1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, the capital of Pennsylvania, U.S.A., and the county-seat of Dauphin county, on the E. bank of the Susquehanna river, about 105 m. W. by N. of Philadelphia. Pop. (1890), 39,385; (1900), 50,167, of whom 2493 were foreign-born and 4107 were negroes; (1910 census) 64,186. It is served by the Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia & Reading, the Northern Central and the Cumberland Valley railways; and the Pennsylvania canal gives it water communication with the ocean. The river here is a mile wide, and is ordinarily very shallow and dotted with islets, but rises from 4 to 6 ft. after a moderate rain; it is spanned by several bridges.

The city lies for the most part on the E. slope of a hill extending from the river bank, several feet in height, across the Pennsylvania canal to Paxton Creek. Front Street, along the river, is part of a parkway connecting the park system with which the city is encircled. Overlooking it are the finest residences, among them the governor’s mansion. State Street, 120 ft. in width, runs at right angles with Front Street through the business centre of the city, being interrupted by the Capitol Park (about 16 acres). The Capitol,[1] dedicated in 1906, was erected to replace one burned in 1897; it is a fine building, with a dome modelled after St Peter’s at Rome. At the main entrance are bronze doors, decorated in relief with scenes from the state’s history; the floor of the rotunda is of tiles made at Doylestown, in the style of the pottery made by early Moravian settlers, and illustrating the state’s resources; the Senate Chamber and the House Chamber have stained-glass windows by W. B. van Ingen and mural paintings by Edwin A. Abbey, who painted a series, “The Development of the Law,” for the Supreme Court room in the eastern wing and decorated the rotunda. The mural decorations of the south corridor, by W. B. van Ingen, portray the state’s religious sects; those in the north corridor, by John W. Alexander, represent the changes in the physical and material character of the state; and there is a frieze by Miss Violet Oakley, “The Founding of the State of Liberty Spiritual,” in the governor’s reception room. Two heroic groups of statuary for the building were designed by George Grey Barnard. The state library in the Capitol contains about 150,000 volumes. In the same park is also a monument 105 ft. high erected in 1868 to the memory of the soldiers who fell in the Mexican War; it has a column of Maryland marble 76 ft. high, which is surmounted by an Italian marble statue of Victory, executed in Rome. At the base of the monument are muskets used by United States soldiers in that war and guns captured at Cerro Gordo. In State Street is the Dauphin County Soldiers’ monument, a shaft 10 ft. sq. at the base and 110 ft. high, with a pyramidal top.

For several years prior to 1902 Harrisburg suffered much from impure water, a bad sewerage system, and poorly paved and dirty streets. In that year, however, a League for Municipal Improvements was formed; in February 1902 a loan of $1,000,000 for municipal improvements was voted, landscape gardeners and sewage engineers were consulted, and a non-partisan mayor was elected, under whom great advances were made in street cleaning and street paving, a new filtration plant was completed, the river front was beautified and protected from flood, sewage was diverted from Paxton Creek, and the development of an extensive park system was undertaken.

Harrisburg’s charitable institutions include a city hospital, a home for the friendless, a children’s industrial home, and a state lunatic hospital (1845). The city is the seat of a Roman Catholic bishopric. Both coal and iron ore abound in the vicinity, and the city has numerous manufacturing establishments. The value of its factory products in 1905 was $17,146,338 (14.3% more than in 1900), the more important being those of steel works and rolling mills ($4,528,907), blast furnaces, steam railway repair shops, cigar and cigarette factories ($1,258,498), foundries and machine shops ($953,617), boot and shoe factories ($922,568), flouring and grist mills, slaughtering and meat-packing establishments and silk mills.

Harrisburg was named in honour of John Harris, who, upon coming into this region to trade early in the 18th century, was attracted to the site as an easy place at which to ford the Susquehanna, and about 1726 settled here. He was buried in what is now Harris Park, where he erected the first building, a small hut, within the present limits of Harrisburg. In 1753 his son established a ferry over the river, and the place was called Harris’s Ferry until 1785, when the younger Harris laid out the town and named it Harrisburg. In the same year it was made the county-seat of the newly constituted county of Dauphin, and its name was changed to Louisburg; but when, in 1791, it was incorporated as a borough, the present name was again adopted. In 1812, after an effort begun twenty-five years before, it was made the capital of the state; and in 1860 it was chartered as a city. In the summer of 1827, through the persistent efforts of persons most interested in the woollen manufactures of Massachusetts and other New England states to secure legislative aid for that industry, a convention of about 100 delegates—manufacturers, newspaper men and politicians—was held in Harrisburg, and the programme adopted by the convention did much to bring about the passage of the famous high tariff act of 1828.

  1. For this building the legislature in 1901 appropriated $4,000,000, stipulating that it should be completed before the 1st of January 1907. It was completed by that time, the net expenditure of the building commission being about $3,970,000. Although the legislature had made no provision for furniture and decoration, the state Board of Public Grounds and Buildings (governor, auditor-general and treasurer) undertook to complete the furnishing and decoration of the building within the stipulated time, and paid out for that purpose more than $8,600,000. In May 1906 a new treasurer entered office, who discovered that many items for furniture and decoration were charged twice, once at a normal and again at a remarkably high figure. In 1907 the legislature appointed a committee to investigate the charge of fraud. The committee’s decision was that the Board of Grounds and Buildings was not authorized to let the decorating and furnishing of the state house; that it had illegally authorized certain expenditures; and that architect and contractors had made fraudulent invoices and certificates. Various indictments were found: in the first trial for conspiracy in the making and delivering of furniture the contractor and the former auditor-general, state treasurer and superintendent of public grounds and buildings were convicted and in December 1908 were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and fined $500 each; in 1910 a suit was brought for the recovery of about $5,000,000 from those responsible.