Bethlehem Moment: First Lehigh Valley Gay organization forms

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Bethlehem Moment 26
City Council
July 21, 2020

Mary Foltz, Lehigh University
Susan Falciani Maldonado, Muhlenberg College
Kristen Leipert, Muhlenberg College


Bethlehem Moment: June 22, 1969

Le-Hi-Ho, the first organized group for gays in the Lehigh Valley,
held its first meeting

As the Lehigh Valley concludes the celebration of Pride month and looks forward to Allentown’s Pride Festival in August, the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive has engaged with uncovering the deep history of LGBT organizing in our region. While many will know about activism at Stonewall in New York City, few in our region will recall 1960s LGBT organizations that paved the way for social change in Pennsylvania and the larger nation. We are grateful for this opportunity to share a short narrative about one such organization that originated in the months prior to the Stonewall uprising. It is our hope that this story will give residents of Bethlehem and the larger Lehigh Valley a glimpse of the vibrant contributions of LGBT leaders to our region. And we affirm here that the Lehigh Valley has important stories to tell about LGBT history from the 1960s into the present.

In the early months of 1969, a group of friends tuned into activist groups in major urban centers envisioned bringing the energy of the Homophile Movement to the Valley. The Homophile Movement gained support in the U.S. in the 1950s and continued to make progress through the 1960s; its primary aims were to fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian people, to counter discrimination in housing and employment, and to counter negative medical, educational, and social understandings of homosexuality. As LGBT people in the Valley faced rampant discrimination, this group of friends believed that a local homophile organization could help to make civic change that greatly would impact our community.

gay 1

LeHiHo members summer 2019 with student archivists

Their dream became a reality six days before the raid at the Stonewall Inn, which served as a catalyst for the gay liberation movement.  On June 22, 1969, a gathering of twenty-seven individuals met “on the north slope of the blue mountains” in Bloomsburg, PA to form a “homophile movement” in the Lehigh Valley. The meeting drew participants from a sixty-mile radius, and fifteen charter members pledged dues, time, and energy to foster the new organization. Leaders of the burgeoning organization included Ron Seeds, Joseph Burns, and others from the city of Bethlehem.

One of the primary decisions the members faced was whether or not to become an affiliate of the nationally-networked Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights groups in the United States. Ultimately, the Lehigh Valley’s relative distance from New York City and Philadelphia, which presented challenges for attending meetings and events, prompted the founders to lean towards an independent organization, and the Homophile Movement of the Lehigh Valley was born. Nicknamed “Le-Hi-Ho,” the organization wanted to secure a more central location for their meetings so that many in the Lehigh Valley could attend. During the summer of 1969, Le-Hi-Ho approached the Unitarian Church of Bethlehem about holding its meetings in their building, and, after a review of the organization’s bylaws, the Church approved meetings beginning in 1970.

From its first month, Le-Hi-Ho became a hub for information about national gay liberation struggles and their regional counterparts. For example, they published their first newsletter in June 1969 and continued to offer relevant reportage about protests and activist efforts in our region and NYC and Philadelphia as well as needed discussion of social events. Even as they provided rich resources for the LGBT community, Le-Hi-Ho leaders sought to protect members from discrimination by securing mailing lists and the names and addresses of those who received newsletters. As gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people could be fired or lose housing because of their sexual or gender identities, leaders needed to ensure the privacy of members. All communication and correspondence was conducted through a Bethlehem post office box in the name of Ron Seeds, a manager at Bethlehem Steel who was the founding director of Le-Hi-Ho. Ron Seeds was the only keeper of the Le-Hi-Ho mailing list, thereby ensuring that names of members were not revealed. The August ‘69 newsletter stressed the importance of discretion, recommending best practices for not revealing too much about other members of the organization.

According to Joseph Burns, the original editor of the newsletter, Le-Hi-Ho was primarily a social organization even as their members were invested in politics. Monthly meetings often featured an invited speaker, such as “Dr. Bob” in September ‘69, who spoke about health concerns of LGBT people, or Dick Leitsch of the Mattachine Society, who visited in January 1970. Still, the most anticipated part of the meetings was the social hour that followed the conclusion of the official agenda. Le-Hi-Ho provided an alternative to the bar scene, according to Burns, as many LGBT people wanted the opportunity to meet outside of noisy taprooms and dance halls.

While social events continued to be a huge draw for members, political organizing became the focus for others. Le-Hi-Ho members, like Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, LeHiHo 1were involved in starting the Lambda Center in Allentown, the first LGBT community center in our region. Others were involved with the regional chapter of N.O.W. and participated in the important fight for an anti-discrimination ordinance in Allentown. The political activity of Le-Hi-Ho members shows the value of social organizations for fostering spaces in which to build community, to dream of social change, and to create relationships that fuel the difficult work for social justice.

In the late 1990s, Le-Hi-Ho’s membership began to decline as other LGBT organizations took the lead in the Valley, building on the foundation created by our earlier organizers. Still, their work on behalf of our community is an important part of Lehigh Valley history, which we are proud to celebrate.

We are fortunate to have insight into the early days of this (necessarily) private organization thanks to archivally-minded members of the group, Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, who deposited the records of Le-Hi-Ho at the Allentown Public Library, where they are available for researchers. The collection contents can be viewed by visiting the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive at

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Bethlehem Moment: A Drug Bust Goes Bad

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Bethlehem Moment 25
City Council
June 16, 2020

Edward J. Gallagher
49 W. Greenwich St.

Bethlehem Moment: April 23, 1997

A Drug Bust Goes Bad

After prior investigation and working with a confidential informant, at approximately 11PM on April 23, 1997, a group of about a half-dozen Bethlehem Police officers attempted to exercise a search warrant at a house on the Southside in which lived a suspected drug dealer, known to be armed, and his girlfriend.

Here are the skeletal facts:

Officers 1 and 2 were in the front of the house, the rest of the officers in the rear.

Officer 2 opened a front window, and officer 1 threw into the living room a flash-bang distraction device that immediately and unexpectedly started a fast-moving fire. Hirko 3

Officer 1 entered the house and shot the suspect as he was starting to move up the steps to the 2nd floor. Officer 1, using what is described as a “submachine gun” (shown here testifying at the trial), fired approximately 16 shots, 11 hitting the suspect, all in the back.

The suspect’s girlfriend was on the 2nd floor, saw the suspect on the steps, and exited the fiery house through a window.

The suspect died from the gunshot wounds, and his body was burned beyond recognition in the fire that rendered the house a total loss.

Questions about the way police handled this event arose at once.

The Pennsylvania state police and the Attorney General’s office investigated and in September 1997, 5 months after the event, cleared the police of any wrong doing.

The suspect’s family sued the City and the officers for breach of the suspect’s civil rights and for use of excessive force.

A central point of contention at trial was initial interaction between officer 1 and the suspect. Officer 1 said he shot at the suspect because the suspect shot at him. No shell casing from the suspect’s gun was found. The suspect’s girlfriend said she did not see him with a gun on the steps.

The civil suit against the City and the officers began September 2003, 6 1/2 years after the event.

The trial took 6 months, ending March 2004. The jury deliberated 9 days.

The jury told the judge they were deadlocked at 10-2. Both sides agreed to waive the need for unanimity and to accept the 10-2 verdict whatever it was.

The verdict was guilty: officer 1 had violated the suspect’s civil rights by using excessive force, and the City failed to properly supervise the officers and had failed to create policies for the Emergency Response Team.

Rather than further deliberation before the jury and the prospect of years of appeals, both sides agreed to settle the case before the penalty phase of the trial was to begin.

The mutually agreed on terms of settlement were: 1) the City would pay $7.89m, 2) seek accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, 3) hire an independent consultant to make sure that the City’s police practices meet national standards, and 4) seek a grant to instruct officers in the constitutional rights of citizens.

A key to the settlement without further jury involvement was the City’s promise to seek outside help to improve the police force and the offer by Mayor Callahan, in office only two months, to meet privately with the plaintiffs and make an apology.

The police, however, did not apologize, and, in fact, officer 1 was given an “Award for Valor” by a police organization.

Interviewed afterward, the jurors said the suspect had a right to shoot — if, in fact, he did — because the police provoked the suspect to defend himself by storming in late at night without properly identifying themselves. Their verdict focused on civil rights, they said, not on whether the suspect was using or selling illegal drugs.

That was the sentiment of most public comment reported in the Morning Call. There was recognition that the suspect bore some blame for what happened to him, but the police were described as a bunch of ninja’s and as commando’s that took into their own hands the power to be judge, jury, and executioner.

The anti-climax to this long saga was a battle between the Mayor and City Council on how to fund the $7.89m payment. The Mayor advanced a plan, Council rejected it. Council put forth a plan, the Mayor vetoed it. And Council overrode the veto.

The City finally finished paying off the $7.89m judgment in 2015.

End of story.

But the point of this Bethlehem Moment is its relevance to our own cultural moment.

Here is an example from Bethlehem’s past when lack of proper oversight of the police department caused big trouble.

