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Scranton: History


The first European settlers in Scranton were the Abbott brothers, who founded a gristmill there in 1786. In 1800 the Slocum brothers took the mill over, named the area Slocumville, and began a charcoal furnace for iron manufacturing. When the Scranton brothers arrived in 1840, they built the iron furnace that would later grow into the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company. The community was named Harrison in honor of President William Henry Harrison in 1845; later the name was changed to Scrantonia then shortened to Scranton. The abundance of coal in the region attracted many other industries. In the 1880s the Scranton Steel Company was founded; it later merged with the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company to become Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company. This company's move to Buffalo in 1902 dealt a heavy blow to Scranton's economy, but the growing importance of anthracite (hard) coal eventually earned the city the nickname "Anthracite Capital of the World." In the early 1900s, most of the hard coal mined in the country came from the Scranton area. The declining demand for coal after World War II forced Scranton, earlier than other industrial centers, to endeavor to find ways to diversify its economy. Its Scranton Plan, a revitalization plan devised in 1945, has been used as a model for other cities in decline. However, the plan had limitations.

By the end of 1991, after running a deficit for more than three years and projecting a 1992 deficit exceeding 23 percent of its $33 million budget, Scranton was designated a distressed municipality by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A financial plan drawn up by the state and intended to prevent Scranton's imminent insolvency called for state technical assistance and aid in return for Scranton allowing the state to reorganize municipal government, raise temporary taxes, and dictate terms of labor contracts while the plan was in effect. After implementing these measures, the situation brightened in the mid-1990s. Scranton had more projects, more revitalization, and more economic development than almost any other city its size in the country, and tourism was on the increase. Today, Scranton has recovered from its past troubles and is a thriving town with a diverse economy, involved community, and rich cultural attractions. Each year, more and more visitors discover this hidden gem at the foothills of the Poconos Mountains.

Historical Information: Lackawanna Historical Society, The Catlin House Library and Archives, 232 Monroe Ave., Scranton, PA 18510; telephone (570)344-3841


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