Vance Criswell McCormick was born June 19, 1872 in Harrisburg PA to
Henry McCormick and Annie Criswell McCormick, Vance was by far the best-known
and most celebrated McCormick, as well as one of the most influential
figures in Dauphin County History.
A fortunate boy who grew to be a man of great distinction, Vance was
elected mayor of Harrisburg by the age of 30, and by 42, ran for governorship.
At 44, he became chair of the Democratic National Committee and went
on to become appointed chair of the Commission for Peace, under President
Woodrow Wilson, heading up numerous clubs and organizations along the
Vance attended Harrisburg Academy and Phillips Andover before completing
a civil engineering course at university. A Yale man by family tradition,
(his uncle James, brother Henry B., and cousins Henry Jr., James, Jr.
William, Donald, Robert and Henry were all alums), Vance graduated from
the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in 1893, but was
given an honorary MA degree by Yale in 1907. A born athlete and leader,
he became captain of the class football and baseball teams his freshman
year and was on his university football team his junior and senior years,
and was president of Intercollegiate Football Association his senior
year. He garnered other university honors and awards, as well, including
The athletic grace, leadership and social ease that marked his Princeton
years never left him. According to reporter Paul Beers (1964), Harrisburgers
remembered Vance "riding in his Rolls-Royce in later years, "walking
the streets like an athlete and entertaining royally -- from Presidents
to retired city patrolmen -- at his home".
A member of Harrisburg's Pine Street Presbyterian Church, Vance went
into business with his father from 1893 to 1900. After the death of
his father, He was trustee of the Estates of James and Henry McCormick,
which operated farms, coal and mining properties, railroads and timberlands,
and at various times, were officers of companies controlled by the estates.
He was president of The Patriot Company, publishers of The Patriot
(newspaper), from 1902-46, and The Evening News (1917-46) and
Harrisburg Common Council (1900-02). He was also president of the Pinkey
Vance was also mayor of Harrisburg from 1902-05, and an influential
personality in local politics. He instituted a million-dollar movement
in Harrisburg that brought about a parks renovation project and pure
water, among other initiatives.
He was chair of a committee which brought about reorganization of the
Democratic Party in Pennsylvania (1910), treasurer for the State of
Pennsylvania Democratic Nations Committee (1912), delegate to the Democratic
National Convention (1912), 1916, 1920, 1924), Democratic candidate
for governorship of Pennsylvania (1914), and chairman of the Democratic
National Committee (1916-19).
Vance's work with the Democratic Party attracted the appreciation and
admiration of President Woodrow Wilson. He served as Wilson's campaign
manager, as chair of the War Trade Board (1916-19) and on the Commission
to Negotiate Peace (1919) at Versailles. (see
He was also a member of many local, state, national and international
Vance received the Commander Legion of Honor of France in 1919, and
Belgium honored him with the Decoration of Grand Officer de L'Order
de la Courrone in the same year. In June, 1920, he was decorated Grand
Officer of the Royal Order of the Crown of Italy. (See
the awards/medals sections for more information).
Vance remained a bachelor until the age of 52, when he married Mrs.
Marlin E. Olmsted, the widow of an eight-time Republican congressman.
Vance died at his country home, June 16, 1946, Cedar Cliff Farms, near
Harrisburg, PA. Mrs. McCormick died in 1953.
Sources: Official Statement of Record of Candidates for Fellow,
1913; Vance Criswell McCormick's Personal History Information furnished
to the Secretary's Office, Yale University, for the Yale Obituary Record,
1893; article: "It Was an Outstanding Family," by Paul Beers,
The Sunday Patriot-News; and Louise Owen, archivist, the McCormick
Family Collection, Dauphin County Historical Society.
Compiled/researched and written by MaryAlice Bitts.
This site is sponsored by the Center
for Pennsylvania Cultural Studies at the Pennsylvania
State University at Harrisburg, in cooperation with the Historical
Society of Dauphin County, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Director of
the McCormick Family Papers Project at the Center is Professor Michael
Learn more about the
Center, and the program that sponsors this project
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