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Scranton Named 1953 All-America City

The National Municipal League and LOOK Salute the ALL-AMERICA CITIES

Eleven cities win awards for solving the problems haunting their homes and streets

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From LOOK Magazine: February 9, 1954

Is your city a good place to live in? Hundreds of American cities are not. They are being strangled by corruption, inefficient government, poor schools and crime. And paralyzing apathy among their students promises no improvement.

But hundreds of other cities are good places to live in today. Though these cities once had the same problems, they met them squarely.

This year, the National Municipal League and LOOK again honor 11 cities where energetic, purposeful and intelligent citizen efforts are adjudged to have achieved most noteworthy progress. The League, a citizens’ organization working for better government, and LOOK have named these municipalities the All-America Cities of 1953.

One hundred and fifteen cities were nominated for the All-America awards, and 22 finalists presented their cases to a jury which met in Richmond, Va., at the National Conference on Government.

The 11 award-winning cities were Canton, Ohio; Daytona Beach, Fla.; De Soto, Mo.; Flint, Mich.; Park Forest, Ill.; Peoria, Ill.; Petersburg, Va.; Port Angeles, Wash.; Richmond, Calif.; Scranton, Pa.; and Shreveport, La.

The runners-up were Corpus Christi, Texas; Fair Lawn, N.J.; Glendale, Calif.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Greenwich, Conn.; Hamilton, Ohio; Lawrence, Mass.; Norwich, Conn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Rome, N.Y.; and Toledo, Ohio.

What earned the All-America cities their awards?

In some cases, it was their war on crime, vice, gambling and political corruption, Others were cited for their campaigns for better schools, homes and hospitals; adequate streets, utilities and public buildings. Still others won recognition for a successful fight on postwar unemployment and business decline. The winning cities had one thing in common: Their citizens did something about their own problems. Here is what they did.

SCRANTON, Pennsylvania. What happens to a large mining community when its main source of employment peters out? Scranton faced this problem after World War II when hard-coal veins, which, 25 years ago, supplied half the nation’s anthracite, were exhausted.

DOC065The shutdown of 29 mines meant the loss of 30,000 jobs in the Lackawanna Valley, Scranton’s metropolitan area. The jobless started moving. Scranton’s population declined from 140,000 in 1940 to 125,000 in 1950. Scranton seemed to be a dying city.

Reluctant to preside over a wake, a group of Scranton businessmen went to work on the problem. To the Chamber of Commerce fell the task of attracting new industry. Nonprofit corporations were formed within the Chamber to provide necessary financial support; citizen bond drives and campaigns for contributions were conducted.

A fund of more than $4 million was soon raised; the banks came through with additional millions in credit. The fund was used by the nonprofit companies to build new industrial plants. These were offered (At attractive rentals with an option to buy) to new industries.

Manufacturers were attracted by Scranton’s labor supply, low rentals and the chance to conserve their resources by not tying capital up in plants. Fifty-five new factories and 75 plant expansions have reduced the unemployed from 40,000 to 5,000—and, by spring, there may be a job for everybody. Scranton now is making everything from lingerie to electrical equipment.

The Scranton plan has inspired other communities in a similar fix. Soon, a number of cities suffering from industrial dislocations will be winning their own battles.

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A painted sign on the Chamber’s former location at 426 Mulberry Street in Scranton showcases Scranton’s designation as an All-America City in 1953.