Bethlehem and South Bethlehem, PA, looking north east, 1877.
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Bird's-eye view of Bethlehem and South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, looking northeast along the Lehigh River.

Credit: Library of Congress

Founded in 1741 by Moravians, a sect of German religious communitarians, Bethlehem remained closed to outsiders until 1844. The opening of the Lehigh Canal in 1829 contributed to the town's economic growth, but it was only after steelmaker John Fritz improved the Bessemer process at the Bethlehem Iron Company in the 1870s that Bethlehem became one of the nation's great steel mill towns. In this lithograph from 1877, the Iron Works can be seen in the distance on the right side of the Lehigh River.

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