A History of Zinc in Eastern Pennsylvania Subject of Museum Program Reveals Palmerton, Pennsylvania was once Among the Largest Producers of Zinc in the World

Jan 16th, 2012Press Release from Lehigh County Historical Society

PRESS RELEASE                       CONTACT: Joseph Garrera, Executive Director

                                                                              Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum

                                                                                            cell: 484-553-2592

                                                                                       (610) 435-1074, Ext. 19

For Immediate Release                   j_garrera@lehighvalleyheritagemuseum.org


January 10, 2012


Photographs Attached (captions at bottom of release)



A History of Zinc in Eastern Pennsylvania

Subject of Museum Program

Reveals Palmerton, Pennsylvania was once

Among the Largest Producers of Zinc in the World


Allentown, PA – A history of zinc production in Eastern Pennsylvania and how the region was once among the largest producers of zinc in the world is the subject of a lecture on Saturday January 21st at 1:00 pm at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown.  The announcement was made today by Joseph Garrera, Executive Director of the Museum.


“Zinc production was crucial to America’s victory in the Second World War.  Much of that production came from Eastern Pennsylvania in the New Jersey Zinc Company town of Palmerton, Pennsylvania,” said Garrera.  During WWII, zinc mines and smelters operated at peak capacity.  The military need for zinc was enormous.  Zinc was used in brass shell cases, in galvanizing zinc formulas to inhibit the rusting of metal, and in sheet metal for constructing fighter planes and bombers.  These uses represent only a fraction of the significant widespread military applications of zinc that were vital to winning the war.


The program, titled “From Mine to Metal:  A History of Zinc in Eastern Pennsylvania,” will be presented by Peter L. Kern.  Kern, a former Senior Vice President of Research and Development for the New Jersey Zinc Company, who had oversight of the zinc mine in Ogdensburg, New Jersey.  Kern’s lecture will be followed by a brief PowerPoint presentation by Stuart Schneider, author of twenty books including The World of Fluorescent Minerals and Collecting Fluorescent Minerals.  Participants will have the opportunity to see fluorescent minerals close up and discover how to recognize and collect them.


In the late 1890s, zinc-producing operations were located throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  In an effort to increase efficiency and maximize production, the New Jersey Zinc Company consolidated its smelting operations at a site along the Lehigh River just north of the Lehigh Gap in Palmerton, Pennsylvania.  This region of Pennsylvania possessed large fields of anthracite coal nearby that would be necessary for the manufacturing process.  Large supplies of fresh water were also abundant in ample quantities from the Lehigh River.  The best zinc ore may have been mined in and around Franklin, New Jersey, but it was shipped by rail to Palmerton, Pennsylvania for efficient processing on a world-class scale.


By 1917, New Jersey Zinc’s research and technology out-paced its competitors.  When the Palmerton, Pennsylvania research laboratory was established in 1917, it was the largest in the world devoted to testing zinc products.


The history of zinc in Eastern Pennsylvania and the town of Palmerton, reveals how country farmland in 1890 grew to become a town that once ranked among the largest producers of zinc in the world, employing 3,000 workers.


Admission to the event is FREE to members, $6.00 for adult non-members, and $3.00 for non-member children.  The program begins at 1:00 p.m.  Copies of Schneider’s books are on sale at the Museum Store, and Schneider will sign copies following the presentation.


The Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum is a teaching institution that attracts a diverse audience.  Its collections of historical Americana, located at 432 W. Walnut Street in Allentown, include over 35,000 three-dimensional objects, 3 million documents and more than 75,000 vintage photographs.  The Museum is located at 432 W. Walnut Street in Allentown.   Parking is available in the rear of the Museum, on the street, and in nearby lots.  Regular Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. and Sunday 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m.  For more information, contact Joseph Garrera, Executive Director, at 484-553-2592 (cell) any time of day or at 610-435-1074. Visit www.lehighvalleyheritagemuseum.org or Facebook.


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FranklinMineSmall.jpg:  A crew of zinc miners ride the shaft down to begin a day’s shift in the Ogdensburg Zinc Mine.  The mined ore was shipped to Palmerton, Pennsylvania for smelting.  Ca. 1964.


SterlingMineWorkersSmall.jpg:  Zinc miners from Ogdensburg, New Jersey mine ore that was shipped to Palmerton, Pennsylvania for Processing. Circa 1964.


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