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Bethlehem Iron Company C.1895 Early Advertisement
Armaments & Artillery:
Growing competition in the rail market in the late 1880s and the subsequent receipt of a U.S. government contract that aimed to revitalize a deteriorated naval fleet in 1887 spurred Bethlehem Steel into the production of armaments and artillery. To meet contractual obligations, the first heavy-forging plant in the U.S. was constructed, laying the groundwork for nearly a century of weapons and munitions forging and resulting prestige and success. Following the navy-powered U.S. victory over Spain in the Spanish-American war, Bethlehem Steel came to be known as a lead producer of armaments, munitions, armor plating and ships. Between 1900 and 1914, countries the world over contracted with them to bolster their naval fleets and armed forces, a phenomena that only increased with the outbreak of WWI. Bethlehem Steel grew exponentially in the war years, becoming the third largest industrial company in the U.S. and reaching the heights of success and profits. Despite the successive financial set-backs of the post-war economy and the Depression Era, Bethlehem Steel made a resurgence as the world prepared for the second world war. Reclaiming its role as a major supplier of armaments, ordnance and ships to Armed Forces of both the U.S. and greater Allied Powers, it played an intrinsic role in their recurrent victory. Post-WWII, the company’s focus shifted to construction steel, as the demand for armaments and ordnance decreased significantly. The production of armor-plating ceased altogether, while forgings for national defense continued through the end of the 1960s, resurfacing in a new form servicing nuclear warships and power during Bethlehem Steel’s final chapter (of existence).