Bethlehem Moment: Henrietta Benigna opens a girl’s seminary, 1742

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 12
City Council
September 17, 2019

Jim Petrucci
President, J. G. Petrucci Company, Inc., Asbury, N.J.

Read by Joseph Petrucci

Bethlehem Moment: May 4, 1742

On May 4th, 1742, 16-year old Countess Henrietta Benigna, daughter of Count Zinzendorf, opened a girl’s seminary school in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Initially, the school taught 25 pupils and focused on reading, writing, religion, and the household arts. Seven weeks after the school was founded, it was moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Three years later, it was moved to Nazareth and then returned permanently to Bethlehem in 1749.

In 1785, the school expanded its charter, began accepting girls from outside the Moravian Church, and changed its name to Moravian Female Seminary. The school itself built a tremendous reputation. In fact, as president, George Washington personally petitioned for the admission of his great-nieces.  Eventually, in 1945, the Seminary was merged with a local boy’s school to form the coeducational institution we now know today as Moravian College.

As the first all-girls boarding school in the New World, the Moravian Female Seminary holds a special place in the history of education in America. Not only was it a school founded by women and for the benefit of women, but it was also one of the first schools in the New World to open itself to Native American children. This is the legacy of Henrietta Benigna. Henrietta founded the school on the basis that all deserve a quality education, and she did it in a time when that wasn’t a popular opinion. As various stakeholders in the City of Bethlehem today, we should feel proud of this moment in history and look to replicate the principles that Henrietta Benigna displayed back in 1742.

The J. G. Petrucci Company has been working in Bethlehem since the early 90’s, completing such projects as the Perkins on the Southside, the Moravian Health and Science Center, and ten projects in LVIPVII – including Curtiss Wright, Cigars International, and Synchronoss.


Another source for Bethlehem history

(Latest in a series of posts on local color and Bethlehem Moments)


The last two weeks there have been the kind of history stories dear to Gadfly’s heart in the Bethlehem Press.

Stories about the little things and people, the overlooked things and people.


That’s Jason Rehm, Bethlehem native, Liberty grad ’07, a history major at Houghton College, whose final essay on Bethlehem history led Karen Samuels to facilitate his writing occasional pieces for the Bethlehem Press.

Which reminds me to encourage you to subscribe to the BP. BP is our community newspaper. And community is magic for Gadfly.

Subscribe to the BP, and be on the lookout for Jason’s essays.

Two very good things to do.

Jason Rehm, “Life during the Great Depression.” Bethlehem Press, August 27, 2019.

My grandfather, Woody Rehm, 88, grew up the sixth of seven children during the Great Depression. Like most families during that time, they were poor. The Rehms moved often, all over town and sometimes just down the street, looking for cheaper rent.

Jason Rehm, “Old Main Street fountain’s history explained.” Bethlehem Press, September 3, 2019.

The Eliza Richardson Fountain on Main Street has long been a mystery. Who was she and why does the fountain bear her name? Answers were hard to come by, but as various records were unearthed, they began to piece together a picture of a fascinating woman deserving to be remembered.

Bethlehem Moment: Puerto Ricans come to Bethlehem

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 12
City Council
September 3, 2019

Olga Negron, Bethlehem City Councilwoman

As we get ready to celebrate “Hispanic Heritage Month,” I challenge everyone to think about the Latino members of our community, what brought us here, and what kind of investment we have in our community.

Bethlehem Moment: 1948

Beginning in 1948, migrants from Puerto Rico came to the Lehigh Valley as seasonal contract farm workers. The orchards and potato fields of the region had depended on a supply of cheap labor that had always been met by the large families of the Pennsylvania German population. In the Depression-era 1930s, there had been plenty of workers.

But in the post-war era, farmers discovered their traditional source of labor was unwilling to work the long hours for the wages they wanted to pay. So Puerto Ricans filled the void, in the garment mills of Allentown and at Bethlehem Steel’s coke works, where they occupied the same rung on the employment ladder that the Mexicans had in the 1920s. The largest number lived on the south side of the Lehigh River near the Bethlehem Steel plant. Others lived in public housing in a project in the northeast corner of the city.

