Along with Allentown and Bethlehem, Easton is one of three primary cities that comprise the Lehigh Valley region, the state's third most populous metropolitan area. Easton is the easternmost city of the Lehigh Valley, sitting on the confluence of the Delaware River (which divides Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and the Lehigh River, for which the Lehigh Valley is named. Easton is the smallest of the three Lehigh Valley cities, with approximately one-fourth of the population of the largest Lehigh Valley city, Allentown.
Easton is almost equidistant from Philadelphia, which is 60 miles (100 km) to the south, and New York City, which is 70 miles (110 km) to the east.
Air transport to and from Easton is available through Lehigh Valley International Airport, which is located approximately 20 miles west of the city, in Hanover Township.
The city is split up into four primary sections: Historic Downtown, which lies south of the Bushkill Creek, north of the Lehigh River, to the west of the Delaware River and continues west to Sixth Street, The West Ward, which lies between Sixth and Fifteenth Streets, The South Side, which lies south of the Lehigh River, and College Hill, a neighborhood on the hills to the north, and home of Lafayette College. The boroughs of Wilson, West Easton, and Glendon are also directly adjacent to the city. West Easton partially aligns in the same North-South Grid as the city of Easton.
The greater Easton area consists of the city itself, three townships (Forks, Palmer, and Williams) and three boroughs (Glendon, West Easton, and Wilson).
Easton is perhaps best known globally as the home of former world heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes, who, in honor of the city, fought under the nickname "The Easton Assassin". Holmes continues to reside in Easton and owns several commercial establishments there.
Easton is situated at the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers, a popular area long before it was settled by Europeans. The Lenape Native Americans originally referred this place as "Lechauwitank", or "The Place at the Forks". Thomas Penn was so inspired by the beauty of the place that he set aside a 1000 acre (4km²) tract of land here for a town. Easton, settled in 1739 and founded in 1752, was so named at the request of Penn: he had recently married Juliana Fermor, the daughter of Lord Pomfret whose estate was called Easton Neston, near Towcester, Northamptonshire, England. As Northampton County, Pennsylvania was being formed at this time, Easton was selected as its county seat, at least partially because it was as far as possible from the Moravians who were settled further up the Lehigh River at Bethlehem.
Several Indian treaties were signed in Easton during the French and Indian War, contributing to the English conquest of the Ohio River Valley.
Declaration of Independence reading
Easton was also an important military center during the American Revolutionary War. In 1776, Easton was one of the first three places the Declaration of Independence was publicly read (along with Philadelphia and Trenton). It is claimed that the Easton flag was flown during that reading, making it one of the first "Stars and Stripes" to fly over the colonies. This flag, which is known to date to the War of 1812, currently serves as Easton's municipal flag.
Easton was a major commercial center during the canal and railroad periods of the 1800s, when it was a transportation hub for the steel industry. Three canals, the Delaware, the Lehigh, and the Morris, served to connect the coal regions to the north and west, the iron works to the west, the commercial port of Philadelphia to the south, and the New York City area to the east via the a connection with the Morris Canal across the Delaware River in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. When canal transportation was largely replaced by railroads, Easton was served by five railroads, and only lost its prominence in transportation with the rise of the automobile in the mid 20th Century.
Like the Pennsylvania Dutch region to the southwest, Easton has a strong German heritage. The Pennsylvania Argus, a German-language newspaper, was published in Easton until 1917. As part of their heritage, the Germans put up one of the continent's earliest Christmas trees in Easton; Daniel Foley's book (page 72) states that "Another diary reference unearthed recently makes mention of a tree set-up at Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1816." There is a plaque in Scott Park (along the Delaware) commemorating this event, and it also mentions the 1816 date.
Most historians of angling believe that Samuel Phillipe, an Easton gunsmith, invented the six-strip split-cane fishing rod. A state historical commission plaque near Center Square commemorates this.
