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Lehigh Valley History

The Lehigh Valley is home to a variety of successful industries, such as steel, textiles, and various manufacturing industries. People seeking work and opportunity were attracted to this region in the twentieth century because of these growing industries.

Bethlehem Steel is one of the largest and most famous industries in the Lehigh Valley. The four and a half mile plant that stretched along the Lehigh River, was officially chartered in 1904. The plant produced steel for the George Washington Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and numerous naval and merchant vessels and battleships during World War II. Today, Bethlehem Steel is committed to maintaining the economic vitality of the region. The company has contracted a project known as Bethlehem Works which focuses on redeveloping the plant property for future economic growth.

Cement was first developed successfully in the Lehigh Valley by mixing cement rock and clay in large kilns. The success of the cement industry led to the founding of the Lehigh Portland Cement Company and the growth of numerous towns throughout the region including Cementon, Ormrod, Northampton, Coplay, Bath, and Nazareth.

World War II influenced the growth of the textile and manufacturing industries. Allentown was home to 16 silk manufacturing mills and others were located in Bethlehem, Easton, Vera Cruz, Egypt, and other sites. Mack Trucks was another company that strongly influenced the economic success of the Lehigh Valley. The company began in 1903 and built the Allentown plant in 1905. Other industries included food production, paper products, industrial machines, crayons, and more. All these industries, and others, contributed to the success of the region and the diverse labor force that immigrated in search of opportunity.

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