Explore Harrisburg in 1900: An Interactive Map of Buildings and Population

The Digital Harrisburg working group is pleased to announce a beta version of an interactive map of Harrisburg in 1900/1901 hosted at ArcGIS Online. This map and the data it contains was developed as a collaboration between faculty and students at Messiah College and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. The  Historical Society of Dauphin County generously provided JPEG scans of the entire 1901 Harrisburg Title Company Atlas (the layer visible as the historical map of the city) and Ancestry.com provided access to the United States census data records for 1900. Working from the census data, Messiah College students created a complete database of the population in 1900, while GIS students from Messiah and Harrisburg University created building polygons and individual census record points in GIS mapped to the level of individual properties.

What you can do with the site:

The interactive website offers a high-resolution map of the entire city in 1901 overlaying (at 50% transparency) modern aerial photographs of Harrisburg. Every place of residence (at present, about 90% matching) in the city has embedded data from the federal census. You can explore the city in 1901 by looking at property and ownership on the maps. Or you can click on the individual blue dots and scroll through the inhabitants of any particular residence. We have made available the complete fields from the federal census:

  • Ward
  • District
  • Address
  • Last Name
  • First Name
  • Relation to Head of Household
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Marital Status
  • Years Married
  • Number of Children
  • Number of Children Living
  • Birthplace
  • Father’s Birthplace
  • Mother’s Birthplace
  • Year of Immigration
  • Occupation
  • Months Unemployed
  • Can Read?
  • Can Write?
  • Can Speak English?

The map is currently searchable by inhabitants’ name, so may be of use to people looking for their ancestors in Harrisburg. It is important to note that the data is not yet complete or perfect, and we will be working in the spring 2015 toward a more complete project. We are also thinking ahead about embedding photographs and historical documents in the map. If you have ideas about how you might contribute to this work, please contact Professor Pettegrew (Messiah College) and Professor Sarvis (Harrisburg University)

How to Use the Site:

When you visit the site’s web address, you will see the following image. The light shade over the aerial photograph represents the extent of the 1901 Atlas. The light blue shade (visible in this photo toward the bottom) marks digitized residence polygons. The blue circles represent individuals. From this view point, not all the data is visible.

Screenshot (4) (1024x576)

Zoom into a place on the map by clicking on the + sign. Find the part of Harrisburg that you wish to explore. If you click on the ? in the upper right corner, you will access our summary of the site. We will develop this in the future.

Screenshot (18) (1024x576)

Zooming in further will reveal all the residence polygons and the blue circles representing the population.Screenshot (5) (1024x576)

The following images, for example, show the residence polygons (light blue shade) over both the 1901 atlas and the modern aerial photos in the area of the Capitol Park and State MuseumScreenshot (6) (1024x576)

The 1901 atlas overlaying the State Museum of Pennsylvania.Screenshot (7) (1024x576)

Click on a blue dot to see who was living at that place in 1901. This house under the state museum was inhabited by a 15 year old girl named Bertha M. Phillips.

Screenshot (8) (1024x576)

Scroll down to see what we know about Bertha. She was single, born in Pennsylvania, the daughter of a man born in Pennsylvania and a father born in Kentucky. At the time of the census, she was listed as being “At School”. She could read, write, and speak English.

Screenshot (9) (1024x576)

Another residence nearby has a 37 year old boarder named Ellen Troup. If you click on the right arrow above her name, you’ll be able to see the other 9 people living in her house. Screenshot (10) (1024x576)

The site also allows you to search by first or last name. The search for the last name of Hogentogler pulls up a list of people of that last name in 1900.Screenshot (11) (1024x576)Screenshot (13) (1024x576)

Clicking on the name will transport you to Edith Hogentogler’s house elsewhere in the city.Screenshot (15) (1024x576)

Finally, if you find the background aerial photograph too distracting, simply select the second icon from the left at the top. Then select “Streets” and you’ll be left with just the map of the city in 1901. Screenshot (17) (1024x576)

The site is fairly straightforward and has a lot of potential for development in different ways. Please contact us if you see potential partnerships.

5 thoughts on “Explore Harrisburg in 1900: An Interactive Map of Buildings and Population

  1. Wow, thanks very much for your dedication and work on this project. I just found the correlation between my family’s ‘Lancaster House’ hotel and bar at 521 State, and the park behind the State Capitol. My ggg-grandparents, Henry & Bertha Meyer, originally owned a saloon at 306 Strawberry Ave., but apparently did well enough for themselves to purchase the property at 521 State. After Henry died in 1882, Bertha Meyer and her sons were proprietors of Lancaster House.

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