The City of Scranton is in Northeastern Pennsylvania. After Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Reading, and Bethlehem, Scranton is Pennsylvania’s seventh most populous city. Scranton is the geographic and cultural center of the Lackawanna River valley. It is the largest city located in a contiguous quilt-work of former anthracite coal mining communities including the smaller cities of Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, and Carbondale.
Humble beginnings (1776-1865)
Present-day Scranton and the surrounding area had been inhabited by the native Lenape tribe, from whose language “Lackawanna” (or “le-can-hanna”, meaning “stream that forks”) is derived. Gradually, settlers from New England came to the area in the late 1700s, establishing mills and other small businesses, and their village became known as Slocum Hollow. Isaac Tripp, known as the first settler, built his home here in 1778 which still stands in the Providence section of the city as a testament to this era.
Though anthracite coal was being mined in Carbondale to the north and Wilkes-Barre to the south, the industry that precipitated the city’s growth was iron and steel. Iron T-rails were first manufactured in America at the Montour Iron Works in Danville, Pennsylvania, on October 8, 1845. Prior, they were made in England and shipped overseas. In 1840, brothers Seldon T. and George W. Scranton founded what would become the Lackawanna Steel Company. The company began producing iron T-rails in 1847 for the Erie Railroad in New York state. Soon after, Scranton became a major producer of these rails. The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W) was founded in 1851 by the Scrantons to transport iron and coal products from the Lackawanna valley. The Pennsylvania Coal Company built a gravity railroad here for this purpose as well. In 1856, the Borough of Scranton was officially incorporated and named after its industrious founders. The Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Canal Company, which had its own gravity railroad from Carbondale to Honesdale, built a steam railroad that entered Scranton in 1863.
Scranton was incorporated as a city of 35,000 in 1866 when the surrounding boroughs of Hyde Park (now part of the city’s West Side) and Providence (now part of North Scranton) were merged with Scranton. The nation’s first successful, continuously-operating electrified streetcar (trolley) system was established in the city in 1886, giving it the nickname “The Electric City”. In the late 1890s Scranton was home to a series of early International League baseball teams. By 1890, three other railroads had built lines to tap into the rich supply of coal in and around the city, including the Erie Railroad, the Central Railroad of New Jersey and finally the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad (NYO&W). Underneath the city, a network of coal veins was mined by workers who were given jobs by the wealthy coal barons with low pay, long hours and unsafe working conditions. Children as young as 8 or 9 worked 14-hour days separating slate from coal in the breakers.