Scranton Family Papers Collection

Collection Guide


Correspondence written and received by George W. Scranton, Joseph H. Scranton, Selden T. Scranton, and William W. Scranton, dating from 1841 through 1917.
Subset of Scranton Local History Collection
Lackawanna Historical Society
Scranton family
Date Range
19 bound volumes, 1 box

Access and Use

Digital Access

Selected materials from this collection have been digitized and are publicly available online.

Physical Access

The Scranton Family Papers Collection is owned and preserved by the Lackawanna Historical Society. Researchers and visitors wishing to access the physical collection are asked to make arrangements in advance.


Items in this collection are dated prior to 1923 and are believed to be in the public domain.

Preferred Citation

[Item Title], [Date], [Volume or Box/Folder], Scranton Family Papers Collection, Lackawanna Historical Society. [URL for digital objects]

Linked Data

VIAF Terms

FAST Terms


Administrative/Biographical History

Members of the Scranton Family are key figures in the history of the city of Scranton, Lackawanna County, and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

George W. Scranton (1811-1861) was General Agent for the Liggett's Gap Railroad from 1850 through 1854. As such, he was responsible for building and managing the railroad and guiding its development into the Lackawanna & Western and finally the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroads. He also represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives.

George's brother Selden T. Scranton (1814-1891) was (with George) a founding partner in Scrantons, Grant, and Company. He was the first president of the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company.

Joseph Hand Scranton (1813-1872) was an early investor in the Lackawanna Valley. He served as president of the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company, the First National Bank of Scranton, and the Scranton Gas and Water Company, among many other prominent offices.

Joseph’s son William Walker Scranton (1844-1916) was general manager for the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company and president of the Scranton Steel Company. He was also an important player in the city’s labor unrest, including the Strike of 1877.

Scope and Content Note

The Lackawanna Historical Society’s Scranton Family Papers Collection includes 19 bound volumes and 1 manuscript box, with over 9,000 letters written by George W. Scranton, Joseph Hand Scranton, Selden T. Scranton, and William Walker Scranton, dating from 1841 to 1917.

The letters and documents in the collection primarily focus on business concerns, but there is some personal correspondence as well as information about local organizations and the development of the surrounding community.

Additional information about the collection (including finding aids) is available upon request from the Historical Society.


Series I. George W. Scranton Letters

This series includes 2 bound volumes of copy-pressed correspondence from the office of George W. Scranton, with approximately 423 letters on 625 pages. All materials have been digitized and are publicly available.

Series II. Joseph H. Scranton Letters

This series includes 2 bound volumes of copy-pressed correspondence from the office of Joseph H. Scranton, totaling approximately 937 pages.

  • 2012.53.020 - Volume 2 (July 1857 - August 1863)
  • 2012.53.021 - Volume 3 (July 1863 - January 1872)

Series III. William W. Scranton Letters

This series includes 15 bound volumes of copy-pressed correspondence from the office of William Walker Scranton, with approximately 8,800 letters on 9,800 pages.

  • 2012.53.19 - Volume 1 (January 1873 - April 1877)
  • 2012.53.01 - Volume 2 (April 1877 - March 1879)
  • 2012.53.02 - Volume 3 (March 1879 - February 1881)
  • 2012.53.03 - Volume 4 (February 1881 - September 1883)
  • 2012.53.04 - Volume 5 (September 1883 - May 1885)
  • 2012.53.05 - Volume 6 (May 1885 - June 1887)
  • 2012.53.06 - Volume 7 (June 1887 - November 1889)
  • 2012.53.07 - Volume 8 (November 1889 - April 1893)
  • 2012.53.08 - Volume 9 (April 1893 - October 1896)
  • 2012.53.09 - Volume 10 (October 1896 - March 1900)
  • 2012.53.10 - Volume 11 (April 1900 - October 1903)
  • 2012.53.11 - Volume 12 (October 1903 - May 1907)
  • 2012.53.12 - Volume 13 (May 1907 - May 1911)
  • 2012.53.13 - Volume 14 (May 1911 - November 1915)
  • 2012.53.14 - Volume 15 (November 1915 - December 1916)

Series IV. Loose Correspondence

This series includes one manuscript box of documents and loose correspondence, dating from 1841 through 1874. All materials have been digitized and are publicly available online.

MS Box 1

Processing Notes

Copypress Books

Most of the bound volumes in this collection are copypress books, with numbered pages of very light, transparent blotting paper. The original, handwritten letters, before being sent on to the intended recipient, would have been inserted between two pages of the copypress book. The book would then have been closed an inserted into a press machine. Ink from the original letter would transfer onto the back side of a copypress page, making a reverse-image copy. The text of the letter could then be read from the front of the page, through the transparent paper.

The copying process was imperfect - for example, in some cases the original letter wasn't correctly aligned when it was pressed, so the side edge or bottom of the letter wasn't fully captured in the copy. Some copies are very light overall or have sections that are light, indicating that the original letter wasn't appropriately pressed.

Many of the copypress books begin with tabbed, alphabetical index pages, which could be used to list the names of correspondents and the page numbers of letters addressed to them.

The lettering in the copypress books tends to appear a bit blurred or fuzzy. In some cases, the text is very difficult to read.

Digitization and Transcription

In October 2015, as part of the City of Scranton's 150th anniversary celebration, the Weinberg Memorial Library hosted a Scranton Family Papers Scanathon. Project partners included the University's Department of History and the student-run Royals Historical Society, the Lackawanna Historical Society, the Scranton Public Library/Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives, and the State Library of Pennsylvania.

During the Scanathon, student and faculty volunteers digitized two bound volumes of George W. Scranton Letters (Series I) using an Internet Archive Scribe Station borrowed from the State Library. Page images were captured by camera in JPG format at 300 dpi. Raw images were processed by Internet Archive into cropped, deskewed JPEG2000 images. Derivative PDFs were prepared for display and access. Transcriptions and a finding aid for the George W. Scranton Letters were prepared by LHS volunteers Dennis, Sharleen, and Scott Martin.

Volunteers also digitized loose correspondence and documents (Series IV). Materials from this series were digitized in TIFF format (400 dpi, 24-bit color) using Epson Expression 10000XL and Epson GT-2500 flatbed scanners. Derivative PDFs were prepared for display and access. For typed documents, searchable text was generated via automated optical character recognition (OCR). Transcriptions for selected handwritten documents were prepared by Weinberg Memorial Library staff.


Metadata from this collection is exposed via Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Known, active harvests include: