Butler is a city and the county seat of Butler County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It is located north of Pittsburgh and part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 13,757. Butler was named the 7th best small town in America by Smithsonian magazine in May 2012.
In 1803 John and Samuel Cunningham became the first settlers in the village of Butler. After settling in Butler, the two brothers laid out the community by drawing up plots of land for more incoming settlers. By 1817, the community was incorporated into a borough. The first settlers were of Irish or Scottish descent and were driving westward from Connecticut. In 1802 the German immigrants began arriving, with Detmar Basse settling in Jackson Township in 1802 and founding Zelienople the following year. After George Rapp arrived in 1805 and founded Harmony, larger numbers of settlers followed. John A. Roebling settled Saxonburg in 1832, by which time most of the county was filled with German settlers.
Throughout most of its history, the city of Butler has been a major manufacturing and industrial center. In 1902, the Standard Steel Car Company opened one of its largest railcar manufacturing facilities in Butler. It was here that some of the first all-steel rail cars were built. Diamond Jim Brady, the legendary financier, gourmand and gemophile, got his start here in 1902 when he established the Standard Steel Car Company, which merged with the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1934 to create Pullman-Standard, a monopoly that was eventually broken by the government. The Pullman-Standard plant closed in 1982, and was demolished in 2005. The site is now occupied by a strip mall, as well as the new Butler Transit Authority intermodal facility. In 2011 the BTA moved a covered hopper railcar to the bus terminal in recognition of the former Pullman-Standard plant. The car was built at the facility in 1974.
Another notable business headquartered in the city was the American Austin Car Company (1929–41). Later the firm changed its name to American Bantam Car Company. Bantam was an early producer of small fuel-efficient vehicles through the 1930s. The modern Jeep was created by American Bantam and the first prototypes were manufactured at the Butler facility. Big military contracts eventually went to Willys and Ford, while the Bantam factory had failed by World War II. Today, a monument in the plaza across from the courthouse commemorates Bantam's creation of the Jeep.
Butler is home to one of the early Ford dealerships, established in 1918 and still extant.
Also notable with headquarters in Butler and a connection to the automobile industry was Rainbow Rubber Company, which in the late 1930s made precise "Rubrtoy" replicas of Oldsmobiles along with many other rubber toys.
In the 1950s, Butler became one of the first cities to install bells at crosswalks, a common practice today.
The city was linked to Pittsburgh via Mars, Pennsylvania, in 1907 by the Pittsburgh and Butler Street Railway, and to Evans City in 1908 by the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler and New Castle Railway, both interurban trolley lines. The Mars route closed in April 1931, followed by the Evans City line on August 15, 1931, with the trolleys replaced by buses.