Fairy Tales and Youth: The Campaign for Improvement

As the semester winds down, we are beginning to finalize our Omeka websites. My group is focusing on the Campaign for Improvement, specifically the preliminary stages of the City Beautiful Project in Harrisburg. I am responsible for documenting the harmony and opposition against and/or for this campaign. Most of the primary sources I have discovered came from the Dauphin County Historical Society in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. During the early 20th century, an unknown individual kept her own private “archival” collection documenting newspaper articles pertaining to our project.  As I pointed out in The Playground of History–the Archives, this newspaper scrapbook was in extremely fragile condition, yet we were able to digitally preserve its holdings.

To the Children of HarrisburgWe have over 53 scanned pages of articles, with about three to four articles on each page. This is a great amount of information and although we will be unable to upload most of these articles on Omeka, it does provide us with a glimpse into 1900 Harrisburg and dialogues surrounding the campaign. Throughout this research, one article titled “To the Children of Harrisburg” stood out among them all. It begins, “During the last three weeks the following story for children on the proposed city improvements has been read before six thousand of the school children of Harrisburg and is worth perusal by the children of larger growth. It has excited much favorable comment and presents the subject in the most simple and direct way possible–Editor of the Telegraph”. Within this fairy tale for campaign improvement lies a sleepy old Harrisburg, like a Rip Van Winkle. After a long sleep, he awakes wanting to do something to improve the conditions of his city. He learns about the city’s needs from three wise men. The first wise man tells an awakened Harrisburg how to obtain pure and clean water without sewage. The second wise man informs Harrisburg of the plans he has for parks while the third wise man tells Harrisburg how to improve the streets. The true message of this tale is clear: children, have your fathers and brothers vote for the improvements and there will be clean water, a stable sewage system, improved streets, and a multitude of parks.

 Youth Lend A HandThe Campaign for Improvement used every resource available to engage people into improving the city of Harrisburg. They reached people through political cartoons, rallies, meetings, and even children. This tale is just one example upon many. In 1902, thirty-seven high school boys enlisted in the “army” for improvements offering their services to the Municipal League distributing pamphlets and promoting the truth about the improvements. The article notes, “Each boy has agreed to take a precinct of the city for his territory and will distribute throughout its confines, at every door, a pamphlet . The boys have also agreed to give directions where information can be secured. The plan was received with enthusiasm at the high school and many of the girls were sorry that they did not get a chance to do some of the work today.”


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