Vance McCormick: Articles
The Good Government Reforms of Mayor
Vance C. McCormick, 1902-1903
Master’s project by Thomas C. Clark
The Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, The Capital College,
SUMMARY: The Progressive movement that swept America
in the early nineteen hundreds brought reform to corrupt politics. Boss-controlled machines that dominated all
levels of politics for
years were harried by reformers intent on ending corrupt practices. These reformers also desired to clean up cities
physically and improve the lives of those with whom they worked.
business and media elites in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania combined
forces to bring progressive reforms to their city.
The state capital was badly in need of improvements to
its appearance and sanitation.
The conduct of some city employees made its government
an object of ridicule.
In April 1902, Vance Criswell McCormick, a young but well-established
businessman, was elected mayor with the help of the business community
and the city’s two daily newspapers, The Patriot News,
and The Daily Telegraph. With their support, Mayor McCormick began a
series of reforms that would clean up the city both physically
new mayor clashed with the city’s undisciplined volunteer fire
department. A judgment handed down by the Dauphin County
courts and legislation enacted by City Councils ultimately reorganized
the entire department, bringing its administration and the discipline
of its members under city control.
An examination of the corrupt accounting practices of two
former mayors resulted in the recovery of money illegally withed
from the city treasury, and the institution of new procedures
to prevent further problems. Throughout his first year as mayor, Mr. McCormick
enjoyed the support of the city’s leading newspapers, which are
the best surviving record of his accomplishments as mayor.
Criswell McCormick served as Mayor of Harrisburg from April 7,
1902, through April 4, 1905. This
period was pivotal in the transformation of the city into a cleaner,
more modern location worthy of its stature as the state capital.
Major projects were begun in water filtration, and sewerage
to improve health and sanitation.
Mr. McCormick oversaw the paving of city streets, an expansion
of the city’s existing but inadequate park system, a reevaluation
of property values to improve the fairness of taxation, and the
construction of new schools. Additional public works were instituted to improve
the physical condition of the city.
McCormick also began a series of reforms of the city’s administrative
offices to improve their professionalism and honesty.
Employees of Harrisburg’s Police Department, Fire Department,
and even the mayor’s office were known throughout the city for
their corruption, low morale, and ineffectiveness.
Years of incompetent political appointments serving under
little or no supervision left these parts of the city administration
in an “every man or office for himself” condition. Mr. McCormick
did not seem to be fully aware of the depth of the problems in
these departments when he first took office. Yet he began meaningful reforms by engaging
in difficult legal battles with two former mayors and the city’s
volunteer fire department to bring them to a new level of honesty
his first year as mayor, McCormick was able to bring the city’s
fire department under control with the removal of volunteer members
who endangered the city’s citizens and property or embarrassed
the city by their behavior. In particular, the mayor clashed with the Paxton
Fire Company over control of the city’s fire stations and the
behavior of their volunteer members.
New department rules were established to prevent future
problems and to ensure fires were being fought properly.
conflict with two former mayors of Harrisburg and their method
of financial record keeping required the cooperation of Harrisburg’s
City Councils. This was a difficult and frustrating struggle
with a disappointing conclusion.
Ultimately the city was able to recover missing funds and
create an accountability structure to prevent similar problems. The struggles with the fire department and the
financial accountability of the mayor’s office are the focus of
McCormick’s goals in reforming the city of Harrisburg were similar
to those of the national progressive movement. The Populist movement that began in rural parts
of the Midwest in the 1890's
sought reforms to restore big government to being sensitive to
the needs of average people.
These reforms included the ballot initiative and referendum,
the secret ballot and the party primary.
The movement gained strength nominated William Jennings Bryan as its presidential
candidate in 1896. Bryan,
a Democrat, adopted the main Populist positions, yet lost the
presidential election to Republican William McKinley.
The free silver issue contributed heavily to Bryan’s failure,
and the Populist movement faded from view during the Spanish-American
after the war, the ideals and reforms of the Populists were incorporated
into a new Progressive spirit, and quickly absorbed by the major
political parties, leading to democratic reforms in many states.
The movement made it to Washington D.C. almost by accident
with the election of Theodore Roosevelt as vice-president in 1900,
and his rise to the presidency ten months later.
George E. Mowry described the progressive movement as a
great social reaction against the political corruption and apathy
of the late 1800's. In the course of fifteen years this movement
“attempted, with a certain amount of success, to change the whole
moral, economic, and political face of the country.”
progressive era began in cities in Iowa and Wisconsin where the
Populist party originally recruited its strength.
Its goals on the city level were to end political machine
rule and to clean up the problems associated with bossism, including
inefficient utilities and general corruption.
The movement also included the attempts to make cities
more enjoyable places to live. To do this, cities needed to slow crime rates, create parks and playgrounds, reduce
disease, and create more efficient social services. The work of people such as Jane Addams and the
photography of Jacob Riis served to heighten awareness of the
intolerable conditions many city dwellers faced.
Those working for such governmental reforms came to be
known as the “Goo goos” to their enemies.
Their enemies were often the political bosses of large
cities and their cronies, who resorted to all types of corruption
to keep themselves in power.
Harrisburg, the McCormick administration attempted to accomplish
progressive reforms. Mr.
McCormick was a supporter of Theodore Roosevelt, the “City Beautiful”
movement, and reforms in corrupt government. In his three years as mayor, Mr. McCormick began
public works projects to improve the cleanliness of the city and
reduce disease, including the organized paving of streets and
the construction of a water filtration plant to eliminate typhus.
The city expanded its park system so residents could enjoy
a bit of the country in the city.
The Harrisburg Traction Company and the Pennsylvania Railroad,
both of which provided rail service in the city, were more heavily
taxed and regulated to benefit the city’s citizens.
bossism and corruption in the city government were targets for
McCormick administration reform.
McCormick’s selection as a candidate and eventual victory
in the mayoral election demonstrated his willingness to take on
the Penrose Republican machine. Considerable effort was expended in restructuring
the city police force to reduce corruption.
The mayor’s office for some time had been loosely run,
allowing for officials as high as the chief of police and the
mayor to mishandle public funds for their personal gain.
The city’s fire department was brought under more strict
control, and the improper behavior was reduced.
In this way Vance McCormick brought progressive ideals
progressive movement expanded to the state level where it continued
to work for the elimination of machine politics.
There it also sought to improve the lot of women and children,
conserve natural resources, and prevent monopolies and trusts
from practicing abuses on the average citizen.
Arthur Link described the progressive movement as “essentially
a revolt of the middle classes--small businessmen and bankers,
prosperous farmers, editors, clergymen, and other professional
groups--against a state of affairs that seemed to guarantee perpetual
control to the privileged few who owned the wealth of the United
McCormick certainly did not come from the middle class. His family having been involved in business
affairs for decades placed him in a very solid financial position. This may have been a reason McCormick was an
attractive candidate for mayor.
Since he was wealthy he could not be bought as other men
possibly could. McCormick represented several of the city’s
elites in that he was connected to the business community through
his family’s companies. He
was involved in the news media in that he owned the Patriot-News
within a few months of his election.
He was a member of the Board of Public Works which spearheaded
the drive for new parks, street paving and water and sewer systems.
Finally, he was, as a member of the city’s Common Council,
already involved in the legislative branch of the city government.
While McCormick did not necessarily fit the traditional
mold of a progressive politician because of his privileged background,
he did have significant connections to groups involved in accomplishing
the progressive agenda of beautifying cities and reducing political
corruption. In this regard he was somewhat akin to Theodore
Roosevelt, who was wealthy yet connected to the progressive movement
through other associations.
difficulty with studying Mayor Vance McCormick’s first year in
office and any reforms he inaugurated lies with the structure
of city government. The Mayor had less control than the city’s legislative
branch over most political issues.
In the early 1900's Harrisburg operated under a strong
legislative branch with a weaker executive branch.
The legislature consisted of a twenty member Common Council
and a ten member Select Council elected from the city’s ten political
wards. These thirty men had the greatest responsibility
for passing legislation. The
mayor was primarily responsible to enact the will of Councils.
and Select Councils met biweekly through most of the year, debating
and passing legislation; they formed subcommittees to study problems
and recommend action to both councils.
Occasionally joint subcommittees handled particularly sensitive
issues such as the investigation into former mayors’ wrongdoings.
The primary responsibility for enacting city improvements
belonged to the legislature, not the Mayor.
mayor was responsible only for enacting the will of the council
and for the smooth operation of the city departments strictly
under his care. He could make suggestions to Councils, and could
provide information by which they could make informed decisions. But he could initiate no new major reforms,
even in his own offices, without the approval of both Common and
Select Councils. While
Mr. McCormick had the authority to carry out Councils’ wishes,
he exerted direct influence over only his own administrative offices.
For this reason, the focus of this paper is on the reforms
in the fire department and accounting procedures of the mayor’s
office, since Mayor McCormick had the greatest influence in theses
areas. Still, any permanent
reforms in these areas had to be approved by Councils.
important problem in studying the McCormick mayoralty is the lack
of official documentation from that time.