We recognize the dual accreditations that the department now enjoys in large part as a result of this event, and which the Chief told us about last meeting, but we also should not lose sight of the need for continual oversight of the police department and continual improvement of department policies, practices, training, and community involvement.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Morning Call articles

April 25, 1997: “Gunshots killed man in drug raid”

September 17, 1997: “Bethlehem police cleared in death”

September 17, 2003: “Hirko lawsuit too important to be frivolous”

January 4, 2004: “What happened at 629 Christian St.?”

March 4, 2004: “Hirko jury nails Bethlehem, police officer for deadly raid”

March 22, 2004: “Hirko settlement reached”

March 23, 2004: “Hirko deal: $8 million, reforms”

March 29, 2004: “Jurors: Hirko had right of defense”

March 22, 2005: “Year after Hirko settlement, Bethlehem police try reforms”

March 24, 2005: “Bethlehem police get credit for efforts to adhere to national police standards”


Bethlehem Moment: Dr. William L. Estes Comes to Bethlehem

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Bethlehem Moment 24
City Council
June 3, 2020

Barbara Diamond
425 Center St.

City Council video: begin min. 55:32

Bethlehem Moment: January 1, 1881

Dr. William L. Estes Comes to Bethlehem

Dr. William L. Estes, first Superintendent, Director, and Chief Surgeon of St. Luke’s Hospital , was a figure of immense importance in Bethlehem’s history. Born in 1855 on a plantation in western Tennessee, he embarked on a career in medicine while still in his teens, eventually making his way to New York City to complete his medical training. His intelligence and diligence quickly brought him to the attention of some of the best clinicians of their day. Luckily for Bethlehem, in 1878 he was one of only two students selected for training at Mt. Sinai Hospital. His training there would have a profound impact on medical care not only in Bethlehem but nationally and internationally.

Medicine in America in those days was more craft than science. It was only in the1860s that Dr. Joseph Lister took Pasteur’s theories of bacterial contamination and applied them to surgical infections –- soaking surgical sponges, spraying wounds with antiseptic Eakinssolution, washing surgical instruments, and wearing appropriate surgical gowns. These ideas were controversial and not widely adopted outside of Germany. In fact, the famous 1885 painting by Thomas Eakins, The Gross Clinic, shows renown surgeon Samuel Gross surrounded by assistants who hover over a patient, all in their street clothes, without masks, and the patient wearing socks. Even through the 1880s and 1890s there was no general agreement about the causal role of bacteria in wound infection –- at least in the US and England. That was not the case in Germany, though, which was an early adopter of Listerian practices and Robert Koch’s theories of bacteriology, and applied them to medical practice.

At Mt. Sinai, medical training was influenced by German theory and practice. In fact, business at the hospital was actually conducted in German. As a result, Dr. Estes was an early confirmed practitioner of Listerism (asepsis), much earlier than most other clinicians in the US. This placed him on the forefront of the revolution in medicine that resulted in a more scientific approach and better clinical and surgical outcomes.

In 1881, when he was just 26 years old, Dr. Estes was recruited to be St. Luke’s first superintendent and director. Thankfully for the people of Bethlehem he brought this scientific orientation to the fledgling hospital. Over the course of the next 39 years, until estes 1his retirement in 1920, Dr. Estes created innovations that not only saved lives in Bethlehem but were also adopted widely in the US and overseas. Many of these innovations arose from the industrial environment that motivated Bethlehem’s business leaders to establish the hospital.

The Lehigh Valley of that day was the hub of four railroads as well as home to a growing number of mines and mills. Industrial accidents, especially those associated with coupling and uncoupling rail cars by hand with no safety equipment, were a growing problem along the rail lines that stretch out from Bethlehem. The closest hospital was fifty miles away in Philadelphia.

One of his early innovations, which became a national standard, followed his appointment in 1882 as Chief Surgeon of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He promptly organized the disconnected group of medical men who served the communities along the railroad lines into the Association of Lehigh Valley Railroad Surgeons. In 1886 he devised a uniform first aid kit to be carried on locomotives and cabooses of every freight train, established a course of lectures and demonstrations for first aid, and required conductors, engineers, station agents, and clerks to come to St Luke’s for instruction.

Among Dr. Estes’ most significant innovations was the founding of St. Luke’s School of Nursing. Training women to serve as nurses was controversial at the time, but Dr. Estes’ training in New York exposed him to the fledgling movement founded by Florence Nightingale and convinced him that appropriately trained women could be a vital adjunct to patient care. Not long after coming to St. Luke’s, he began to lay the ground work for a nurse training program modeled on the Nightingale Plan. The school was established in 1884 making it among the earliest schools in the country. Today, St. Luke’s School of Nursing is the nation’s oldest nursing school in continuous operation.

Dr. Estes’ experience treating injuries led to a subsequent innovation that revolutionized the treatment of compound fractures with the “plate and peg” method of splinting. His scientific approach to the study of treatment methods as a leader of a study for the American College of Surgeons led to the permanent establishment of the Committee on Trauma. As a result, the standard of fracture care in hospitals in the US and Canada improved immensely.

Dr. Estes was a remarkable man, an exceptional administrator, and medical visionary whose leadership greatly benefited the people of Bethlehem.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”


Dr. William L. Estes, 1855-1940: the first superintendent, director, and chief surgeon of St. Luke’s Hospital: an autobiography, published 1967

Asepsis and Bacteriology: A Realignment of Surgery and Laboratory Science Thomas Schlich Medical History, Jul 2012, 56(3)308-334 Published online 2012

The Listerian Revolution, the Gross Clinic & the Agnew Clinic; Thomas Jefferson University, Historical Profiles,

St.  Luke’s University Health Network, School of Nursing, History,

St. Luke’s Made Medical History; Bethlehem Press, November 23, 2015,’s-made-medical-history

Dr. William L. Estes Sr. – Christmas City – Bethlehem PA; November 1, 2017,

Bethlehem Moment: The Mayor of Main Street

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Bethlehem Moment 23Brown 3
City Council
May 5, 2020

Sharon A Brown
234 E. Goepp St.

video (start at min. 2:20)

Bethlehem Moment: January 1,1986

An Unknown History about the Only African American Business
in Historic Downtown Bethlehem

For years I have been annoyed when individuals reference the history of African Americans and their presence in Bethlehem and maybe innocently leave out the only individual of African descent to own a successful business and property on Main Street in Historic Downtown Bethlehem.  In this Bethlehem Moment, I want to talk about Steve Holloman, Sr., who was the owner of Topsy Turvy located at 528 Main Street. In fact, at one-point Steve was the proprietor of the gift shops at Hotel Bethlehem and the former Holiday Inn on 512.

When Steve shares his story, he recalls riding through Bethlehem on a business trip from Philadelphia. He was enamored by the beautiful historic majesty of the city and thought “this would be a good place to move and start a business.” Steve began looking for a property in downtown Bethlehem to purchase and encountered roadblocks. Steve persisted and connected with a realtor who worked with him to find the current location he has now owned for the last thirty years. Steve recalls he met numerous setbacks by the City of Bethlehem and others who didn’t want a Black man to own a property that included rental apartments in downtown Bethlehem nor open a business.

In 1986 Topsy Turvy was birthed and opened at 528 Main Street. Topsy Turvy was an eclectic gift shop that featured an array of gifts and artwork. You could find handcrafted jewelry, Moravian stars and leather game boards; vintage posters, Bethlehem tee shirts, hats, unique antiques and furniture, and so much more! Brown 1

A signature event for Steve was Musikfest. Every year, he would have a booth in front of his store and sold his exclusive music-themed tee shirts. This was one of the most popular items that people sought to purchase. Each year, a new design was featured. In fact, to this day you can spot a tee shirt that someone is wearing and know it was purchased at Topsy Turvy.

Steve was known as the mayor of Main Street because of his outgoing personality and welcoming disposition. On a beautiful day, there would be Steve immersed in conversations and laughter while sitting on the bench with friends like Dr. John, Tony the Englishman, Adrian who owned Adrian’s, and countless others who stopped by “to shoot the breeze” and listen to wonderful music that serenaded everyone as they entered Topsy Turvy or walked by.  You might hear Frank Sinatra, Keb-Mo, Carol King, Sting, Al Jarreau, Baka Beyond, Jimmy Lawrence the late Bethlehem jazz singer and so many others.

In 2005, Steve had an epiphany to create the secret garden in the back of his building. He worked tirelessly to create a sacred space that exuded peace and love. The creation led to a beautiful garden and pond with a stage for entertainment. The secret garden became a popular venue on Friday evenings for one of the first drum circles in Bethlehem.  This venue would also become a meditation spot for customers and people who worked downtown.

What made Steve successful was his “spirit.” No matter who you were, Steve made you feel special.  There was the young man who stopped by faithfully every day who dealt with several ability issues, and Steve always took time to talk to him. And the poet whose poetry is in the Library of Congress with her walker in hand who would bring her poetry for Steve to read. And the countless college students who stopped by for a word of encouragement. Yes, Topsy Turvy was a special place!

