Meet the Experts: Early Firefighting in Bethlehem


Nancy Rutman, and Karen Samuels, co-authors (with Chris Eline) of the book Firefighting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1917, reveal the colorful story of Bethlehem’s early attempts at preventing and fighting fires. Learn how the “fire ladies” overcame muddy streets, stingy councilmen, poor water pressure, frozen hydrants, lack of horses, industrial sabotage, and many other challenges—and did it with humor and camaraderie.

Bethlehem native Nancy Rutman discovered an interest in American history as a teenager, during the nation’s bicentennial. She now has an important collection of postcards, books, photographs, and ephemera that tells the story of the Lehigh Valley region. She has presented programs to many community organizations and has designed three books about Bethlehem history.

Karen M. Samuels is the author or co-author of seven books on Bethlehem-area history and a Keystone Press Award–winning newspaper columnist. Samuels has appeared on television and radio to discuss her books and columns. After retirement as a guidance counselor and an art teacher, she became involved with the efforts to restore a one-room schoolhouse in Lower Saucon Township. In writing grants for funds to restore the structure, she found that she had a knack for historical research. She earned an advanced degree in local history from Oxford University and now devotes full-time to studying the history of the Lehigh Valley.

The Meet the Expert series takes place on the third Saturday of each month. This unique opportunity to hear thematic talks from experts in their respective fields will include a 45-minute lecture and 15-minute Q&A. Meet the Experts is included in your admission price and is free to all members of the museum.