The Harrisburg City Archives holds information concerning
public improvements started during the early 1900's, but has few
documents that come specifically from the mayor outside of the
Annual Reports of the city. In addition, at the time I did my research on
this subject, the city archives was closed to the public in preparation
for the new Civil War museum to be constructed in the city. Vance McCormick’s personal papers were donated
to Yale University, but they begin two years after he left office. The Historical Society of Dauphin County owns
medals awarded to Mr. McCormick for his work on the Versailles
Peace Commission, and has a few documents written by others that
deal with his time in office, but none that were written by Mr.
McCormick while he was in office.
The only contemporary record of events of the McCormick
years as mayor is found in the city’s newspapers.
the early 1900s the Patriot News and the Harrisburg
Daily Telegraph represented the city’s Democratic and Republican
viewpoints respectively. They are not perfect records of the administration’s
operation, and they are not complete in their coverage of an issue
from beginning to end. All
issues of the papers are on microfilm photographed in the 1960s;
some are unreadable and others are damaged, making their use difficult. But most old issues of those two newspapers
are very useful and provide a sense of drama as the stories of
investigations, charges, countercharges, and defenses are played
out, often on a daily basis.
on occasion each newspaper had to retract a misstatement, or a
part of a story was missing due to editorial mistakes, they now
provide a continuous account of the action taken by Mr. McCormick
to correct abuses discovered in the administration of the city’s
fire department and the office of mayor. Their editorial articles give an indication
of the opinions Harrisburg’s newspapers
wanted the citizens to hold. Although
they are not perfect records of the influence Mr. McCormick had
on cleaning up corruption in Harrisburg while he was mayor, they
are the only records available at this time.
McCormick was born on June 19, 1872 in Silver Spring Township,
Dauphin County. He was
the second son of Colonel Henry McCormick and Annie Criswell McCormick,
and the grandson of James I. McCormick. Both James and Henry McCormick were instrumental
in founding and running some of Harrisburg’s most successful businesses,
including the Harrisburg Bridge Company, Central Iron and Steel,
and Dauphin Deposit Bank. Educated
in part at Harrisburg Academy, Vance McCormick left Pennsylvania
to attend Yale University where he first became registered with
the Democratic party. He earned All-American status as a football
quarterback, and was graduated in 1893.
to Harrisburg after college, McCormick began his political activities,
which resulted in his election to Common Council from the fourth
ward in 1900. Young Vance was not as interested in business
as were his father and grandfather; politics and journalism captured
more of his interest. The 1902 campaign for mayor, when McCormick
was only 29 years old, was an extension of his work on council
to improve the city. Dr.
Horace J. McFarland, noted Harrisburg physician and a leader of
the early 1900's reform movement in the city, was an ardent supporter
of McCormick. He stated
“the city was cleaned up morally and physically as fast as this
active young man could bring it about.”
1902 MAYORAL CAMPAIGN
1902 mayoral campaign began in January for the February 18th election. Vance McCormick, the Democratic candidate, ran
against Republican Dr. Samuel Hassler.
The issues on which the campaign was waged arose long before
the official stumping began. The
city of Harrisburg was in great need of improvements to its physical
appearance, and to this end, the Municipal League of Harrisburg
had been formed to raise interest and money for initiating
a series of public works that would improve not only the looks
of the city, but the health of its residents.
early on the city’s newspapers were involved in promoting city
improvements. From April
1901 through the election both the Harrisburg Telegraph and
the Patriot News used text and pictures to arouse interest
in how a new Harrisburg might look.
Editorial articles stressed the need to clean up the city,
both physically and ethically. News stories emphasized the improved conditions
in other cities of similar size and importance, and worked to
disprove the arguments of those who opposed them, dismissing them
as uninformed purveyors of fear.
1902 campaign for mayor of the city of Harrisburg was really a
campaign for the city’s physical improvements in water filtration,
sewer expansion, street paving, and park expansion.
It was a campaign more for improving the quality of life
in the city than for party or personality.
McCormick won the election, and was responsible for administering
the improvements made. While it took months and in some cases years
to begin the actual work on those physical improvements, the moral
improvements in the city’s administration and fire department
could begin right away, and they were brought to their conclusion,
whether satisfactory to the new mayor or not, within his first
year in office.
THE HARRISBURG FIRE DEPARTMENT
city fire department was a loosely organized group of volunteers
with inadequate equipment and a well known lack of discipline
when McCormick took over as mayor in 1902.
Members of the department saw themselves as volunteers
loyal to their own station rather than members of a city-wide
effort. While it was adequate
in fighting fires, the force was a laughing- stock in some quarters
of the city because of its lack of discipline and rowdy behavior of its members. The city did employ a fire chief and assistant
fire chief, but outside of those two positions all others were
volunteers. Throughout his tenure as mayor, Vance McCormick sought
to professionalize the department by convincing council to pay
a certain number of firefighters, eliminate stations, and update
equipment. But by the end of his term, Councils had made progress
toward updating the equipment and buildings, and a new code of
conduct had been put into effect, but they still made little motion
toward a fully paid department.
his plan for the department in his inauguration address, McCormick
praised the firefighters for their dedication and excellent service. He added that he was “fully convinced that the
time has now arrived that there should be a paid department. I recommend that your honorable bodies give
this matter your earnest and prompt attention.” The new mayor
noted that the cost of converting to a paid force would indeed
be expensive, but the benefits would outweigh the cost.
He believed morale and discipline were greatly in need
of improvement. Paying a smaller number of firefighters would
go a long way to correct those problems.
Closing some stations and redistributing the crews to other
parts of the city would make firefighting much more effective.
fire stations existed in the city in 1902, but they were not equally
distributed to provide good coverage for all neighborhoods. McCormick’s plan was to close some stations
housed in inadequate buildings or located too close to other stations. This led to conflict with those who served in
the doomed stations. Other
areas of the city, in particular the Allison Hill section, did
not have a neighborhood station for its protection.
But the improvement in the behavior of fire fighters was
the most important issue to the new mayor immediately after he
WITH THE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
The problem of discipline on the force became
apparent in the opening week of the McCormick
five days after his inauguration the mayor laid down the law to
two firemen arrested for drunkenness on the job.
“I want the firemen to understand that the misuse of the
engine houses and drunkenness on the premises of fire companies
has to stop.” He stated that he did not want off duty firemen
loafing about firehouses causing disruptions to the neighborhoods. He called on all station leaders to enforce
stricter discipline in their fire houses.
Punishment for the accused, who did not attempt to defend
themselves, was severe. Frederick
Simons and Samuel Collins of the Good Will Fire Company both received
jail time. Two firemen from the Paxton Company fire house
were arrested on similar charges the same day. Both were sentenced to jail as well, but were
bailed out by friends.
this incident a reporter from the Harrisburg Telegraph
questioned the mayor about exactly what he meant when he gave
orders to stop loafing about the firehouses.
McCormick replied that in no way did he mean that firefighters
should only be at the fire house when on duty.
He wanted them to be there so they could respond to fires
quickly. The problem was
when they were drunk. “No one objects to members staying about
the engine and hose houses...but there has been too much loafing
and drinking and the members should see to it that it is broken
up.” Members of some companies felt they should resign
en masse to protest the mayor’s actions, but the response to the
questions asked by the Telegraph reporter relaxed the firefighters’
fears for the time.
issue of drunkenness in the fire department worsened later in
April when two Paxton Company volunteers were relieved of their
duties by Chief Engineer George Lutz.
John Stucker and Thomas Mannum, a fireman and driver, respectively,
were both found at the Paxton Company Station in an intoxicated
condition. When called
before the mayor, Mr. McCormick fined them and sentenced them
to prison. He further directed
Chief Lutz to ask the Paxton Company to expel the pair from membership,
or face the closing of the station and removal of all equipment. Rather than expel the members, the Paxton Company
officers, the mayor, and the chief engineer agreed to meet and
discuss the issue and attempt to reach a negotiated settlement.
meeting was held on the morning of May 3, 1902, but no agreement
was reached. The Mayor
insisted that driver Thomas Mannum be discharged, since drunkenness
on the force had to be stopped.
The company insisted Mannum should be given a second trial,
since he was an accomplished horseman and the company would be
inconvenienced without him. No
agreement was reached. After
the meeting, the Paxton officers decided that on previous incidents
of a similar nature, the mayor had gone to councils for a dismissal. The company decided it should test the limits
of the mayor’s powers over the fire department either by conferring
with council or by going to court.
Mayor further explained his refusal to concede the next day by
stating that Mannum was already on trial at the time of his arrest
for a previous drunkenness problem, and had sworn off drink.
At that time the Mayor had threatened him with dismissal
if found drunk again. McCormick
felt that “leniency at this time would be misplaced and ruin the
discipline of both police force and fire department,” since members
of both were under the same threat.
Paxton Company refused to discharge Mannum, and the mayor closed
the station and confiscated all equipment as promised.