Migrant job seekers, usually young men, came first to look for work. When they found it, they sent word back to their rural home villages, such as Patillas and Corozal, that there was work in Bethlehem.

By 1960, when 56 percent of the Lehigh Valley’s work force was in either the textile or metal industries, Puerto Ricans were well represented.

Most of these early migrants from Puerto Rico were unskilled. At first they were welcomed because they filled the kind of jobs, in a booming economy, that most whites didn’t want.

But by the early 1960s, tensions between Puerto Ricans and south Bethlehem’s older, more settled ethnic European community were rising. The same prejudice and ethnic stereotypes that were directed at the Mexicans “that they should have the hottest jobs because they could stand the heat” were directed at Puerto Ricans.

Yet Puerto Ricans continued to come to south Bethlehem, where they formed such cultural civic groups as the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society and the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations. In 2003, they made up a large part of the South Side, and more than 33,000 lived in the Lehigh Valley and worked in virtually every facet of the job market.

This is part of an article published by the Morning Call in Dec 10, 2003, titled: Forging America: The History of Bethlehem Steel – Chapter 7.

Bethlehem Moment: A trip to South Bethlehem, 1906

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 11
City Council
July 16, 2019

John Smith, 833 Carlton Ave

Read by Kate McVey, 1221 Lorain Ave.

Video of July 16 City Council meeting, start at min. 33:50.

Bethlehem Moment: Saturday, May 19, 1906

A trip through South Bethlehem’s foreign district last night was a revelation. More than three hours were spent in the residential district of 5000 or more of South Bethlehem’s foreign population. Every type of foreigner — men, women, and children — were observed. Their modes of living were noticed and their methods of recreation after a hard day’s work were specially observed. With the illumination of only the house coal oil lamp the trip grew in interest step by step.

The men were sitting in parties beside beer kegs. Although it was now 9 o’clock many of the women were still doing housework. Some were ironing, other were washing clothes, while others were baking or sewing.  The children were allowed to roam about the yard and entertain themselves as best they could.

An evening party here in a room no more than 6×10 feet, in the midst of all its furnishings including bed, tables, chairs, etc., dancing was indulged in by at least four couples. The music was furnished by members of the party alternatively playing the mouth organ. The making of a “strudl,” a favorite dish, was keenly watched. The housewife makes what appears to be a dough. She then spreads a cloth over a 3×4 table, on which she places the dough and rolls it to the thinness of a drumhead the full length and width of the table. The dough prepared and rolled, she proceeds to place in the dough various kinds of vegetables and rolls, dough and vegetables into the shape of a sausage. This is placed in an oven, baked and served.

It’s beer from morning to night and sometimes from night to morning.  While there are many who have their liquor at their homes, there are still many more who patronize the various saloons. The proprietor of one saloon said he had as high as 700 come into his place in one night, and he only keeps open until 10:30 o’clock.

What appeared singular was the fact that quiet reigned. There was no fuss, not even loud talking notwithstanding that at least a dozen or more nationalities elbowed past one another.

Another fact noticeable last night was the positive evidence that the low or objectionable class of foreigners, the class the public at large hears much about, is not in South Bethlehem to an alarming degree. There seems to be more of the better class that keep to themselves and hustle after the dollar day in and day out.

Edited from an article in the Bethlehem Globe-Times.


Possible topics for Bethlehem Moments

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

In the last post in this series, Gadfly published a draft guide to resources on Bethlehem history for people committed to or considering doing a Bethlehem Moment.

Here now for the same purpose is — thanks to Scott Gordon! — a short list of possible topics.

This is only a sample to get you thinking. The topics for the Moments can be big or small, well known or unknown.

Note that several of the Moments so far are about day-to-day activities from the newspaper rather than what one follower called more “hard news” in the list below.  Gadfly can give you the link to where you can browse the Bethlehem sections of the Morning Call. Lots of interesting “history” there!

Anyway, the idea is that it should be your choice.

