on a par with Krupp, Armstrong's and the other big European munitions makers. It also pioneered in structural steel, manufacturing the rolled wide-flange columns and beams invented by Henry Grey (1849-1913).

Bethlehem Steel grew rapidly by absorbing competitors. Its principal acquisitions were the Fore River Shipbuilding Company (1913), the Pennsylvania and Maryland Steel Companies (1916), the Lackawanna Steel Company (1922), and the Midvale Steel & Ordnance Company (1923). A second round of acquisitions, including the Pacific Coast Steel Company (1930), the McClintic-​Marshall Corporation (1931) and the Kalman Steel Company (1931), expanded Bethlehem's reach into other areas of the country and strengthened its position in structural steel fabrication and as a supplier to the new manufacturers of consumer goods.

Like all domestic steel makers, Bethlehem was increasingly vulnerable to competition from non-union minimills and foreign producers, particularly after 1973. A drastic downsizing program between 1977 and 1990 temporarily eliminated massive annual losses. In the process, the company lost its number-two ranking, its fabrication and special product divisions, and its self-​sufficiency in raw materials. Iron and steel production at the original Bethlehem site ceased in 1995, followed by the rolling mill in 1997 and the coke works in 1998. Bethlehem acquired the properties of Lukens Inc., a specialty plate manufacturer on May 29, 1998. With the end of the boom of the 1990s, Bethlehem filed for bankruptcy on October 15, 2002. The company's remaining assets were sold to International Steel Group Inc. on May 7, 2003.

Scope and Content

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation collection includes a wide range of photography which documents the company’s long history and the breadth of its enterprises from east to west coasts and overseas. It contains eighteenth and nineteenth century photography of both industrial and non-industrial images and of management and workers. As a photo researcher’s tool, its use will be as varied and extensive as the corporation itself was during its years as an American industrial giant.

The collection is arranged into fifteen series which are defined by their subject matter.

Series I: Individual persons and groups

The series has been divided into subseries pertaining to Charles Schwab, Eugene Grace, Individuals, Board of Directors, and Group photographs. In addition to portraits of these men, there are views of their estates (including Schwab's "Riverside" in Manhattan designed by architect Maurice Herbert (dates unknown) and "Immergrun," his Loretto, Pennsylvania, estate with gardens designed by Charles Wellford Leavitt (1871-1928) in 1915), travel photographs, and personal items. There is another file of ninety-five portraits of men who were related to the steel industry.

Series II. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, company headquarters

These are photographs having a geographic relationship to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the company's headquarters, includes industrial views, office buildings, and city and community views. This consists of photographs of Bethlehem Iron Company, a predecessor company which merged with Bethlehem Steel Company in 1901, the South Bethlehem steel plant, and the forge specialty department there. There are views of the company’s offices which were photographed frequently, especially during periods of renovation. There are aerials of the city dated from 1958 to 1959. A noteworthy inclusion is "Bethlehem Plant Inspection, June 1927," a booklet commemorating Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis flight; the aircraft's forgings were made by Bethlehem.

Lou Sterner (dates unknown) was a Bethlehem Steel Corporation employee – presumably a company photographer. Hagley does not own his original glass plates, but there are copies of contact prints of various subjects. The majority of the work is company related; there are also some unidentified nature photographs and views of Lehigh University. One set of prints (which was mounted on cards by the company) has identification on the back.

Series III. Plants in Pennsylvania

The photographs of Bethlehem plants and steel-related enterprises within Pennsylvania are composed of steel plants at Lebanon, Lehigh, Northampton, Saucon and Williamsport. There are also photographs from the Johnstown plant; this includes some early Cambria Iron Company images. These are industrial photos, as well as photographs of the community. The Johnstown material also contains thousands of glass plates negatives and forty-seven albums of company photographs made up from a selection of negatives. Most of these show steel mill construction, renovation, construction of the water supply system, homes, safety posters and devices, and first aid drills. The negatives date from 1900 to 1917. The albums are mostly composed of photographs showing Franklin Mill and open hearth and blast furnaces, Gautier mill, steel mill construction, renovation, coke plant, rod and wire mills, construction of water supply systems, safety posters and devices, and first aid drills. An oversize album of plant views (1919) drawn by commercial artist Edward Spofford (1895-1940) shows many of the Bethlehem Steel and Shipyards plants.

