Marker Text: Founded in 1788 by David Mead and other settlers from the Wyoming region. In 1800 made county seat. First direct primary in U.S. held here in 1842. Making of hookless fasteners was pioneered here.
Location: On U.S. Route 322 near southern city limits of Meadville, PA. Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1946.
Today's marker is about Meadville, PA which is one of many communities which I have a personal fondest. I along with actress Sharon Stone were born here in Meadville, though I never meet her, at least, as far as I know. After graduate school I came back to live in Meadville for about eight years and Meadville was where I meet my best friend and wife. My grandfather operated a garage and gas station in Meadville during the 1950-60's.
The city of Meadville is the county seat of Crawford County, PA and is about 40 miles south of Erie, PA. It was the first permanent settlement in northwest Pennsylvania. Today, Meadville's population is about 13,388 according to the 2010 census.
Photo taken looking north on Route 322 toward Meadville. Channellock tools company plant is on the left in the photo. Click any photo to enlarge.
Meadville was founded on May 12, 1788 by a party of settlers led by David Mead who came from the Wyoming Valley, a region in northeastern Pennsylvania, today it includes the metropolitan areas of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, PA. Meadville's location was chosen because it lies at the confluence of Cussewago Creek and French Creek and is only a day's travel by boat to the safety of Fort Franklin. Around 1800, many of the settlers to the Meadville area came after receiving land grants for their service in the American Revolutionary War.
Meadville is the home of Allegheny College, the second oldest college west of the Allegheny Mountains. The college was founded in Meadville in 1815 and is the oldest college west of the Allegheny Mountains that has kept its original name. Meadville became an important transportation center after construction of the French Creek Feeder Canal in 1837 and of the Beaver and Erie Canal it connected to at Conneaut Lake and subsequent railroad development.
A Unitarian named Harm Jan Huidekoper and local businessman established the Meadville Theological School in 1844. I remember at one time seeing an historical marker about the seminary in Diamond Park in Meadville, but for some reason it does not seem to exist any longer. The seminary moved to Chicago in 1926 and is called the Meadville-Lambert Theological Seminary and was located on Woodlawn Avenue in Chicago, only a few blocks from the seminary I attended, which I always thought was a little ironic.
Photo looking south out of town on Route 322. This section of Meadville is primary industrial and commercial.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries Meadville played a small part in the Underground Railroad helping escaping slaves to freedom and abolitionist John Brown lived northeast of Meadville and came to Meadville to help the leaders of the Underground Railroad. An event in September 1880 in Meadville led to the end of segregation by race in Pennsylvania's public schools. (click here for prior post) Also the first primary elections where held in Meadville in 1800’s. By the late 19th century, Meadville's economy was also driven by logging, agriculture, and iron production.
Talon Zipper was a company founded in 1893, originally as the Universal Fastener Company, in Chicago. They later moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, and finally to Meadville, PA. While in Meadville the zipper as we now know it was invented, until then they were producing hookless fasteners for boots and shoes. Here, the zipper was mass produced beginning in the 1920s. The high demand for zippers created favorable conditions for the Talon Company, and so became Meadville's most crucial industry. I remember my mother working for Talon for a few years in 1950's. The company encountered significant difficulties after it was sold to Textron industries in 1978, eventually ending up bankrupt.
Today, nothing remains of Talon in Meadville except for a few run down buildings. However as a result of the need for close tolerances and tool and die makers, a cottage industry of tool and die shops was established which resulted in Meadville being nicknamed Tool City, USA with more tool shops per capita than any place else in the United States. During the years I lived in Meadville, I meet numerous tool and die makers who got their start in Talon's apprenticeship program. In 1996 Tag-It Pacific, Inc. acquired Talon, and in 2007 Tag-It Pacific changed its corporate name to Talon International, Inc.
On the right is where the old main section of the Talon Zipper plant once stood and was torn down to build the new building in the photo.
During World War II, the nearby Keystone Ordnance plant brought additional jobs to the area. After the war, Meadville's industrial growth continued. Talon remained a major employer, along with the Erie Railroad, American Viscose (later known as Avtex Fibers), Channellock tools, and Dad's Pet Food. In the 1980s, the Great Lakes region saw a decline in heavy industry. By the early 1990s, Channellock and Dad's were the only large companies operating in Meadville. This was a serious blow to the local economy, but was softened a bit by subsequent surge in light industry, mainly tool and die machine shops, through all the tool and die makers originally trained by Talon Zipper during their years in Meadville. The area has seen moderate growth in the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century.
Meadville was the home or the place of birth of many notable individuals in addition to myself and Sharon Stone. Sharon Stone graduated from Saegertown High School in Saegertown, PA (north of Meadville) in 1975. A few of the other Meadville notables include:
Henry Baldwin, an associate justice in the U.S. Supreme Court appointed by President Andrew Jackson and lived in Meadville at the time of his appointment. He served with Virginia native and Chief Justice John Marshall on the Supreme Court. Justice Baldwin was a friend and admirer of Chief Justice John Marshall and he was at Marshall's bedside when the Chief Justice died in 1835.
Randy Fichtner, current quarterbacks coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers graduated of Meadville Area Senior High School. Charles Homer Haskins, historian and advisor to President Woodrow Wilson. Lynn Jones and Jay Tessmer, both former Major League Baseball players, who played baseball for Meadville Area Senior High School.
Todd Holland, television and film director and producer who directed three feature films, more than 150 television episodes and has been honored with three Emmy Awards, five CableAce Awards, eight Emmy nominations, and other entertainment awards. Holland was born in Kittanning, PA and raised in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He was an honor student and graduated from Meadville Area Senior High School.
Raymond P. Shafer, former governor of Pennsylvania, who lived in Meadville, when I did and I would run into him at the supermarket ever once in awhile. Gideon Sundback, member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his work on the development of the zipper for Talon.