From the Industrial Revolution to Act 47 and Beyond

Scranton’s story of industry, as part of the 19th century industrial revolution, is a story of growth in the U.S.

With the rise and fall of industry and labor, it is also a human story of the promise and challenge of the “American dream” that has continued as Scranton has faced economic distress and worked to revitalize. 

The Scranton brothers’ Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company was the first American company to mass produce T-rails for the railroad at its Scranton furnaces, and local anthracite coal fueled the nation and the world between the 1870’s and 1930’s.

A nationwide railroad and industrial strike in 1877 led to a bloody riot in Scranton, but also ushered in an early “Progressive” city government led by Terrence Powderly, a union leader himself.

Later, the 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike was a seminal event in American labor history. Led by United Mine Workers president John Mitchell, who urged unity and commonality within the various ethnicities in the anthracite coal fields, the strikers fought for an eight-hour workday, increased wages, and union recognition.

The Anthracite Coal Strike was the first labor dispute in which the U.S. federal government intervened as a neutral arbiter and became the model for Theodore Roosevelt’s “Square Deal.”

By 1890, the textile industry was a strong presence in the region as well. Silk mills produced one third of all silk made in the United States, and the Scranton Lace Company was the largest producer of Nottingham lace in the world. The mills gave women a chance to supplement their husbands’ meager income, and sustained manufacturing as coal declined in the 1930's. 

Core topics for discussion as part of this theme’s focus on industrial history include equality, fairness, and the dignity of work, in light of continued economic challenges and increasing revitalization and economic development efforts. 

Events & Activities

Events for this fourth project theme will take place from August 2022 – October 2022.

This theme will involve a panel and discussion with industrial history guest humanities scholars and a film screening with table talk dialogues.