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Bethlehem Steel Corporation

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation is the second largest steel producer in the United States, after US Steel.

It began on April 8, 1857 as the Saucona Iron Works in South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, then on May 1, 1861 changed the name to Bethlehem Iron Works. In its early years it produced railroad rails and armor plating for the Navy. It became the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1899, then in 1904 Charles M. Schwab (recently resigned from US Steel) formed the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and became its first president and chairman of the board of directors.

By this time the corporation had branched out from steel, with iron mines in Cuba and shipyards around the country. In 1913 it acquired the Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Massachusetts, thereby becoming one of the major shipbuilders.

In 1916, Eugene G. Grace became president, and in 1945 chairman, leading the company until 1960. He acquired a number of additional steel plants in the 1920s, and Bethlehem produced the steel for many of the country's landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Rockefeller Center, and Madison Square Garden.

During World War II, Bethlehem's 15 shipyards produced a total of 1,121 ships, more than any other builder during the war, employing as many as 180,000 persons in the process (company total employment was 300,000).

Bethlehem's high point came in the 1950s, with a total capacity of 23 million tons per year, and it built its largest plant, at Burns Harbor, Indiana, between 1962 and 1964. But at the same time cheaper foreign steel started appearing on the market, and by 1982 Bethlehem reported a loss of US$1.5 billion and was forced to shut down many of its operations. Profitability returned in 1988, but restructuring and shutdowns continued through the 1980s and 1990s.

In 2001 Bethlehem filed for bankruptcy, and in 2003 it was expected to be acquired by the International Steel Group.

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