Introduction

David Pettegrew’s Digital History class at Messiah College spent many hours at the Pennsylvania State Archives and the Dauphin County Historical Society researching Harrisburg’s City Beautiful Movement in the early 1900s.  Sources that were particularly helpful include city municipal reports, photographs and glass plate negatives, newspaper clippings, the 1900 census records, scrapbooks, meeting minutes, books, letters of correspondence, and notebooks.  Although there is still much more to be discovered about the City Beautiful Movement, the class was able to shed some new light on the context of these reform efforts through integrating these primary sources.  In the decade prior to the City Beautiful Movement, Harrisburg was in decline and had many palpable defects.  Harrisburg officials and citizens were aware of the increasing shoddiness of their city, but attempts at reform in the 1890s had been largely unsuccessful.  The burning of the capitol building in 1897, which sparked further calls for reform, served as the impetus for the City Beautiful Movement.  With the help of key visionaries, this culmination of efforts to beautify the city resulted in the establishment of new parks, the improvement of the city’s water filtration system, reconstructed roads, and a new capitol complex.  The movement transformed Harrisburg into a city that its inhabitants could take pride in.