Recordings of previous programs

Lehigh Valley Silk Mills
From 1913 to 1930, Pennsylvania produced more silk goods than any other place in the world. Most silk mills were located in the eastern part of the state: from the coal regions to Philadelphia, and between the main branch of the Susquehanna and the Delaware River. Silk was the first industry drawn to Pennsylvania more for its human resources–young women and children to work in the mills–than for its mineral and natural ones. By the early 1920s, the number of Pennsylvanians working in the silk industry equaled those in iron and steel. The last mill dedicated to silk weaving in Allentown closed in 1989. It was owned and run by Louis Capwell, father of our presenter, Martha Capwell Fox. The Catoir Silk Mill was documented in the 1980s by photographer Ken Bloom and a family video, which forms part of the presentation.

Martha Capwell Fox has been the Historian and Archives Coordinator for the National Canal Museum/Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor since 2012. She was the assistant to the NCM Collections Manager from 2003-2005, and guest curator of the NCM exhibit “Behind the Seams: The Silk Industry in Eastern Pennsylvania.” Martha presented three papers at Canal History and Technology Symposia, on the silk industry in the D&L Corridor, a biographical sketch of 19th century entrepreneur Jose de Navarro, and an industrial history of Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, the site of the first commercially successful anthracite iron furnace. She was a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Speaker from 2004 to 2006. Also a professional writer and editor, Martha worked in magazine publishing at National Geographic and Rodale, Inc. and has published four books on local historical topics and three young adult histories on swimming, auto racing, and the Vatican. Her most recent book, Geology, Geography, and Human Genius: the Industrial History of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, is newly released. She is a graduate of American University with a dual degree in international relations and U.S. history.

Inside Factory LLC
Housed in a 40,000 sq. ft. former Bethlehem Steel building, Factory LLC is a one-of-a-kind innovation and scale-up facility located a short distance from the museum. As founder and managing partner at Factory LLC, Rich Thompson leads the company that, in addition to capital, provides strategic guidance to food, beverage and pet entrepreneurs in areas like marketing, supply chain, new product development and sales. Join us for a conversation about how the company works, how it uses innovative techniques to scale up companies and manufacturing, and more.

In his previous ventures, Rich helped create over $3 billion in enterprise value as CEO of American Italian Pasta Company, The Meow Mix Company and Freshpet. He has deep operational experience across multiple disciplines, including manufacturing, supply chain and distribution, innovation infrastructure, marketing and sales. He has also supervised the design and construction of seven manufacturing facilities. With CPG start-ups, one home run can be a lifetime achievement. Rich has helped achieve three of them.

WWI and Bethlehem Steel
Although Charles Schwab had greatly expanded Bethlehem Steel in the prior decade, WWI provided the company with the resources that allowed it to become one of America’s largest corporations. Explore how Bethlehem Steel responded to the opportunities and challenges created by the war in this special presentation with Professor John K. Smith.

Professor Smith, trained both as an engineer and a historian, specializes in the history of technology and business history. His research interests focus on the history of industrial research and development and the chemical industry. He is co-author of Science and Corporate Strategy: DuPont R&D, 1902-1980, and he has published articles in Technology and Culture, and Science. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware and is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Lehigh University.

The Slate Industry
How did stone quarried in pits hundreds of feet deep become a standard product installed on roofs? This presentation will look into the slate quarries of Eastern Pennsylvania to trace the general history of the local industry and take a more detailed look at the impressive technology behind it. Learn how aerial cableway systems lifted slate blocks, easily weighing a few tons or more, and transferred them to trains or trucks. See where slate was sawed and then split by hand and further processed into products ranging from stair treads to roofing. Who knew a grey rock could be so interesting?

This lecture is presented by NMIH Historian Mike Piersa. Mike graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Moravian College and a master’s in history from Lehigh University. He has been with NMIH for over 17 years and has been instrumental in the research and interpretation behind the museum’s collections as well as the restoration of historical industrial equipment both at the museum and at outside facilities. His quarry machinery preservation work resulted in him becoming an MSHA Certified Miner and taking leading roles in important restoration and preservation projects across the country, including the Bangor Quarry Hoist Project, a collaboration between the Totts Gap Arts Institute, the American Industrial Mining Company Museum, and the Borough of Bangor, PA. Mike has presented across the country on his work with industrial heritage and in 2019 published The Big Green Machine, a short book detailing the history, preservation, and operational restoration of NMIH’s 115-ton stationary steam engine.