Many of Steve’s customers were regulars from the Pocono’s, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Philadelphia, and, of course, Bethlehem.  One of the keys to success is “kindness” in action.  It was nothing for Steve to share his special “hot tea with spices” with our community police officers who patrolled Main Street or the customer who came in on a cold wintery day.  The other special ingredient is the ambience of the space. Steve’s creative genius was seen through the creative design of his store and the vibrant colors he used to decorate with.  His window displays and flowers he planted in front of his store drew attention to the passer-by. It became the photo-op spot for television news folks and couples wanting a beautiful background.

Steve won awards for the care and attention he gave to his property. In 2012, Steve retired his business because of health issues.  Topsy Turvy was a dream come true for Steve. He worked hard and withstood with dignity the prejudice he experienced as a Black man. In a world where you are judged by the color of your skin, Steve Holloman defied all the stereotypes cast upon him as a business owner. It is with love and gratitude that I write this story about Steve and the beauty and love he brought to all those who connected with Topsy Turvy. Ashae’

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Bethlehem Moment: The Military Commission and Bethlehem Attorney Doster’s Defense of Lincoln Assassination Conspirators Atzerodt and Powell

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Alan would normally deliver this “Moment” in person at City Council tonight — no doubt in re-enactor garb — but we bow to the pandemic and publish it solely here. Enjoy!

Bethlehem Moment 22
City Council
April 21, 2020

Alan Y. Lowcher
438 High St.

Bethlehem Moment: July 7, 1865, Trying the Assassins of President Lincoln

“Sic Semper Tyrannis!” With those words and a woman’s scream from the Presidential Box, the audience at Ford’s Theater was plunged into chaos.  Several physicians examined the unconscious President and pronounced the wound mortal.  It would be unseemly for the President of the United States to die in a house of entertainment – on Good Friday, no less.  But the doctors agreed that Lincoln would never survive the carriage ride to the White House.  The President was carried out onto Tenth Street, Union officers scanning the scene for someplace – anyplace – to take the dying Chief Executive.  From across the street, a voice called out “Bring him in here,” and Lincoln was carried into a boarding house and laid in the bed of Louisa Peterson, who was away at the Bethlehem Female Seminary.  The President died in her bed at 7:22 AM on Easter Saturday, April 15, 1865.  Telegraphers flashed the news around the country. Wednesday, April 19th was designated as a national day of mourning.

Secretary of War Stanton directed the search for Lincoln’s assassin – and the perpetrators of the brutal assault on Secretary of State Seward – from the Peterson

Lowcher Lincoln
Alan and Patricia Lowcher at the 150th observation of Lincoln’s assassination

house.  With the full weight of the military and police brought to bear, it was only a matter of days until the Lincoln conspirators – John Wilkes Booth, David Herald, George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell (a/k/a Payne), Mary Surratt, Dr. Mudd, Edman Spangler, and two early signers on in the plot to kidnap Lincoln but who were not involved in the plans to assassinate Lincoln – Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlin – were identified, caught, and incarcerated, except for Booth who died of a gunshot at the Garrett farm in Virginia.  Another conspirator – John Surratt, Jr., Mary’s son — had fled to Canada.  He would elude capture for a year and was tried before a civilian court in 1867, the U.S. Supreme Court having held in Ex Parte Milligan that trying civilians in a military court was unconstitutional when the civilian courts were functioning.  The statute of limitations having run on the lesser charges, Surratt was released when the jury could not unanimously agree on the remaining murder charge.

Stanton favored convening a military commission to quickly try and execute the conspirators.  The commission met for the first time on May 8, 1865.  All of the defendants except Atzerodt and Powell were represented by attorneys.  Bethlehem native Brevet Brigadier General William E. Doster was hired by Atzerodt’s brother to defend George. The commission appointed Doster to represent Powell, who could not secure his own counsel.  Doster was a Yale graduate and obtained his law degree from Harvard.  He served with the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry and rose quickly to the rank of Lt. Colonel.  His military career was cut short when he contracted malaria after the Gettysburg campaign.  In 1865 he was honored with the rank of Brevet Brigadier General “for gallant and meritorious service in the field.”  Although his illness kept him out of the saddle, Doester turned his combative skills to good use practicing law in Washington City in 1864.

Faced with an eye-witness identifying Powell as Seward’s attacker, and weapons, an escape map, and Booth’s bank book found in a trunk in Atzerodt’s hotel room – Atzerodt Lowcher Lincoln 2was assigned to assassinate Vice President Johnson — Doster surely realized that his clients would be convicted.  All he could do was try to persuade the commission to spare their lives.  In the case of Atzerodt, Doster argued that he was too much of a coward to be that heavily involved in the conspiracy. Atzerodt, after all, failed to carry out Booth’s instructions to kill the Vice President.  Instead, he downed several drinks at the Kirkland House bar, mere feet from Johnson’s room, and then made his way out of Washington City.  Doster might also have highlighted his client’s lack of intelligence: Atzerodt made a bee-line for a relative’s house in nearby Maryland.  His trail was not hard to follow.  Doster’s defense of Powell portrayed the former Confederate soldier as an abused, innocent farm boy turned murderer by the recently concluded cruel war.  Doster also argued that Powell suffered from a kind of insanity.  After all, Powell was heard to scream as he ran from Seward’s home, “I’m mad! I’m mad!”   In the end, Doster’s eloquent pleas on behalf of both clients came to naught.  Atzerodt and Powell were hanged together with David Herold and Mrs. Surratt, July 7, 1865.

However, that is not the end of the story.   In 1978, a historian examining Doster’s legal files came across a May 1, 1865, “confession” made by George Atzerodt to the Provost Marshal of Baltimore.  Atzerodt’s statements directly linked Mrs. Surratt and Dr. Mudd to Booth’s original plot to kidnap Lincoln and spirit him to Richmond.  More tellingly, Atzerodt confirmed Booth’s instructions to Mrs. Surratt – after Booth’s plans turned from kidnapping to assassination – to make ready the rifles that she had hidden in her Surrattsville tavern for Booth to pick up after assassinating Lincoln.  Inexplicably, the Provost Marshal turned over Atzerodt’s statement to Doster, not Secretary of War Stanton.  Doster suppressed Atzerodt’s statement and never spoke of it.  Had he revealed it, the evidence of Mrs. Surratt’s guilt would have been that much stronger, and Dr. Mudd – who escaped the death penalty by one vote – surely would have hanged alongside Mrs. Surratt and the others.  An unanswerable question remains:  Had General Doster chosen to reveal the “confession,” could he have made a plea deal with the military commission to spare Atzerodt the death penalty in exchange for Mudd’s life?

Doster returned to Bethlehem after the war to practice law.  He represented many local companies, including Bethlehem Iron Company and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, and Bethlehem’s prominent citizens and their families.  He married Evelyn Augusta Depew in 1867.  They had two sons and a daughter.  The marriage was “dissolved,” and in 1888, 51-year-old Doster married 19-year-old Ruth Porter, a great beauty, and heiress to two prominent East Coast families. The musically gifted Ruth was a founder of the Bach Choir.  Scandal befell the family when Ruth divorced General Doster and married her stepson, Edward Depew Doster, who was just a year older than she.

And what of Louisa Peterson’s bed?  Peterson’s father sold the house for $4,500 to a speculator who hoped that the government would buy it for a museum.  The bed upon which President Lincoln died was sold for $80.  According to Louisa’s brother Fred, who gave an interview to the Chicago Historical Society in 1926, the family could have sold the bed many times over.  The story of Miss Peterson, her bed, and its connection to Bethlehem would never have been known except for a letter that Louisa wrote in 1864 asking about her trunk that had not arrived home yet from school.  The letter, found in the Moravian Archives, included details about Peterson’s family that led to the “Bethlehem” connection to the household where Lincoln died.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”


The Morning Call, November 24, 2017, In Bethlehem’s Moravian history, archivists find connections to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, by Nicole Radzievich.

Chicago Historical Bulletin, February 1926, containing an interview of Fred Peterson that first appeared in the New York Times, February 9, 1913.

National Park Service, Ford’s Theater, Washington, D.C.

The Morning Call, January 6, 2002, Bethlehem native played a role in aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, by Edward Steers, Jr.

The Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators, by Doug Linder (2009)

Information for possible Bethlehem Momentors

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“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

1) The “Bethlehem Moment” is a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s, usually no more than 20 typed lines, that can be read in approximately 3 minutes, that will be presented at the beginning of City Council meetings. The Moments will be archived in Council minutes and published on the Gadfly blog, as well as perhaps other places.

2) The purpose of the Bethlehem Moment in a town that has been the scene of so much important history and has three historical districts is to encourage everyone to learn more about that history. (For examples, see:

3) Willingness and interest are the most important things. You don’t have to feel you know anything at the beginning. A list of resources will be available. There will be people with whom to consult.

4) Help can be provided finding a topic, researching it, and writing the Moment if needed.

5) The topic is open, but you should clear it with the coordinator.

6) Good topics often start with a question: who? what? when? why?

7) Pick a topic that you know about, or, better yet, one that you want to learn about or feel that it is important that others know about.