Series IV. Steelton, Pennsylvania plants

There are many photographs related to the products made at Steelton, Pennsylvania, where the frog and switch division and a rail mill plant were located. There are also plant views. An inspection report of track material furnished by the Pennsylvania Steel Company for Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway is included in this part of the collection. Also of interest are views of the Pennsylvania Steel Co. exhibits at trade conventions in Chicago and Atlantic City, New Jersey Some other miscellaneous views are also found with the Steelton material: the Queensborough Bridge in Manhattan; Broad Street Station, Philadelphia; train station in Pittsburgh; Union Station, Washington.

Cambria Iron Works which was established in 1852 officially became the Cambria Steel Company in 1898. That company was acquired by Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company in 1916. Midvale was absorbed by Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1923.

Approximately 968 glass plates and forty-six lantern slides. There are glass plate negatives with patterns for frogs, rails, and switches. There are no corresponding prints. Some plates contain unidentified images and images of unidentified products. Lantern slides of unidentified products.

Series V. Steel plants outside of Pennsylvania

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation plants in the collection outside of Pennsylvania were located in Lackawanna, New York, Sparrows Point, Maryland, and San Francisco, California (Bethlehem Pacific Coast Steel Co.). The Lackawanna portion is particularly well represented. There are glass negatives and a corresponding photographer's notebook. The views show construction of buildings (pump, boiler, power houses), furnaces, plant views, machines, ore loaders, the worker's village, canal construction, rail mill, coke ovens, laboratory, office building. All of the industrial views are devoid of workers. This series also encompasses the Bethlehem plant at Sparrow’s Point, Maryland, and Bethlehem Pacific Coast Steel Company headquartered in San Francisco. In addition there is ancillary pictorial material related to San Francisco history.

Series VI. Mines and mining communities

Mining and mining town photographs include images from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The images include coal and ore mines and company towns: Cokesburg, Cornwall, Ellsworth, Marianna, Naginey (all in Pennsylvania) and Barrackville, Carolina, Idamay (all in West Virginia). There are also materials from Cornwall Ore Mines and Furnace in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, which Bethlehem Steel Corporation owned completely in 1921.

Series VII. World War One ordnance plants

Bethlehem Steel Corporation's World War One ordnance plants (Bethlehem Loading Company) were located in Redington, Pennsylvania, May's Landing, New Jersey ("Belcoville"), and New Castle, Delaware.

Series VIII. Bethlehem fabrication

Photographs related to Bethlehem Fabrication include a small quantity of plant views. There are more photographs showing projects: bridges (Chesapeake Bay, George Washington, Golden Gate, Niagara Suspension Bridge, Oakland Bay), buildings (including the John Hancocok in Boston, the Hoover Library at Stanford University, and the U.S. Courthouse and Municipal Auditorium in Buffalo, the Hall of Justice in San Francisco) and dams (Bonneville, Boulder, Grand Coulee) and the Ferris wheel at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Series IX. Steel-related material

Photographs of old iron furnaces in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and mostly Pennsylvania relate to early ironmaking technology. In addition there are related images of press forges, steel hammers, the Kelly converter, and reproductions of iron forges from Diderot's Encyclopedia.

Series X. McClintic-Marshall Corp.

McClintic-Marshall made structural steel which was used in the building and bridge trades. McClintic-Marshall Construction Company became a Bethlehem Steel Corporation subsidiary in 1931. There are illustrated trade catalogs and booklets, and an album documenting the relocation of a Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) bridge.

Series XI. Foreign interests

Bethlehem Steel Corporation held foreign interests in ore mines in South America (Argentina and Colombia), Cuba, and Canada. There are forty-eight views of an unidentified refinery (possibly Puerta de la Plata in Argentina) showing interior and exterior views, various buildings and operations. The mostly unidentified Columbian images (late nineteenth and early twentieth century) come from the Maryland Steel Company of Sparrow's Point which had a mine near Nombre de Dios. There are industrial and non-industrial views. The Cuban albums document the Mayari Mines including industrial subjects, scenery, buildings. The one Canadian view is from the Marmoraton Iron Mines in Ontario.

