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Allentown, Pennsylvania

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Allentown, the county seat of Lehigh County, is located 50 miles north-northwest of Philadelphia on the Lehigh River. It is connected on the east with Bethlehem and along with Bethlehem and Easton constitutes a metropolitan area. Allentown is in an area of limestone deposits, from which developed the cement industry for which the city is known. The surrounding agricultural area is part of the Pennsylvania Dutch region.

The land on which Allentown later developed was obtained from Thomas Penn, son of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. In 1745, it was purchased by William Allen, a Philadelphia merchant. Allen built a private lodge on the site but the town itself did not begin to develop until the 1760's. At first it was named Northhampton, as was the county around it. In 1770, William Allen's son James Allen built Trout Hall, which is now a museum.

During the American Revolution, the Battle of Trenton prisoners of war were kept here and the hospitals served many from the Continental Army. The Liberty Bell was hidden from the British in The Old Zion Reformed Church.

The community was incorporated as a borough in 1811 and became the county seat of newly formed Lehigh County the following year. In 1838, the name was changed to Allentown in honor of its founder. Allentown Seminary opened its doors in 1848, changing its name to Muhlenberg College in 1867. Lehigh was given city status in 1867.

The Allentown Boiler Works was founded in 1883 by Charles Collum. He and his partner, John D. Knouse, built a large facility at Third and Gordon Streets in the First Ward. The business manufactured iron products of many types, being used in the White House and at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Its boilers and kilns were used across the United States, and also in Canada, Cuba and the Philippines.

In addition to the iron and railroad industries, Allentown also had a strong tradition in the brewing of beer and was home to several notable breweries, including the Horlacher Brewery (founded 1897, closed 1978), the Neuweiler Brewery (founded 1875, closed 1968) and Schaefer Beer, whose brewery was later owned by Pabst Brewing Company and Guinness, but is now owned by the Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams.

Jack and Gus Mack moved their motor car plant to Allentown from Brooklyn in 1905; taking over the foundries of the former Weaver-Hirsh company on South 10th Street. By 1914, Mack Trucks had developed a reputation for being sturdy and reliable. Many were sent to the battlefields of the Western Front in France before the United States entered World War I in 1917. The British gave the Mack AC five and seven ton trucks the nickname "Bulldog". Mack eventually had a total of eight manufacturing plants in Allentown. In the post-World War II era, the Western Electric plant on Union Boulevard was announced on October 11, 1945, after a nationwide search to locate a new manufacturing plant. On October 1, 1951 the world's first transistor production began at the Allentown Western Electric plant. It would become the backbone of a communications revolution. Over the years the plant was at the forefront of the postwar electronics revolution.

It has forever been immortalized in Billy Joel's song "Allentown" from his album The Nylon Curtain released in 1982. The song's theme centers around the resilience of Allentown, and the region, in the 1980s as it coped with the decline of its historically strong steel manufacturing sector and the emergence of the Rust Belt in the latter part of the 20th century, including the depressed, blue-collar livelihood of Allentown residents following Bethlehem Steel's decline and eventual closure.

The introductory rhythm for the song is designed to be the sound of a rolling mill converting steel ingots into I-beams or other shapes. Such a sound was commonly heard throughout South Bethlehem when the Bethlehem Steel plant was in operation from 1857 through 1995.



The Lehigh Valley Railroad

The Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad

The Reading Line

The Battle of Trenton

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell Museum

The High German Evangelical Reformed Church

The Red River Campaign

The Battle of St. John's Bluff

The Second Battle of Pocotaligo

Neuweiler Brewery

Mack Trucks