8) There is no especial need to pick big topics, obvious topics, well-known topics. Aspects of our history that are little-known or hidden, that we might not have even heard of, might be better.

9) Likewise, you should feel no especial need to choose a celebratory, feel-good topic – our dark moments are part of our history too and equally important and illuminating.

10) It’s best if you deliver your Moment at City Council yourself, but others can read it for you if necessary or if you prefer.

11) City Council meets at Town Hall the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.

12) You might not feel that you have anything to say at the beginning, but you will probably struggle to confine yourself to 20 lines/3 minutes after you have done some research.

13) The Bethlehem Moment is a project aimed at fostering a sense of community. You should feel it an honor to do one. We hope you will see it as fun.

14) After, we hope you will be an Ambassador for the project & encourage others to participate.

15) please contact:

Ed Gallagher
Coordinator pro-tem

Guide to Bethlehem history (version 2)

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“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Gadfly needs a list of resources for people interested in doing Bethlehem Moments, but, in general, we simply need a handy guide to resources for anybody studying Bethlehem history.

Gadfly knows that many followers are much more knowledgeable about Bethlehem history than he is, and thus this is an invitation to contribute suggestions for additions.


Guide to Bethlehem History

Craig Atwood, Community of the Cross: Moravian Piety in Colonial Bethlehem (2012)

Bethlehem of Pennsylvania: The First One Hundred Years, 1741 to 1841 (1968)

Bethlehem of Pennsylvania: The Golden Years 1841-1920 (1976)

Kate Carte Engel, Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (2009)

Katie Faull, ed., Moravian Women’s Memoirs (1999)

Mark C. Iampietro, “Then & Now” Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Mark C. Iampietro and John Marquette, Tamar Bair’s Bethlehem: The Colonial Industrial Quarter

Joseph Levering, A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1892 (1903)

Richmond Myers, Lehigh Valley: The Unsuspected (1972)
The Richmond Myers papers are in the Moravian Archives

Richmond Myers, Sketches of Early Bethlehem (1981)
The Richmond Myers papers are in the Moravian Archives

Jeffrey A. Parks, Stronger than Steel: Forging a Rust Belt Renaissance (2018)

Kenneth F. Raniere, Karen M. Samuels, and the South Bethlehem Historical Society, South Bethlehem (2010)

Karen M. Samuels, Legendary Locals of Bethlehem (2013)

Kathleen Stewart, ed. Bethlehem (1997)

John Strohmeyer, Crisis in Bethlehem: Big Steel’s Struggle to Survive (1994)—by-john-strohmeyer

Chloe Taft, From Steel to Slots: Casino Capitalism in the Postindustrial City (2016)

Kenneth Warren, Bethlehem Steel: Builder and Arsenal of America (2009)

William C. Weiner, Jr. and Karen M. Samuels, Bethlehem (2011)

William C. Weiner, Jr. and Karen M. Samuels, Bethlehem Revisited (2014)

Bethlehem Digital History Project (Bethlehem Area Public Library and Moravian College)

Beyond Steel: An Archive of Lehigh Valley Industry and Culture (Lehigh University)

Local History Timeline (Bethlehem Area Public Library)

Still Looking for You: A Bethlehem Place + Memory Project (Lehigh University)

Globe-Times: Lehigh University

Morning Call: (see Gallagher for log-in)

Bethlehem Area Public Library

Lehigh University

Moravian College

Bethlehem Room (local history), Bethlehem Area Public Library

Moravian Archives, 41 West Locust, Bethlehem, PA 18018

Historical Societies and Organizations:

Bethlehem Historic District Association

Historic Bethlehem

Mount Airy Neighborhood Association

South Bethlehem Historical Society

Retail Book Store:
Moravian Book Shop, 428 Main St, Bethlehem, PA 18018

Unofficial historian:
Stephen Antalics: email Gallagher for contact info

A tip o’ the hat to Scott Gordon and Seth Moglen for suggestions for the original list.

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

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“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Well, if not, why not?

The Bethlehem Moments are mini-essays on Bethlehem history from 1741 to around the 1960s, delivered during public comment at City Council meetings and then published here on Gadfly.

The series of Moments is meant to generate a sense of community.

Without a history we are just an atomized assembly of individuals who happen to live in an arbitrary area.

When you do a Moment, you “own” a piece of the past, you become one with a piece of the past.

We’ve done 20 Moments so far. Alan Lowcher will do #21 on the occasion of next week’s Council meeting.

I’m under house arrest, and one of the things I’m doing is reading the 1968 history of Bethlehem.

In the next post you’ll find a “Guide to Bethlehem History.” Libraries are closed, but some of the books can be ordered online, and full texts of at least two can be found online. In addition, there are some valuable web resources.

So you could also be doing some reading about Bethlehem history during this forced hiatus in our workaday lives.

And you might also be thinking about finding some “moment” in our history to add to the work of your fellow residents.

Gadfly’s modest goal, he says with a smile, is that everybody do a Bethlehem Moment — and that he lives to see it.

In the second next post you’ll find a brief information document about the project.

Gadfly’s looking to fill slots in June and July and August. And is ready to help you.

His mailbox is open:

Bethlehem Moment: The Irish in Bethlehem

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Bethlehem Moment 21
City Council
April 7, 2020

Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith
1403 Lorain Ave.

Bethlehem Moment: January 1, 1886, Bethlehem’s First Mayor is Irish

The first settlers to the Lehigh Valley and Bethlehem, in particular, were Scots Irish. That first wave of immigrants pre-dates the 1742 Moravians and arrived in 1728 to build the Craig settlement in Northampton County.

The pioneering spirit of the Scotch Irish Ulstermen caused them to be among the early movers and shakers because of their fierce patriotism and fighting spirit.

Between 1815 and 1834, Irish immigrants arrived just in time for the canal-building boom. The saying was that all you needed to build a canal was a pick, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and an Irishman. A thousand Irish workers, with help from local German farmers, built the Lehigh Navigation Canal, finishing the 46-mile route that carried anthracite coal from the mines to market in record time. Irish workers were instrumental in building all the anthracite canals and later the railroads that ultimately replaced them.

The Irish famine years of the 1840s triggered further Irish immigration. In 1850, Irish immigrants made up more than half of the foreign-born residents of Pennsylvania.

How fitting that Bethlehem’s 1st mayor hailed from Ireland. Andrew Harford Boyle emigrated from Burtonport, Ireland, to New Orleans, then moved to Bethlehem when he attended Lafayette College. He was a successful engineer and merchant and was Mayor of Bethlehem for 27 years, from 1886 to his death in 1913. That’s even longer than Mayor Donchez!!

In 1900, prior to the expansion of the steel mills, the native Americans, Irish, and German immigrants dominated the population of South Bethlehem

Irish immigrants faced discrimination and were vilified as lazy, drunken, dishonest, and, as Catholics, un-American. The 19th century found most Irish immigrants and their first- and second-generation descendants at the bottom of the social and economic scale. “No Irish Need Apply” signs were frequently displayed. Strikes and violent confrontations between miners, steelworkers, and others against increasingly remote, wealthy, and autocratic owners did little to help.

However, those difficulties led Irish Americans to form strong community supports such as churches, parochial schools, colleges, social groups, beneficial societies, and political groups. These all helped promote many second and third generation Irish Americans into the middle class and into positions of social, economic, and political power in Pennsylvania and the nation.

In 1861, Holy Infancy Church was established as a parish in South Bethlehem and was the first Catholic church in Northampton County.

South Bethlehem’s first Burgess, James McMahon, a respected Irish citizen, had been an active participant in the organization of Holy Infancy.

Patrick Briody, an Irish immigrant who came to America in 1850 from County Meath, Northern Ireland, was also a dedicated founding parishioner of Holy Infancy Church. Briody was Superintendent of Furnaces for The Bethlehem Iron Company. In March of 1894, he was appointed Postmaster of South Bethlehem, with the Post Office located at the corner of 4th and Brodhead Ave. Briody was also a member of the School Board and was on the committee for building the Central High School, and Webster, Excelsior, and Packer schools.

Like him, many community leaders of Irish descent contributed to the community by the close of the century, including John Donegan, Charles Quinn, James Broughal, and Thomas O’Reilly.

In 1912, James Bonner, brother to my grandmother Grace Bonner Crampsie, moved to Bethlehem from the coal region town of Summit Hill. James’s parents had emigrated Grace 1from County Donegal. James worked as an electrician at Bethlehem Steel as well as operated his own electrical business. James’s daughter Cynthia Bonner was born in 1935. Cynthia graduated from Liberty High School and joined the Air Force upon graduation from nursing school. Cynthia rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and served as an Air Evacuation Nurse in Vietnam and Director of Nursing at Howard AFB in Panama. She also assisted in the aftermath of the Reverend Jim Jones disaster. Later in life, she was exposed to the H1N1 virus which contributed to the downfall of her health.

