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Bethlehem in Northampton County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Why Did Bethlehem Close?

The Last Pour

 
 
Why Did Bethlehem Close? Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., December 22, 2017
1. Why Did Bethlehem Close? Marker
Inscription.

How could an industrial giant for over a century fall into a drastic decline and close?

And what would happen to the workers and facility? Many who worked here asked these questions as the plant ground to a close. Workers cast Blast Furnace C for the last time on November 18, 1995, and thousands of people left the plant knowing they'd never return. The cooling of the Blast Furnaces was the beginning of a phased shut-down of the Bethlehem facility. By 1998, all operations had ended.

Multiple factors contributed to the decline and failure of Bethlehem Steel. First, the market was changing. Materials like aluminum and plastic were beginning to replace steel. Starting in the 1960s, the corporation faced increasing competition from foreign mills and mini-mills within the US. In the late 1970s, a number of disasters forced the shutdown and caused costly cleanup efforts of several facilities in Lackawanna, NY; in Johnstown, PA; and near Pittsburgh. Finally, a recession in the early 1980s and shrinking profits continued to propel the decline.

Many believe that Bethlehem's management inadequately responded to these challenges; some think that the Union's demands on wages and pensions made the situation even worse. After 138 years of continuous operation, the closing of the plant changed this region forever.

"...when

Why Did Bethlehem Close? Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., December 22, 2017
2. Why Did Bethlehem Close? Marker
Looking back toward the blast furnaces
the saw operator made the last final cut, the tears started to come down our eyes, and we hugged everybody. We were sad. And that was the first time we heard the mill silent. A lot of the guys you work with, you're never gonna see them again."
- Dave Swartz
Beam Yard Saw Operator

[Photo caption reads]
Workers and family members gather to watch the last pour from Blast Furnace C on November 18, 1995.
 
Erected by SteelStacks. (Marker Number 20.)
 
Location. 40° 36.903′ N, 75° 21.893′ W. Marker is in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in Northampton County. Touch for map. Marker is on the Hoover-Mason Trestle at SteelStacks. Marker is at or near this postal address: 711 East 1st Street, Bethlehem PA 18015, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Flow Of Goods & Money (a few steps from this marker); Non-Native Plants (a few steps from this marker); Wartime Steel (within shouting distance of this marker); The No. 2 Machine Shop (within shouting distance of this marker); A Changing Landscape (within shouting distance of this marker); Heat Treating

Photo on Why Did Bethlehem Close? Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., December 22, 2017
3. Photo on Why Did Bethlehem Close? Marker
(within shouting distance of this marker); One Of The Hardest Jobs In The World (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Legacy of Steel (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bethlehem.
 
Also see . . .
1. Bethlehem Steel: Forging America. (Submitted on February 14, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Bethlehem Steel Corporation. (Submitted on February 14, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Steelworkers' Archives. (Submitted on February 14, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. What is SteelStacks?. (Submitted on February 14, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceLabor UnionsMan-Made Features
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 14, 2018. This page originally submitted on February 14, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 60 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on February 14, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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