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Book depicts Harrisburg history
By Jameson Rohrer   - 02/15/2009

The Patriot-News

More Info on This Book: Harrisburg

After years of cycling along the Susquehanna and walking down Second Street, Jeffrey Adams created a 127-page love letter to Pennsylvania's state capital. The result was "Harrisburg," a compilation of rare photographs and postcards.

Adams uses images of the city from the first years of the 20th century. A native of Tyrone, Adams adopted his great-grandfather's postcard hobby at the age of 7. "They're better than actual photographs. ... They're sharper, and not so washed out," Adams said in a phone interview.

The real photo postcards used in "Harrisburg" became popular in 1906, he said. As Adams grew, so did his collection -- into the thousands.

"I put a schematic together in my head of how I wanted the chapters to go," said Adams, who works for the U.S. Social Security Administration. "It was like putting together a puzzle."

Adams, 48, is interested in the city's cultural and sociopolitical heritage. He started at the very center of the old city: "The most special thing about Harrisburg is the Capitol building," he said. "It's like one of the greatest art museums in the world."

Harrisburg's location made it the "perfect crossroads" for the state. About a third of the postcards depict horse-drawn carriages, locomotives and motorcars.

"People like vehicles," Adams said. "And Harrisburg was the major transportation center."

With seven railroads and a modern canal system for coal, passengers and goods, Adams said Harrisburg unified the entire state.

"Canals started changing the city from a muddy water place into an actual city. Things started really changing."

The changes shown by the postcards are still visible today. "As you go up Second Street, you'll notice it's a Victorian design book opening up ... you can see it as you're going uptown," Adams said. The familiar images of Market Square and the West Shore show "a whole new city arising."

Adams, who resides in Philadelphia, lived on Fourth and Maclay back in the 80s. He loves telling Harrisburg's story.

"People don't get tired of it," he said, "and new people want to hear the story again."

In addition to "Harrisburg," Adams has written "Tyrone," a similar collection of vintage images chronicling his hometown.

"Harrisburg" will be published and sold alongside packets of replica postcards.

"I think we want people to use them," Adams said. In this way, he added, the "civic pride" that the book remembers in these "simple gifts" can be shared once more.

Buy It Now: Harrisburg $21.99




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