Under the mayor’s orders, Chief Lutz had the city-owned
equipment removed from the Paxton Company and taken to the Friendship
Company, where a crowd had assembled to see the excitement. Lutz
found all the doors bound with locks his key could not open. The
equipment was then taken to a private stable for storage.
The mayor made no mention of permanently closing the Paxton.
The Harrisburg Telegraph supported the mayor’s actions
in an editorial on May 6, 1902: “Drinking at the engine houses
has been entirely too common and the citizens generally will commend
any and all efforts made to stop this practice.”
explained his actions in the Telegraph that day. He declared he had been in favor of reforming
the fire department since before taking office.
McCormick added that for several years he had been observing
the behavior of firemen outside their stations.
Complaints of drinking, vulgar and profane language, and
disgraceful conduct on the sidewalks have been continuous.
While in office he determined to clean up the image of
the fire department so that neighbors of the stations no longer
would be forced off their front porches or behind closed windows
by the behavior of fire fighters.
He would see to it that only sober men were in charge of
stations and that discipline was enforced. Some firefighters suggested all volunteers should
stage a city-wide insubordination to strike back at the mayor.
May 9th a city-wide volunteer fire department meeting was held
to discuss how the stations would respond to the entire situation. At that meeting it became apparent that the
city’s stations were united behind the Paxton.
The announced purpose of the meeting, which was to be attended
by three members of each station, was to propose to Councils new
rules to govern the fire houses.
But only three stations sent delegates with authority to
act. Three others did not
name delegations at all, and the remaining two stations sent delegates
with the stipulation that they not bind their companies to any
action. The companies which did appoint delegates decided
on no specific strategy other than to wait until the Dauphin County
Courts decided upon the injunction brought against the city by
the Paxton Company. After the courts’ decision was made, the stations
would jointly propose a new set of department rules to Councils.
action filed against the city in court demanded an explanation
of the authority by which the city had confiscated the apparatus
from the Paxton. Attorneys Hargest and Hargest, who represented
the Paxton, believed the city had no right to take equipment belonging
to an independent volunteer organization, and sought an injunction
against the mayor and the fire chief to restore the equipment. A hearing date for the injunction was set for
McCormick presented to Councils his side of the case in writing
on May 12th so the members would be officially apprised of the
situation. McCormick began his recitation of facts by stating
“The conduct of certain members of some of the fire companies
of this city has become such that the city’s property has become
endangered, and the peace of the community disturbed, to such
an extent that decent minded citizens have become thoroughly disgusted
with existing conditions.” He related the story of the drunken behavior
of several members of the Paxton company, detailing the actions
he took to secure the city’s equipment and the closing of the
Simonton and Weiss of Dauphin County heard the arguments concerning
the injunction against the removal of the apparatus by the mayor
on Friday, May 15. At that
time Hargest and Hargest argued for the Paxton that the equipment
removed from the company was paid for at least in part by the
company itself, thus the city had no right to remove it.
The City Solicitor, Mr. Daniel S. Seitz, countered that
the equipment removed had been paid for by city funds, and therefore
the city had the right to control its use. The city had the duty to protect its firefighting
equipment and the property of the general public from drunken
firemen. Ironically, before
the hearing was over a fire alarm sounded outside, and the mayor
and chief engineer both rushed out of the courtroom.
The members of the Paxton who were present stayed.
witnesses were called to testify for each side, including Mayor
McCormick, who stated again his intention to clean up the behavior
of firefighters while they were on duty.
Several policemen and city authorities stated they had
witnessed beer being carried into the firehouse or had received
complaints about the conduct of firemen. They also testified about how they had seen
Mannum drunk at the scene of a fire.
After a total of approximately one hour’s testimony the
defense rested its case, and after some clarifications of testimony
were made, the hearing was ended. Three weeks later the city filed their answers
to the Paxton company’s bill of complaint, and argument was set
for June 17th, but was later postponed for one week.
actual case between the city and the Paxton Fire Company was argued
on June 24, 1902. Hargest
and Hargest argued for the company that there had never been any
ordinance passed by city council that authorized the creation
of a fire department. Therefore
the mayor’s removal of a member of an independent and volunteer
force was irrelevant. The
man could not be fired if he was not under the mayor’s jurisdiction. The Paxton Fire Company did admit that the city
and state governments granted it money and equipment to fight
fires, but that this grant was not legally required.
Therefore it was not actually a grant, but a gift, and
whatever the money was spent on was property of the company. Any equipment stationed at the Paxton fire
building was not the property of the city, but the property of
the station and its volunteers.
The only connection between the Paxton and the city was
that the fire chief and assistant chief were city employees, and
city procedures were used at the scene of a fire.
for the city were attorneys Snodgrass, Gilbert, and Solicitor
Seitz. They contended that because the city paid for
fire equipment, it was the duty of the mayor’s office to see that
equipment was used properly and safely, and drunk firemen could
not fulfill that duty. Therefore the mayor had the obligation to end
the threat of intoxicated firemen attempting to drive or operate
dangerous equipment in an emergency situation.
Distributing fire fighting apparatus to stations was the
duty of the mayor’s office, and that office could reassign equipment
as it saw fit since the city had purchased that equipment.
If the opposition’s claim was accepted that the station
could do as it pleased with apparatus purchased by the city, then
any piece of city property in the hands of non-employees might
be left to rot while the city stood helplessly by.
The claim that the Paxton men owned the equipment was ridiculous.
following day the city responded in court to the claims of the
Paxton Company by producing the city ordinance creating a fire
department. In 1881 Mayor John C. Herman signed a bill that
had been passed by both Councils adopting all existing volunteer
fire companies into a city-wide department, and provided that
all companies “organized, reorganized, or recognized should form
the fire department under the superintendency of an officer to
be known as the chief engineer.”
decision was made by Dauphin County courts until late in the year. Meanwhile, conversations between the Mayor and
the Paxton did not entirely cease.
The company was anxious to return to service, and to receive
its yearly appropriation from the city to pay bills incurred during
the suspension. Driver Mannum, around whom much of the controversy
swirled, kept the horses in shape during their long layoff, and
had impressed the Mayor so much in several face to face meetings
that McCormick agreed Mannum could be retained.
than a week after this news was reported, the Mayor’s office asked
that the case against the Paxton be reopened because more evidence
had been found which could help the court reach its decision equitably. The Paxton responded that any new evidence should
not be admitted; the Mayor’s office had plenty of time to present
all relevant information the previous April.
late November the Paxton elected new officers and undertook a
practical reorganization. The
new leadership also agreed to reopen talks with the Mayor to bring
about a resolution to the company’s problems.
While the Mayor was convinced that Driver Mannum would
no longer be a problem, he insisted that Mannum resign with the
understanding that he could be rehired later. Once the new officers were installed and the
members who caused the difficulty in the first place had resigned,
the Mayor would consider returning the station’s apparatus before
Christmas. This was acceptable to the new leadership, although
they were hoping for a faster resolution to the problem. Both sides compromised and agreed that no action
of any sort would be taken until the court finally issued its
decision was handed down on Wednesday, December 10, 1902. After more than seven months, Judge Simonton
sided with the Mayor in his seizure of fire apparatus from the
Paxton company. He ruled
that the city was the rightful owner of the equipment, there having
been no evidence that the engine was ever given to the company
as a gift. For lack of
discipline, the Mayor was entitled to do as he saw fit to protect
the city’s investment in fire fighting equipment, and was permitted
to reassign that equipment. The Paxton did not see the case as a total loss
for their side, because Simonton’s opinion did state that the
case should really have been decided by the Harrisburg City Councils. Dauphin County’s courts could not effectively
make a binding decision in the case since Councils controlled
the company more directly. Paxton
decided to take its case to Councils for a decision on the return
of their apparatus.
company believed that Councils would return their apparatus quickly. In light of the court’s decision concerning
the removal of the equipment, the Paxton leadership met with Hargest
and Hargest and drew up resolutions by which councils would require
the mayor to return their equipment and pay the yearly requisition
due them. On December 16th the company unanimously approved
the completed requests for Councils, and took action to expel
two more of its members for poor behavior.
the nine month saga appeared to be nearing its resolution in December
1902, an event occurred that threatened to destroy all progress.
On December 13th, two intoxicated members of the Paxton broke
into the Friendship Engine House where the Paxton apparatus was
being stored. They stole two pieces of equipment off the Paxton
fire engine, claiming they needed it for business purposes. Later the stolen equipment was found in the
home of one of the accused. Officers
of the Paxton station immediately sent a letter to the Mayor informing
him of this new discipline problem.
The letter stated the station would help the Mayor
mete out punishment.
December 23, the Paxton Company held a special disciplinary meeting
to take action against these latest miscreants, and to address
the problem of its members who had caused all the trouble in
the first place. The original
two drunks, Levi First and John Stucker, were expelled from the
membership. Thomas Mannum, the driver whom McCormick had
ordered expelled in May, was accused of further drunkenness since
the removal of the Paxton’s apparatus.
Mannum resigned permanently from the organization even
though McCormick had relented on his firing.
