Robert H. Sayre

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Robert Heysham Sayre
Robert H. Sayre.jpg
Born(1824-10-13)October 13, 1824
Columbia County
Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJanuary 4, 1907(1907-01-04) (aged 82)
South Bethlehem
Northampton County
Pennsylvania, U.S.
OccupationCivil engineer
Spouse(s)Mary Evelyn Smith
Mary Bradford
Helen Augusta Packer
Martha Finley Nevin
ChildrenCharles White Sayre
Mary Eliza Sayre
Anna Catherine Sayre
Robert Heysham Sayre Jr.
Elizabeth Kent Sayre
Jennie Weston Sayre
Francis Rodolphus Sayre
Ellen May Sayre
Ruth May Sayre
John Nevin Sayre
Francis Bowes Sayre Sr.
Cecil Nevin Sayre
Parent(s)William Heysham Sayre
Elizabeth Kent
Signature of Robert Heysham Sayre (1824–1907).png

Robert Heysham Sayre (October 13, 1824 – January 4, 1907) was vice president and chief engineer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He was also vice president and general manager of Bethlehem Iron Company, precursor of Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The borough of Sayre, Pennsylvania[1] and the small city of Sayre, Oklahoma[2] were named in his honor.

Early life[edit]

Sayre was born on October 13, 1824 to William Heysham Sayre and Elizabeth Kent, his wife, on the Kent family's farm near Bloomsburg in rural Columbia County, Pennsylvania. In 1828, the Sayre family moved to Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania where William worked for the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company as a lockmaster. As a result of observing the locks, young Robert showed an early interest in construction and civil engineering.[3]


Sayre's first significant work in engineering was on the Morris Canal in New Jersey. He also participated in the surveys and construction for the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway.

In 1854, Sayre was named Chief Engineer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and he led the extension of that railroad northward and westward through Pennsylvania and New York State.[4]

Sayre was one of the founders of Bethlehem Iron Company, precursor of Bethlehem Steel Corporation. He was responsible for the design and construction of the company's first iron works during the years 1861 through 1863.[5] He became vice president of Bethlehem Iron Works in 1891.

Sayre built a large house in Bethlehem and lived in it from 1858 until his death in 1907. Currently his house is known as the Sayre Mansion, and is in use as a bed-and-breakfast.[6]


Sayre was a trustee of St. Luke's Hospital and a Charter Trustee of Lehigh University.[7]

Sayre Observatory at Lehigh University was erected in 1868 and was paid for by a gift of $5,000 from Sayre.[8][9]


  1. ^ "Sayre Historical Society". October 29, 1929. Archived from the original on June 22, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  2. ^ Wilson, Linda. "Sayre". The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  3. ^ "Lehigh Canal Roots". Carbon County Magazine. Archived from the original on August 13, 2011. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  4. ^ Special to The New York Times. (January 5, 1907). "Robert H. Sayre. - View Article -" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  5. ^ Metz, Lance E. "Bethlehem Steel: The Rise and Fall of an Industrial Giant". Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on January 27, 2008. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  6. ^ "History of the Sayre Mansion Inn a Bethlehem, PA bed and breakfast". Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  7. ^ "Robert H. Sayre Marker". Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  8. ^ "Lehigh University Library Services". Retrieved March 8, 2016.
  9. ^ Doolittle, C.L. (June 1897). "The Sayre Observatory, South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 9 (56): 130–131. Bibcode:1897PASP....9..130D. doi:10.1086/121185.

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