1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bethlehem (Pennsylvania)

BETHLEHEM, a borough of Northampton and Lehigh counties, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., on the N. bank of the Lehigh river, opposite South Bethlehem and 55 m. N. by W. of Philadelphia. Pop. (1890) 6762; (1900) 7293 (350 foreign-born); (1910) 12,837. It is served by the Central of New Jersey, the Lehigh & New England, the Lehigh Valley and the Philadelphia & Reading railways, and is connected by two long bridges with South Bethlehem. The borough lies on a ridge of ground commanding delightful landscape scenery extending north up the course of the river to the Blue Mountains 20 m. away. In Church Street and its vicinity still stand several specimens of the 17th-century style of architecture of eastern Germany. The same sect that erected these buildings, the Moravians, or United Brethren, maintain here the Moravian College and Theological Seminary, and a well-known school for girls (the Moravian Seminary), founded as a church boarding school in 1749 and reorganized in 1785, for girls of all denominations. During the War of Independence, from December 1776 to April 1777, and from September 1777 to April 1778, the old Colonial Hall in this seminary (built 1748) was used as a general hospital of the continental army. From its roof the famous Moravian trombones were long played on festal or funeral occasions, and later summoned the people to musical festivals. The Moravians have given Bethlehem a national reputation as a musical centre. Only a few years after the city was founded, Benjamin Franklin was strongly impressed with the fine music in its church, and towards the close of the 19th century a choir under the direction of the organist, J. Frederick Wolle, became widely known by rendering for the first time in America Bach’s St John Passion (in 1888), followed after short intervals by the St Matthew Passion, the Christmas Oratorio, the Mass in B Minor, and finally by an annual Bach festival continuing for three days, which was discontinued after Wolle’s removal to the university of California in 1905. Bethlehem has often been called the American Bayreuth. Among the borough’s industrial establishments, the manufactories of iron and steel are the most important, but it also manufactures brass, zinc, and silk and knit goods. The municipality owns and operates its waterworks. Bethlehem was founded by the Moravians, led by Count Nikolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf, shortly before Christmas in 1741, and the season of the year suggested its name; for the first century of its existence it was almost exclusively a settlement of that sect, and it is still their American headquarters. Bethlehem was incorporated as a borough in 1845. In 1904 the borough of West Bethlehem (pop. in 1900, 3465) was consolidated with Bethlehem.

See J. M. Levering, A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (Bethlehem, 1903).