“Americans invent as the Greeks sculptured and
the Italians painted: It is genius.”
-The Times – London – 1876

About a year ago I clipped an article from an antiques magazine about a new museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – the National Museum of Industrial History. Earlier this year I was also emailing with a letterpress historian about a part I need for a rare press I bought, and he told me about his involvement in the temporary Printing and Papermaking exhibit at the museum. No problem deciding that on the drive home Sunday 21 October from Hershey that I spend time at this museum – only about two years old, and affiliated with the Smithsonian.

I back-roaded to Bethlehem, and arrived on the grounds of a Bethlehem Steel plant that is being conserved, and repurposed as a visitor area, and cultural center. The visitor center sits in the shadow of this furnace complex.

I walked around, poked into some abandoned buildings

and then found the museum in this restored building.

as you enter, the initial exhibit represents what a visitor would have marveled at in the Machinery Hall at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. If you know me, you know I have been fascinated for over five decades by world’s fairs and expositions.


these words provided an introduction to the Centennial Exposition exhibit. Much of this machinery at the beginning here is from the Smithsonian, having originally been exhibited in Philadelphia in 1876. Steve, there is even a piece there on loan from the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vermont. You can click on the image to the right to read it if you wish. Below are some of the equipments that were shown in Philadelphia in 1876.


I found these “facts’ interesting. If you wish to read the facts, click to enlarge

this display of files made by the Nicholson File Company of Providence, RI, was also shown at the fair in 1876. The company’s improved file-cutting machine (1864) revolutionized the industry. Files could now be made by machine (36,000 a day) instead of being cut by hand.

Continuing on in the museum, stories of iron and steel, and the silk and propane industries were presented.

These panels explain how iron, then steel is made. Was learning about the process in Pittsburgh, and I have these here so I can study again – but you may wish to open and read.

Many of my posts are read by people doing “on-line searches” and my hope is that this post will provide some additional information on, and incentives for people to visit the National Museum of Industrial History. I will not quiz my cadre of faithful readers to see what you have learned here – you are safe. But here is some more that I want to share.

Have you seen a worker’s “welfare room” before? A locker room – but see where in 1941 workers had for the first time a place to shower and store personal items. They placed their personal items in these “welfare baskets,” hoisted them up to the ceiling and padlocked it to their numbered spot on the central stand

there is a section on the silk industry that was in this area.

I was fascinated learning about propane and the distribution of LP gas – originally waste from the oil mines, but now used.

I then spent a little time looking around the printing exhibit. Below is a model of the Daye Press – the first printing press in the Colonies, arriving in 1638. It was made by the fellow I have been emailing with. Ironically, I just wrote an article about this press for my monthly “Did You Know That…” history piece in my newspaper – THE WALPOLE CLARION – click on this link to read that article.

There are several themes that run through my life, and have contributed to my foundation and interests. I have had printing presses since 1957. Wanted to print a newspaper, but quickly realized not something I could do with a 3×5 inch press. I currently have about 8 presses, equipment, and maybe 30 fonts of type. Sold a big press two years ago, third time I had sold a Chandler and Price 6×10 inch bed, and I was sad – did not have to sell it, but wasn’t using it – not fair to someone else and the press. No problem, found another two months ago in the back room of an antique shop – it is now in my garage awaiting some tweaking – mainly paint – pink is not correct on a printing press.

This model of a paper making machine was in operation. The model of a Fourdrinier Paper Making Machine was made in 1933 for The Franklin Institute, where it was used to demonstrate papermaking until 1999. The model turns out an eight inch wide web of paper at the rate of five feet per minute.

and, here is a fast fact for you.

RAY RECOMMENDS – If passing through Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, take a couple hours and experience and learn at the National Museum of Industrial History. And, if you can, plan a “Wayzgoose” event.

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