Little Bits of History

USA’s Capital City

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2015
Lancaster, Pennsylvania today*

Lancaster, Pennsylvania today*

September 27, 1777: The city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania is the capital of the United States for one day. The town was originally called Hickory Town but the name was changed when John Wright renamed it after Lancaster in England. The city’s symbol is the red rose as is the House of Lancaster. The colonial town was part of the 1682 Penn’s Woods Charter. It was laid out by James Hamilton in 1734, was incorporated as a borough in 1742, and incorporated as a city in 1818. And during the American Revolutionary War it became the capital of the fledgling country when Philadelphia was captured by the British and the Continental Congress fled there. The next day, they moved even farther afield and went to York, Pennsylvania.

In 1799,  Lancaster became the capital of Pennsylvania and remained so until 1812 when it was moved to Harrisburg. Although Harrisburg remains the capital today and is larger in area (11.4 compared to 7.9 square miles), Lancaster has a larger population (59,322 compared to 49,528). The first paved road in the US was the former Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike and it remains today as part of US Route 30. The paved road opened in 1795 and had been designed by John Loudon McAdam and it was there that asphalt was called macadam. The city is also famous for its Lancaster County Prison which was built in 1851 and is still in use today. It was the site for public hangings until 1912. The prison was styled after the Lancaster Castle in England.

After its brief stint as national capital, the borough became an iron-foundry center. Two of the most important items used by those settlers out west were made in Lancaster. The first was the Conestoga wagon named for the Conestoga River which runs through Lancaster and the second was the Pennsylvania long rifle. William Henry was the gun’s designer, but he went on to other ventures and was a US Congressman and a leader during the Revolutionary War. Meriwether Lewis came to Lancaster before he and Clark began their momentous journey. He came to study with Andrew Ellicott, a famous surveyor, in order to learn how to plot latitude and longitude. Woolworth opened his first successful five and dime store in Lancaster.

Lancaster’s economic base has shifted. Shopping has become a major source of revenue as gentrification spreads and a series of specialty shops, boutiques, bars, and clubs have opened downtown. “Gallery Row” was opened in 2005 and has led the city to be a destination spot for those interested in art. Unused polluted areas are also being given a facelift and the old brownfields are being turned into parks and playing fields. The largest employer remains Lancaster General Hospital. The Mayor is Rick Gray. While the city itself is small, the metro area covers 802 square miles and has about a half million people living there.

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever. – Napoleon Bonaparte

Mark how fleeting and paltry is the estate of man: yesterday in embryo, tomorrow a mummy or ashes. So for the hair’s breadth of time assigned to thee live rationally, and part with life cheerfully, as drops the ripe olive, extolling the season that bore it and the tree that matured it. – Marcus Aurelius

The glory that goes with wealth is fleeting and fragile; virtue is a possession glorious and eternal. – Sallust

How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks. – Dorothy L. Sayers

Also on this day: Tonight – In 1954, the Tonight show premiered.
Jesuits – In 1540, the Society of Jesus was formed.
Liberty Ship – In 1941, the SS Patrick Henry launched.
Aquarius – In 1968, Hair opened in London.
Help Wanted – Again – In 1590, Pope Urban VII died.

* “Lancaster Pennsylvania downtown” by Randolph Carney – japanese. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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