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From City Social to City Beautiful

As many students have already posted, our Digital History class is currently working on two different projects related to the history of Harrisburg and its past residents, which are “City Social” and “City Beautiful”. Each of these projects is our way of getting to know more about this city and its history.

Harrisburg in the 19th century (photo from: http://www.old8thward.com/demolition.htm)

The first project we worked on was “City Social”. The point of this project is to study Harrisburg’s past residents. We have worked on it for the past couple of weeks in and out of class and now as we start to finish up the City Social project, we are able to get a better look at Harrisburg’s past residents. As other students have noted in their blogs, each of the students was assigned two different wards and had to complete 1,000 names in each ward.  Working from the census records in Ancestry, we keyed 25 fields for each record including ward number, district number, street name, house number, race, occupation and ability to write, read and speak English.

1900 Census document on Ancestry.com (photo from: https://digitalharrisburg.com/2014/03/07/city-beautiful-and-the-1900-census/)

I was assigned ward 4 district 50 and ward 8 district 73. Both of these wards were very similar in many ways. Ward 4 and ward 8 included mainly Caucasians with some African Americans, although ward 8 had many more African Americans than ward 4. Both of the wards had immigrants, mostly from Ireland and Germany with a large number of Russians from ward 8. Regarding the residents’ ability to write, speak and read English, both wards, for the most part, had all yes’s in the columns. The occupations in each ward varied from nurses to engineers to clothing makers to servants. Just by looking at the residents in each of the wards, we are able to better understand the history of Harrisburg and its past residents.

The second project that our class took on is titled “City Beautiful”. The point of this project is to look at the history of a past project in Harrisburg called City Beautiful. City Beautiful was a project to clean up the city. We have studied everything from the proposed ideas to clean, the people involved in the project, to the actual outcome of the project. In order to acquire this information our class went to two local archives, Harrisburg State Archives and Dauphin County Archives. For our class and project, we are required to spend a certain amount of hours at either of the archives, spending time looking at maps or documents related to each group’s section.

For example, I am in a group with two other classmates and our part of the project is to look at the improvements of City Beautiful. We have spent hours in the archives together and separately looking through documents, books and maps. So far, after searching through boxes and folders, I have found information about the Municipal League, the proposed improvements plans of the project, and maps of Harrisburg and the plans. As we start to finish up the city social project and continue working on the city beautiful project, we learn more about the history of Harrisburg and its past residents and are able to inform others who are interested in the history of their city or their ancestors.

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