A new driver was hired.
His action, along with the expulsion of First and Stucker,
brought the company into compliance with the Mayor’s original
terms for reinstatement of the company and the return of their
equipment. The company
voted to notify the Mayor of the developments, and ask for their
December 30th Telegraph noted in one brief sentence the
return of the company to service, “The Paxton Fire Company No.
6 reinstated into active service in the department only after
bowing to the demands of Mayor Vance C. McCormick that had been
imposed on them in May.” After informing the Mayor of the impending expulsion
of several members for drunkenness and the resignation of Driver
Mannus, McCormick responded by giving the company permission to
reclaim its apparatus from the Friendship Company.
Chief Lutz was directed to return the engine, and after
completing a thorough test, declared it fit for use.
About four in the afternoon,
December 31st, in front of a large crowd, the engine arrived
back at the Paxton, and the controversy ended, the company having
given in to the Mayor’s original demands.
IN THE RULES OF THE HARRISBURG FIRE DEPARTMENT
gave their input into the Paxton situation on December 20. In an attempt to prevent a repeat of the problem,
they directed the chief engineer to draw up a new set of rules
for the department. On
February 9th, 1903, Chief Engineer George Lutz submitted his new
rules to councils, making some major changes to the function of
the fire department.
new rules included structural changes in the department as well
as behavioral changes by members of the force.
The Chief Engineer was given total control over equipment
owned by the city and in possession of the various houses.
His responsibilities included making recommendations to
Councils concerning the fire house buildings and the purchase
of new equipment or the disposal of old.
He was placed in charge of all tests of the equipment and
enforcing the rules of the department.
company foreman position was established for each fire house. The foreman’s
responsibilities were to control his company and to keep
all equipment clean and functioning.
He was to report any malfunctions directly to the chief
or assistant chief. Each company engineer was responsible to keep
the engines in good repair and operate them sensibly at fire scenes. Drivers were given instructions on how to drive
sensibly, not racing other apparatus to fires and returning to
their respective stations in such a way as to not cause danger.
were established for conduct at fire scenes.
Rules dictated how fire hose was to be run, how companies
must cooperate with each other in loaning equipment and returning
it to its owners, and who was responsible for maintaining equipment.
Protocol was set for chain of command at fire scenes. Punishments for disobeying these rules were
established. A final section
of the new rules strictly prohibited liquor from being brought
to any engine house and members from appearing at fire houses
in an intoxicated condition. Punishments for individual offenders and for
stations involved in breaking the rules were set forth. The Telegraph found the rules to make
so much sense that it was a wonder that such policies had not
been enacted years before.
the new rules could not prevent all controversies, as shown only
a few days later. On a
cold, fourteen degree Tuesday in February 1903, a small fire broke
out on Grand Street, and two stations were called to the scene.
The firemen arrived with their hose wagons pulled by four
horses instead of the normal two. They had no horses left to haul the fire engine,
so it was left behind. Fortunately
the fire was easily contained, and no great damage was suffered.
new order came out of the chief engineer’s office the next day. All fire stations were to show up at emergencies
fully prepared to fight fires, and not spend precious time and
manpower returning to the station to collect equipment left behind. The firemen countered that they had double teamed
the hoses to get the hoses to the scene more quickly through the
blizzard-like snow that had fallen the day before.
They would have returned to the station to collect the
engine if they thought it was necessary.
Since the fire was small and the engine was not needed,
no one took the horses back to the station to collect the engine.
Expressing surprise at the new order, the firefighters
declared they would obey the order; they would not fight it. They agreed that what the chief declared should
be done, they were just surprised that Lutz would issue such a
statement concerning what they believed was a good decision in
light of the weather conditions. This minor conflict with the fire department
shows that the firefighters’ attitude toward the city administration
had changed from conflict to cooperation.
IN THE OFFICE OF MAYOR
of the most difficult issues uncovered by the McCormick administration
was the allegations of wrongdoing by the previous two mayors,
Dr. Fritchey and Dr. Patterson.
As early as September 1902 it was rumored around city hall
that Fritchey’s record keeping was not in proper order.
The amount of fees collected by the Fritchey administration
and turned in to the city treasury was quite small when compared
to the statistics of the McCormick administration.
Telegraph questioned Mayor McCormick about the rumored
investigation on September 11, 1902, asking “Is there any truth
in the report that you have threatened to prosecute ex-mayor Fritchey
unless he pay to the city government money alleged to be collected
in fines and not yet paid over to the city?” McCormick responded “There is no truth whatever
to it. I have made no proposition
to Dr. Fritchey.” He went
on to add that if ever such an investigation was to take place,
it would be announced by the proper city officials.
McCormick did note that his friends had many times brought
to his attention the differences in the fees his administration
had generated for the city compared to those of the Fritchey administration.
the denials at that time, McCormick’s office was preparing a report
on apparent irregularities which was presented to Councils’ Finance
Committee just over one month later. On October 16, 1902, Mayor McCormick sent a
brief message to Councils that he would present a communication
on that subject. When he
did so, a subcommittee with full powers to investigate was arranged,
and preparations for a lengthy and thorough investigation began.
Both Fritchey and Patterson remained tight-lipped despite
what the Patriot was calling a “political volcano.”
Finance Committee was composed of Select members Craiglow, Sterner,
Umberger and Walter, as well as Common members Thompson, Pass,
Brubaker, Kreidler, Jennings, Roberts, and Peters. The investigating
subcommittee consisted of Councilmen Umberger of Select, and
Pass and Brubaker of Common.
At the request of both Fritchey and Patterson, the subcommittee
decided that all meetings should be held publicly.
The subcommittee first met on October 22, 1902, but at
that point had little work to do other than establish rules and
procedures, having received no specific charges or allegations
from the mayor’s office.
On Friday, October 31, 1902, Mayor McCormick
sent a long letter to the investigation subcommittee detailing
the misuse of city money. It
was a bombshell in the city. The mayor’s statement to council, dated October
29, 1902, outlined four
specific charges which according to McCormick “[showed] the misuse
of public money and the violation of the law in the administration
of the Mayor’s Department and in the conduct of the Police Force
of this city.
The first charge stated that the county reported
paying Mayor Fritchey’s office $4,606.60 for costs arising out
of criminal cases emanating from the county.
The Harrisburg City Controller
showed in that same period, the mayor’s office had paid
into the city treasury a total of $4,785.34 for all fines and
costs collected. Thus Mayor Fritchey had paid into the city treasury
in three years only $178.74 more in fines and costs than he had
been paid by the county office.
In other words, under two hundred dollars had been collected
from all “fines, fees, costs, licenses, and other money which
he was required to collect and for which he was accountable to
the city of Harrisburg.” In
addition, an examination of city records, supported by the testimony
of witnesses showed that an additional $1,282.41 was paid into
the mayor’s office for fines, fees, and licenses, but never relinquished
to the city treasury.
a partial examination of records of Mayor Patterson’s most recent
tenure in office from April 1896 through the beginning of April
1899 showed that $718.17 more was collected than was turned over
to the city’s treasury. This amount did not include costs collected
for service of subpoenas and criminal processes. This, McCormick believed, warranted an investigation
by councils to discover if any money was missing.
third item included state laws which allegedly had been violated
by city policemen collecting fees for serving subpoenas and being
paid a small amount of money for their efforts.
The charge contained lengthy quotes from Pennsylvania state
laws showing how money collected by mayors was to be handled,
and what compensation policemen were entitled to for serving of
subpoenas and other paperwork. Pennsylvania’s state law P.L. 277, Section
2, passed June 8th 1874, required that “All fees and costs pertaining
to the office of Mayor in the several cities of this State shall,
after this Act goes into effect, be paid into the City Treasury.”
Also, according to P.L. 208, Article VII, Section 3, the
mayor of a city was required to charge for services and should
pay over “the same into the City Treasury, monthly, according
to a statement thereof verified by oath or affirmation before
the Comptroller and file it with him.” P.L. 299 of May 1889 allowed policemen to serve
as agents of the city to serve legal papers and collect fees for
doing so. Those fees were
to be returned to the mayor’s office and paid monthly to the city
treasury. Lastly, P.L.1897 was cited which required policemen
be paid a salary and prohibited them from keeping any additional
money collected for any service rendered. The point of presenting
documentation of the law was to demonstrate that all four had
been violated by Mayor Fritchey’s administration, even though
he had been warned about it by the City Controller’s office.
Finally, McCormick charged that officials of
the city had required fees to be paid of “traveling showmen, proprietors
of lunch wagons, flying horses, and exhibitors of wares and amusements”
for the consideration of allowing them to display their business
in public. No record was kept of such fees collected, and
no money for such items was ever surrendered to the treasury although
it was clear that those collecting the fees were officials of
the city. This charge included the assertion that no state
legislation allowed a city to collect such fees in the first place. Any city official who indicated to vendors that
the city could sell its permission to conduct business may have
been doing so illegally.
