East Stroudsburg votes to change its name

Ballot to change East Stroudsburg’s name which appeared in The Morning Press newspaper in 1923.
By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

At the dawn of the new year in 1923, the residents of the borough of East Stroudsburg were called upon to participate in a special vote.

Throughout the preceding year, some individuals felt that the borough of East Stroudsburg was losing its identity and that the “extreme length” of the name, consisting of 15 letters, was burdensome. This group of concerned citizens organized themselves into the East Stroudsburg Progressive Association; the President was J. H. Lanterman. The citizens’ mission was to address the concerns of East Stroudsburg’s identity crisis, as they saw it.

The important question put before the residents of East Stroudsburg was two-part.

First, should the Borough of East Stroudsburg change its name?

Second, if the name were to change, what should the new name be? This idea of holding a special vote was organized by the members of the East Stroudsburg Progressive Association and was carried out by the local newspaper, The Morning Press. Once enough votes were cast, members of the East Stroudsburg Progressive Association would create a petition to submit to the local courts for action to be taken by a grand jury.

Voting began on December 28, 1922, with the voting period to remain open for one week. The ballot was printed in
The Morning Press newspaper. Every taxpayer was encouraged to participate by buying a copy of the newspaper, submitting his or her vote as to whether or not to change the name of East Stroudsburg, and offering a new name for the borough. Additional lines were provided on the ballot so that “husband and wife or several voters in one family may cast their ballots on the same one, which will eliminate the need of purchasing additional copies of the paper.” Voting would be kept secret; no names would be divulged.

On January 4, 1923, voting closed. The residents of the Borough of East Stroudsburg voted 498 to 68 in favor of changing the name and offered many suggestions for the new name:
  • Bloomington
  • Blue Ridge City
  • Bluming Glen City
  • Brownville
  • Burson
  • Burson City
  • Commerce City
  • Crystal
  • Delawanna
  • Detroit
  • Ferndale
  • Glendale
  • Hanson City
  • Hesica
  • Kingstown
  • Lackawanna
  • Lexington
  • Lincoln
  • Lindale
  • Linden
  • Lindendale
  • Lynden
  • Maplehurst
  • McKinley
  • Melberne
  • Midview City
  • Minisink
  • Modern City
  • Monroe
  • Monrovia
  • Newport
  • Newtown
  • Parkhurst
  • Penn
  • Penn City
  • Pennsburg
  • Pennsylvania City
  • Penwood
  • Philomela
  • Pleasantdell
  • Pocono City
  • Pocowanna
  • Raub City
  • Roosevelt
  • Truesdale City
  • Well Town
  • Wilson City

After the voting closed, it was up to the Name Committee of the East Stroudsburg Progressive Association to narrow down the list to the top six names. Once the six most popular names were chosen, the executive committee gave their approval and then offered the residents a second opportunity to choose the final selection from the top six choices.

To offer ample opportunity for residents’ voices to be heard, voting boxes were located throughout the borough and placed “at the following stores of William Loder, Kresge Drug Company, George Caramello, Jacob Silverman, Lanterman’s Music Store, Fenner Hotel, Lee’s Jewelry Store, Dale Learn’s office and
The Morning Press office.”

The 10-person committee pored over the suggested names. Many of the names had to be disregarded because of conflicts with postal regulations. On January 6, 1923, the executive committee approved the following six names: Monrovia, Pennwood, Glendale, Pocono City, Minisink, and Pennsylvania City. (Interestingly, “Pennsylvania City” contains one more letter than “East Stroudsburg” which was an argument for changing the name in the first place!)

With the top six names decided, voting was once again opened. East Stroudsburg taxpayers were again called to cast their vote, this time for one of the top six possible names. The time period for this second vote was only three days. A total of 987 votes were counted.

On January 11, 1923, Pocono City won the top place, receiving more than twice the number of votes as the runner-up name. The new name had been chosen, and the name committee had the task to collect the 2,100 signatures needed for the petition to move forward to the court system.

One week later, on January 18,
The Morning Press reported that a group calling themselves the “anti-name change organization” met to thwart the movement to change East Stroudsburg’s name. The group consisted of local “businessmen, tax payers, manufacturers and officials of the Lackawanna railroad.” It was the belief of this group that the residents who voted for the name change would change their minds once they realized the disastrous economic impact this would have.

The first person to speak at the meeting on behalf of the anti-name-change group was James Fister, an advertising agent for the Lackawanna Railroad. He was sent by the company to explain that it would be an “enormous expense” to change the rail tariffs and schedules “from Maine to California.”

He continued on that it would take 15 years “to get over the confusion … and the heavy expense … from errors in routing freight.”

Another member in attendance stated that “a great many people in the Poconos are protesting that the adherents of the move are usurping their name by the use of ‘Pocono City’” and that there would be “threatened trade retaliation.” Hotel and boarding house owners were also part of the anti-name-change group and raised issues with having to spend hundreds of dollars to correct printed advertising materials.

By January 30, members of the anti-name-change group canvased the borough, going from door-to-door to explain the issues surrounding the petition to change East Stroudsburg to Pocono City and the implications it would have on the community. They offered their own petition to stop the name change.

As the anti-name-change group predicted, many residents, even those who had originally voted to replace the name, saw the economic impact the name change would have on various industries. Both sides of the name change debate had done all they could do; it was now up to the courts to decide.

By February 12, 1923, the East Stroudsburg-to-Pocono City name-changing issue died as quickly as it had begun. At the courthouse in Stroudsburg, Judge Shull inquired if the petition to change East Stroudsburg formally to Pocono City would be submitted. He received no answer from the members of the East Stroudsburg Progressive Association. No petition was ever filed with the grand jury. With no petition, no action was taken, and the entire matter ended.

The Morning Press reported on February 13, “all of the preparation was in vain.” According to the newspaper, opponents of the name change were “present in full force” at the courthouse. C.R. Bensinger was the lawyer for the anti-name-change faction. He was joined by other members of the anti-name-change group, including Luther S. Hoffman, Charles R. Turn, John N. Gish, F.B. Michaels, Milton Kistler, W.S. Azer, Dr. E.L. Kemp, Arthur Shinn, Jesse Ransberry, James Fister (representing the Lackawanna Railroad), Ada Cornealison (representing summer resort owners who conducted business through the East Stroudsburg Post Office), Charles Merwine (representing resort hotels in Mount Pocono), C.H. Palmer (representing the Monroe County Mountain Resort Association), Edwin Hoopes (representing the Pennsylvania Railroad), and agents from the Western Union Telegraph Company and the American Railway Express Company.

The East Stroudsburg Progressive Association vowed to introduce the petition to change East Stroudsburg to Pocono City in May, but that never came to fruition. It is clear that the association would not be able to fight the opposition from the anti-name-change group which had garnered support from businesses concerned about the serious economic and social ramifications of such a name change.