- Chloe E. TaftChloe E. TaftIndependent Scholar
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a city of seventy-five thousand people in the Lehigh Valley, was settled on the traditional homelands of the Lenape in 1741 as a Moravian religious settlement. The Moravian community on the North Side of the Lehigh River was closed to outsiders and was characterized by orderly stone buildings and a communitarian economy. The settlement opened and expanded on the South Side of the river as an industrial epicenter beginning in the mid-19th century and was ultimately home to the headquarters of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. By the late 1930s, the city’s 1,800-acre steel plant was ramping up to peak production with employment of more than thirty thousand. When Bethlehem Steel began a long, slow decline after 1950 until the plant’s closure in 1998, Bethlehem evolved into an archetype of a postindustrial city drawing on its long history of heritage tourism and an increasingly diversified economy in healthcare, education, and distribution, among other sectors. The city’s population has roots in multiple waves of migration—the Germanic Moravians in the 18th century, throngs of European immigrants who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a Latino/a population that grew after World War II to represent an increasingly large share of residents. The city’s landscape, culture, and economy are imbued with a multifaceted history that is both deeply local and reflective of the city’s position since its founding as an important node in regional and global networks.
- Economic History
- Cultural History
- Urban History