‘Last Cast 25’ to Commemorate 25th Anniversary of Steelmaking This Fall

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Featured Image:  Photo by Edward Leskin

Steelworkers’ Reunion Party, Public Art Project, Steelworker Speaker Series & More Highlight Events and Programs Through November  


BETHLEHEM, PA—A Steelworkers reunion party, public art project featuring Bethlehem beams, the opportunity for students to discover local history from steelworkers, and the creation of a new children’s book that tells the story of a ‘Tug’ tractor that pulled buggies at Bethlehem Steel are among the highlights of the “Last Cast 25” initiative this fall commemorating the 25th anniversary of the last time steel was made at the iconic Bethlehem Steel plant.


Last Cast 25, which includes both in-person and virtual programming and events throughout the fall, is presented through a partnership between Bethlehem Area Public Library, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, Lehigh Valley Public Media, the National Museum of Industrial History, Steelworkers’ Archives, Wind Creek Resort and ArtsQuest.


Launching Sept. 26-27 with the Steel Weekend at the National Museum of Industrial History, Last Cast 25 will feature a series of events and programs that tie arts, music, education and culture to the rich history of the Bethlehem Steel, paying homage to one of the region’s largest employers in the 20th century and the second largest steel manufacturer in the nation. The Bethlehem plant, which employed more than 30,000 people at its height, was instrumental in manufacturing steel for much of the Manhattan skyline, Madison Square Garden and artillery and ships in the two World Wars.


November 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the last steel made in Bethlehem.   Nov. 18, 1995 was the last cast of iron from a blast furnace in Bethlehem and the Basic Oxygen Furnace, which converted iron into steel, shut down shortly afterwards.  The Electric Furnace Melt Shop was the last steelmaking shop to end melting on Nov. 22, 1995.


“Bethlehem Steel’s ‘last cast’ holds a symbolic place in the hearts of many steelworkers and community members.  It’s an indelible final chapter in the history of a storied company,” says National Museum of Industrial History President and CEO Kara Mohsinger. “While the plant’s final days were a sad time for Bethlehem, we’re glad we can come together now, 25 years later, and remember the worldwide impact Bethlehem’s steelworkers had on our town and our country.”


Confirmed Last Cast 25 programs and events so far include:


Screening of “Bethlehem Steel: The People Who Built America: 

Sept. 16, 7 p.m.
Lehigh Valley Public Media
Lehigh Valley Public Media presents the EMMY Award-winning documentary “Bethlehem Steel: The People Who Built America,” which tracks the amazing history of Bethlehem Steel from a booming multi-national company to a historic landmark in south Bethlehem. Meet the workers who helped build America and discover the legacy left behind by the corporation. Includes a panel discussion with former Bethlehem Steel CEO Hank Barnette, former Bethlehem Mayor Don Cunningham and the National Museum of Industrial History’s Andria Zaia. Visit PBS39.org/Screenings to learn more.


“The First Cast”
Sept 26, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
National Museum of Industrial History
Join the National Museum of Industrial History as it unveils its miniature iron melting furnace and holds its first public casting demonstration. The afternoon-long event will culminate in a molten iron pour around 3 p.m., during which commemorative Last Cast 25th Anniversary medallions will be created.  This once-in-a-lifetime event will take place on the Museum’s outdoor plaza and is weather dependent.


“Faces of Steel” 

Starting Sept. 26

SteelStacks Campus
Last Cast 25 will honor the men and women who worked at Bethlehem Steel Corp with a photo gallery shared online at steelstacks.org and via the outdoor screens on the SteelStacks campus.  The community is invited to submit photos of family members and friends who worked at Bethlehem Steel digitally through Sept. 18, 5 p.m., at www.steelstacks.org/lastcast25/. Submitted photos will be displayed as part of the virtual ‘Faces of Steel’ photo gallery at www.steelstacks.org/lastcast25/. In addition, images will be displayed on the outdoor LED screen at Lehigh Valley Public Media Sept. 26-27 as part of the National Museum of Industrial History’s Steel Weekend and as part of the Last Cast 25 Steelworkers Reunion Party Oct. 3 at SteelStacks.


Steelworkers Reunion Party 

October 3, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

ArtsQuest Center’s Air Products Town Square  

Bethlehem Steel’s workers and their family and friends are invited to gather on the Air Products Town Square for a 25th anniversary reunion featuring lunch and the opportunity catch up with old friends – socially distanced of course. Details will be announced in the coming weeks.


Bethlehem Beam Project  – “Look for the I-s that built the sk-I-es”  

November 2020 Through 2021

Throughout Bethlehem
ArtsQuest, National Museum of Industrial History and various other organizations and businesses are collaborating to host a public art project featuring the iconic Bethlehem Beams. Beams will be featured throughout the North and SouthSides of Bethlehem to commemorate the 25th anniversary. The beams, which come from Martin Tower, will be divided into benches and decorated by local artisans, as well as youth. The beam project will start this November, so be on the lookout for the “I-s that built the sk-I-es.”


Steelworkers’ Archives Exhibition & Activities
Throughout Fall
Steelworkers’ Archives
The Steelworkers’ Archives is displaying images from its permanent collection including steelworker portraits and images from the Bethlehem plant, as well as offering film viewings, open-air presentations and stories by former steelworkers.  There will also be a printed guide for all visitors that covers the events and exhibition.

Last Cast 25 Community Art Juried Exhibition
Nov. 6-Jan. 3, 2021
The Banana Factory
As part of Last Cast 25 and InVision, the Banana Factory Arts Center is hosting a digital exhibition focused on photography and photo-based artwork featuring Bethlehem Steel. Jurors for this exhibition are National Museum of Industrial History’s Glenn Koehler, former Bethlehem Steel worker and photographer Bruce Ward and ArtsQuest’s Nicole Gencarelli. Works will be juried on artistic and technical merit for inclusion in this digital exhibitionThe public can submit work through Oct. 11 at fest.formstack.com/forms/last_cast_25_community_art_juried_exhibition. For more information, email visualarts@artsquest.org. 


Steelworker Interviews 

Throughout November  

Steelworkers Archives and National Museum of Industrial History  

Steelworker Interviews, hosted by the National Museum of Industrial History in collaboration with the Steelworkers’ Archives, is an opportunity for the innovators of the future to learn from the steel workers of the past. This is a weekly opportunity throughout November for classrooms and online learners to virtually interview a steelworker, ask questions live and hear personalized stories from the Bethlehem Steel days. This program will be free of charge, held during school hours and open to all educators or students interested in joining. Registration, dates and times will be announced soon – for more information contact NMIH Director of Education and Community Partnerships Amber Emory at aemory@nmih.org.


Additionally, Bethlehem Area Public Library and Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites will collaborate to release a limited series podcast of the interviews, which will be available to the public. Students can continue their Last Cast experience with prerecorded art-making projects inspired by the Bethlehem Steel and facilitated by the Banana Factory.


“Tug” Children’s Book

Bethlehem Area Public Library (BAPL)
The Bethlehem Area Public Library and the National Museum of Industrial History are publishing a children’s book in conjunction with Last Cast 25. Tug, which tells the story of a real tractor (made by TUG Technologies Corp.) that pulled buggies at Bethlehem Steel, was written by BAPL children’s librarian Catherine McCafferty and illustrated by Jim Atherton.  Tug lives at the museum today as a working artifact. It’s a charming story that provides an inside look at the Steel and teaches in a way that is accessible to the youngest readers. To celebrate the book launch, Tug will be read by a member of Steelworkers’ Archives at “Storytime with a Steelworker.” 


“Memories of Steel” Speaker Series

Dates TBA

Steelworkers’ Archives  

The Steelworkers’ Archives Speakers Bureau will present “Memories of Steel” Saturdays and Sundays this fall on the plaza outside the National Museum of Industrial History.  This speaker series of captivating presentations will combine plant history with steelworker stories.  Presentations are free and open to the public.  Masks and social distancing required; designated outdoor seating is limited but you can bring your own chair.


Taking place from September through November, Last Cast 25 is a series of events designed to honor and remember the rich history of Bethlehem Steel, with last manufactured steel 25 years ago in fall 1995. Partners collaborating on the initiative include Bethlehem Area Public Library, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, Lehigh Valley Public Media, the National Museum of Industrial History, Steelworkers’ Archives, Wind Creek Resort and ArtsQuest.


Additional details on Last Cast 25 will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information, visit www.steelstacks.org/LastCast25.

Information provided to TVL by:
Mark Demko, ArtsQuest