Series XII. Photographs unrelated to Bethlehem Steel Corporation

There are also photographs in the Bethlehem collection that do not directly tie to the company. For example, the West Superior Iron Company is represented by an album of late nineteenth century steel mill photographs. There are also photographs of: the Quebec Bridge which was built by the St. Lawrence Bridge Company and failed in 1916; the New Castle Steel and Tin Plate Company; a booklet about the Shenandoah and Los Angeles airships from the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey; an album documenting General Ferdinand Foch's U.S. tour of 1921.

Series XIII. Advertising department mounted prints

Photographs used by Bethlehem Steel Corporation's advertising department consists of 283 mounted photographs which consist of many subjects including plant views, ship's, individuals, and bridges. The Bethlehem Steel collection also includes some blueprints: Cambria Iron Co. buildings, two eighteenth century water works, and some private homes.

XIV. Bethlehem Ship Corporation division

These images often include both photographs of the shipyards and the multitude of ships they produced. The regions are: Baltimore-area (includes Baltimore Dry Dock Co.), Fairfield and Sparrows Point, Maryland, yards which are noteworthy for their extensive holdings of Liberty and Victory ship negatives; Boston-area (includes photographs from repair yards, The Atlantic Works Inc. and Simpson Patent Dry Docks, which Bethlehem superseded), World War One shipyards at Fore River, Quincy, and Squantum, Massachusetts and a World War Two shipyard at Hingham, Massachusetts; California shipyards include San Francisco (the Union Iron Works period and, many years later, a ventilation caisson built for BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), Alameda (originally a Union Iron Works yard), and Terminal Island at San Pedro where Liberty ships and destroyers were built; New York-area yards include Brooklyn 27th St. (originally built by Theodore Crane & Sons and James Shewan & Sons) and 56th St. (originally built by Morse Iron Works), Hoboken, New Jersey (originally W. & A. Fletcher Co.), and Staten Island; Beaumont, Tex., yard which was once Pennsylvania Shipbuilding; Wilmington, Delaware, where the former Harlan and Hollingsworth site changed to Bethlehem ownership in 1904.

Several separate components also should be noted. These consist of photographs of American yachts, non-military, and military ships. Some of these images include nineteenth century vessels. Note that examples from the following shipyards are included: Atlantic Works (Boston), J. Abrahams (Baltimore), Beany Son & Archbold (Chester, Pennsylvania), Brown & Bell (New York), Columbian Iron Works (Baltimore), William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co. (Philadelphia), A. & W. Denmoad & Sons (Baltimore), James B. Edes (St. Louis), John W. Griffith (Kittery, Me.), Harlan & Hollingsworth Corp. (Wilmington, Delaware), Herreshoff Mfg. Co. (Bristol, Connecticut), Howard & Ellis (White Hall, N.C.), Iowa Iron Works (Dubuque), Newport News Ship Building (Virginia), N.F. Palmer & Co. (Chester, Pennsylvania), Peak & Kirby (Cleveland, Ohio), Penine, Secor & Co. (Jersey City, New Jersey), Samuel Pook (Fairhaven, Connecticut), John Roach & Son (Chester, Pennsylvania), Union Iron Works Co. (San Francisco). Nineteenth century items include a drawing of a 50 HP Nagel & Weingaertner steam engine and a hand drawn illustration of a revenue cutter (circa 1865) built by Peak and Kirby.

Series XI. Artwork related to steel making

The artwork and engravings in the collection relate to industrial subjects (chiefly steelmaking). Among these are an original lithograph, "The Hammer" by Herbert Pullinger (1878-1961). There are also some noteworthy eighteenth century prints of Niagara Falls.

Existence and Location of Copies

View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Access to view lantern slides is at the discretion of the conservator. Please inquire in advance of your visit.

Glass plate negatives do not circulate.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


Gift, 1980

Separated Material

Bethlehem Steel Corporation (Accession 1699), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Bethlehem Ship Corporation photograph collection
Barbara Hall, 1993, revised and encoded by Laurie Sather, 2016.
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA