LEHIGH VALLEY LIVE History of an iconic Lehigh Valley silk mill is now coming into focus

By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com | Posted December 05, 2018 at 06:50 AM

Bethlehem Steel's rise and fall is closely interwoven into the family histories of all those who worked there.

But there's another Bethlehem company that anchored the east Bethlehem community in the early 20th century that  doesn't get as much attention.  

Now, efforts are underway to preserve the stories of the R.K. Laros Silk Company and its employees before they're lost to time.

Known as the Laros Oral History Project, the collaboration between the Industrial Archives & Library and the R.K. Laros Foundation, is proving fruitful, said Robert Bilheimer, co-manager and producer/director for the project. Bilheimer is also general manager of the archives and a foundation trustee.

"The company was also an anchor to its East  Bethlehem community and was perhaps second only to Bethlehem Steel in shaping and influencing the most individual lives and families in the Greater Bethlehem area during the first half of the 20th Century," Bilheimer said.

Since March of 2017, the project has completed 18 audio and  27 separate video interviews with participants, including former Laros Silk Company employees, their family members, Laros family members and R.K. Laros Foundation trustees. 

"Although the project is far from being completed, a consistent and clear picture is emerging of R. K. Laros as a caring, compassionate and innovative individual, who was deeply committed to his employees and his community and who built a very progressive company that fostered an unusually close-knit company culture among its employees," Bilheimer said.

Project organizers have shared an assortment of the images and articles they have collected with lehighvalleylive.com.

Laros Silk Weaving Machine.jpg