A Week at the Archives

Hi everyone!

This semester, I’ve been taking a class that’s new to Messiah, called Digital History. I’ve promoted our class blog on here before, but I can’t resist the temptation for a quick plug again. This class has been such a blessing. Not only have I learned a great deal about history and the role of digitization in history, but I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to do real research in an archive. It’s one thing to write a research paper where the primary source information comes from a book that you check out of the school library, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to go into an archive, in my case, the Dauphin County Historical Society, and look at documents first hand. For Digital History, we are researching the City Beautiful Movement of Harrisburg, and I’ve been researching Vance McCormick. At the start of this project, all that I knew about McCormick was that he had been Mayor of Harrisburg from 1902-1905. In looking through his collection at the archives, I’ve learned that he was a much more influential person than I had ever imagined before. After his time as Mayor, McCormick was named a Pennsylvania delegate to the 1912 Democratic National Convention. In 1914, he ran for Governor of Pennsylvania, and although he came in second in this election, two years later, he was named campaign manager for President Woodrow Wilson’s second presidential race. That same year, he was also named chair of the Democratic National Committee and the War Trade Board, both of which he served on for three years. In 1919, he was named by Woodrow Wilson as the chair of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace in Versailles following World War I. For the rest of his life, McCormick remained influential throughout the country. Learning about this man has been a truly remarkable experience for me, not only through learning so much about him, but also through having the opportunity to hold his personal sketch book and look through the diary that he kept in 1917. In a manner, holding a piece of history has truly been one of the greatest experiences in my life and I hope that others can have an experience similar to this.

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