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Allentown: Also Known As...?

Queen City, aka Peanut City, aka...Boomtown?

We all know a Robert called Rob or a Michael who goes by Mike, but did you know that some cities and towns have nicknames as well? Think of how Chicago is known as “The Windy City.” When it comes to Allentown, right here in Pennsylvania, this popular city has its own share of nicknames that it’s acquired through the years. 

Here are some of nicknames you’ll find for Allentown:

  • Peanut City
  • Silk City
  • The Queen City
  • Band City USA
  • Truck Capital of the World
  • Cement City

The question becomes, how did it acquire all of these names? Let’s take a closer look at them to see the history behind these unique Allentown nicknames. 

Peanut City: According to an article in the Morning Call (local newspaper), it’s said that Allentown, PA “…was known as the "Peanut City" or "Peanut Town" starting around the 1870’s…every block of Hamilton was lined with peanut vendors.” Apparently, as people were moving about Hamilton Street to do their shopping, they’d simply drop the shells of the peanuts on the sidewalks.  

Another thing worth mentioning is from a Modern School Store book. It’s been photocopied and is from the 1920’s. In the book, “New York State College of Agriculture” (from Cornell University), it states on page 43 that potato farmers in Allentown, Pennsylvania started to experiment with peanut crops as a means to find another profitable crop, seeing as the soil was already suited for the circumstance. (source)

Adelaide Silk Mills in Allentown

Adelaide Silk Mills in Allentown

Silk City: Silk City gets its name from a collection of silk mills that are dotted through the Lehigh County. The peak of the industry hit around the 1920’s, and the saw growth of 23 mills at one point. What’s fascinating is that these mills were the largest employer during this popular time and Allentown, PA was the second largest silk producer in the world. Pretty neat! Eventually the mills either transitioned to other fibers or closed. As for current times, “The Catoir Silk Co., established in 1918, was the last silk mill in Allentown and closed in 1989.” (source)

The Queen City: Is “The Queen City” simply a winning name chosen from a competition or is there more to the story? Local news station, WFMZ, says, “…dates back to the early 1900's. It's believed to have come from a competition hosted by the Allentown Chamber of Commerce.”

Band City USA: Love music? The Allentown Band has been around for a long time, in fact, over 200 years! In an archive collaboration between Muhlenberg College and the band themselves, they’re listed as having started in the 1800’s, to be precise the 1820’s, and their name has stayed intact. Other well- known bands in the area are the Marine Band of Allentown, the Municipal Band of Allentown, and the Pioneer Band of Allentown. (source) (source)

Aerial Photo of Allentown Queen City Municipal Airport

Aerial Photo of Allentown Queen City Municipal Airport

Truck Capital of the World: When you are the headquarters of a massive trucking company, it’s easy to see how a city can be called the “Truck Capital of the World.” Famous truck company MACK was headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania. They originally moved their company there in 1905. Turns out the owner’s brother owned a local silk mill and thought it would be a good location for them as well. While they’re now part of Volvo, the Lehigh Valley area wasn’t forgotten. According to the official Mack Trucks website, “…Every heavy-duty class 8 Mack truck built for the North American market is assembled at its Mack Lehigh Valley Operations facility in Macungie, PA.”

Cement City: “Lehigh Cement was founded in 1897 by six Allentown, Pennsylvania businessmen…” They went on to expand to multiple locations, and by the 1920’s had become the largest cement company in the entire nation. (source

The cement from the multiple factories was used in massive, well-known structures such as the Empire State Building and the Panama Canal, along with the Holland Tunnel. (source)

Whew, Allentown has many names. The Pennsylvania T-Shirt Company honors Allentown's nickname as the Queen City by featuring a crown in the design on all of the Lehigh County tees, sweats, and hoodies.  Allentown really doesn't care what you call long as you don't call it late for dinner.


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