In retirement she continued providing nursing services at Maher AFB and the county of Sacramento. She loved her country, her hometown of Bethlehem, and her Irish heritage. While she lived throughout the world, she always spoke fondly of her days growing up in Bethlehem, and Bethlehem was always close to her heart.

Bethlehem has been blessed with many Irish immigrants and their descendants contributing to our great city, and to those we are forever grateful.

In the present day, Bethlehem hosts the Celtic Cultural Alliance – an Educational non-profit organization that hosts the Annual Celtic Classic Festival and many other Celtic Cultural events throughout the year. The resurgence of Celtic Culture in the valley through organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish Dance Schools, and Scottish Pipe Bands made it a natural place to start one of the major Celtic Festivals in North America bringing almost 300,000 people annually to Bethlehem.

I wish to thank Joe McCarthy of Holy Infancy Parish and my good friend Timothy Briody, descendant of Patrick Briody, for their invaluable contribution to this Bethlehem Moment. And a special thanks to my cousin Cynthia Bonner for her selfless contributions in serving our country.

May the road rise to meet you on this Holy, sacred day as Irish Americans pay homage to their patron Saint, Patrick. [This Bethlehem Moment was originally scheduled for March 17.]

Slainte and Sith!!

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Bethlehem “blanket quarantine”? Been there, done that

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Gadfly is a (literary) historian by trade. The past always beckons him. In this period of coronavirus, he could consult the files of the Bethlehem Globe on the local impact of the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic if the Lehigh University library were open. Sigh. Gadfly does have access to Morning Call files from home, however, and he will see what they yield. For now, here’s all he finds in perhaps the main modern history of Bethlehem.


Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: The Golden Years, 1841-1920 (1976)

What do we see here?

  • In Bethlehem, hospital capacity eventually was not sufficient.
  • And satellite space was needed.
  • Washington School? Where was Washington School?
  • Case numbers escalated quickly to the danger point — within a month.
  • Interestingly, we had no Board of Health — remember that Bethlehem was only born as a city in 1917, inauguration of the first mayor occurred only 9 months before the outbreak.
  • By god, there was a blanket quarantine — a shelter in place.
  • Like now, schools were closed.
  • The list of other closings mentioned specifically includes watering holes and other fun entertainment and food gathering places.
  • So what exactly does “blanket quarantine” mean? Were non-essential businesses closed? Were people advised to stay home?
  • We need to remember that a war was going on!
  • The duration of the shutdown was about a month.
  • Exact number of deaths unknown.
  • I wonder where victims of the disease were buried — Roy, at Fairview?
  • Interestingly, the Southsiders handled the crisis differently.

Wow! Gadfly would love more granular detail about day-to-day life in our town during this time. He can’t wait till he can get to the Globe. Anybody have suggestions for other resources?

But let’s see what the files of the Morning Call yield.

In the meantime, is there any family lore in the memory banks of long-time city residents that you can share?

Bethlehem Moment: The Portuguese in Bethlehem

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Bethlehem Moment 20
City Council
January 21, 2020


Bethlehem Moment: 1860-1880, the Portuguese come to Bethlehem

Portuguese Heritage

Portuguese Heritage: Adding to the Fabric of South Bethlehem
by Armindo P. Sousa
“Southern Exposure,” Winter 2009

Dana Grubb reads selections from the above newsletter issue, compliments of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, in particular the late Armindo Sousa and Ken Raniere, who authored the newsletter.

Bethlehem Moment: Lucy and Mary Packer, Asa Packer’s Daughters

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Bethlehem Moment 19
City Council
January 6, 2020

Johanna Brams
1727 Elm


Bethlehem Moment: January 1, 1873

January 1873, 147 years ago.  Lucy Evelyn Packer Linderman is recovering from a serious horse and carriage accident on the ice-covered what is now Packer Avenue – just down the hill from Lehigh University, founded by her father Asa.

She, at 41, and her sister Mary Hannah Packer, at 34, are the two surviving female adults of Asa Packer’s seven children. Lucy

Lucy is considered beautiful and an image of her,  with her stylish clothes and carefully coiffed and braided hair, show a handsome woman, a leader of Bethlehem society, married to a doctor, Garrett Linderman, who showed up in the cholera epidemic some years before – and is now a Lieutenant in her father’s businesses

An image of young Mary, on the other hand, shows her as short, plump, with coke bottle Young Maryglasses and plainly dressed.  At 34 she would be considered a spinster, dedicated to serving her family’s needs.  A contemporary narrative says: “There were suitors . . . who were anxious for the hand of Miss Packer, but she stubbornly avoided all advances in that direction.”  Mary was known as somewhat of a recluse, as result of an accident and subsequent eye ailments that had led to her being blind in one eye, and with limited vision in the other.

Lucy survived the accident but dies later that year, in July, of pneumonia – contracted as she attempted rehabilitation in a spa in mountains to the north.

Asa, grief-stricken, builds Linderman Library in Lucy’s honor in 1875, and dies in 1879.

Within five years, by 1884,  all the remaining members of the Packer family – two brothers and Asa’s wife – also pass – and Mary Hannah Packer is the only surviving member of the family.

Mary may be reclusive and nearly blind, but she is not stupid.  A woman ahead of her time, she recognizes that she cannot inherit the fabulous Packer fortune – built on canal boats and what would become the Pennsylvania Railroad and Bethlehem Steel – in her chosen unmarried status.

In order to take advantage of the then recently passed Women’s Marriage Act – which guaranteed married women the right to inheritance – she enlists Charles Cummings, a former conductor on the railroad and a loyal family friend – to marry her.

She pays him 100,000 dollars – worth about 2 and a half million today — and has him sign one of the first pre-nuptual agreements in the state.

Charles and Mary never live together and are divorced in 1893.

Upon her marriage, Mary Hannah Packer Cummings, as the sole heir to the Packer fortune,  inherits 54 and a half million dollars – worth about 1.5 billion today.  She becomes the most wealthy woman in the country and second in wealth in the world – to only Queen Victoria.

She travels around the world 17 times.

She becomes a philanthropist and is considered a bit of a Bohemian, a patron of the arts, literature, and music.Older Mary

She builds Packer Church at Lehigh, and supports the university well and repeatedly over the years.

She also builds All Saints Episcopal Church down the hill from her house in Mauch Chaunk (now Jim Thorpe) in 1906.

Mary Hannah Packer Cummings died in 1912, the only member of her immediate family to see the 20th century.

There are many accounts of sightings of her ghost, still short and plump, plainly dressed and with coke-bottle glasses — as she wanders about – checking on the properties she built.

Now a tip o’ the hat to the early 2020 Bethlehem Momentors

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The Bethlehem Moment — a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s — is a project aimed at fostering a sense of community.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Click “Bethlehem Moments” under Topics on the right-hand sidebar to see what we’ve done so far.

Gadfly thanks the following residents for stepping up to fill slots in the first quarter of 2020.

Welcome, camaradoes!


Jan 6: Johanna Brams

Jan 21: Ken Raniere/Dana Grubb

Feb 4:

Feb 18: Martha Larkin

Mar 3: Carol Burns

Mar 17: Grace Crampsie Smith

Gadfly is accepting bookings for later in the year.

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

Tip o’ the hat to the 2019 Bethlehem Momentors

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“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

End of the year approaching.

Time to thank those who did Bethlehem Moments in 2019.

We now have done 17 Moments.

2019 was the year that wonderful volunteers took the podium away from the Gadfly.

The Honor Roll for 2019 includes Lynn Rothman, John Smith, Kate McVey, Olga Negron, Jim Petrucci, Joe Petrucci, Barbara Diamond, Stasia Browne Pallrand, Steve Repasch, Rayah Levy, Robert Bilheimer, Alan Lowcher.

Well done, camaradoes!

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

Bethlehem Moment: Seeing the Elephant — The 129th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Fredericksburg

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Bethlehem Moment 18
City Council
December 17, 2019

Alan Y. Lowcher
438 High St.


Bethlehem Moment: December 13, 1862

Bethlehem’s Moravian history is well known and its preserved buildings – the Gemeinhaus, Single Sisters house, Single Brethren house, and the Colonial Industrial Quarter, to name a few —  have earned the Moravian Historic District the distinction of consideration as a World Heritage Site.  Bethlehem’s place in the Revolution is enshrined in the patriot graves memorialized in the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier.  The Moravians were pacifists in principle – and were recognized as such by the Continental Congress.  Most of the men paid a fine rather than fight.  During the winters of 1776 – 1777 and 1777 – 1778 Bethlehem’s residents provided care to sick and wounded soldiers.  The Sun Inn hosted many Continental Army general officers and members of the Continental Congress.

