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Pennsylvania State Archives


To view information relative to county municipalities and incorporation dates, you can view the publication entitled Incorporation Dates for Pennsylvania Municipalities by clicking on the link. This was published by the Pennsylvania Department of Internal Affairs in 1965 and while somewhat outdated, still provides accurate information on the formation of townships, boroughs, counties, etc.

Municipal Powers

In addition to living under a county government, every Pennsylvanian also lives in a municipality. Municipal governing bodies make policy decisions, levy taxes, borrow money, authorize expenditures and direct administration of their governments by their appointees. The scope of their functions and responsibilities is broad.

Many powers given to local governments are not exercised in every place, while others are shared with the state and even the national government. All of the various municipal units of Pennsylvania share the same basic responsibilities with respect to the provision of public services at the local level and have similar statutory powers for the most part. Although cities have more specifically enumerated powers than boroughs or townships, many of those powers may also be exercised by boroughs and townships under general grants of power. Home rule provides equal opportunity for all classes of municipalities to exercise new powers.

Municipal Functions

The main areas of local services include police and fire protection, maintenance of local roads and streets, water supply, sewage collection and treatment, parking and traffic control, local planning and zoning, parks and recreation, garbage collection, health services, libraries, licensing of businesses and code enforcement.

First and Second Class Cities

The oldest and largest Pennsylvania city, Philadelphia, has had a strong mayor home rule charter since 1952. There is a council of 17 members, one elected from each of the ten councilmanic districts of the city and seven elected at large. Each political party may nominate one candidate for each of the ten districts but only five for the seven at large places. This allows the minority party to elect at least two members. The mayor, also elected, has control over the administration of the city and is assisted by a managing director who supervises ten major departments, a director of finance, a city representative and a city solicitor.

Pittsburgh and Scranton, second class and second class A cities respectively, also have strong mayors. These mayors, like the chief executive of Philadelphia, have broad appointive and removal powers, are responsible for the preparation of the annual budget, recommend measures for the consideration of council and may veto legislation which may be overridden by a two thirds majority of the council. Home rule charters were adopted by Scranton and Pittsburgh in 1974. In all three cities, the mayor is the dominant force in city government.

Third Class Cities

The code establishes a commission form of government. Under this form, the mayor and four other members constitute the commission which is the governing body of the city. The mayor is one of the members of council and acts as president. Each council member is in charge of one of the five major departments. These officials and the controller and treasurer are elected at large by the voters for a four year term. Councilmanic terms overlap. Appointment of all other officers and employes is made by council. Twenty of the 53 third class cities operate under the commission form.

From 1957 to 1972, cities could adopt two other forms of government by referendum under the Optional Third Class City Charter Law. The mayor council form has a five, seven or nine member council, elected at large for overlapping four year terms. A mayor, treasurer and a controller also are elected for a four year period. The mayor is the chief executive of the city and enforces the ordinances of council. The mayor may veto ordinances which can be overridden by a two thirds majority of council. The mayor supervises the work of all city departments and submits the annual city budget to council. In the council manager form, all authority is lodged with council which is composed of five, seven or nine members elected at large for a four year term. A city treasurer and controller also are elected. A city manager is appointed by council. The manager is the chief administrative officer of the city and is responsible for executing the ordinances of council. The manager appoints and may remove department heads and subordinates. Since 1972, 15 cities have adopted home rule charters.


The present type of borough government is the weak mayor form which governed all incorporated municipalities during the 19th century. Most of the present cities were boroughs first and became cities as their population increased. Boroughs have a strong and dominant council, a weak executive and other elected officers with powers independent of the council. The governing body of the borough is an elected council. The tax collector, tax assessor and the auditors also are elected. Many other officials are appointed by borough council.

The mayor is elected for a four year term; council members are elected for four year overlapping terms. A borough not divided into wards usually has seven council members; in boroughs divided into wards, at least one and not more than two are elected from each ward. The powers of council are broad and extensive, covering virtually the whole range of urban municipal functions.