Blowing Engines
Where does the blast for blast furnaces come from? For many furnaces, the blast of air was supplied by “blowing engines.” This presentation will describe how massive engines once ran around the clock to pump the requisite two tons of air required for every ton of iron produced. We will trace the evolution of air pumping devices associated with blast furnaces and do a deep dive into the “Gas Blowing Engine House” in Bethlehem, Pa, which is the largest surviving facility of its type in the world.

This lecture is presented by NMIH Historian Mike Piersa. Mike graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Moravian College and a master’s in history from Lehigh University. He has been with NMIH for over 17 years and has been instrumental in the research and interpretation behind the museum’s collections as well as the restoration of historical industrial equipment both at the museum and at outside facilities. His quarry machinery preservation work resulted in him becoming an MSHA Certified Miner and taking leading roles in important restoration and preservation projects across the country, including the Bangor Quarry Hoist Project, a collaboration between the Totts Gap Arts Institute, the American Industrial Mining Company Museum, and the Borough of Bangor, PA.

The Life and Times of John A. Roebling
John Roebling was one of the nineteenth century’s most brilliant engineers, ingenious inventors, successful manufacturers, and fascinating personalities. Raised in a German backwater amid the war-torn chaos of the Napoleonic Wars, he immigrated to the US in 1831, where he became wealthy and acclaimed, eventually receiving a carte-blanche contract to build one of the nineteenth century’s most stupendous and daring works of engineering: a gigantic suspension bridge to span the East River between New York and Brooklyn. In between, he thought, wrote, and worked tirelessly. He dug canals and surveyed railroads; he planned communities and founded new industries. Horace Greeley called him “a model immigrant”; generations later, F. Scott Fitzgerald worked on a script for the movie version of his life. This talk will be conducted by Richard Haw, author of Engineering America: The Life and Times of John A. Roebling, just released earlier this month via Oxford University Press.

Richard Haw is Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He is the author of The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History and Art of the Brooklyn Bridge: A Visual History.

How It Works: Blast Furnaces
Did you ever wonder how the massive SteelStacks, a block away from the Museum, worked? Did you know that they never made steel? This presentation will explore the inner workings and history of “blast furnaces” with a special focus on the Bethlehem, PA, “blast furnaces.” We will trace the evolution of the furnaces themselves, as well as the raw materials going into them, and how the hot metal emerging from them was handled. Listen closely to discover what words like Monkey, Pig, Salamander, and Submarine mean to blast furnace workers.

This lecture is presented by NMIH Historian Mike Piersa. Mike graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Moravian College and a master’s in history from Lehigh University. He has been with NMIH for over 17 years and has been instrumental in the research and interpretation behind the museum’s collections as well as the restoration of historical industrial equipment both at the museum and at outside facilities. His quarry machinery preservation work resulted in him becoming an MSHA Certified Miner and taking leading roles in important restoration and preservation projects across the country, including the Bangor Quarry Hoist Project, a collaboration between the Totts Gap Arts Institute, the American Industrial Mining Company Museum, and the Borough of Bangor, PA. Mike has presented across the country on his work with industrial heritage and in 2019 published The Big Green Machine, a short book detailing the history, preservation, and operational restoration of NMIH’s 115-ton stationary steam engine.

The Snow Corliss Engine at NMIH
NMIH historian Mike Piersa details the 115-ton stationary steam engine at the center of the Museum. This illustrated talk tells the history and operational restoration of the engine, built in 1914 by the Snow Steam Pump Works in Buffalo, N.Y. for use at the York Water Company in York, Pennsylvania, USA. Once capable of pumping eight million gallons of water per day, the engine is now most powerful operating water works steam engine in America.

This lecture is presented by NMIH Historian Mike Piersa. Mike graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Moravian College and a master’s in history from Lehigh University. He has been with NMIH for over 17 years and has been instrumental in the research and interpretation behind the museum’s collections as well as the restoration of historical industrial equipment both at the museum and at outside facilities. His quarry machinery preservation work resulted in him becoming an MSHA Certified Miner and taking leading roles in important restoration and preservation projects across the country, including the Bangor Quarry Hoist Project, a collaboration between the Totts Gap Arts Institute, the American Industrial Mining Company Museum, and the Borough of Bangor, PA. Mike has presented across the country on his work with industrial heritage and in 2019 published The Big Green Machine, a short book detailing the history, preservation, and operational restoration of NMIH’s 115-ton stationary steam engine.