By the time of the Civil War, attitudes had changed and many a Bethlehem boy – willing to fight against a rebellion against constitutional authority — stepped forward to serve in the Union army.  The Synod of the Church passed several resolutions indirectly supporting the Union cause, effectively making it a just war.  The firing on Ft. Sumter in April 1861, led to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to serve 90 days and Co. “A”, 1st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, drawn from Bethlehem, was quickly formed and sent to Washington to protect the Capitol.  Pennsylvania answered Lincoln’s call for additional troops as the war progressed, and the conflict widened by filling three-year regiments and shorter term nine-month regiments.  Among those regiments was the 129th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

Company “C” of the 129th Regiment was recruited in Northampton County and included many Bethlehem men.  The Regiment was organized on August 15th, 1862, to serve for nine months.  Politicians wanted to avoid a draft at all costs and calculated that shorter service commitments would be easier to fill than “three years or during the war.”  After being hastily armed and equipped, Company “C” entrained to Alexandria, Virginia, arriving on August18th.  Two weeks later it was under fire during the battle of Second Bull Run but not really engaged in combat.  Two weeks after that, the 129th marched to Sharpsburg, Maryland, arriving on the field along Antietam Creek, but too late to participate in the fighting.  At the end of October, the 129th marched into Virginia until it arrived opposite Fredericksburg.  On December 13th, the Regiment crossed the Rappahannock River with its division marching through the town to its assault position in full view of an open field.  Advancing, the brigade that included the 129th Regiment halted in low, open ground and was ordered to lie down, where it came under artillery Lowcherfire.  Rising up, the division formed in line of battle with the brigade in two lines, and the 129th Regiment on the left front.

This was the Regiment’s trial by fire (experiencing serious action for the first time) as it advanced over open ground, over the bodies of the dead and wounded, in the face of incessant musketry and artillery fire toward an enemy behind a stone wall.  In a matter of minutes, the Regiment lost 142 killed and wounded.  Among them were the sons of old Bethlehem families such as Benner and Luckenbach.  We should pause to consider the courage it took to make that charge knowing full well that the five previous charges were driven back with heavy losses. They went forward with fixed bayonets without waiting to load their muskets, intent on giving the Confederates “the cold steel.”  The division succeeded in getting closer to the stone wall than any other Federal assault.  Caps from the 129th’Regiment were found within a few yards of that stone wall.  Those “Bethlehem Boys” had “seen the elephant” and showed their mettle. Retreating in semidarkness into the town, the Regiment re-crossed the river under fire and went into camp.

After suffering the misery of Burnside’s “Mud March” in January 1863, the 129th took part in the battle of Chancellorsville, fighting on May 1st, 2nd and 3rd, even though the term of service of many of the men had expired.  The Regiment’s term of service having fully expired on May 6th, the remnants of Company “C” arrived in Easton on May 18th to the welcoming cheers of its citizens.

Later that summer of 1863, the Federal troops at Gettysburg, crouched behind a stone wall on Cemetery Ridge, cried out “Fredericksburg!  Fredericksburg!” as Pickett’s Division advanced across an open field into a storm of bullets and artillery fire.  The butcher’s bill was repaid.


Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of the Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources. Des Moines, Iowa:  The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.

Stackpole, Edward J. Drama on the Rappahannock — The Fredericksburg Campaign. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The Military Service Publishing Company, 1957.

The Coke Works: “a thousand Mexicans came”

Lehigh Review, Spring 1939

read by the Gadfly:

Coco 1
Coco 2
Coco 3
Coco 4

Lehigh University students view the wave of Mexicans working in and living by the infamous Coke Works.

What are you thinking?

Written 80 years ago.

Imagine Gadfly reading this today (with his Mexican accent!) to an
audience of many colors.

What discussion might ensue about the meaning of “history” and
how “history” is written?

What would a poem by one of the Mexicans look like?

Thanks to follower Ilhan Citak for supplying the copy and for permission to print.

Bethlehem Moment: Mr. Schwab Comes to Bethlehem

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Bethlehem Moment 17
City Council
December 3, 2019

Robert W. Bilheimer
General Manager
Industrial Archives & Library


Bethlehem Moment: January 1, 1905

 Mr. President, members of City Council, Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Robert Bilheimer, and I am general manager of the Industrial Archives & Library, a Private Operating Foundation based here in Bethlehem and organized as an independent institution to collect, organize, conserve and preserve industrial records and to make them available for education and research to historians, scholars, and the public.  It’s a pleasure to be here tonight to see so many familiar faces and to present my “Bethlehem Moment.”

I take you back almost exactly 115 years ago.  It’s a chilly day in early January 1905.  A train from New York City pulling a private railcar, The Loretto, slowly pulls into Union Station in South Bethlehem.  And, yes, it’s the borough of South Bethlehem, for Bethlehem is not yet a single unified city.  Just the year before in 1904, the Borough of Bethlehem, Northampton County, had annexed the Borough of West Bethlehem, Lehigh County, but Bethlehem and South Bethlehem were still very much separate communities.  In time, a man on that train would do much to change that, but that was not why he had come to town.

As the train comes to a stop, out of The Loretto steps Charles M. Schwab, his reputation preceding him – at age 19, chief engineer of the Carnegie Steel Works at Braddock, Pa.; general superintendent of the famous Carnegie Edgar Thompson Works at age 27; Bilheimer 2president of Carnegie Steel Company at just 35; and the former first president of this nation’s first billion-dollar corporation, United States Steel Corporation.  He was a titan of industry, one of America’s most distinguished citizens and one of the wealthiest.

Schwab had had a recent falling out with J. P. Morgan, Judge Elbert Gary and the Board at U.S. Steel, and he had come to town to take the reins of a new entity, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the key asset of which was the Bethlehem Steel Company and its single steel plant in South Bethlehem.  Just one month before, in December of 1904, Schwab had founded Bethlehem Steel Corporation out of the ashes of the failed United States Shipbuilding Corporation, which had included the Bethlehem Steel Company and a handful of shipyards on the East Coast and the famous Union Iron Works in San Francisco – itself the builder of some of America’s earliest steel warships, including Admiral Dewey’s cruiser U.S.S. Olympia and the battleship Oregon.

Call it a bit of Schwab bravado, one-upmanship, or just Schwab’s typical desire to “do something else, yet,” as he liked to say, Schwab was bound and determined to go out and build a bigger and better U.S. Steel – and Bethlehem was his vehicle.  He was very much a man on a mission, and he got started right away.

Concerned that Bethlehem Steel’s fortunes were too closely tied to military contracts – Bethlehem had enjoyed great success as the birthplace of the American defense industry in the late 19th century when it developed America’s first heavy forging complex and supplied all the armor plate, big guns and ordnance for the modern U.S. Navy – Schwab was looking for ways to diversify Bethlehem’s commercial, non-military product line.  He found his answer overseas.

Early in 1905, Schwab secured the rights to the Grey Mill Process, a revolutionary but unproven process developed by Englishman Henry Grey for continuously rolling a wide-flange beam, or structural shape.  Up to that point, structural shapes were rolled in pieces and bolted together, thus limiting their strength and utility.  People in the steel industry said, “Charlie, you’re crazy, it’ll never work.”  Schwab, ever ready for a challenge, believed otherwise and literally bet the company on it.  He said at the time, “boys, if we are going to go bust, we’re going to go bust big.”  Well, it did work, and in 1908, the age of the skyscraper came into its own, right here in Bethlehem.  The sky was now the limit and Bethlehem became the “go to” for structural steel and construction engineering expertise for the next 90 years.

Also in the crowd that day to welcome Schwab to Bethlehem was a young engineer and a rising star at Bethlehem Steel, Eugene G. Grace.  An 1899 graduate of Lehigh University, Bilheimer 3Grace joined Bethlehem Steel that year as a crane operator, making $1.80 per day.  By the time Schwab arrived in Bethlehem, Grace had advanced to superintendent of yards and transportation.  Grace’s abilities quickly caught Schwab’s eye, and like the young Charlie Schwab at Carnegie Steel, Eugene Grace began a meteoric rise at Bethlehem Steel.

After a stint in Cuba reorganizing Bethlehem’s iron ore mines there and successfully directing the development of the Grey Mill project, Grace advanced in rapid succession to general superintendent of the Bethlehem Plant in 1906 and then general manager in 1908.  By 1911 he was named a vice president and director of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, president of Bethlehem Steel Company in 1913 and then president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1916, where he effectively ran the corporation for the next 41 years.

Schwab would slowly recede from the day-to-day management of the company and would die in 1939 and Grace would become chairman in 1945.  But Schwab and Grace, two of this country’s greatest industrialists would together build one of the most remarkable and significant industrial organizations of the 20th century.

Before he even bought a home here, Schwab spent six months living and working twenty hours a day out of his private railcar to get the new company started.  And, with Grace’s help, together they took a single-plant money-losing steel company and built it into the second largest steelmaker in the country and the largest shipbuilder in the world through two World Wars and into the 1950s.

Dubbed “The Arsenal of Democracy” and arguably America’s most important defense contractor through both World Wars, Bethlehem’s industrial output was staggering.  Bethlehem built nearly 3,000 ships during that period, including 1,121 alone in World Bilheimer 4War II in what was the largest and most diverse shipbuilding campaign in world history.  Mr. Grace pledged that Bethlehem would build a ship-a-day by the end of the war – and delivered — with an amazing 380 in 1943!  Bethlehem’s shipyards also repaired and/or converted an astounding 30,000 other ships during World War II.

Coming out of Bethlehem shipyards in the 20th Century were warships and commercial vessels of every class and size including America’s first aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Lexington and six other Essex Class carriers, six battleships, scores of heavy cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers, destroyer escorts, troopships, auxiliaries, landing craft, tankers and super tankers, America’s first Liberty Ship – the S.S. Patrick Henry, cruise liners, America’s first nuclear-powered surface warship, the U.S.S. Long Beach and eventually, off-shore oil rig platforms.

It was quite a record.  But that’s only part of the story!  For not only did Bethlehem Steel play a pivotal role in defending this country, but it also helped build the very landscape Bilheimer 5of our modern world and the infrastructure to transport its citizens.  Out of Bethlehem’s mills came such landmark structures — many also fabricated and erected by its diverse workforce – as The Golden Gate Bridge, The George Washington Bridge, The Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges in Philadelphia, The Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Plaza, Madison Square Garden and The Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., Los Angeles City Hall and the locks of the Panama Canal.

Mr. Schwab and Bethlehem Steel also played a key role here at home, with Schwab’s instrumental role in merging the two boroughs into our modern City of Bethlehem in 1917 and his leadership in linking the two sides of the river via the Hill-to-Hill Bridge.  And you don’t have to look any further than Bethlehem’s magnificent public water system to see one of the many, many large and small ways that the company has touched our community.

Bethlehem was not just another steel company under founder Charles Schwab’s tutelage.  Bethlehem Steel was a paragon of American industry that helped touch society and shape our country in many diverse ways, perhaps none grander than playing a central role in winning World War I.  Proof is in the words of David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain, who after the war said, “Charles Schwab was the first American to help us.  He gave us the necessary equipment to continue the war to a successful ending for the Allies.”

And it all started that day, when Mr. Schwab came to Bethlehem.

Thank you!

About the Industrial Archives & Library

Established in 2015, the Industrial Archives & Library (IAL), is a 501(c)(3), private operating foundation located in Bethlehem, Pa., organized as an independent institution to collect, organize, conserve and preserve industrial records and to make them available for education and research to historians, scholars, and the public.  Current holdings include records relating to banking, slate quarrying, coal mining, silk and textiles, steel, shipbuilding, transportation and railroads.  IAL also houses an oral history program and offers repository services for corporate and industrial records.

“Preserving Historical Records for the Ages”

For More Information: Robert W. Bilheimer, General Manager, Industrial Archives & Library (610) 868-1115

Bilheimer 1


West Bethlehem history in Rose Garden memorial

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Jason Rehm, “History – Rose Garden’s memorial explained.” Bethlehem Press, December 4, 2019.

Rose Garden
photo credit Jason Rehm

“In honor of the men and women of West Bethlehem who served in World War II.”


Followers know Gadfly’s interest in local history and his Bethlehem Moments project, so he is pleased to pass on a link to the latest work by Jason Rehm appearing in the Bethlehem Press. Reach Jason at

Bethlehem Moment: Hiram Bradley, the First Known Black/Negro Man from Virginia arrives in Bethlehem

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Bethlehem Moment 16
City Council
November 19, 2019

Rayah Levy
1609 Stanford Rd.
Head of the Adult Services Department
Bethlehem Area Public Library


Bethlehem Moment: January 1, 1860

While working on an oral history project titled “Voices from the African Diaspora: The Black Experience of Bethlehem Pa.,” it was essential that I embed myself in the community. Though a newcomer, I became part of the local African American community and gained two aunts. They shared many voices/stories. This essay is a taste of some of the takeaway that has enriched the village of Bethlehem 159 years since the arrival in 1860 of Hiram Bradley, who is said to be the first known Black/Negro man from Virginia.

The families that came during and after the Civil War built churches and organizations to keep themselves grounded. Those that left their footprints in the sands of time in Bethlehem are the Bradleys, Smiths, Grimes’s, Lees, Enixs’s, Tarboros, Butts’, Williams’s, Olivers, Hargroves, Roberts’s, Hemmons. They came from such places as Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Washington DC., New Jersey, and even though I discovered countless stories, I will highlight here just three: J. F. Goodwin, who started the well known Goodwin Scholarship Fund; Bert Tarboro, who started the first Black baseball team; and Vivian Butts, the first Black female police officer.

Black/African American communities coming out of slavery to freedom instilled in their members the importance of education. Bethlehem’s Black population was no exception.  Those who paved the way worked as domestic help, chauffeurs, or as laborers in the blast furnace at Bethlehem Steel. Therefore, instilling the importance of an excellent education was constant in their homes. The J. F. Goodwin Scholarship fund is a remembrance of this ideology and continues into the present day.

Levy 3

Dr. Goodwin founded the scholarship organization in 1936. Even though he resided in Reading most of his life, Bethlehem was his home. However, though he made numerous attempts, he was denied work as a doctor while living here, and he had to move to Reading to work in his profession. But these obstacles did not dampen Goodwin’s spirit. His experience of hardship trying to put himself through medical school and establish a practice instilled in him the need to start a scholarship fund for high school students heading off to colleges.

Another pillar in the African American community was Bert Tarboro. According to his daughter Vivian Hungerford, everyone in the neighborhood knew and respected her father. Their family home was always open to anyone, and everyone came and dined at Levy 1their table. Tarboro began working for Bethlehem Steel in 1926 as a laborer and retired forty-six years later. He was a Deacon and Trustee at St. Paul Baptist Church and Master of the Wyoming Lodge #135, which was chartered in 1927. Tarboro and his family were heavily involved in teaching the youth how to play baseball. In 1961, he formed the Bethlehem Giants of the Blue Mountain Baseball League. The team and their families had picnics and took trips together, and everyone was welcome whether they could afford to attend or not. During one of the Bethlehem Giants banquets, baseball stars Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe were guests of honor. Mrs. Hungerford notes that when the neighborhood, Blacks and Whites alike, found out that these African American heroes were both at Tarboro’s home, many came knocking at their door.

In 1964 Vivian Butts became the first Black female Police officer, working in the Juvenile Aid Division and retiring twenty-five years later as Sargent Butts. She was the wife of Raymond E. Butts and mother of two, Raymond Jr. and Sharon King. Mrs. Butts was very active in the community. She was involved in the NAACP, the J. F. Goodwin Scholarship, St. Paul Baptist Church, and other organizations. Her steadfast involvement in the city was widely recognized, and she was honored in 1987 for community service at an NAACP banquet at the Bethlehem Hotel.

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The Bethlehem NAACP had formed under Theodore Dennis in 1946, one year after Civil Rights activist Roy Wilkins visited the Lehigh Valley. The Bethlehem NAACP invited another prominent activist Ralph Abernathy to their Freedom Banquet in 1975. In his speech to about 350 attendees, Abernathy stated that “God is colorless.” Seventy-four years later, the organization is still active under the direction of Mrs. Esther M. Lee.

The discoveries I made about this small but vibrant African American community of 3.63% of the Bethlehem population at the time of 2000 U.S. Census are gems that must be known to all. What I have shared about this small community is only a ripple. However, if you continue to look, the ripples will go on and on. The families that came during the 1800s came willingly, unlike their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who arrived on the shores of Virginia in 1619. Even though they were few in numbers, their sense of family and community are rooted in the earth of Bethlehem like an old oak tree.

Bethlehem Moment: City Council’s historic water move

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Bethlehem Moment 15
November 6, 2019

Stephen Repasch
Executive Director, Bethlehem Authority

Bethlehem Moment: July 26, 1938

It was July 26, 1938, when the Bethlehem City Council created
the Bethlehem Municipal Water Authority, the first one ever
established in the Commonwealth. The first Authority members
included Mayor Pfieffle and the City Council who submitted the
application to the State for use of the waters in the Wild Creek
Watershed. Once that was approved, they applied for and
subsequently received funding from the federal government for
the construction of the Wild Creek Dam and Reservoir and
transmission pipeline.
In April of 1939 construction began, two tunnels were dug
through mountains in the foothills of Poconos, the dam was
built and starting filling, and in October 1941, the Wild Creek
Reservoir was dedicated and water began flowing to the
residents of the City.
And to this day the water still flows from the Wild Creek
Reservoir to the City and eleven surrounding municipalities and
is considered by many to be the best water in the region, if not
the entire state.

We’ll toast to that!

Call for volunteers: new round of Bethlehem Moments

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The stories we tell shape the lives we lead

A whole bunch of Gadfly followers have kicked ass on their Bethlehem Moments, and now Gadfly is ready to take names for the first season of Moments in 2020.

If you need a refresher on the Moments done or the purpose and procedures for these snapshots of our history, look at the last post in this series and the other posts as well. See Bethlehem Moments on the sidebar.

Johanna has broken the 2020 ice. Lots of dates still available.

Reach Gadfly though “Contact” on the top page of the blog or at

There is no crying in baseball, no bashfulness in Gadball. Let’s hear from you.

Jan 7: Johanna Brams

Jan 21:

Feb 4

Feb 18

Mar 3:

Mar 17:

Apr 7:

Apr 21:

May 5:

May 19:

Jun 2:

Jun 16:

Without a shared history, we are not a true community

What is a “Bethlehem Moment”?

