Located at the center of the Lehigh Valley, Catasauqua is one of the smallest, but most densely populated municipalities in the Valley. Now a quiet residential community, the borough once was home to the Crane Iron Works, the first technically and commercially successful anthracite iron furnace. Its first blast in 1840 marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in America.
The iron and allied industries brought much wealth to the town; such that by the early 1900s, Catasauqua had the highest concentration of millionaires per capita of any community in the nation. Industry waned after WWI, and commerce declined with the introduction of malls in neighboring Whitehall in the 1960s. With the purchase of the old Crane Iron site, the borough is targeting development of the canal front and revitalization of downtown areas. A new municipal services building opened on the site in 2017.
The borough is fortunate to have a well documented history due to its rich heritage, with many early histories of Lehigh County including detailed sections on Catasauqua and its residents dating back to1860. In 1914 there were three histories of the borough published. A centennial history of Catasauqua was published in 1953 (the green book). In 1992, HCPA published a History of the Boroughs of Catasauqua and North Catasauqua (the blue book). Since then, Martha Capwell Fox, a local historian, has published two pictorial histories on the boroughs through Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series.
In addition to this website’s pages, a descendant of one of the industrialists has created a website documenting the life of Hopkin Thomas, and indoing so, compiled a comprehensive history of Catasauqua early industries and residents. A Welshman, Hopkin Thomas, was active in the early development of coal-fired locomotives in this country in the 1830s-40s and in the 1850s joined the Crane Iron. Feel free to visit The Hopkin Thomas Project for more information on Catasauqua’s history. Mr. McVey has amassed much biographical information on the early industrialists and provides references for researching original documents. This has been an ongoing project since 1995.
Another local historian, the late Dale Wint, descendant of the Wint family/Wint Lumber Co, researched many local industrialists, compiling A History of The Iron Borough and Allied Businesses of the Iron Borough, Catasauqua, PA in 1993. This unpulblished book was recently scanned and can be accessed. on The Hopkin Thomas Project page. Several other compilations by Dale Wint are available in the Catasauqua Library History Room, but have not been published.
To help understand the Crane Iron Works critical place in history, there is an excellent overview of the Pennsylvania iron industry from the early 1700s into the mid 1900s, see the National Register of Historic Places documentation.