Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

What's in a Name? the Two Banks of Jim Thorpe, Pa

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

What's in a Name? the Two Banks of Jim Thorpe, Pa

Article excerpt

Town names in eastern Pennsylvania reflect a diverse mix of origins. One of the most unusual is Jim Thorpe. Behind it is a 50-year-old story of two ailing towns, a discredited athlete, and two banks which each went their own way when hopes for economic revitalization met an opportunistic event.

In this age of mega-millionaire sports stars, athletic product endorsements and drug testing, the sad story of early 20th century athlete Jim Thorpe has to be seen as hopelessly unfortunate.

Thorpe, a Native American from Oklahoma, rocketed to fame as the winner of the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. However, when it came to tight that he had prayed a little minor league baseball for a salary white in college the Olympic Committee considered his amateur status tainted and he was unceremoniously stripped of his medals. From then on, nothing really went right for Thorpe. In 1953, when he had died in Philadelphia in a charity ward, his widow tacked the funds to ship his body back to Oklahoma for burial.

Now, in Pennsylvania, there were two towns on opposite sides of the Lehigh River that had seen better times: Mauch Chunk, and the younger, East Mauch Chunk. (The name is an English approximation of a Lenape tribe phrase, "machktschunk," variously translated "Bear Mountain," or "Sleeping Bear Mountain.") The area had enjoyed tremendous prosperity in the tatter 1800s and early 1900s stemming from its huge deposits of clean-burning anthracite coal.

At one time, Mauch Chunk was reputed to be America's richest community.

Alas, the gradual disuse of coat killed much of the area's prosperity, and by the midst of the 1900s, the two towns were headed downhill with nothing to stop them. An enterprising newspaperman, who had tried many things to help get the region going again, seized on the death of Thorpe. In time, a deal was struck: The widow would let Thorpe be buried and memorialized there, in exchange for renaming the town after the athlete. …

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