Skip to main content
Notice: The Library is open for research by appointment only, please visit our research services page for more information.

Bethlehem Steel Corporation predecessor and subsidiary companies records, 1860-1947

 Record Group
Accession: 1699Identifier: 1699-III.


  • Creation: 1860-1947

Historical Note

The earliest direct predecessor of Bethlehem Steel was the Bethlehem Iron Company (1860-1901). It began as a producer of railroad rails, but beginning in the 1880s it pioneered in the manufacture of heavy forgings, ordnance and armor plate. As a result, Bethlehem was the only firm to enter a combined bid for both armor plate and gun forgings needed to begin the modernization of the American Navy. It supplied armor for the cruiser Maine, whose sinking provoked the Spanish-American War. The company began operations of new open-hearth furnaces in August 1888, and government contracts kept the company prosperous during the depression of 1893-1898. In 1896 the company stopped making rails and abandoned the Bessemer converters. As a result of its expansion in the 1890s, a new Bethlehem Steel Company was incorporated on April 17, 1899, and it leased all the property of the Bethlehem Iron Company on May 25. Bethlehem Iron sold all of its assets to the Bethlehem Steel Company on August 16, 1901, and passed out of existence.

In 1916 Bethlehem acquired the Pennsylvania Steel Company (1865-1916), a large integrated producer of rails and bridges. Its subsidiary, the Maryland Steel Company (1891-1919) operated a large steel-works and shipyard at Sparrow's Point. Bethlehem acquired the American Iron & Steel Manufacturing Company, a small manufacturer of nuts and bolts in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, in 1917.

In July 1919, Bethlehem Steel Company purchased the remaining stock of the Cornwall Railroad Company and the Cornwall Iron Company, which operated the Bird Coleman and North Cornwall furnaces in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. In 1898, the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company signed a twenty-year lease to operate the Bird Coleman and North Cornwall furnaces, and also purchased one-sixth of the capital stock of the Cornwall Iron Co. In 1916, the lease on the furnaces was sold to the newly created Penn-Mary Steel Co., a Bethlehem Steel Company subsidiary. Through the lease, Bethlehem also controlled an undivided 9.77 percent interest in the Cornwall Ore Banks and Mine Hills. After its sale to Bethlehem in 1919, the Cornwall Iron Company was dissolved, with all property transferred to the Bethlehem Steel Company. Purchasing Cornwall Iron Co. largely for its interest in the Cornwall ore properties, Bethlehem Steel dismantled the Bird Coleman furnaces in 1922 and abandoned the North Cornwall furnace in 1926.

Bethlehem's next large purchase came in 1922, when it acquired the Lackawanna Steel Company (1902-1922), another large integrated steel maker. Lackawanna Steel was the lineal descendant of the anthracite iron-works established at Scranton, Pa., in 1840 by Scrantons, Grant & Co. The Lackawanna Iron & Steel Company (1884-1925) moved the entire works to a site near Buffalo in 1900-1902 in order to have better access to Great Lakes ores.

In 1923 Bethlehem purchased most of the properties of the Midvale Steel & Ordnance Company (1915-1923), a combination of several steel plants assembled to take advantage of wartime orders. The principal component was the Cambria Steel Company (1898-1923) and its affiliate, the Cambria Iron Company (1852-1942), operators of a large steel-works at Johnstown, Pa. Cambria was one of the largest and most innovative producers in the 1860s and 1870s, and rolled the first commercial steel rail in America in 1867.

In 1935, Bethlehem purchased the property and assets of the McClintic-Marshall Corporation, which operated structural-steel fabricating works at Rankin, Leetsdale, and Pottstown, Pennsylvania. In the 1920s, McClintic-Marshall formed several new subsidiaries to build plants around the country convenient to major centers of construction activity. On February 10, 1931, McClintic-Marshall sold most of its assets of its several subsidiary companies to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The West Coast Plants were transferred to the Pacific Coast Steel Corporation and the remainder to a new McClintic-Marshall Corporation created using the charter of the old Midvale Steel Company. This company won the contract for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and other prominent public works projects. When Bethlehem Steel Chairman Eugene Grace saw McClintic-Marshall's name on the Golden Gate Bridge instead of Bethlehem's, he quickly ordered the McClintic-Marshall Corporation merged into the Bethlehem Steel Company.

The Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd. (1917-1938) was Bethlehem's principal shipbuilding subsidiary. It assumed the operation of several shipyards which Bethlehem had been acquiring since 1905. Among these were the Wilmington, Del., yard founded in 1844 by Betts, Harlan & Hollingsworth, but operated under the name of Harlan & Hollingsworth since 1849. The yard had pioneered the construction of iron and steel-hulled ships. The Union Iron Works Company (1905-1936) traced its beginnings back to a foundry established by James and Peter Donohue in San Francisco in 1849. It was the first iron and steel shipyard on the West Coast. On June 30, 1913, Bethlehem Steel acquired the property of the Fore River Ship & Engine Company, which operated a large shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. Bethlehem expanded the yard, and it became one of the company's top shipbuilding facilities, specializing in naval vessels. The property operated under the Fore River Shipbuilding Corporation, a Bethlehem Steel subsidiary. The Fore River Yard was leased to the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd. on November 1, 1917, and later sold to Bethlehem Shipbuilding on December 31, 1918.

In 1938, Bethlehem Shipbuilding acquired the properties of United Shipyards, Inc., (1936-1939), formerly United Dry Docks, Inc., (1929-1936). This was a combination of a number of small shipbuilding and ship repair yards in New York harbor. Among its predecessors was the W. & A. Fletcher Company (1883-1929), a noted builder of marine engines; the Morse Dry Dock & Repair Company (1904-1929); and the Staten Island Shipbuilding Company (1907-1929).

Bethlehem Steel acquired a shipyard in Beaumont, Texas, from Pennsylvania Shipyards, Inc., (1922-1947) in 1947.

Scope and Contents

The records of the subsidiary and predecessor companies of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation consist of a series of fragments from forty-three of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation's more than 400 subsidiary and predecessor companies.

The bulk of the records are design and construction drawings for vessels built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., and its predecessors. The best coverage is available from the Wilmington, Del., yard. The ship drawings are only partially processed.

The records of the Fore River Shipbuilding Corporation consist of a series of contracts with the United States Navy, most of which were made during the First World War. They include numerous contracts for torpedo boat destroyers, scout cruisers, and the submarine torpedo boat USS AA-1 (originally named the USS Schley, and then renamed the USS AA-1 in 1917), the first of three experimental submarines built for the US Navy toward the end of the war. Select contracts authorized during August 1917 include signatures from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who for a brief period served as the Active Secretary of the Navy.

The records also include the contracts for the USS Lexington, USS Quincy, USS Rhode Island, and the aircraft carrier USS Wasp. The contract for the battle cruiser USS Lexington (CC-1) also contains correspondence related to the supplementary contract for its conversion into an aircraft carrier, as well as agreements made with the General Electric Company. Correspondence included with the USS Quincy contract covers claims filed by Bethlehem Steel regarding the extra construction and labor costs incurred following the enactment of the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933. Correspondence in connection with other contracts in the records discuss typical topics such as financial issues, contract clause amendments, and construction delays.

There are small quantities of executive documents for a few of the companies. Minutes are available for the Bethlehem Iron Company, Maryland Steel Company of Baltimore County, Pennsylvania Steel Company of New Jersey, Midvale Steel & Ordnance Company, and the Harlan & Hollingsworth Corporation. A few important managerial and technical reports can be found in the records of the Bethlehem Iron Company, Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., and the Pennsylvania Steel Company. The acquisiton of Cuban ore lands is described in the records of the Juragua Iron Company, Ltd., the Pennsylvania Steel Company, and the Spanish-American Iron Company. The records of the Midvale Steel Company consist of corporate documents, directors’ and stockholders’ minutes, and a few agreements.

The records of the McClintic-Marshall Corporation include numerous agreements and correspondence regarding the contract bid for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and for the Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana. There is also a full run of Directors’ and Stockholders’ minutes that end with the company’s merger into Bethlehem Steel. Files pertaining to the bid on Golden Gate Bridge Contract 1-A include information regarding the initial proposal to the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District and correspondence to Bethlehem Steel Vice President Robert McMath with reference to various financial issues and concerns regarding qualification to do business in California. There is also information on construction delays, as well as material on the concerns and arguments over whether the installation of safety nets for workers might increase accidents. Similar documents are included in the correspondence for the bid on the Huey P. Long Bridge Contract Number 6 covering the construction of a superstructure of approaches over the Mississippi River. However, topics discussed are limited mostly to information about mortgages and bonds, as well as issues related to the contract.

The records of the Lackawanna Iron & Steel Company include descriptions, plans, and analysis of the blast furnaces built at Lackawanna in 1900. Records of the Lackawanna Steel Company are limited to miscellaneous agreements, organizational papers, and a few corporate documents. The agreements largely span from after the company was incorporated in 1902 until its sale to Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1922. Some production statements are available for the Bethlehem Iron Company and the Cambria Iron Company. Metallurgical analyses of blast furnace consumption and output are available for the Lackawanna Iron & Steel Company, the Lackawanna Steel Company, and the Pennsylvania Steel Company. The records of the Cambria Steel Company include correspondence from the engineering department concerning plant improvements, company houses and building the town of Westmont, reservoirs, and pipelines.

The records of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., the Bethlehem Iron Company, and the Pennsylvania Steel Company contain a few interesting pieces on efficiency and piece-work systems; the former includes a single specification book and accompanying blueprints for a pair of Cargo Steamers produced at the Sparrow's Point Yard in 1918, as well as a 1926 drawing depicting the layout of the Harlan Plant. The Cambria Steel Company files contain some information on welfare work. Safety campaigns are covered in some of the records of Cambria Steel and United Dry Docks, Inc. Some payrolls are included among the records of the Pottstown Bridge Company and J. H. Sternbergh & Sons. There are volumes recording employee changes at the Coatesville Plant (1917-1939) listing employees by occupation and reason for leaving.

The records of the W. & A. Fletcher Company include a vertical file on turn-of-the-century steamboat developments created by Andrew Fletcher, Jr. Fletcher also collected timetables and annual passes from a number of eastern steamboat companies and railroads.

The records of the Cornwall Iron Company are mostly limited to organizational papers and papers relating to the company’s dissolution. Meeting minutes from the Board of Directors are incomplete and only include the brief period following Bethlehem Steel’s purchase of the company in 1919. In addition, correspondence related to board meetings and capital stock and property transfers are only available for the period covering the sale of the company. The details of the lease agreement between the Cornwall Iron Co. and Lackawanna Iron and Steel Co. for the operation of the Bird Coleman and North Cornwall furnaces are included, and contain typical stipulations such as royalties paid per ton of pig iron sold, payments to Cornwall Iron Co. stockholders for iron ore, and other raw material delivery arrangements.

The records of the Cornwall Ore Bank Company largely consist of corporate records related to the organization of the company, as well as correspondence associated with the purchase and transfer of interests in the Cornwall ore banks owned by the Freeman and Grubb families. Consequently, the records primarily cover the period shortly before Bethlehem Steel Co. transferred the property to a new company called the Cornwall Ore Banks Corporation in 1921. Of particular note is correspondence covering the sale and transfer of Henry Bates Grubb’s (1848-1919) interest in the Cornwall ore banks to Bethlehem Steel. There is also correspondence regarding the transfer of Cornwall ore interests from the Lavino Furnace Company and the estates of Sarah H. Coleman and Margaret C. Freeman, heirs of Robert W. Coleman. Lastly, included is a tax assessment of the Cornwall ore banks and correspondence related to Bethlehem Steel’s subsequent appeal. The records of the Cornwall Ore Banks Corporation consist of organizational papers and minutes of the directors’ and stockholders’ annual meetings. Also included are the minutes from the incorporators’ meeting and the authorization of sale of all its property to the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1925.


Arranged alphabetically by company into forty-six series, some of which have been arranged further in subseries.


114 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Additional Description

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.


Arranged alphabetically by company into forty-six series, some of which have been arranged further in subseries.

Related Names


Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA