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 coming

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.

“Bethlehem Moment” status report: One more volunteer needed

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Gadfly has asked President Waldron if we can move the Bethlehem Moment to the top of the meeting after the prayer and the pledge.

Here’s the document I supplied to support the request:

Bethlehem Moment Project
Ed Gallagher
version 1 6/4/19


That beginning July 2, 2019, as a one-year pilot program, Bethlehem City Council add a historical moment – “A Bethlehem Moment” – to its opening meeting protocol immediately following the prayer and the pledge of allegiance and before the body of the meeting starts.

What is a Bethlehem Moment?

  • an historical vignette
  • a scene or event from Bethlehem history between 1741 and the 1960s
  • topic of the author’s choice, approved by the program coordinator
  • short, so as to not unduly delay the business of the meeting
  • entered in the minutes, published on the Gadfly blog and perhaps also on the City website or social media
  • examples can be found at

Why a Bethlehem Moment?

  • we are a town that has made significant history
  • we are a town that values our history
  • we have three historical districts
  • our history completes the triumvirate of God and Country that is the source of our values and the context for our decisions
  • without a sense of our shared history, we can never be a true community
  • by invoking our history at the beginning of the meeting, we would be powerfully signaling our commitment to our history
  • by invoking our history at the beginning of the meeting, we would be encouraging knowledge of that history
  • this addition to our meeting protocol will make us unique among our peers

How will the project be administered?

Ed Gallagher will engage to find readers and arrange the schedule for the year. After which, he will find a successor coordinator. Or City Council could take the project over and line up participants as it does clergy. Or the program could languish, having run its course.

All elements flexible!

A profound Gadfly thanks to these good people who have signed on for the rest of the year. Several people have indicated interest in that last date but no firm commitment yet. So we could use one more “Momentor” to finish off the 2019 line-up.

Volunteer needed, please!  Info here: Bethlehem Moment Information

Ed Gallagher

Bethlehem Moments Schedule 2019

July 2                        Lynn Rothman

July16                       John Smith

August 6                   (Musikfest)

August 20                 Mary Toulouse

September 3             Olga Negron

September 17           Jim Petrucci

October 1                  Johanna Brams

October 15                 Stasia Brown-Pallrand

November 6               Steve Repasch

November 19             Rayah Levy

December 3                Robert Bilheimer

December 17

Looking for Bethlehem Moment volunteers!

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment Project
The Bethlehem Gadfly
Version 1

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

15) please contact:

Ed Gallagher
Coordinator pro-tem

Bethlehem Moments Schedule 2019

July 2                        Lynn Rothman

July16                       John Smith

August 6                   (Musikfest)

August 20                 Mary Toulouse

September 3             Olga Negron (tentative)

September 17           Jim Petrucci

October 1

October 15

November 6

November 19

December 3

December 17

Bethlehem Moment 9: Supporting Moravian Single Women

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

Bethlehem Moment 9
City Council
April 2, 2019
Video (start at min. 3:08)

Ed Gallagher, 49 W. Greenwich St.

This Bethlehem Moment was delivered on “Equal Pay Day,” was inspired by Councilman Callahan’s evolving wage discrimination ordinance proposal, and was written with Gadfly’s nine granddaughters firmly in mind.

A Bethlehem Moment: August 13, 1757

“Virtually every woman in 17th and 18th century America eventually married.”
recent textbook

“To whom should the helpless Maiden go?” Penry’s life in America constitutes an answer to that question. If she were lucky, the “helpless Maiden” could “go” to a Moravian single sisters’ house, which offered economic and social, as well as spiritual, asylum.
Scott Gordon

On August 13, 1757, Mary Penry (1735-1804) received communion in the Gemeinhaus chapel, marking her full membership in the Moravian Church. She would live in the Bethlehem Single Sisters’ House till 1762 before moving to the Single Sisters’ House in Lititz for the rest of her life. We mark this moment to value the role that our Sisters’ Houses played for women single either by fate or choice. Penry was born in Wales where her parents lived in “desperate and worrisome circumstances.” At age 9, after the death of her father, Penry moved with her mother to live with a female relative in Philadelphia, only to live a life of “Egyptian bondage” under the roof of the relative’s husband, a “terrible person,” whom after the relative died, impregnated her mother, marrying her only two months after the baby was born, a union Penry describes as “true despair,” for the husband threatened to kill her “daily.” Penry was a vulnerable teen, poor – the wealthy husband died absolutely unfairly leaving her and her mother literally only a few shillings – and she would remark that put a “u” in her name and you get “penury” – Mary Penury — poor and sexual prey herself she was. But at age 19 Penry found the Brethren’s church, had a saving vision of the wounds of Christ, learned of Single Sisters’ House from the famed artist Johann Valentine Haidt, whose portraits can be found in museums around the City, and came to Bethlehem. Penry chose to remain single: “I desire to spend and be spent in the service of the virgin choir,” she said. The Sisters’ Houses gave this single woman family, religious refuge, economic refuge, and a satisfying career. She was bookkeeper, accountant, translator, town guide – she embroidered. She was gainfully employed. She was no grumpy old maid, no silenced cloistered nun – her editor/biographer describes the voice in her letters as devout, yes, but garrulous, witty, plaintive, worldly-wise, curious, heartbroken, joyous, prophetic, bold, irreverent. Sisters’ House gave Mary Penry and other women the choice to remain single. Thus, Sisters’ House gave Mary Penry and other single women life.

Drawn from Scott Paul Gordon, ed., The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America (University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2018).

A few additional soundbites from Dr. Gordon’s book:

  • Penry may have been an “ordinary” woman, but she is unusual in an important way for historians of early America: she writes, self-consciously as a single woman at a time when singleness was rare.
  • The choice to remain single was made possible by the Moravian communities in which Penry lived. . . . Single women lived together in great stone buildings called “choir” houses. In these choir houses, which still stand, Moravian single sisters lived, worked, and worshiped alongside one another. They also laughed, played music, gossiped, and mourned their dead.
  • Visitors to Bethlehem between 1754 and 1773, for instance, would have found that about 54 percent of the community’s women were single, having never married. . . . The number of those who, like Penry chose to remain single throughout their life was high. In 1758, for instance, Penry lived with ninety-three others in Bethlehem’s single sisters’ house. . . . It was a remarkably diverse group of women. An astonishing 42 percent of these women remained single sisters for their entire life.
  • This arrangement offered an extraordinary amount of authority to women, who . . . were “led and guided by people like themselves, which . . . elsewhere in the whole world is not usual.”
  • None of these Moravian communities relegated single women to the “usual despised State of Old Maids.”
  • The popularity of the single sisters’ choir took Bethlehem’s founders by surprise.
  • Many Moravians, including single sisters such as Penry, also preserved persistent and deeply felt social ties with the world beyond Moravian settlements.
  • Moravian single sisters’ houses embraced women whose circumstances had left them little hope.
  • Penry never worried that she would become destitute. Her community would care for her even if she could no longer contribute economically.

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey