The City Votes

Viewed in retrospect, the campaign for beauty and improvement appeared to be a result of the city’s social harmony, as though the entire people united in their support for the bond issue that funded the city’s improvements. As Wilson argued in his chapter on Harrisburg’s successful city beautiful movement (1989: 134-139), two-thirds of the population of the city voted in favor of the bonds. Yet, certain wards were more in favor of the improvements than others, which raises the question why some parts of Harrisburg’s population voted against improvements while others voted in favor. In this exhibit, we highlight the social diversity and homogenity of the population in 1900 by tabulating the data of the United States census, which we digitized from the original records presented in Ancestry. We show that support and opposition for the bonds varied considerably at the level of ward and precinct. We use two case studies—two wards strongly in favor of the bond issue, and two wards strongly against it—to explore how the population voted the way it did. The demographic data shows complex patterns of social and ethnic diversity underlying the apparent homogeneity of Harrisburg’s population in 1900.


David Pettegrew