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Bethlehem History, Pennsylvania

Bethlehem, one of the three cities of the Lehigh Valley region (the other two cities are Allentown and Easton) of Pennsylvania, was founded in 1741. Of course, the region had long been inhabited by different Native American groups; when the early European traders arrived here, they came across the Delaware Indians.

Bethlehem History – The Beginning

The beginning of Bethlehem history can be traced back to the Christmas Eve of 1741, when a group of Moravians led by David Nitschmann and Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf set up a community-/settlement-sort-of by the Monocacy Creek (jutting from the Lehigh River). Being a Moravian mission community (wherein the Church owned all rights to the property), it was named Bethlehem, after the Biblical town in Judea.

Bethlehem History – From 1741 to 1844

The next 100 years of Bethlehem history were quite interesting – this long period saw only members of the Moravian Church being allowed to settle in Bethlehem. It is hardly amazing that this period of Bethlehem history saw large-scale conversion of the local native populace to Moravian Christianity.

Of course, many interesting things happened in these 100 years and Bethlehem was far from being a closed community. Local traders and industries traded with outsiders and the village also made progress in different fields. In 1762, Bethlehem became the first American community to supply water for civic use. The Revolutionary War period brought top American leaders like George Washington to Bethlehem.

Bethlehem History – From 1845 to Present Times

Year 1845 saw Bethlehem being incorporated into a free borough in the County of Northampton. Another important incident happened in the late 1940s, that is in 1848, when Bethlehem was named the H.Q. of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church in North America.

The Industrial Revolution days saw Bethlehem come to the fore once again as it became one of US’ chief heavy industry hubs. It all started with the setting up of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1857. (The company not only controlled the local economy for the next century or so, but has also played a crucial role on a national-scale. It was Bethlehem Steel Corporation that gave the world the steel-made ‘I-beam’ and other innovative construction materials. A number of defense/military armaments and equipments, including 1100 warships, were manufactured by the company during the two world wars. The company, however, stopped all their operations in 1995 and currently the property is being re-developed into a luxury casino resort named Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem).

The sixth-most-populated city of Pennsylvania made headlines in 1937 when the city’s Chamber of Commerce adopted the name ‘Christmas City of USA’ for Bethlehem and marked the event with grand-scale celebrations that included lighting up the city with streets-lights and a ‘massive wooden star’. The star has undergone many changes and repairs, but it still continues to be one of the chief attractions of Bethlehem, even as the city is making news as a resort destination and a center of health tourism.

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