Chief Engineer – Washington Roebling – The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge
Erica Wagner wrote the first full biography of a crucial figure in the American story–Washington Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge. His father conceived of the Brooklyn Bridge, but after John Roebling’s sudden death, Washington Roebling built what has become one of America’s most iconic structures–as much a part of New York as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Yet, as recognizable as the bridge is, its builder is too often forgotten–and his life is of interest far beyond his chosen field. It is the story of immigrants, of the frontier, of the greatest crisis in American history and of the making of the modern world.

Erica Wagner has been fascinated by the Brooklyn Bridge and its builder since she first set foot on its span as a girl. Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge, was published by Bloomsbury in 2017. Born in New York, she lives in London; she was the literary editor of the London Times for seventeen years and is now a contributing writer for the New Statesman and consulting literary editor for Harper’s Bazaar. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Economist, the Financial Times, and the New York Times, among others. She is also the author of Ariel’s Gift, Seizure, and the short story collection Gravity; she is the editor of First Light: A Celebration of Alan Garner. She was the recipient of the Eccles British Library Writer’s Award in 2014, and she is a lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Building with Steel – Where Was It Made?
What landmarks, bridges, and railroads used Bethlehem Steel? The answer may not be as simple as you think. We’ll dive into archival material, history books, and documentation from guests to learn where steel came from and who fabricated it. As we explore a virtual map correlating projects with their steel sources, we will trace the family trees of Bethlehem Steel, subsidiary companies, and sometimes the competition to show how the company grew, changed, and sourced steel products from plants throughout the nation.

This lecture is presented by NMIH Historian Mike Piersa. Mike graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Moravian College and a master’s in history from Lehigh University. He has been with NMIH for over 17 years and has been instrumental in the research and interpretation behind the museum’s collections as well as the restoration of historical industrial equipment both at the museum and at outside facilities. His quarry machinery preservation work resulted in him becoming an MSHA Certified Miner and taking leading roles in important restoration and preservation projects across the country, including the Bangor Quarry Hoist Project, a collaboration between the Totts Gap Arts Institute, the American Industrial Mining Company Museum, and the Borough of Bangor, PA. Mike has presented across the country on his work with industrial heritage and in 2019 published The Big Green Machine, a short book detailing the history, preservation, and operational restoration of NMIH’s 115-ton stationary steam engine.

Quakers, Guns and the British Industrial Revolution
The biggest gun manufacturing firm in 18th century Britain was owned by a Quaker family, the Galtons of Birmingham. Quakers, as a tenet of their beliefs, do not participate in war or war training, so how did the Galtons manage to become massive industrialists in the arms business while maintaining their status in their religious community? the answers reveal how difficult it was in eighteenth-century British industrial society to extricate oneself entirely from participating in warfare, regardless of principles. War was integral to the Industrial Revolution. This captivating piece of industrial history will explore the complex relationship between the Quaker Community and gun makers during the British Industrial Revolution.

Priya Satia is the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History at Stanford University. A graduate of Stanford, London School of Economics, and UC Berkeley, she Priya Satia specializes in modern British and British empire history, especially in the Middle East and South Asia. Her two books, Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (OUP, 2008), and Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (Penguin Press, 2018), have won the AHA-Herbert Baxter Adams Book Prize, Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Book Prize, and the Wadsworth Prize in Business History. Prof. Satia’s third book, “Time’s Monster: How History Makes History,” is forthcoming in 2020 (Harvard University Press; Penguin UK). It is an account of the British empire that focuses on the role of the modern historical imagination in its unfolding, while also recovering alternative ethical visions embraced by anticolonial thinkers.

Iron vs. Steel
What is the difference between iron and steel? In this virtual lecture, guests will learn the basics of each material, then dive deeper to discover specific types of iron and steel, how production evolved over time, and what products they can be found in.

This lecture is presented by NMIH Historian Mike Piersa. Mike graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Moravian College and a master’s in history from Lehigh University. He has been with NMIH for over 17 years and has been instrumental in the research and interpretation behind the museum’s collections as well as the restoration of historical industrial equipment both at the museum and at outside facilities. His quarry machinery preservation work resulted in him becoming an MSHA Certified Miner and taking leading roles in important restoration and preservation projects across the country, including the Bangor Quarry Hoist Project, a collaboration between the Totts Gap Arts Institute, the American Industrial Mining Company Museum, and the Borough of Bangor, PA. Mike has presented across the country on his work with industrial heritage and in 2019 published The Big Green Machine, a short book detailing the history, preservation, and operational restoration of NMIH’s 115-ton stationary steam engine.