Refuge from prohibition
During prohibition, Easton earned a reputation for nightlife in an age when the rest of the nation was dry, and Easton was referred to colloquially as "The Little Apple." Easton was a speakeasy town where liquor flowed freely, brothels were common, and the local police were known to turn a blind eye. Following the end of many Friday Night fights in New York City's Madison Square Garden during this era, crowds were known to chant "Going to Easton" before boarding trains en masse for the short 67 mile trek to this Pennsylvania/New Jersey border town, where nightlife flourished.
Easton was also once known as the "City of Churches". At one time, it had the largest church-to-population ratio in the nation.
Downtown Easton lies at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers, and is a low-lying area surrounded by hills to the north, west, and south. North of downtown is College Hill, the home of Lafayette College. South Easton, divided by the Lehigh River from the rest of the city, was a separate borough until 1898; it was settled initially by canal workers, and was later the home of several silk mills.
As of the census of 2000, there were 26,263 people, 9,544 households, and 5,735 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,380.3/km² (6,168.4/mi²). There were 10,545 housing units at an average density of 955.7/km² (2,476.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.48% White, 12.71% African American, 0.24% Native American, 1.66% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 3.67% from other races, and 3.13% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.79% of the population.
There were 9,544 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.7% were married couples living together, 16.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.3% under the age of 18, 16.3% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 97.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $33,162, and the median income for a family was $38,704. Males had a median income of $32,356 versus $23,609 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,949. About 12.3% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.3% of those under age 18 and 11.2% of those age 65 or over.
Easton is the home of one four-year college, Lafayette College, one of the older colleges in the United States (founded in 1826).
The Easton area is served by two school districts: the Easton Area School District and the Wilson Area School District.
Easton Area School District
The Easton Area School District serves the residents of the city itself, along with Forks and Palmer Townships and two smaller non-contiguous communities: the borough of Riegelsville, Pennsylvania to the south and the village of Martins Creek, Pennsylvania to the north. The school district has six elementary schools (Cheston, Forks, March, Palmer, Paxinosa, and Tracy) for grades K-4, Easton Area Middle School for grades 5-6, Shawnee Middle School (in Forks Township) for grades 7-8, and Easton High School (in Palmer Township) for grades 9-12. Total student enrollment is about 9000 students in all grades.
Easton High School is known for its long-standing athletic rivalry with Phillipsburg High School in neighboring Phillipsburg, New Jersey. The two teams play an annual football game on Thanksgiving Day that is considered one of the largest and longest-standing rivalries in American high school football. 2006 marked the 100th year anniversary of the Easton-Phillipsburg high school football rivalry. The game was won by Easton.
Easton High School competes athletically in the Lehigh Valley Conference, generally considered one of the state's most competitive athletic conferences. Easton Football.
As of the 2000 census, the combined population of the municipalities in the Easton Area School District was 53,554
Wilson Area School District
The Wilson Area School District serves students of the neighboring boroughs of Wilson, West Easton, Glendon, and Williams Township.
As of the 2000 census, the combined population of the municiplalities in the Wilson Area School District was 13,671.
Wilson Area High School's football team won the 2006 Class AA State Football Championship against Jeanette 29-28 at Hershey Stadium
Easton is the home of Binney & Smith, the manufacturer of Crayola crayons, and was formerly the home of Dixie Cup Corporation, the manufacturer of Dixie Cups and other consumer products.
Easton's daily newspaper is The Express-Times, but The Morning Call, based in Allentown, also is widely read in the city. Easton is part of the Philadelphia DMA, but also receives numerous radio and television channels from New York City, and from the smaller Scranton-Wilkes-Barre media market to the northwest.
Two television stations are based in neighboring Allentown: PBS affiliate WLVT Channel 39, and independent station WFMZ Channel 69.
Among Easton-based radio stations is WODE-FM "The Hawk", a classic rock station broadcast at 99.9 FM, and WCTO "Cat Country 96", a country music station broadcasting on 96.1 FM. Other rock music stations within the Easton market include WZZO "Z-95", based in Lehigh Valley's Whitehall Township, which broadcasts at 95.1 FM.