Harrisburg, the city beautiful: Recasting the history of urban reform in a small American capital

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Copyright © 2020 The Pennsylvania Historical Association In 1980 William H. Wilson published an important essay in Pennsylvania History that defined Harrisburg's City Beautiful movement as “successful.” In his analysis, reformers galvanized citizens to vote for civic betterment. A package of amenities-pavements, clean water, drainage, and parks-improved the state capital. On this fortieth anniversary of Wilson's publication, in a year commemorating significant federal amendments granting suffrage to African American men (1870) and women (1920), this special issue takes a closer look at early twentieth-century Harrisburg, its “successful” movement for urban reform, and the clear and consequential losses. This particular article highlights recent scholarship on Harrisburg; new studies of the Old Eighth Ward; novel geospatial and demographic datasets; and exciting public history projects that reclaim forgotten voices. While not a definitive answer to understanding Harrisburg's City Beautiful movement, this issue is a case study in how historians can recast locally significant problems in Pennsylvania history.


Originally published as:

Pettegrew, David, and James B. LaGrand (2020). Harrisburg, the City Beautiful: Recasting the History of Urban Reform in a Small American Capital, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 87(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.5325/pennhistory.87.1.0001