Little Trains for Big Steel
Bethlehem Steel and many other industrial facilities relied on railroads not just to haul their products, but to move material around inside their plants. While most trains operate over rails that are 56 1/2 inches apart, steel mills often had smaller trains that rode on tracks with rails only 36 inches apart. Learn where these little trains ran in Bethlehem, how they fit into the larger steelmaking process, and how NMIH is preserving two original Bethlehem Steel diesel electric locomotives for our own short demonstration railway.

This lecture is presented by NMIH Historian Mike Piersa. Mike graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Moravian College and a master’s in history from Lehigh University. He has been with NMIH for over 17 years and has been instrumental in the research and interpretation behind the museum’s collections as well as the restoration of historical industrial equipment both at the museum and at outside facilities. His quarry machinery preservation work resulted in him becoming an MSHA Certified Miner and taking leading roles in important restoration and preservation projects across the country, including the Bangor Quarry Hoist Project, a collaboration between the Totts Gap Arts Institute, the American Industrial Mining Company Museum, and the Borough of Bangor, PA. Mike has presented across the country on his work with industrial heritage and in 2019 published The Big Green Machine, a short book detailing the history, preservation, and operational restoration of NMIH’s 115-ton stationary steam engine.

Geography, Geology and Genius
This presentation will tell the story of how a small slice of eastern Pennsylvania became the cradle of the American Industrial Revolution. Pennsylvania was America’s powerhouse in the nineteenth century, supplying the hot-burning, high-energy anthracite coal that ignited the iron and, later, steel industries that transformed the United States. This revolution began in the five counties – Bucks, Northampton, Lehigh, Carbon, and Luzerne – that are now designated the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. This is where geography, geology, and human genius met to begin the building of modern America. The presentation will trace the development of the innovative industries that were founded in the Corridor as a result of this confluence of waterways, minerals, and minds – industries that became dominant in the nation and even the world during the past 200 years.

Martha Capwell Fox has been the Historian and Archives Coordinator for the National Canal Museum/Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor since 2012. She was the assistant to the NCM Collections Manager from 2003-2005, and guest curator of the NCM exhibit “Behind the Seams: The Silk Industry in Eastern Pennsylvania.” Martha presented three papers at Canal History and Technology Symposia, on the silk industry in the D&L Corridor, a biographical sketch of 19th century entrepreneur Jose de Navarro, and an industrial history of Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, the site of the first commercially successful anthracite iron furnace. She was a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Speaker from 2004 to 2006. Also a professional writer and editor, Martha worked in magazine publishing at National Geographic and Rodale, Inc. and has published four books on local historical topics and three young adult histories on swimming, auto racing, and the Vatican. Her most recent book, Geology, Geography, and Human Genius: the Industrial History of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, will be released later this year. She is a graduate of American University with a dual degree in international relations and U.S. history.

Cork Wars: Intrigue and Industry in World War II
During World War II, the U.S. cork industry took on unexpected importance for national security. Pennsylvania, home to Armstrong Cork and other leading cork producers, was a hub. In the age before plastic, cork imported from European cork oaks, was unrivaled as a sealant and insulator. It was used in tanks, weapon systems, ships, and bomber insulation, making it crucial to the war effort. Cork industry workers also had skills desired by U.S. intelligence agencies. From secret missions in North Africa to 4-H clubs growing seedlings in America to secret intelligence agents working undercover in the industry, David Taylor examines this little-known slice of American industrial history.

David A. Taylor is the author of six books including the award-winning histories Soul of a People, about the 1930s Federal Writers Project, and Cork Wars: Intrigue and Industry in World War II. His work has appeared in Smithsonian, Science magazine and in documentary films. He teaches at Johns Hopkins University.

Pittsburgh, Steel, and the 1918 Pandemic
During the 1918 influenza pandemic, Pittsburgh was the worst-hit city in the western world, not just America. The story comes down to the industrial history of the city and the way heavy industry affected the Steel City’s politics, health, and role during World War One. Jim Higgins joins us again as he recounts information he presented on Smithsonian Channel’s “America’s Hidden Stories.”

James Higgins earned his doctorate at Lehigh University. His work focuses on the history of American medicine, with an especial focus on influenza and typhoid. He has lectured in America and Europe, published numerous scholarly papers, and his first book, a brief history of medicine and disease in Pennsylvania will be published by Temple University Press in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Historical Association in late-2020.