McCormick concluded his message to Councils by stating that every
citizen of Harrisburg, the Councils, and the mayor’s office were
entitled to a full investigation of such charges and an accounting
of where the money that should have been returned to the city
treasury had gone. The need for such an investigation was self
evident. Since the mayor’s
office had no legal standing to conduct such an exhaustive investigation,
Councils would be the correct body to do so, and that investigation
should begin quickly.
as a footnote, a fifth allegation was made.
This indicated that there was reason to believe the city
employed “a regular system by which gambling houses, houses of
ill-fame, speakeasies and crooks have not only been permitted
to carry on their illicit occupations, but have actually been
support these claims City Solicitor Seitz offered reports from
the county auditors and the city controller, showing the amounts
paid to the mayor’s office by Dauphin County and the total amount
of money paid from the mayor to the city.
With a difference of only $178.74 paid to the treasury,
the mayor had paid more than he had received.
But that amount of difference was to have covered all fines
and fees collected by the city over and beyond payments made from
Charles Bergner, attorney for Dr. Fritchey, responded that McCormick’s
figures were out of order because of certain city policies. The fees the solicitor alleged should have been
surrendered were the nothing more than the fines levied by the
city. They were not evidence that payment was actually
made. City Solicitor Seitz
countered that when the city imposed a fine it was only reasonable
to assume that in the normal course of business that fine would
be collected if the man was discharged.
But Bergner argued prisoners were often discharged without
payment in certain circumstances. If poor persons could not pay their fines, they
were assigned jail time instead.
Often the cost of incarceration was greater to the city
than setting the person free and dismissing the fine. The city saved money by fining a person but
never collecting. Over
Bergner’s objections, Seitz was allowed by Committee Chairman
Umberger to enter the receipts “for what it may show,”
for the subcommittee’s investigation.
Seitz next called witnesses to show that the county had paid Mayor
Fritchey’s office for serving subpoenas, but some of that
money had never been paid over to the city. Constable Harry
Emanuel testified that he had been directed by Fritchey to serve
subpoenas for the county. The
county paid him for each delivery; he pocketed a small amount
as payment for his services and turned the rest in to the city.
After further questioning by Seitz, Emanuel claimed the
money he had paid to the city went directly to Chief of Police
Kautz. Emanuel claimed he could have taken more money for himself
if he and Chief Kautz had a formal arrangement to do so; delivering
these subpoenas was more of a personal favor to Kautz done in
return for previous favors, so he only kept a small amount.
Morgan was also called to testify that he had returned fees from
subpoenas to Police Chief Kautz. As a detective on the police
force, Morgan had in 1899 served subpoenas for the county on cases
arising from the city of Harrisburg.
Morgan had served the subpoenas, marked them as served,
and turned the fees over to Chief Kautz, keeping none for himself. He stated he did not know where the fees went
after turning them in. A third man with similar experiences of serving
subpoenas and returning fees was examined. Police Detective Morrisey also claimed to have
kept no fees for himself, turning them all in to Chief Kautz. After that he had no knowledge of what happened
to the money.
Bergner, defending the
former mayor, interrupted at this point to ask for clarification
on the direction of all this testimony, which was in his view
repetitive and going nowhere. Solicitor Seitz responded that he intended to
show how a large number subpoenas were served by members of the
city police force during the terms of Mayor Fritchey, and that
the fees paid for such service had been made by people with no
connection whatsoever to the city government.
This was done so the money paid by the county to the city
could be split between the deliverers and the Chief of Police,
in violation of state law requiring all such money to be placed
in the city treasury.
tried to have all testimony about these collections declared irrelevant
because he knew of no law that required such fees belong to the
city. In his opinion any fees paid were the property
of the collector, not the city; therefore, who served the subpoenas
was irrelevant unless it could be definitely established that
such a law existed, and if corroborating testimony on each instance
could be found there might be some relevance to such testimony
against the Police Chief.
some discussion with attorneys for both sides, the subcommittee
determined to hear the remaining testimony,
in case it might be relevant, and to complete a study of
the law later. If the law was found to require payment of subpoena
fees into the city treasury, then the testimony would be accepted.
If no such law was found, then the testimony would be discarded
with only a loss of time in the exercise. Subcommittee Chairman Snodgrass reminded his
colleagues that the mere existence of a law was not the only question
to be decided. If the law
did exist, it would only raise more questions about a grave offence
against the city by a high city official.
this interruption, Patrolman
Michael Casey and Sergeant J. E. Worden were called and examined
along the same lines. Their
testimony was much the same as the others in that they had served
subpoenas but had not turned in all fees to the city.
The Committee then adjourned its first formal meeting.
following Thursday, November 6, 1902,
the subcommittee met again to continue the hearings about
the subpoenas. As on the
previous Friday, the city was represented before the subcommittee
by City Solicitor Seitz and two former Deputy Attorney Generals,
Snodgrass and Gilbert. Dr. Fritchey was defended by Attorney Bergner.
New to the defense teams were Attorney Detweiler and Representative
George Kunkel for ex-mayor Patterson; Senator Fox, also new,
represented the interests of former Chief of Police Kautz.
City Patrolmen Lescure, Rodgers, Thompson, Keefer, Bowman,
Fleck, and Keller all testified that they had served subpoenas
for the county government on witnesses for city criminal cases
but had not personally collected any fees. Each of them had signed the returns over to
Chief Kautz. Many of these
men had only distant recollections of how many subpoenas they
may have served, or how much money may have been collected.
They had all signed for returns and turned the money over
to Kautz. One witness, county Detective James T. Walters,
was asked if he thought it funny that the Chief of Police asked
him to collect money that belonged to the city instead of doing
it himself. Walters could not remember what he thought,
only that he was doing the Chief a favor. This concluded the testimony about the subpoenas.
Seitz then changed the topic to examine the payment of licenses
into the city treasury. He
called to the stand Mrs. Cyrus Palm who had run a flying horse
amusement in the city. Seitz questioned her as to why she had paid
the license; she responded that she knew she had to pay one, so
she went to the city to find out when and where.
She was told to arrive at the mayor’s office around nine
o’clock one evening and pay by check.
She did so, paying $25 by check made out to Mayor John
A. Fritchey and signed by Mrs. Palm and her husband.
The check was deposited at Dauphin Deposit Bank. This testimony was intended to show the former
Mayor kept this particular license fee for himself, although no
evidence was presented to show the money had not been properly
Warden, who had testified about subpoena fees at the previous
hearing, was recalled to talk about fines collected by the city. He indicated that he had arrested six men one
late evening in June and that they were brought in on charges
of disorderly conduct. The
six were given a hearing and fined $4 a piece, which each paid
immediately. Thus police Lieutenant Forbes collected $24
dollars from the six men, and all were released, but no record
of the fines appeared in the court docket for that evening.
Warden could not state what happened to the $24 after Forbes
collected it, only that no record of the case appeared in city
by a grocer named S. S. Pomeroy was not allowed as evidence. Pomeroy’s situation showed that he had been
robbed of between $400 and $600 in December, 1901, by a group of boys. The boys were arrested and met with Mr. Pomeroy
in the Mayor’s office, where a deal was reached by which the boys
repaid the money to Pomeroy. Solicitor
Seitz questioned what Pomeroy had to pay to the Mayor’s office
for working out the settlement, but attorneys Bergner and Fox
objected that the payments were irrelevant since the only money
involved was all Pomeroy’s money to begin with.
No payment was due the Mayor’s office, and no evidence
existed indicating that any had been received. Committee chairman Umberger then threw out Pomeroy’s
next meeting of the committee was held on Thursday the 13th. At this time more evidence was presented showing
the Mayor’s office had not kept proper accounting of money received
for sales of licenses. T.
J. Weeks testified that he had paid to run a lunch wagon in the
city on several occasions, totaling $290 for rights to sell in
Market Square. Charles Moss of Germantown testified that he
paid $1 per day, or a total of $156 to Chief Kautz or the Mayor’s
clerk for the right to sell candy in the city.
Sergeant O’Donnell explained how he had required numerous
street salesmen to apply for licenses in the Mayor’s office. Attorneys for both Fritchey and Kautz objected
to this testimony, stating that it was irrelevant because the
city had no right to collect such fees--they were the personal
property of those who collected it.
Therefore it was beyond the scope of the committee to investigate
Carpenter testified that he had been arrested a number of times
during the Fritchey administration.
In one instance he was arrested in his home for running
an nonlicensed speakeasy, which was forbidden by city ordinance.
On that occasion he paid $7 directly to Chief Kautz and
was released. Again Bergner objected to this testimony because
it went beyond the committee’s commission to investigate. His objection was overruled and admitted to
the evidence with objections.
others testified about their arrests and payments of fines. Included in this number were Sallie Levan, William
Hoffman, and Michael Capin, who was denied a receipt when he asked.
Inkum Jones stated that he had been arrested so many times
he couldn’t remember the total. At one point he was being arrested “three or
four times every week.” This made him confused as to what happened
each time he was taken to the Mayor’s office, but he did recall
having to pay $2.50 to Chief Kautz for his release.