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History is our Mother

Bethlehem has history to celebrate
(Allentown visitor)

Without a shared history, we are not a true community

In the last months of 2019 Gadfly followers have done 13 Bethlehem Moments.

Please consider doing a Bethlehem Moment sometime during the first half of 2020.

Information for Possible Bethlehem Momentors

1) The “Bethlehem Moment” is a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s, no more than 20 typed lines, that can be read in approximately 2 minutes, that will be presented at the beginning of City Council meetings. The Moments will be archived in Council minutes and published on the Gadfly blog, as well as perhaps other places.

2) The purpose of the Bethlehem Moment in a town that has been the scene of so much important history and has three nationally certified historical districts is to encourage everyone to learn more about that history. (For examples, see:

3) Willingness and interest are the most important things. You don’t have to feel you know anything at the beginning. A list of resources will be available. There will be people with whom to consult.

4) Help will be provided finding a topic, researching it, and writing the Moment if needed.

5) The topic is open, but you should clear it with the coordinator.

6) Good topics often start with a question: who? what? when? why?

7) Pick a topic that you know about, or, better yet, one that you want to learn about or feel that it is important that others know about.

8) There is no especial need to pick big topics, obvious topics, well-know topics; aspects of our history that are little-known or hidden, that we might not have even heard of, might be better.

9) Likewise, you should feel no especial need to choose a celebratory, feel-good topic – our dark moments are part of our history too and equally important and illuminating.

10) It’s best if you deliver your Moment at City Council yourself, but others can read it for you if necessary or if you prefer.

11) City Council meets at Town Hall the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.

12) You might not feel that you have anything to say at the beginning, but you will probably struggle to confine yourself to 20 lines/2 minutes after you have done some research.

13) The Bethlehem Moment is a project aimed at fostering a sense of community. You should feel it an honor to do one. We hope you will see it as fun.

14) Afterwards, we hope you will be an Ambassador for the project & encourage others to participate.

15) please contact:

Ed Gallagher, the Gadfly
Coordinator pro-tem

Bethlehem Moment: A Remnant of Bethlehem’s Silk Industry

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Bethlehem Moment 14
City Council
October 15, 2019

Barbara Diamond
425 Center St.

research by Stasia Brown Pallrand


Bethlehem Moment: January 1, 1837

Standing just across the street from here is a building with an interesting story to tell about the early industrial history of Bethlehem. This modest, single-story white house at 26 W. Church Street was once a cacoonery[1] where silk worms were tended and their mile-long filaments were reeled to produce the precious fabric that was all the rage in the US and Europe.

The silk industry in Bethlehem was established early in our history; there are references to a cacoonery overseen by Rev. Philip C. Bader in the Brethren’s House as early as 1752. Benjamin Franklin was an early and influential promoter of the cultivation and 26 W Churchproduction of silk. He saw economic opportunity for our young country in response to the wild demand for silk in Europe, the need for the colonies to develop domestic industries, and the favorable conditions he found in colonial America for growing white mulberry trees, the silk worm’s essential food. In fact, the trees were so wild and plentiful that the name given by Delaware Indians, Nolamattink, to the area near present day Nazareth means “where the silk worm spins,” an apparent reference to the abundant trees and a later cacoonery operated by Bader.

The revolutionary war interrupted the development of the industry and it sputtered along early in the 19th century before collapsing in the late 1840s. It was a cottage industry in early America, suited to the “weak hands” of women and girls by the men of the day who believed that it could be done during their leisure time to supplement family income. In fact, the work was intense, laborious, and required a high level of skill.  Women were expected to master the complex art of raising silkworms: maintaining the cocoons between 50 and 75 degrees until ready to hatch; feeding them multiple times during the day on a precise variable schedule; unreeling the mile-long filaments; braiding multiple filaments together to form strands for weaving; dying the cloth; fashioning it into garments and cultivating mulberry trees.

This underestimation by Franklin and other promoters of the industry of how much time women of the day had to devote to this enterprise accounts in part for its failure as a cottage industry to produce the quality and quantity of silk they envisioned. Other factors that led to the industry’s pre-civil war demise included a nationwide bubble in mulberry trees created by speculators and fraudsters and a mulberry blight. The little house at 26 W. Church Street is of this period, recorded in a 1970 report on historic structures in Bethlehem as having been built in 1826 and operating as a cacoonery in 1837.

The silk industry revived after the Civil War and was centered in Paterson, NJ, where industrial mills were able to produce large quantities of fabric and other silk products (again largely employing women and children as labor). As demand grew, the owners in Paterson searched for areas with a large supply of low-cost labor where they could establish more mills. Bethlehem and surrounding areas fit the bill with its large numbers of immigrants working in the steel and coal industry whose wives and children could be employed in the factories.

“The first silk mill in the Lehigh Valley opened in 1881; by 1900 there were twenty three silk mills in the Lehigh Valley, and Pennsylvania was second only to New Jersey in silk production. The industry in Pennsylvania and the US peaked in the late 1920s, undone by labor unrest, competition from synthetic fabrics and the Great Depression. In the decades after WWII, international competition from low-wage countries eliminated most of the textile employment in the Lehigh Valley. In 100 years the same economic factor – low-wage labor — that brought the industry to the Lehigh Valley in the 1880s led to its demise.”[2]

I would like to acknowledge the extensive research conducted by Stasia Brown Pallrand for this Bethlehem Moment.


Donehoo, George P. A History of Indian Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania.  Pickles Partners Publishing, 2019.

Field, J., Senechal, M. Shaw, M. American Silk, 1830-1930 Entrepreneurs and Artifacts. Texas Tech University Press, 2007.

Historical Markers: Dery Silk Mill. Explore PA

Hostetter, Albert K. The Early Silk Industry of Lancaster County (Classis Reprint). Forgotten Books, 2018.

Levering, Joseph M.  A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 1741-1892. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Times Publishing Company, 1903.

McCarthy, Jack. Silk and Silk Makers, Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Rutgers University, 2018

Regional Recreation and Open Space Plan-Historic Structures and Sites.  Joint Planning Commission-Lehigh & Northampton Counties, May 1970, Volume 3 Pg. 60.

Skinner, Taryn. How America’s Homegrown Silk Industry Unraveled. April 19, 2018.

Wyckoff, William C. American Silk Manufacture. New York, NY: 1887.

[1] Original spelling.

[2] Historical Markers: Dery Silk Mill. Explore PA History. com

The Portuguese in Bethlehem

(The latest post in a series on local color and Bethlehem Moments
and first in a series on the Portuguese)

A couple weeks ago Gadfly made an off-hand remark about lack of knowledge about the Portuguese in Bethlehem.

His curiosity was triggered by Olga Negron’s Bethlehem Moment on the arrival of the Puerto Ricans in 1948.

Sure, we associate Puerto Ricans with Bethlehem, with the Southside.

But Portuguese?

I had seen references in old Globe-Times files to political meetings at the Portuguese Club, which must have meant the Portuguese were once prominent politically.

Follower Dana Grubb pointed out that the Portuguese American Club is still operating at 337 Brodhead Ave. Is it just a social club?

Portuguese Club

Then Negron wrote:

Holy Infancy Church (yes, Southside!) has the biggest diverse congregation! That’s why we do a Multicultural Fest every year! (see flyer below). We have mass every weekend in Spanish, English and in Portuguese (see bulletin attached), and our weekly bulletin it’s tri-lingual as well. The English-speaking community is a mix of the ambassadors of our parish (Irish, German, Pennsylvania Dutch, etc.); our Spanish speakers are from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, South and Central America; and our Potuguese are from Portugal and Brazil! Beside the Multicultural Fest, my favorite part is having tri-lingual mass, it’s an amazing experience to be in mass surrounded by people speaking 3 different languages! We also have many events through the year that involve all of our communities, it’s beautiful!


Far out! Who knew?

And then follower Kim Carrell-Smith gave me some leads that I haven’t followed up yet but that I record here so that they don’t disappear and in case anybody wants to use them or can add:

You might want to talk with Tony Traca, the Asst Principal at Liberty about the history of Portuguese folks in Bethlehem. I know that Armindo Souza [is] the godfather of the P. community, [but I] am not sure Armindo is still alive. So Tony might be a good source; he’s been a big actor (and one of the youngsters) in the local Portuguese community . . .

One more possible source would be the Holy Infancy jubilee books (or any anniversary books). Local churches, esp the ethnic ones, often include brief histories of their ethnic communities. Since HI has been so multi-ethnic throughout its history, they might have provided those stories in the celebration books, perhaps? And I can’t remember, but this one might help, too:  Journey of Faith: A Brief History of Bethlehem’s Religious Communities (1992) at BAPL,  call no.  974.822 

Gadfly loves learning more and more about the history of our town. Don’t you?

He sees a Bethlehem Moment here. Anyone interested?

Gadfly is thinking of a Moment analogous to Negron’s Puerto Rican one.

When did the Portuguese come to town and why? Same story or different?