Scranton is a city in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania, United States. It is the county seat of Lackawanna County and the largest principal city in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area. Scranton had a population of 76,089 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census, making it Pennsylvania's sixth-most-populous city after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, and Reading.
Scranton is the geographic and cultural center of the Lackawanna River valley, and the largest of the former anthracite coal mining communities in a contiguous quilt-work that also includes Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, and Carbondale. Scranton was incorporated as a borough on February 14, 1856, and as a city on April 23, 1866. Scranton became known as the Electric City when electric lights were introduced at Dickson Locomotive Works in 1880. Scranton is also home to Dunder Mifflin, the fictional paper company featured in the television series The Office.
Humble beginnings (1776–1845)
Present-day Scranton and its surrounding area had been inhabited by the native Lenape tribe, from whose language "Lackawanna" (or "le-can-hanna", meaning "stream that forks") is derived. In 1778, Isaac Tripp, known as the area's first white settler, built his home here; it still stands in the city's Providence section. More settlers from New England came to the area in the late 18th century, gradually establishing mills and other small businesses in a village that became known as Slocum Hollow.
Industrial foundation established: iron, coal and railroads (1846–1899)
Though anthracite coal was being mined in Carbondale to the north and Wilkes-Barre to the south, the industries that precipitated the city's growth were iron and steel. In 1840, brothers Selden T. and George W. Scranton founded what would become the Lackawanna Steel Company. On October 8, 1845, the Montour Iron Works in Danville, Pennsylvania, produced the first iron T-rails made in America, offering the first domestic competition to British exports. The Scrantons' firm followed suit two years later, making rails for the Erie Railroad in New York state, and soon became a major producer.
In 1851, the Scrantons founded the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W) to transport iron and coal products from the Lackawanna valley. The Pennsylvania Coal Company built a gravity railroad here for the same purpose. In 1856, the Borough of Scranton was officially incorporated. 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 in Luzerne County 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. Twelve years later, the city became the county seat of the newly formed Lackawanna County. 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". Ten years later, the city's various streetcar companies were consolidated into the Scranton Railway Company, which ran trolleys until 1954.
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 Railway (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.
In the late 1890s, Scranton was home to a series of early International League baseball teams.
Growth and prosperity (1900–1945)
By the United States Census of 1900, the population of Scranton was about 102,026, making it the 38th-largest U.S. city.
The turn of the 20th century saw many beautiful homes of Victorian architecture built in the Hill and Green Ridge sections of the city. In 1901, the dwindling local iron ore supply cost the city the industry on which it was founded. The Lackawanna Steel Company moved to Lackawanna, New York, where iron ore was more readily available, thanks to a Great Lakes port that gave it easy access to ore from Minnesota.
Scranton forged ahead as the center of Pennsylvania's anthracite coal industry. During the first half of the 20th century, it became home to many groups of new immigrants from Eastern Europe. This patchwork still survives and is represented by the Catholic and Orthodox churches that primarily dot the North Scranton, West Side, and South Side neighborhoods of the city; a substantial Jewish community was established as well. In 1903, an electric interurban railroad known as the Laurel Line was started, and two years later connected to nearby Wilkes-Barre, to the southwest. Working conditions for miners were improved by the efforts of labor leaders like John Mitchell, who is honored with a statue on the downtown Courthouse Square.
Starting in the early 1920s, the Scranton Button Company (founded in 1885 and a major maker of shellac buttons) became one of the primary makers of phonograph records. They pressed records for Emerson (whom they bought in 1924), as well as Regal, Cameo, Romeo, Banner, Domino, Conqueror. In July 1929, the company merged with Regal, Cameo, Banner, and the U.S. branch of Pathe (makers of Pathe and Perfect) to become the American Record Corporation. By 1938, the Scranton company was also pressing records for Brunswick, Melotone, and Vocalion. In 1946, the company was acquired by Capitol, and continued to produce Capitol Records through the end of the vinyl era.
By the mid-1930s, the city population had swelled beyond 140,000 thanks largely to the growing mining and silk textile industries. World War II created a great demand for energy, which led to more strip mining in the area.
The end of an era (1946–1984)
After World War II, coal lost favor to oil and natural gas. While some U.S. cities prospered in the post-war boom, the fortunes and population of Scranton (and the rest of Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties) began to diminish. Coal production and rail traffic declined rapidly throughout the 1950s. In 1952, the Laurel Line ceased passenger service. The Scranton Transit Company, whose trolleys had given the city its nickname, transferred all operations to buses as the 1954 holiday season approached. In 1955, some eastern and southern parts of the city were destroyed by the floods of Hurricane Diane, and 80 lives were lost. The NYO&W Railroad, which depended heavily on its Scranton branch for freight traffic, was abandoned in 1957.
The Knox Mine Disaster of January 1959 erased the mining industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The event eliminated thousands of jobs as the waters of the Susquehanna River flooded the mines. The DL&W Railroad, nearly bankrupt by the drop in coal traffic and the effects of Hurricane Diane, merged with the Erie Railroad in 1960. Scranton had been the hub of its operations until the Erie Lackawanna merger, when it was no longer needed in this capacity; it was another severe blow to the labor market. Mine subsidence was a spreading problem in the city as pillar supports in abandoned mines began to fail; cave-ins sometimes consumed entire blocks of homes. The area was then scarred by abandoned coal mining structures, strip mines, and massive culm dumps. During the 1960s and 1970s, the silk and other textile industries shrunk as jobs moved south or overseas.
In 1970, the Secretary of Mines for Pennsylvania suggested that so many underground voids had been left by mining underneath Scranton that it would be "more economical" to abandon the city than make them safe.
During the 1970s and 1980s, many downtown storefronts and theaters became vacant as suburban shopping malls became the dominant venues for shopping and entertainment.
Stabilization and restoration (1985–2012)
There has been an emphasis on revitalization since the mid-1980s. Local government and much of the community at large have adopted a renewed interest in the city's buildings and history. Aged and empty properties are being redesigned and marketed as tourist attractions. The Steamtown National Historic Site captures the area's once-prominent position in the railroad industry. The former DL&W train station was restored as the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel. The Electric City Trolley Museum was created next to the DL&W yards that the Steamtown NHS occupies. The Houdini Museum opened in Scranton by nationally known magician Dorothy Dietrich in 1990 and is the only museum in the world dedicated to Harry Houdini. The museum has been featured on more national television than other NE PA attractions combined. Due to the current rage of paranormal themed televisions shows a popular downtown historic Scranton Ghost Walk  is now available 365 days a year. Other attractions responsible for recent popularity and favorable attention to the Scranton area include the Snö Mountain ski resort (formerly Montage Mountain), the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders (formerly the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees and before that the Red Barons), AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees, and their PNC Field, and the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain concert venue.
According to The Guardian, the city was close to bankruptcy in July 2012, with the wages of all municipal officials, including the mayor and fire chief, being cut to $7.25/hour. Financial consultant Gary Lewis, who lives in Scranton, was quoted as estimating that "on 5 July the city had just $5,000 cash in hand."