None of the incidents testified to appeared in the records
of the mayor’s office.
the subcommittee next assembled in the chambers of Select Council
on Monday, November 24, 1902, the Telegraph proclaimed
the end of the investigation was in sight.
On this occasion, witnesses continued to testify how they
paid the Chief of Police for their release.
The difference between this hearing and previous ones was
that the sums of money paid were much greater.
Joseph Stepney of Lancaster paid one hundred dollars for
his release. Harry Weaver
had paid over fifty dollars, most of which was paid so the prosecutors
would drop their case. The
rest went to the Mayor’s office for costs and expenses.
prosecution was unable to show conclusively who the money was
paid to each in each instance, which the defense was sure to make
note of. The Telegraph summarized the night’s
hearing by holding “that the evidence tends to show that there
was carelessness in the manner of conducting the business of the
Mayor’s office during the Fritchey administration; that money
was collected by city officials; that money was collected by city
officials illegally and legally of which no record exists and
which was not turned into the city treasury, but evidence has
not been submitted to prove that the ex-Mayor received any money
that should have been turned over to the city.”
December 1, the committee met to work on allegations against the
Patterson administration. He also was charged with keeping money
that should have been surrendered to the city for himself.
In the absence of Solicitor Seitz, Lyman D. Gilbert argued
for the city. He used records of the county commissioners
and the city treasury to indicate that during the 1896 through
1899 term of Mayor Patterson, a shortage of $676.67 existed between
the amount of money that should have been delivered to the city
and the total of what actually was. If the committee desired, the mayor’s office
could deliver documentary and testimonial evidence to demonstrate
this. Committee chairman Umberger declared the committee
wished to have it all.
city concluded its presentation of evidence to the subcommittee
on December 3, 1902. On
that evening, six more men testified that they had paid fines
at the mayor’s office for which there was no record.
One witness called did not appear; Seitz introduced his
affidavit as evidence. Finally,
City Controller Gough testified that only once had he received
statements of fines and costs collected, and that was at the request
of the Controller’s office.
fireworks erupted as Seitz attempted to read into the record statements
from several other witnesses who were not present.
This testimony was to be substantially the same as before;
people had paid fines for which no record existed in the ex-mayor’s
books. Mr. Bergner objected to the public reading of
these items since they were not sworn statements. Bergner had no objection to the reading of sworn
statements, but since these were not sworn he felt they might
unfairly prejudice the mind of the public because there would
be no opportunity to cross-examine absent witnesses.
continued by announcing to the committee that he would proceed
to show the methods of bookkeeping, and the shortcomings in the
business conduct of the Fritchey office.
He also informed the committee that he intended to show
that the original police blotter had been burned in the furnace
of the mayor’s office by Clerk Shaner, who was since deceased.
At this point both Bergner and Fox objected, repeating
that the jurisdiction of the subcommittee as established by the
mayor was to investigate the charges of missing funds and no more.
The committee could not be engaged in what had happened
to records from the mayor’s office.
Solicitor argued that the methods of bookkeeping must be admitted,
since they were the very foundation of the case against Dr. Fritchey. The charges brought before the committee were
based on poor bookkeeping, and must be allowed for council to
be fully informed. After
some discussion, the committee voted two to one not to accept
this further testimony, Mr. Umberger voting in favor of acceptance.
a brief discussion with his colleagues Gilbert and Snodgrass,
Seitz offered to produce a witness who could testify as to the
destruction of the mayor’s blotter by Clerk Shaner.
The committee agreed to hear this information, and Patrolman
Wholforth explained how Mr. Shaner had told him of the destruction
of the records only two weeks prior to Mayor McCormick’s inauguration.
for the city then asked if the committee would hear its testimony
concerning the protection of houses of ill repute by the city
police force, but the committee declined since it had only been
authorized to hear charges of nonreturned fees.
The committee then declared the public portion of the proceedings
to be at an end. Any further investigation would be done in private
days later Mayor McCormick sent another communication to Councils
asking for further investigation into the allegations of blackmail
by the police department. In
this letter McCormick informed Councils that the allegations in
his former communications concerning the shortages of funds had
been proven through further investigation by his office.
He requested that if it was true that funds collected by
the service of subpoenas was not required to be turned in to the
city treasury by state law, then Councils should quickly enact
legislation to ensure that it was.
Finally, the new Mayor asked that his office’s allegations
of blackmail by the Police Department concerning licenses and
franchises be looked into by the Finance Committee or its already
established subcommittee. A full and thorough investigation was warranted
of these serious charges.
the Police Committee, to whom the communication was sent, was
not receptive to the Mayor’s call for further investigations.
A meeting was called on Monday, December 15, to read the
Mayor’s latest communication and decide what action if any to
take. The clerk read the letter to the committee,
and related that earlier in the day Select Council had referred
the letter to the Police Committee to conduct a full investigation. Common Council had simply referred the letter
to the committee. The clerk
also informed the Committee that a resolution had been passed
asking the city solicitor “to frame such laws as will collect
such existing defects in the police regulations of the city.”
the communication was read, Police Committee Chairman Fosse asked
the pleasure of his committee with reference to the matter at
hand. There was no response. No committee member wanted to make a motion
that a subcommittee be formed to conduct the necessary business,
possibly because any member who did so would undoubtedly be made
the chair of such a subcommittee.
After an uncomfortable silence, Mr. Craiglow moved that
the city solicitor be instructed to draw up new regulations for
the police department. This
motion was seconded and passed.
five minutes of silence passed without further action. Finally Mr. Brubaker made a motion that further
action by the committee be postponed until such time as the Solicitor
submit his report to Councils.
There was another period of silence before Mr. Craiglow
seconded the motion, and it was passed unanimously.
Foose had been assigned to look in to the allegations that “the
last administration provided protection to gambling houses, speakeasies,
houses of ill fame, and crooks.” Unfortunately, the committee never met to discharge
its duty. On several occasions
a meeting of the Police Committee was called to assemble, but
a quorum of members was never present.
Patriot criticized Foose for not doing anything that indicated
he seriously meant to conduct an investigation, nor even making
a “manly” attempt to raise a quorum at committee meetings.
Committee members Calder, Craiglow, Hoover, Moody, Shertzer
of Select Council and Birch, Brubaker, Fry, Kreidler, Roberts
and Slentz of Common Council were putting the city in danger of
losing respect in the eyes of the citizens for its lack of action.
Patriot also chastised the public for its apparent lack
of interest in the matter. A
full page was devoted to a story entitled “The Shame of Minneapolis,”
in which similar accusations were charged against the government
of that city. Like Harrisburg,
the crimes of the leaders were largely ignored by the citizenry
until a grand jury handed down its first indictment. Then the passions of the populace were aroused,
and reforms began to take place.
newspaper insisted this should not be the case in Harrisburg. Similar accusations were being charged against
its former leaders, and some of the current leaders were dragging
their heels in doing anything about it.
This would soon turn the city into a laughingstock among
other similar cities, and would encourage future generations of
leaders to engage in similar corruption.
Once city councils began an investigation, the Patriot
predicted, apathy on the part of the citizens would disappear
just as it had in Minneapolis--Council had to get the investigation
on Monday, March 2, 1903, the Umberger Investigation Subcommittee
returned its report to the Finance Committee of Councils,
explaining how it had held “several private meetings” as well
as public meetings in the chambers of Common Council for investigative
purposes. Also contained
in the report were communications from Mayor McCormick to Councils,
its Finance Committee, and ex-mayors Fritchey and Patterson. The
Subcommittee report was approved and sent to the full Councils
entire text of the subcommittee report was included in the Tuesday,
March 3, 1903 edition of the Patriot morning newspaper,
including letters from the Mayor to the Councils, testimony of
witnesses, and charges against the former mayors.
The first reprinted letter was that of McCormick to Councils,
dated October 13, 1902. In it, McCormick informed Councils of the discrepancies
in city books as compared to county books, indicating after a
partial investigation that money collected by the mayor’s office
had not been appropriately returned to the city treasury.
second was a copy of McCormick’s letter to Fritchey stating that
such charges would be made to Councils and an investigation requested. The third was Fritchey’s response to that letter,
indicating his shock that any such accusation could be made against
his administration--that while he was heavily occupied with his
medical profession some of the details of the mayor’s office had
been delegated to trusted subordinates, and as far as the ex-mayor
knew, those details such as returning money to the city treasury
had been handled.
included in the subcommittees report were the five formal charges
made by the McCormick administration against the Fritchey administration,
and the Mayor’s request that Councils begin a thorough investigation. The subcommittee included its own fact finding
report, based largely on the testimony given before by witnesses. Objections by counsel for the defendants was
given, as was the solicitor’s rebuttals to such objections. The inferences made by the solicitor as to the
burning of the dockets were explained by the subcommittee to be
a normal course of business of the mayor’s office.
doing so, the purpose of a police record, or blotter, was discussed. According to a personal investigation, the blotter
was an informal record of the proceedings of the charges made
against a person and fines assessed.