The founding (1741-1762)

The War and Occupied Bethlehem (1775-1778)

The first bridge (1794)

The canal (1829)

The end of Moravian Bethlehem as an exclusive community (1845/1847)

The railroad (1850s)

Beginnings of industry on the south side (1850s)

The Lehigh River flood (1862)

The Bethlehem Steel Strike (1910)

The unification of the three boroughs (1917)

Prohibition and the rough south side (1920s)

WWII and the Steel (1940s)

Origins of Historic Preservation/Restoration (1950s)

The Lost Neighborhood (early 1960s)

New City Center (1967)

People wishing to do one or hear more about the Bethlehem Moments should contact the Gadfly — Ed Gallagher — through the “Contact” link here or at

It’s an honor to do one of these Bethlehem Moments.

Draft guide to Bethlehem history

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

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 studying Bethlehem history.

Here, with a tip o’ the hat to Scott Gordon and Seth Moglen, is Gadfly’s shot at a first draft of such a guide.

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.

One can imagine an eventual version of this guide that is not only beefed up in entries but in annotated entries with full publication data divided into useful subcategories.

But what, for now at least, should be in a basic, preliminary guide?

Help fostering and furthering the knowledge of Bethlehem history greatly appreciated.

As Gadfly is fond of saying, “without a sense of a shared history, we are not really a community.”


Ed Gallagher
July 2019

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)

Richmond Myers, Sketches of Early Bethlehem (1981)

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)

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:
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:

A tip o’ the hat to Scott Gordon and Seth Moglen.

Bethlehem Moment 10: Gertrude Fox, Committed Environmentalist

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 10
City Council
July 2, 2019

Lynn Rothman, 870 Wafford Ln

Video of July 2 City Council meeting at min. 3:50.

Bethlehem Moment:  March 22, 1965

While walking along Jacksonville Road, Arthur Fox, aged 15, was struck and killed by a motorist. His mother, Gertrude “Gertie” Fox pressed for a walking path and traffic controls — both of which remain today. Yet this was just the beginning of her environmental and political activism. As Gertrude Fox stated in an interview, “I have two big projects: saving parkland and preserving our water resources.”

Graduating high school in 1934, where she excelled in mathematics, Gertrude was denied admittance to MIT because she was a woman. She received a degree from Simmons College in Boston where she studied science and engineering, holding four jobs to pay her way. There she realized that water “was where our next big shortage was going to be.  It won’t be oil, and it won’t be jobs. It’s going to be worse than that, losing our water resources.”

Two years later Gertrude and her husband moved to Bethlehem. She worked as a mathematics instructor in a number of Lehigh Valley schools and as an industrial biologist and metallurgical inspector for Bethlehem Steel, a male-dominated field, from 1945-1947.

In addition (perhaps more importantly!), she was an advocate for the protection of our precious waterways, particularly the Monocacy Creek.

Gertrude Fox had the knowledge and ability to convince developers and property owners to adopt construction practices that would minimize adverse impacts on water quality. She studied plans for proposed developments and then recommended changes to state and local governments, as well as to developers and landowners, to protect the environment.

Gertrude Fox was president of the Monocacy Creek Watershed Association, which is still active today.

In the mid-1980s, she led a group that petitioned to purchase the last remaining tract, 6.5 acres, of the original 500-acre Burnside Farm. Their goal was to save and preserve the heart of this 18th century Moravian farm in Bethlehem City, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1987 the Northampton County Council named a four-acre tract along the Monocacy Creek near the intersection of Routes 22 and 512 the “Gertrude Fox Conservation Area.” Three years later, President George H.W. Bush presented her with the first Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award.

On January 4, 1995, Gertrude Fox, an educator, ecologist, engineer and avid skier died. Her foresight as to the importance of preserving our natural resources has proven correct, and her legacy is still with us today.

“Struck by Auto, Boy Loses Life,” Morning Call, March 23, 1965, p. 5.


“Gertrude Fox ‘Mrs. Monocacy,’ Is Dead at 78 She was educator, politician, environmentalist, engineer,” Morning Call < > January 5, 1995. Accessed June 24, 2019.

Kranzley, Glenn. “Gertrude Fox was committed environmentalist in Bethlehem,” Morning Call < > October 23, 2014. Accessed June 24, 2019.

Kranzley, Glenn. Still Changing, Still Home: Northampton County Since the 1950s. The Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society, Easton, PA, 2017.

Terkel, Studs. Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It. New York Press, 1996.