After several decades of hard work, research, artifact collection and countless hours of volunteer time, a permanent exhibit showcasing the history and contributions of the propane industry will open this August. This display will be part of the Smithsonian-affiliated National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The official ribbon cutting for the museum will take place on Aug. 2 with a propane industry event scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10.
The mission of the National Museum of Industrial History, in affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, is to forge a connection between America’s industrial past and the innovations of today by educating the public and inspiring the visionaries of tomorrow. It will celebrate the accomplishments of inventors, industrialists and workers, while preserving a record of industry’s advancements from the mid-1800s to the present. This museum dubbed, “the Museum about Building America,” recognizes propane as one of the key pillars in the foundation of American industry, along with steel and textiles. It comprises a 1,200 sq. ft. education center with more than 200 historically-significant artifacts on display throughout. Over 50,000 visitors are expected annually.
The propane portion of the museum will include interactive exhibits, as well as a mock hot air balloon and aerial footage of the propane supply chain from production to customer–showcasing many applications and uses. Industry artifacts include digital images of the original stock certificates and demonstration equipment from Gasol, the company started by Walter O. Snelling, the inventor of propane; to equipment, ad campaigns and many historical images. The facility also offers permanent storage for many of the industry archives collected over the last several decades. The Young Gassers organization, which took the reins of this project when the Ancient Gassers merged into their group, has also been archiving a digital collection of nearly 2,000 historical images which continues to grow. These will eventually be available online for use, with permission, by propane industry members.
The building donated to this effort is a former Bethlehem Steel facility. The company was incorporated in December 1904, when it was acquired by Charles Schwab, who built it into the second largest steel company in the country. More importantly, Bethlehem, also known as Christmas City, USA, has a number of highly popular tourist events including art, music, Celtic and Christmas festivals that are known throughout the region attracting a steady flow of visitors.
Industry members are welcome to attend the ribbon cutting, but are encouraged to be part of the later industry celebration.