This was done at the time of the hearing.
The blotter was in turn used to fill in a more formal and
complete record at a later time. In effect, the blotter contained notes to be
explained formally when time allowed.
Thus, the blotter was not an official record of the money
received by the mayor’s office.
Burning of police blotters was common, since they were
not legal records, but simply reminders.
to the issue of collection of fees for licenses, the solicitor
provided to the subcommittee a record of such fees paid amounting
to $399, the implication being that this was all that was collected
by the Fritchey administration in its three year term.
Counsel for Fritchey argued that this money did not belong
to the city since no ordinance existed determining it to be so.
The subcommittee reported “With this contention we have
no patience.” If the money did not legally belong to the city,
it certainly did not belong to Mayor Fritchey. He was morally, if not strictly legally, bound
to turn over the proceeds of such licenses to the city treasury. The money was collected by city officials for
the conduct of private business in the city, and could in no way
be construed to belong to any individual.
report also expressed disapproval of the way in which Fritchey’s
subordinates had handled money, and declared that the mayor must
be responsible for the actions of those under his authority.
While the mayor did not personally collect money from fines
or fees, those who did so under authority of his office were responsible
to the mayor for proper disposal of those fees.
If they handled them inappropriately, the mayor was ultimately
no evidence was produced to link the mishandling of such money
directly to the mayor. “We...find
that no money in excess of the amount of money paid into the City
Treasury was traced as paid directly into the hands of ex-Mayor
Fritchey. Of course, a
great deal of money was paid at the Mayor’s office to his subordinates;
but no money was traced as paid personally to the ex-Mayor in
excess of the amount paid by him into the city treasury.” The subcommittee then produced a list of fees
which according to the witnesses’ testimony and affidavits should
have been paid to the city treasury, and required that Mayor Fritchey
be held responsible for the total amount of $826.25.
report condemned high officers in the Mayor’s office for their
obvious perversion of justice.
“From the testimony we find that a regular system of extortion
was carried on in and out of the Mayor’s office by a couple of
the higher police officers during the term of ex-Mayor Fritchey.
There is no evidence before us that Mayor Fritchey was
cognizant of these matters.” While the Mayor may not have been personally
responsible for this, his carelessness in not eliminating it could
not be excused. “The testimony
discloses that persons who went to the Mayor’s office for justice
were fleeced of their money by police officers, who were employed
by the city to protect its citizens. We cannot find words strong enough to condemn
such practices.” Again, the subcommittee did not find that Fritchey
was responsible for such abuses.
to the charge that Mayor Fritchey made no monthly reports to the
city Controller’s office as required by law even though asked,
the subcommittee found “an evasion of law.”
This they reported as a finding of fact, but made no further
comment. Concerning the charges made against similar
abuses of ex-Mayor John Patterson’s office, the subcommittee found
the wrongdoing to be less serious.
Since Mayor Patterson had furnished the necessary reports
to the Controller’s office, and the fines levied were roughly
equal to the amount of fines paid, the subcommittee was satisfied
to accept the explanation advanced by Fritchey’s attorneys that
not all fines assessed were actually paid. The dockets used as evidence by Solicitor Seitz
were not considered strong enough evidence to conclusively state
that all money received should have been paid directly to the
its conclusion, the subcommittee found that in light of all the
evidence presented, the rules and regulations concerning the handling
of financial matters in the Mayor’s office were totally inadequate
to regulate the duties of that office.
To that end, four recommendations were made.
First, an ordinance should be passed requiring all fees
returned to the Mayor’s office for the service of subpoenas by
city police officers be handed over to the city treasury monthly,
with an itemized statement of the same. Second, an ordinance be passed requiring that
all money received from licenses be advanced to the city controller’s
office monthly with an itemized sworn statement of the same. Third, enacting of an ordinance requiring the
city controller to audit the books of the mayor’s office yearly,
and fourth, the enacting of an ordinance requiring the mayor’s
office to keep a cash book recording all moneys collected from
any source. This book would
be open to the inspection of the city controller, Treasurer, and
Councils, and would be a public record belonging to the city.
newspaper editorials were highly critical of the Umberger report,
branding it as a “whitewash” of the issue.
In an article entitled “Where the report leads,” the Patriot
scathingly argued that the issue of corruption in the Mayor’s
office was not the worst--even more awful was the ineffective
investigation run by the subcommittee charged with the investigation.
“The question of public morality and the administration
of public trust is more to be considered than the amount of money
misappropriated--a fact Mr. Umberger and his committee seem to
have overlooked.” The article went on to condemn the suggestion
that a repeat of the issue could be avoided in the future by passing
a new set of city ordinances.
All the misdeeds alleged by the City Solicitor were already
punishable under state laws; there should be no need for new city
ordinances. Besides, if
Fritchey were to pay the city treasury only the $686.51 suggested
by the committee, why shouldn’t the current administration run
a similar racket? Mayor
McCormick might be well served to pad his own pockets and expect
a future Umberger committee to whitewash the issue again.
next day the Patriot took
up the issue of the Patterson end of the investigation. The Umberger committee found only $178.74 to
be missing from Fritchey’s accounts,
and asked him to reimburse the city for that amount. The Patriot figured this to mean that
the administration collected on average only $1.09 per week for
all fees, fines and licenses issued by the city for 3 years.
Mayor Patterson surrendered over $3,000 during his term,
and McCormick over $4,000 in his first 10 months.
The committee should know this but made no comment directly
about it. In light of these facts, the whole Fritchey
administration looks ridiculous, and his attorney’s assertion
that any mistakes were due to carelessness or the treachery of
subordinates are fooling no one.
Apparently, the Patriot declared, the Umberger committee
did not want to know the truth, which explains why neither Fritchey,
Kautz, nor police lieutenant Forbes were called before the committee
6, 1903, the Patriot expressed its surprise at the report’s
failure to find fault with Fritchey himself.
The committee stated “From the testimony introduced before
us and from personal investigation we find nothing that in any
way reflects on the honor, honesty, or integrity of ex-mayor Patterson
or his administration.” The paper questioned what investigations had
been done and by whom. Its
fear was that no one outside of the three men on the committee
ever heard of the personal investigation.
next day the Patriot continued its assault on the subcommittee’s
report, charging that the Umberger committee has done only a perfunctory
examination of the evidence against the two ex-mayors.
The only evidence the paper knew to be heard against them
was the evidence presented by the McCormick administration, which
was limited by the law in its presentation of evidence.
Only councils could conduct a full inquiry into the matter. Since the committee allegedly did no independent
investigation, they must be attempting to shield Dr. Fritchey
from anything more serious than carelessness.
The editorials that day charged that some of the inaction
on the part of the Umberger committee was due to the fact that
the Police Committee did even less to perform its part of the
Council approved the report of the Umberger Commission on March
9, 1903, accepting the findings of the committee charged with
investigating the crimes and requiring City Solicitor Seitz to
proceed along the lines suggested in the report.
Common Council met and took up the same issue that evening. Frustration with the way the investigations
had been carried out was apparent.
Mr. McCullogh moved the Police Committee to be discharged
of its duty concerning police protection of houses of ill repute,
speakeasies, and the like. A second was made by Mr. Ferree. Some heated discussion ensued. Mr. Fry asked of McCullogh “I want to ask the
gentleman a plain, pointed question.
What benefit will the city derive from such an investigation
as he proposes?” McCullogh’s
response was somewhat indirect; he asked that if an investigation
was unwarranted, why had councils decided to conduct one in the
first place? “If these officials of the Police Department are
not guilty of the serious crimes of which they stand charged,
they should be cleared.”
Pass, who had heard the charges against the former mayors as a
member of the Finance subcommittee, objected to the motion.
He felt the resolution should not be passed out of deference
to the absent Foose, who was not at fault for the malfunction
of his committee.
himself had not missed a meeting he had called, although he was
absent at the time this discharge was discussed.
Council felt it would be unfair to strip the Police Commission
of such an important responsibility when its chairman was not
present to participate in the discussion.
also argued that the investigation could do the city no good. His feeling was that the entire issue had been
brought up only to serve the personal ambitions of one man, and
he would have no part in aiding those ambitions.
Since the city was under a new administration anyway, there
was really no need in his view to dig up dirt on previous mayors. He did not believe “the city of Harrisburg would
not be bettered one iota” if the investigation were to continue. At that point, McCullogh dropped his motion
to discharge until such time as Mr. Foose could attend and explain
his subcommittee’s failures. He
felt that if no good was to come to the city as a result of the
investigations, he would support dropping it.
Since Councils had instigated the inquiry, they could stop
it at any time they pleased.
round of strife broke out when Common Council was asked to approve
the report from the Committee to investigate the charges against
the former mayors was brought up.
Mr. Slentz moved that the Common Council concur with the
action of the Select Council and urge the city solicitor to proceed
along the lines suggested in the report. When McCullogh asked what were the suggestions,
and Fletcher also indicated he did not know, Mr. Ferree asked
that they be read aloud. City
Clerk Miller read them at length, and Mr. Wagner moved that Common
concur with Select.
