The borough of Media is the county seat of Delaware County, Pennsylvania and is located 12 miles (19 km) west of Philadelphia. Media was incorporated in 1850 at the same time that it was named the county seat. The population was 5,533 at the 2000 census. Its school district is the Rose Tree Media School District with Penncrest High School and Springton Lake Middle School. In June 2006, it became the first fair trade town in America.
The history of the town goes back to William Penn, but the area remained predominantly rural until the twentieth century, and is suburban today. The Delaware County Institute of Science was founded in Media in 1833, while the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology, a two-year technical college, Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades a three-year technical college, and Delaware County Community College, a two-year liberal arts college, are located nearby. Media promotes itself as "Everybody's Hometown".
Land in area was sold and settled soon after William Penn was named proprietor of the colony of Pennsylvania in 1681 by King Charles II of England. Peter and Wiliam Taylor bought the land where Media is now located, directly from Penn. Providence Township was organized in 1684, and divided into Upper Providence and Nether Providence Townships by 1690 even though they only had 40 taxable properties at the time. The current borough, formed in 1850, sits between the two townships.
In 1683, the Court of Chester County approved the construction of "Providence Great Road" (now Pennsylvania Route 252). The road, which runs north from Chester to within a few blocks from today's downtown, is shown on a 1687 map along with the names of local landowners. It forms the eastern border of the borough.
Thomas Minshall, a Quaker, was an early Media resident, settling just outside the small village then known as Providence, along the Providence Great Road. The village then included a tailor shop, blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, barn and other buildings.
Minshall bought from William Penn and arrived in 1682. The Providence Friends Meeting was established at his house in February, 1688, and a meetinghouse was later built on land he donated for the purpose. The original meetinghouse was built out of logs in 1699 or 1700 and the current building dates to 1814. Minshall’s house still stands and was given to the citizens of the borough in 1975. During the American Revolution, the Marquis de La Fayette bought a saddle at the Minshall house.
The area remained rural through 1850. On March 11, 1850, the State of Pennsylvania by Special Act of Assembly incorporated the Borough of Media, and made the sale of malt and spirituous liquors unlawful within its borders. At the same time, the county seat of Delaware County was moved to Media from Chester. The borough was formed from four farms purchased by the county, totalling only . The borders of the borough have not changed since that time.
Streets were plotted in a rectangular grid around the location of the new courthouse, lots were sold at public auctions, and the construction of houses began. Sources agree that Minshall Painter, a descendant of Thomas Minshall, suggested the name "Media", but do not agree on the reason. The name may come from the city’s central location in Delaware County, or from the biblical area of Medea.
The John J. Tyler Arboretum occupies part of Thomas Minshall's original . This farm was used by the underground railroad. The land was donated to a public trust in 1944 by an eighth generation descendant. The arboretum was started as a private collection by brothers Jacob and Minshall Painter. In 1825, they began systematically planting over 1,000 varieties of trees and shrubs. Over 20 of their original trees survive including a giant sequoia.
In the second half of the 19th Century, Media was a summer resort for well-to-do Philadelphians. The borough's large vacation hotels included the Idlewild Hotel (1871) on Lincoln Street at Gayley Terrace, Chestnut Grove House or "The Colonial" (1860) on Orange Street, and Brooke Hall on Lemon Street and Washington Ave. (now Baltimore Ave.). The Chestnut Grove was used for a year by nearby Swarthmore College due to a fire on their campus.
The West Chester and Philadelphia Railroad was built through Media on October 19, 1854. Electrified service was opened on December 2, 1928. Up to 50 trains passed through each day. The railroad became part of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad and eventually the Penn Central. SEPTA took over operations in 1983. Woodrow Wilson spoke at the Media Station in 1912 during his first election campaign. Trolley transportation lines spread to and through Media in the 1890s and early 1900s.
In June 2006, Media became the first town in the United States to follow over three-hundred towns in Europe in attaining fair trade certification. To meet the criteria for certification, Media passed a council resolution in support of fair trade, serve fair-trade coffee and tea in local government meetings and offices, ensure that a range of fair-trade products were available in local restaurants and businesses, raise popular support and provide media coverage for the fair-trade campaign, and convene a fair-trade steering committee to ensure continued commitment.
Media and the FBI
Media may be best known for secret government documents that were illegally seized there by activists in 1971 and distributed nationwide. On March 8 of that year, the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI raided an FBI "resident agency" in Media. They later released thousands of documents to major newspapers around the country. These documents revealed controversial and illegal FBI tactics, like the recruitment of Boy Scouts as informants, and confirmed for the first time the existence of COINTELPRO, an FBI program to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" dissident groups in the United States.