Inside the Demise of Martin Tower with NMIH Director of Marketing and Public Relations Glenn Koehler
As part of the museum’s staff, Koehler accompanied volunteers, the museum’s curator, and the museum’s historian as they recovered artifacts for the museum’s collection prior to demolition of Bethlehem Steel’s former headquarters in May 2019. This intimate look spans five years of photography, from when the building was still intact to its final, gutted form prior to implosion. His presentation and Q&A will show views and areas few got to see, from the boiler room in the basement of the building to the sweeping vistas as seen from the rooftop.

Bethlehem Steel, Industry, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic with James Higgins
102 years ago, the great influenza pandemic swept across the globe, claiming as many as 50 million lives. In the United States, Pennsylvania was hit the hardest. More than 67,000 Pennsylvanians died during the crisis’ most acute phase. This haunting and timely look will examine the virus’s impact on industry, and detail how the then-prosperous Bethlehem Steel helped the community around it suffer some of the lowest mortality rates.

James Higgins is a historian of medicine and concentrates especially on the history of the influenza pandemic in Pennsylvania and Texas. He now lectures at Jefferson University in Philadelphia and Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

The President’s Pump with Mark Connar
It is well known that Bethlehem is the home of the first municipal water pumping system in the United States. A replica of this machine is located in its’ original stone building in Historic Bethlehem’s Industrial Quarter. Much less known is that, little more than a century later, the largest steam driven single cylinder stationary water pumping engine in the Americas was erected only a few miles away at a zinc mine in the Upper Saucon Township village of Friedensville. This engine, renowned at the time as The President Engine, was designed and constructed by Cornish engineers using time tested old-world technical know-how coupled with American manufacturing talent. Although not publicly accessible, the remnants of this machine still exist today. This talk will focus on efforts underway to preserve the surviving engine house ruins and to convert the surrounding property into an open-air interpretative museum and heritage park.

Mark W. Connar is a retired businessman with an AB degree in anthropology from Brown University (1972) with post graduate study in archaeology at the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. He has participated in archeological surveys in the United States and the United Kingdom. He also holds an MBA degree from Lehigh University (1984). He is on the Board of Trustees, Historic Bethlehem Partnership and is a Founding Member of the National Museum of Industrial History. Further, he is a member of the Mine History Association and the Society for Industrial Archeology.

Bethlehem Steel’s Last 20 Years – Building Bridges and Buildings
Prerecorded in September 2019
Join retired Bethlehem Steel Civil Engineer Gordon Baker as he talks about the history of Bethlehem Steel’s bridgemaking operations, which saw some of the world’s most famous structures come from its mills. From the Golden Gate to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridges, Bethlehem Steel helped build it all. Four people from the audience will become part of a live suspension bridge and we will learn how a suspension bridge works.

Gordon Baker worked for twenty years at Bethlehem Steel’s Fabricated Steel Construction Division working on bridges and buildings. During this period, he was a Field Engineer in New York, worked in the Engineering department in Bethlehem, was Assistant Works Engineer in the Leetsdale Pittsburgh plant, and was Superintendent of the large Pittsburgh shop facility. His career included working on two suspension bridges in New York, the Commodore Barry Bridge, Martin Tower, the world’s largest radio telescope in Puerto Rico and numerous other structures. Gordon is a retired Licensed Professional Engineer and a graduate of Lehigh University’s civil engineering program.

From the Archives: Mining Photography of George Bretz
Shari Stout from The Smithonian’s National Museum of American History will be presenting an online lecture featuring the historic mining photography of George Bretz. The National Museum of American History is home to an array of mining lamps, hats, and safety equipment, much of it from the anthracite mines of Pennsylvania. In 1884, the Smithsonian displayed a series of photographs taken inside a mine in Pennsylvania by George Bretz, a photographer from Pottsville, PA. Shari will show us some of these photos, talk about the history of these collections, some of the materials collected with them, and the original curator who initiated the photo shoot.

Shari Stout is a collections manager in the Offsite Storage Program at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, and holds an M.A. in Museum Studies from George Washington University. She has worked at the Smithsonian since 1999, installing exhibitions and caring for a wide range of collections, including the mining collections. Ms. Stout works with everything from glassware to sculpture to locomotives, but specializes in planning and overseeing the movement of the museum’s largest objects. Ms. Stout played a key role in the installation of the Smithsonian collections for the 2016 opening of the National Museum of Industrial History.