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Bethlehem Steel Company records, 1714-1977

1714-1977
 Record Group
Accession: 1699-II

Dates

  • 1714-1977

Historical Note

The Bethlehem Steel Company was formed for the purpose of enlarging the powers and physical plant of the Bethlehem Iron Company. The Bethlehem Steel Company leased all of the property of the Bethlehem Iron Company, consisting of a large steel mill and armor-plate works at South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on May 26, 1899, and purchased it outright on August 16, 1901. The company remained locally owned until June 1901, when Charles M. Schwab, President of U.S. Steel, purchased 160,000 of the 300,000 outstanding shares. Schwab became a director on June 22, 1903.

As a component of the United States Shipbuilding Company merger of 1902, Bethlehem was the tail that wagged the dog. As the major owner of Bethlehem, Schwab was in a position to dictate terms to the shipbuilding combine and, when he reorganized the enterprise in 1905, it was styled the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The Bethlehem Steel Company remained as its steelmaking subsidiary.

Schwab took another important step in 1905 when he purchased patent rights from Henry Grey for his process of rolling wide-flange beams. Structural steel had heretofore been riveted together from plates, angles, and channels on the job site. Integral beams would represent a considerable saving in labor costs. Grey had developed his process on an experimental scale at the Ironton Structural Steel Company in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1897. He then moved to New York where he tried to sell the process. The first Grey mill was built at the Diffedinger Works in Luxembourg in 1902. Schwab had tried to contract for a Grey mill while at U.S. Steel but had been overruled by Judge Elbert H. Gary. In 1905 Schwab toured the Luxembourg mill with his assistant, George Blakely.

On returning to the United States, Schwab ordered the construction of the largest structural steel works in America on a site adjoining the existing Bethlehem plant. It was to produce rails and billets, as well as the Grey wideflange beams. The new mills were called the Saucon Division after a nearby creek, while the old works, also rebuilt and enlarged, was styled the Lehigh Division. The first rails were rolled on September 3, 1907, and the first wide-flange beams on January 9, 1908. One of the first big uses of Grey beams was in the Gimbel's department store in New York. The architect, Ernest R. Graham of Chicago, spread the use of the beams in his other commissions. including the Field Museum and the Merchandise Mart.

Bethlehem contracted with the Didier-March Company for the construction of a modern byproduct coke plant on February 4, 1910. The plant, which had an annual capacity of 1.34 million tons, was operated by the German-owned Lehigh Coke Company. During World War l, it was transferred to the Eastern Coke Company, a subsidiary of the Bethlehem Steel Company, becoming known as the Northampton Division.

Bethlehem faced a bitter strike in 1910 for the purpose of restoring time-and-a-half for overtime (dropped after the Panic of 1907) and ending Sunday workdays.

Prior to 1916, Bethlehem's expansion was largely confined to its home town. On March 1, 1913, it acquired the plant of the Titusville Forge Company in northwestern Pennsylvania. In December of the same year, Bethlehem bought the fabricating works of Milliken Brothers, Inc., at Staten Island, New York, and moved the machinery to Bethlehem. Subsequent acquisitions were connected with the war munitions business. The Detrick & Harvey Machine Company of Baltimore, purchased on August 17, 1915, made gunsights and machine tools. The subsidiary Bethlehem Loading Company made shells and other munitions. Most of these plants closed after the war's end. The Titusville Plant was sold on January 14, 1920, and the Detrick & Harvey Plant on November 9, 1925.

The purchase of the Pennsylvania Steel Company's properties in 1916 greatly increased the size of the company. The Bethlehem Steel Company became the operating company for the Steelton and Sparrow's Point Plants, although ownership was vested in the Penn-Mary Steel Company until July 1918. Ownership of the Sparrow's Point was then transferred to the Beth-Mary Steel Corporation. The Lackawanna Steel properties purchased and assigned to the Bethlehem Iron & Steel Corporation in 1922, were also operated by the Bethlehem Steel Company. The same process was used when Bethlehem acquired the properties of the Midvale Steel & Ordnance Company in June 1923. The Cambria Plant in Johnstown was leased from the subsidiary. Bethlehem Steel Products Company, and the rest were merged directly into the Bethlehem Steel Company.

