Historically, manufacturing was Catasauqua's principal industry, and, in 1839, it was the location of the first manufactured anthracite iron in the nation. Catasauqua's population in 1910 was 5,250. The population was 6,588 at the 2000 census. The word Catasauqua is shortened to "Catty" in local dialect when speaking of the place.
George Taylor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, built a Georgian stone house in 1768 in what is now the borough of Catasauqua. Today, the George Taylor House is a National Historic Landmark, a showpiece of the community's rich historical heritage.
In 1840, the anthracite iron industry was founded in what is now known as Catasauqua, originally Biery's Port, making it a birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. Welsh immigrant David Thomas relocated to the area and opened the Crane Iron Works. Remembered as "the father of Catasauqua," Thomas initially named the community Craneville, after his former employer in Wales.
The wealthy, generous Thomases were responsible for many sweeping changes to the prosperity of the community. David Thomas founded the Presbyterian Church of Catasauqua, in which residents still worship today, and his wife Elizabeth donated money and land to found the Welsh Congregational Church, which no longer exists. Thomas organized Catasauqua's first fire company, installed its first public water system, and served as its first burgess.
In 1854, the town was formally titled Catasauqua (pronounced "Cat-uh-SAW-kwuh"), from the Lenni Lenape language, meaning "dry ground" or "thirsty ground."
Catasauqua is home to two different neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One is Biery's Port, located along the Lehigh River and named for an early family of prominence; the other is known as "the mansion district," and comprises Victorian homes once owned by wealthy residents.
By 1900, Catasauqua boasted 5,000 residents, and had the highest percentage of self-made millionaires of any town in the United States.
In 1917, while many of the young men of the town served in World War I, Catasauqua became the first community in the United States to raise $1 million in war bonds, earning it the nickname "The Million Dollar Town".
Catasauqua observed its 150th anniversary of incorporation in 2004.