In more than two hundred boroughs, the chief administrative officer is a manager appointed by council. The manager is responsible for carrying out the policies and enforcing the ordinances of council, relieving council from routine day to day administration. Since 1972, eighteen boroughs have adopted home rule charters.


Pennsylvania has two classes of townships. The first numbers 91 and includes the more urban townships located in the state's metropolitan areas; the second class, numbering 1,457, is generally rural.

In townships of the first class, the governing body is made up of elected commissioners. There are either five commissioners elected at large or up to 15 elected by wards. The commissioners have four year overlapping terms.

The governing body of second class townships is composed of three supervisors who are elected at large. Two additional supervisors may be elected if approved by referendum. All are elected at large for six year terms.

Other elected township officials include the tax assessor, tax collector (second class), three auditors or controller, and a treasurer (first class). Appointive officers include the secretary, township manager if desired, chief of police, fire chief, engineer, solicitor and others.

To become a township of the first class, a second class township must have a population density of 300 persons per square mile, and voters must approve change of classification in a referendum. Many townships meeting the density requirement have remained second class. Since 1972, twelve townships of the first class have adopted home rule charters.

The following are records among the holdings of the State Archives. In addition, the Archives makes available microfilm copies of municipal records. See Municipal Governments Microfilm List.

Allegheny City (Allegheny County)

Common and Select Council

Department of Public Safety

Department of Public Works

Office of Comptroller

Office of Mayor


Albany Township (Berks County)

Allentown City (Lehigh County)

Alsace Township (Berks County)

Bethlehem City (Lehigh County)

Buffalo Township (Union County)

Cocalico Township (Lancaster County)

Conemaugh Borough (Cambria County)

Coopersdale Borough (Cambria County)

Coudersport Borough (Potter County)

Deerfield Township (Tioga County)

Derry Township (Dauphin County)

Duquesne Borough (Allegheny County)

Earl Township (Lancaster County)

East Buffalo Township (Union County)

Elizabeth Township (Allegheny County)

Elk Lick Township (Somerset County)

Fleetwood Borough (Berks County)

Franklin Township (York County)

Board of Supervisors

Greene Township (Clinton County)

Grubbtown Borough (Cambria County)

Hanover Township (Dauphin County)

Hanover Township (Lebanon County)

Harrisburg City (Dauphin County)

Hatboro (Montgomery County)

Hummelstown Borough (Dauphin County)

Jersey Shore Boro (Lycoming County)

Borough Council

Johnstown (Cambria County)

City Council

Office of City Clerk

Health Department

Lancaster City (Lancaster County)

Lebanon City (Lebanon County)

Lebanon Township (Lebanon County)

Local Governments

Londonderry Township (Lancaster County)

Lower Merion Township (Montgomery County)

Health Department

Lower Paxton Township (Dauphin County)

Township Clerk

Manchester Borough (Allegheny County)

McClure Township (Allegheny County)

Middletown Borough (Dauphin County)

Millvale Borough (Cambria County)

Monroe Township (Cumberland County)

Morrellville Borough (Cambria County)

North Heidelberg Township (Berks County)

Oakhurst Borough (Cambria County)

Paxton Township (Dauphin County)

Philadelphia (Philadelphia County)

Pittsburgh (Allegheny County)

Quakertown (Bucks County)

Reading (Berks County)

Rosedale Borough (Cambria County)

Roxbury Borough (Cambria County)

South Hanover Township (Dauphin County)

South Londonderry Township (Lebanon County)

Springfield Township (York County)

Steelton Borough (Dauphin County)

Strasburg Township (Lancaster County)

Stumpstown (Lebanon County)

Susquehanna Township (Dauphin County)

Swatara Township (Dauphin County)

Swatara Township (Lebanon County)

Temple Borough (Berks County)

Turbot Township (Northumberland County)

Tuscarora Township (Bradford County)

Union Township (Berks County)

West Brunswick Township (Schuylkill County)

West Hanover Township (Dauphin County)

Woodvale Borough (Cambria County)

PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Finding Aids for Collections Land Records