The next round of acquisitions came in the early 1930s and consisted primarily of small fabricating works. These included the Danville Structural Steel Company (1930), the Levering & Garrigues Co. of Dunellen, New Jersey; the Hay Foundry & Iron Works of Newark, New Jersey: the Hedden Iron Construction Company of Hillside, New Jersey; and the Eastern Steel Corporation of Pottsville, Pennsylvania (all 1931). Several larger acquisitions were not merged into the Bethlehem Steel Company until the mid-1930s. The largest was the McClintic-Marshall Corporation, proprietor of a nationwide chain of erecting and fabricating shops, absorbed in 1935. The Kalman Steel Corporation, a manufacturer of steel reinforcing bars and other construction specialties, was merged into the Bethlehem Steel Company on February 26, 1936.

The corporate structure of the Bethlehem system was further simplified in December 1936. The Bethlehem Steel Company acquired through merger the properties of the Pacific Coast Steel Corporation (Seattle, South San Francisco, Los Angeles), the Beth-Mary Steel Corporation (Sparrow's Point), the Bethlehem Steel Products Company (Cambria), and the Bethlehem Iron & Steel Corporation (Lackawanna), thus bringing the ownership of all the steel plants under a single company. On November 16, 1938, the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., was merged into the Bethlehem Steel Company as a division.

Because of the distance from headquarters, the ownership and operation of all the West Coast plants was transferred to the Bethlehem Pacific Coast Steel Corporation on December 31, 1946. It was merged back into Bethlehem Steel on July 1, 1969. The Bethlehem Steel Company was merged into the Bethlehem Steel Corporation on October 30, 1964, ending the distinction between holding and operating companies.

Scope and Contents

The records of the Bethlehem Steel Company (operating company of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation) are arranged into eleven separate series by department or division. Much of the records remaining from these Departments and Divisions are fragmentary, and do not make up a complete corporate archive.

The corporate records of the Bethlehem Steel Company consist of fragments from the office of Robert McMath, Vice President and Secretary, and from the Comptroller's office. The former include organization charts; printed copies of agreements and mortgages, and collected documents for the Pennsylvania Steel merger of 1916 and the absorption of Bethlehem Steel products Company, Beth-Mary Steel Corporation, and Bethlehem Iron Mines Company in 1936. The Comptroller's records consist of two auditor's reports. Board of Directors' minutes dating back to the incorporation of Bethlehem Steel in 1899 document the early inception of the company and Charles Schwab's initial involvement. There is also a small file from the President’s Office consisting of correspondence and other material related to a fraud case involving French Senator Charles Humbert and German agent and convicted French traitor Bolo Pasha during the First World War.

Bethlehem Steel Company’s claims filed before the Mixed Claims Commission against Germany following the end of the World War I are documented through correspondence between the company and various law firms and financial organizations. The primary claims filed by Bethlehem Steel Co. include war risk insurance, loss of Scandinavian boat contracts, and loss of Swedish ore contracts. There is also a claim filed on account of the Black Tom Explosion that occurred on July 30, 1916, when German agents destroyed a shipment of American-made munitions destined for the Allies at Black Tom Island in Jersey City, New Jersey. Also of significance are letters of reimbursement sent to Charles Schwab for his financial role in the reorganization of the United States Shipbuilding Company into the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1904.

Of particular interest are agreements and correspondence regarding the rights for the manufacture of Harvey armor and for the license to the Krupp process, both traditionally utilized in the production of armor plates for Navy warships throughout the 1890s. Correspondence between the then Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd. president Charles M. Schwab, Bethlehem Iron Company, and the Harvey Steel Company details the former two companies’ efforts to obtain the license to the Harvey and Krupp processes for use in the production of safe plates for bank vaults. There is also a significant amount of correspondence pertaining to the purchase of plants and properties, most notably the acquisition of the Pennsylvania Steel Company of New Jersey, Pennsylvania Steel Co., and the Maryland Steel Co. in 1916. Papers relating to the purchase of the Lackawanna Steel Company are also included. Bethlehem Steel Co.’s purchase of properties in and around Lebanon, Pennsylvania, are well documented, encompassing ore rights in the Cornwall region and the acquisition of property from the Robesonia Iron Company and the American Iron and Steel Manufacturing Company.

