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Harrisburg History, Pennsylvania

The History of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The capital of Pennsylvania and county seat of Dauphin County, Harrisburg lies on the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River, at a distance of around 169 km from Philadelphia. During the period of Westward Migration, Industrial Revolution and American Civil War, the city had played a significant role in the history of America. The building of Pennsylvania Railroad and the Pennsylvania Canal in the 19th century allowed the city to become a highly industrialized city in the north-eastern United States. In contrast to its status in 1981 as one of the most distressed cities in the US, Harrisburg has gone through dramatic economic changes and now realizes around $3 billion of new investment. The USS Harrisburg, a US Navy ship, has been named in city’s honour as it served in the First World War from 1918 to 1919.

Early days: The area where the city has been located is believed to be inhabited by the Native Americans from as early as 3000 BC and known as Paxtang or Peixtin among the natives. The area served as a significant resting place for the native traders. The city became incorporated in 1791 and was selected as the state capital in 1812. By 1830s, the city became an important part of the canal system of Pennsylvania and a significant railroad centre too. Iron and steel became the dominant industries and played an important role in the economy throughout the century. The city became a centre of huge railroad traffic, supported large furnaces, machine shops and rolling mills.

American Civil War: During this crisis, the city served as an important Union Army training centre as a large number of troops passed through the Camp Curtin. It became a chief rail centre of the Union and served as a crucial link between the Midwest and the Atlantic Coast.

Shaping Harrisburg: Several important events played a significant role in shaping the city over several years. Pennsylvania Farm Show was first organized in 1917 and is the biggest indoor agricultural exposition of the US. In 1972, the city experienced a severe flood from remnants of the hurricane Agnes. In 1979, the nuclear plant of Three Mile Island located to the south of the city suffered from a partial meltdown due to which more than 140,000 people left the area. Stephen R. Reed had been elected the city’s mayor in 1981 and immediately started several projects to attract both tourists and businesses. Several hotels and museums were built in addition to many residences and office buildings.

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