Bethlehem Steel Corporation was America's second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder. The company's roots go back to 1857 when the Saucona Iron Company was first organized by Augustus Wolle. The Panic of 1857, a national financial crisis, halted further organization of the company and construction of the works. Eventually, the organization was completed, the site moved elsewhere in South Bethlehem, and the company's name was changed to the Bethlehem Rolling Mill and Iron Company. On June 14, 1860, the board of directors of the fledgling company elected Alfred Hunt president. On May 1, 1861, the company's title was changed again, this time to the Bethlehem Iron Company. Construction of the first blast furnace began on July 1, 1861, and it went into operation on January 4, 1863. The first rolling mill was built between the spring of 1861 and the summer of 1863, with the first railroad rails being rolled on September 26. A machine shop, in 1865, and another blast furnace, in 1867, were completed. During its early years, the company produced rails for the rapidly expanding railroads and armor plating for the US Navy. In 1899, the company assumed the name Bethlehem Steel Company. In 1904, Charles M. Schwab and Joseph Wharton formed the Bethlehem Steel Corporation with Schwab becoming its first president and chairman of its board of directors.

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