The surviving records of the Development & Research Department consist of files from R. S. A. Dougherty as Manager, which are divided into correspondence, notes and drawings, and installation drawings and patents; the office papers of James P. Madden, Development & Research Engineer, and a group of Madden's personal papers from the period after he had left the company. The patents are concerned with Curtis marine turbines and other appurtenances used in Bethlehem ships. The remainder of the records deal with the Bethlehem snub starter developed by Madden and H. V. Nieman, and with torque amplifiers. Madden's files also contain some personal items, including World War II ration cards and coupons and an illustrated 1937 booklet on the Stoneleigh Prospect School, a girls' preparatory school in Massachusetts.

The largest textual series are two synthetic collections of vertical files and miscellaneous manuscripts produced by the company's two in-house historical units, the Charles M. Schwab Memorial Library and the Archives. These contain samples of company trade literature and brochures, newsclippings and tear sheets from the trade press covering Bethlehem's history and products, as well as the life of Charles M. Schwab and other Bethlehem officials, and the company's role in both world wars. Of particular note are two volumes of biographical no​tes on Schwab's life, from interviews conducted by Sidney B. Whipple a few years before his death. The Archives and Schwab Library also collected non-company manuscripts on the early history of the iron and steel industries. Among items of note is a biographical memoir of Sidney Gilchrist Thomas.

The few remaining records from the Publications Department consist of a sample of advertising and trade publications, circa 1958-1961. The records of the Real Estate Department include a small amount of departmental annual reports, a group of files from the period which the department was taking over the former Lackawanna, Midvale, and Pennsylvania Steel properties (which contains some information on company houses in the Johnstown area), and real estate maps of the Bethlehem and Lackawanna Steel plants and most of the shipyards.

The records of the Shipbuilding Division consist of fragments from the Manager of Ship Development and Sales; the Yard manager of Bethlehem-Sparrow's Point Shipyard, Inc.; and the General Manager of the Staten Island Shipyard. There are some plans and specifications for tankers, reports from Bethlehem's World War II activity, and a few reports on construction methods of tankers carrying special liquids. Additional material documents the World War II program at the Baltimore Yards. The largest group of records from the Shipbuilding Division includes plant organization charts, maps, and directories, as well as reports on sea trials of several freighters. A card file lists vessels repaired by Bethlehem in New York Harbor between 1939 and 1958.

The records of the Steel Operations Division are primarily concerned with products, production, and plant engineering, with most only covering the Bethlehem Plant. Meetings of plant general managers between 1918 and 1922 primarily concern output and material flows at more than one plant. Records of the Bethlehem Plant are particularly strong on armor plate and ordnance, and include portfolios of ink-and-wash drawings, as well as illustrated reports on the types of heavy guns and shells produced in the years just prior to World War I and some notebooks of Army and Navy contracts.

Arrangement

Arranged into 11 series by department or division, each of which have been arranged further in subseries. The series arrangement of the records is as follows:

Series I. Corporate Records;

Series II. Development and Research Department;

Series III. General Services Department;

Series IV. Bethlehem Steel Archives;

Series V. Industrial and Public Relations Department;

Series VI. Charles M. Schwab Memorial Library;

Series VII. Publications Department;

Series VIII. Real Estate Department;

Series IX. Sales Division;

Series X. Shipbuilding Division;

Series XI. Steel Operations Division.


Additional Information

Extent

75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Additional Description

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Arrangement

Arranged into 11 series by department or division, each of which have been arranged further in subseries. The series arrangement of the records is as follows:

Series I. Corporate Records;

Series II. Development and Research Department;

Series III. General Services Department;

Series IV. Bethlehem Steel Archives;

Series V. Industrial and Public Relations Department;

Series VI. Charles M. Schwab Memorial Library;

Series VII. Publications Department;

Series VIII. Real Estate Department;

Series IX. Sales Division;

Series X. Shipbuilding Division;

Series XI. Steel Operations Division.

Related Names

Creator

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400