Bethlehem Steel

In Mathew Weiner’s Mad Men season one episode four (2007), New Amsterdam, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his team, including Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), are working for the new client, Bethlehem steel. Although at first Pete almost ends up costing the company Bethlehem Steel’s business, he ends up saving the day-only to get fired and then rehired. Bethlehem Steel dates back to the 1800s and was America’s second biggest steel producer and America’s largest shipbuilder. Bethlehem steel is one of the most iconic symbols of American industrial manufacturing leadership. Bethlehem Steel was very prosperous in the twenties and thirties because of the military demand for steel. They were able to continue their prosperity post war. When peacetime came, in the fifties and sixties, Bethlehem Steel continued to supply a wide variety of structural shapes for the construction trades and products for defense, power generation, and steel-producing companies. Following the war they still had federal government contracts, rolling uranium fuel rods. Bethlehem Steel hit its high point in 1950s, as the company began manufacturing some 23 million tons per year. In 1958 the company's president, Arthur B. Homer, was the highest paid U.S. business executive and the firm built its largest plant at Burns Harbor, Indiana, between 1962 and 1964. This all means that when the men at Sterling Cooper were fighting for a massive contract, getting it would mean massive amounts of money coming into the firm. By having Bethlehem Steel in the show, the writers are making Sterling Cooper seem like an elite advertising firm. Bethlehem Steel eventually fizzled out in the 1990s due to more competition from the modern foreign firms, but its legacy will be remembered, whether for what it meant for American industrialism or by watching episodes of Mad Men.

1 comment:

  1. Overall, this trivia post presented a lot of good, hard facts about Bethlehem Steel. It also tried to relate the company in history to the company in "Mad Men". In addition I found it very intriguing that Sterling Cooper had this account around the time of its peak and worked hard to manage it properly.The influx of income from this account must have been a great thing for the employees of Sterling Cooper. However, the post also was a little too heavy on numbers and could've integrated "Mad Men" throughout instead of just at the beginning and the end. In summary, I enjoyed the facts presented and thought it was a very good tidbit of extra information tying "Mad Men" to history.