Harrisburg is the capital city of Pennsylvania. As of 2011, the city had a population of 49,673, making it the ninth-largest city in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg is also the county seat of Dauphin County and lies on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, 105 miles (169 km) west-northwest of Philadelphia and 204 miles (328 km) east of Pittsburgh.
The Harrisburg-Carlisle Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry counties, had a population of 509,074 in 2000 and grew to 549,850 in 2010. A July 1, 2007 estimate placed the population at 528,892, making it the fifth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown−Bethlehem−Easton (the Lehigh Valley), and Scranton−Wilkes Barre. The Harrisburg-Carlisle-Lebanon Combined Statistical Area, including both the Harrisburg-Carlisle and Lebanon Metropolitan Statistical Areas, had an estimated population of 656,781 in 2007 and was the fourth-most populous metropolitan area in the state.
Harrisburg played a notable role in American history during the Westward Migration, the American Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution. During part of the 19th century, the building of the Pennsylvania Canal and later the Pennsylvania Railroad allowed Harrisburg to become one of the most industrialized cities in the Northeastern United States. The U.S. Navy ship USS Harrisburg, which served from 1918 to 1919 at the end of World War I, was named in honor of the city.
In the mid-to-late 20th century, the city's economic fortunes fluctuated with its major industries consisting of government, heavy manufacturing including the production of steel, agriculture (the greater Harrisburg area is at the heart of the fertile Pennsylvania Dutch Country), and food services (nearby Hershey is home of the chocolate maker, located just 10 miles (16 km) east of Harrisburg). In 1981, following contractions in the steel and dairy industries, Harrisburg was declared the second most distressed city in the nation. The city subsequently experienced a resurgence under its former mayor Stephen R. Reed, with nearly $3 billion in new investment realized during his lengthy tenure.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show, the largest free indoor agriculture exposition in the United States, was first held in Harrisburg in 1917 and has been held there every early-to-mid January since then. Harrisburg also hosts an annual outdoor sports show, the largest of its kind in North America, as well as an auto show, which features a large static display of new as well as classic cars and is renowned nationwide. Harrisburg is also known for the Three Mile Island accident, which occurred on March 28, 1979 near Middletown.
In 2010 Forbes rated Harrisburg as the second best place in the U.S. to raise a family. Despite the city's recent financial troubles, in 2010 The Daily Beast website ranked 20 metropolitan areas across the country as being recession-proof, and the Harrisburg region landed at No. 7. The financial stability of the region is in part due to the high concentration of state and federal government agencies. The finances of the city itself however, have been poorly managed and its inability to repay its bond debt has created an ongoing fiscal crisis.
Harrisburg's site along the Susquehanna River is thought to have been inhabited by Native Americans as early as 3000 BC. Known to the Native Americans as "Peixtin", or "Paxtang", the area was an important resting place and crossroads for Native American traders, as the trails leading from the Delaware to the Ohio Rivers, and from the Potomac to the Upper Susquehanna intersected there. The first European contact with Native Americans in Pennsylvania was made by the Englishman, Captain John Smith, who journeyed from Virginia up the Susquehanna River in 1608 and visited with the Susquehanna tribe. In 1719, John Harris, Sr., an English trader, settled here and 14 years later secured grants of 800 acres (3.2 km2) in this vicinity. In 1785, John Harris, Jr. made plans to lay out a town on his father's land, which he named Harrisburg. In the spring of 1785, the town was formally surveyed by William Maclay, who was a son-in-law of John Harris, Sr. In 1791, Harrisburg became incorporated and was named the Pennsylvania state capital in October 1812, and has been since. The assembling here of the Harrisburg Convention in 1827 led to the passage of the high protective-tariff bill of 1828. In 1839, Harrison and Tyler were nominated for President of the United States at the first national convention of the Whig Party of the United States, which was held in Harrisburg.
Before Harrisburg gained its first industries, it was a scenic, pastoral town, typical of most of the day: compact and surrounded by farmland. In 1822, the impressive brick capitol building was completed for $200,000.
It was Harrisburg’s strategic location which gave it an advantage over many other towns. It was settled as a trading post in 1719 at a location important to Westward expansion. The importance of the location was that it was at a pass in a mountain ridge. The Susquehanna River flowed generally west to east at this location, providing a route for boat traffic from the east. The head of navigation was a short distance northwest of the town, where the river flowed through the pass. Persons arriving from the east by boat had to exit at Harrisburg and prepare for an overland journey westward through the mountain pass. Harrisburg assumed importance as a provisioning stop at this point where westward bound pioneers transitioned from river travel to overland travel. It was partly because of its strategic location that the state legislature selected the small town of Harrisburg to become the State Capitol in 1812.
The grandeur of the Colonial Revival capitol building dominated the quaint town. The streets were dirt, but orderly and platted in grid pattern. The Pennsylvania Canal was built in 1834 and coursed the length of the town. The residential houses were situated on only a few city blocks stretching southward from the capitol building. They were mostly one story. No factories were present but there were blacksmith shops and other businesses.
American Civil War
Harrisburg in the American Civil War
During the American Civil War, Harrisburg was a significant training center for the Union Army, with tens of thousands of troops passing through Camp Curtin. It was also a major rail center for the Union and a vital link between the Atlantic coast and the Midwest, with several railroads running through the city and spanning the Susquehanna River. As a result of this importance, it was a target of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during its two invasions. The first time during the 1862 Maryland Campaign, when Lee planned to capture the city after taking Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, but was prevented from doing so by the Battle of Antietam and his subsequent retreat back into Virginia. The second attempt was made during the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863 and was more substantial. A short skirmish took place in June 1863 at Sporting Hill, just 2 miles west of Harrisburg. This is considered by many to have been the northern-most battle of the Civil War. During the first part of the 19th century, Harrisburg was a notable stopping place along the Underground Railroad, as escaped slaves would be transported across the Susquehanna River and were often fed and given supplies before heading north towards Canada