McCullogh asked what exactly the city solicitor was to do, because
as far as collecting funds the solicitor could do nothing. Pass felt the solicitor would know his duty
and act accordingly. Chairman
Fletcher pointed out that such things could not be taken for granted,
insinuating that more specific directions to the solicitor would
be desirable, but no such motions were ever made. Mr. Fry thought the solicitor was to ensure
collection of $686.51 from Dr. Fritchey, and draw up new rules
to prevent such mistakes from being made again.
At that point the motion to concur was passed.
The Telegraph made no mention, but the Patriot
did conclude its report by including Fry’s comments that any further
investigation should be handled by the Dauphin County District
Attorney’s office, and any more charges should be handed down
by a grand jury.
Patriot’s editors reacted angrily to such opinions that
the city would benefit from a new set of rules.
It argued that Councils’ referral of the report to the
Solicitor to draw up a new set of rules was a “mere trifling”
with the evidence presented, adding that such a plan was “puerile”
and “unworthy.” The only
rules needed were decency and fair play, not a new batch of rules.
the next few days action on the entire investigation slowed to
a halt. Foose did call for one more meeting of his subcommittee
to be held on March 12, 1903, but once again a quorum was not
present, and the meeting was not held.
The Patriot that day alleged that the political
bosses who controlled Foose had been planning inaction on the
police protection issue all along, and Foose was simply carrying
out their orders. Perhaps, the paper said, it was smarter of the
Foose subcommittee to not meet at all than it was for the Umberger
subcommittee to prepare a useless report that only whitewashed
investigation of the allegations into wrongdoing by former mayors
did reach a sort of conclusion on Tuesday, March 24, when ex-mayor
Fritchey appeared at the city treasury to pay what councils stated
he should. After waiting in a short line of city residents
there to pay taxes, Fritchey stepped to the counter just after
2 o’clock in the afternoon and paid the treasurer the $686.51
the Umberger committee said he owed.
Treasurer Royal immediately gave the Dr. a receipt, and
place the check into the city treasury. The implication of the honest handling of money
paid by a dishonest man was clear.
same day Solicitor Seitz returned his letter to councils asking
for greater clarification of what they wanted him to do.
His writing reflected some frustration: “I am at a loss
to know what action you desire me to take.”
The only thing he saw in the committee report was that
he was to recommend enactment of certain ordinances.
He asked council to advise him further. But Councils were not inclined to do so when
they again took up the matter on Monday, March 30.
that date, a motion to send the Umberger report to the District
Attorney to file charges as he saw fit was defeated by a vote
of 16 to 2 in Common Council. A moment later the solicitor’s letter was addressed.
Mr. Bernheisel made a motion to receive and file the letter
from the solicitor because he saw “nothing more to do with it”.
There was no second, and a long pause ensued.
At last Mr. Hoverter asked if the committee had any further
suggestions to pass along, since it was their report.
His comment was rebuffed by Mr. Umberger who noted the
committee was not all in attendance.
Finally, Mr. Fox charged the committee “Come on, show your
colors!” But there was
no response. The Council
president asked for a second to the motion, but there was none,
so he ordered the solicitor’s letter received and filed. There was no objection, and the matter came
to an end as far as councils were concerned.
McCormick’s first year as Mayor of the city of Harrisburg, lasting
from April 7, 1902, to April 7, 1903, was successful in that great
progress was made on important physical improvements to city’s
appearance and sanitation. A much more difficult task for the new mayor
was to clean up the city’s accounting procedures and fire department,
which for years had been stains on the city’s reputation.
Upon taking office, Mr. McCormick promised to reorganize the fire department so it would be better able
to limit damage throughout the city.
He also intended to stop the poor behavior of fire fighters
from diminishing the quality of life for neighbors of the fire
goal was accomplished through the closure of the Paxton Fire Company
for most of the year and the seizure of the company’s apparatus. The Paxton’s equipment was not returned nor
was the station reopened until the company submitted to the Mayor’s
original demands that incorrigible members be dismissed.
The legal battle required to do this pitted the city against
firefighters who considered themselves independent volunteers
not under the control of the city government.
The Dauphin County courts decided in the city’s favor as
far as ownership of apparatus and the validity of control of the
stations, but recommended that Councils should be the place such
disputes be handled in the future.
Harrisburg’s city councils directed the Fire Chief to draw up
a new set of rules of conduct at fire scenes and in fire stations
for all members of the volunteer forces.
The new rules, labeled as common sense by the city’s newspapers,
brought the fire department under the more direct control of the
Fire Chief and regulated the behavior of members, providing for
strict punishments for violators.
the reorganization of the Mayor’s office’s accounting practices,
Vance McCormick faced a different type of battle.
Even though the residents of the city suffered under the
unfair and illegal practices of the previous two mayors, they
showed a general apathy for reforming such practices.
Both city newspapers cried out for the public’s attention
on the matter, but the desired interest never grew.
Neither were Councils supportive of prosecuting the wrongdoing
or reforming the system. Even though McCormick felt the need for Councils
to properly investigate his charges that Mayors Fritchey and Patterson
had kept city money for themselves, the city councils were reluctant
to do so. Ultimately Councils
conducted little investigation beyond what was done by the McCormick’s
office and made no clear recommendations on how to write policies
preventing such problems from recurring.
Mayor McCormick was able to bring about reforms for his
own administration, but was unable in winning the approval of
Councils for across the board changes or even for punishing those
who were accused of improper activity.
both investigations, the city’s newspapers, The Patriot News
and the Harrisburg Telegraph, were strongly supportive
of McCormick’s attempts to reform the city government.
Since so many high profile physical improvements were being
accomplished, it only made sense that the city clean up its ethical
deficiencies as well. Even though McCormick was a Democratic mayor,
the Republican Telegraph most of the time agreed that the
fire department was a menace to the city and needed reform. Possibly Colonel E. J. Stackpole, editor of
the Telegraph, believed the efforts against the fire companies
would fail and thus lead to embarrassment for the Democratic mayor,
but the wording of the articles and editorials seems to genuinely
be in favor of ridding the city of a danger.
It does not appear that the Telegraph was looking
for a way to embarrass Mayor McCormick.
The Telegraph also worked to publish daily records
of the investigation into the accounts of the former mayors.
This may be due to the fact that most corruption occurred
during the tenure of Democratic Mayor Fritchey, and any ammunition
against the opposition party was welcome. But again the Telegraph never printed
a story attempting to make political gains on the imperfections
in the Mayor’s case against the former mayors.
Patriot was more engaged in the prosecution of ex-mayors
Fritchey and Patterson than in the fire company problems.
Most of the coverage of the controversy between the city
and Paxton Fire Company was from the Telegraph, only occasional
articles in the Patriot mentioned the dispute, and then
usually not in great detail. On the corruption issues, the Telegraph
gave more attention to the daily proceedings of the investigation,
but its conclusions were the same as the Patriot’s in that
it wanted the corruption of previous mayors prosecuted by Councils
and future incidences prevented.
the end of his first year in office, the good government reforms
of the Progressive Age had begun to transform the Harrisburg city
government. Mayor McCormick had succeeded in restructuring
the city fire department to bring it more under control. He had only partially succeeded in reforming
the accounting practices of the mayor’s office and prosecuting
former mayors who seemed to have made a personal profit through
improper accounting. Throughout both episodes the newspapers of Harrisburg
supported his efforts in creating a better Harrisburg that would
be a shining light to guide its people
into the new century.
serving his three year term as mayor McCormick was prevented from
running for a second term by the state constitution, but he did
not cease acting as a political reformer.
Soon after he left office, the Harrisburg Patriot,
which McCormick had purchased in August 1902, uncovered the graft
scandal involved with the construction of the new state capitol
building. He helped his
party recover after a bitter three way loss in the gubernatorial
race in 1910. McCormick
later served as a delegate-at-large to the Democratic national
convention in 1912, and played an important role in having Woodrow
years later McCormick ran for governor of Pennsylvania, smashing
the Guffey Democratic machine to gain the party nomination. In the general election he won forty six of
the state’s sixty seven counties, but he
lost in Philadelphia, Allegheny, and Dauphin Counties after
attacking the statewide Penrose Republican political boss system. President Wilson named McCormick chair of the
Democratic National Committee in 1914, and after overseeing Wilson’s
successful reelection bid, turned down several requests to serve
as ambassador or cabinet member.
spent time as a presidential advisor on the World Trade Board
of the Versailles Peace Conference after World War I, after which
he served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions
of 1920 and 1924. After that time McCormick retired from national
politics and returned to Harrisburg and his business interests. He was married in 1925 to Mrs. Gertrude Howard
Olmstead, the widow of former Congressman. McCormick had been friends with the Olmsteads,
even serving as an usher in their wedding. This marriage provided McCormick with five step
children, but no children of his own. Throughout his years in
Harrisburg, McCormick promoted all forms of municipal improvement,
including physical improvements, social events, concerts, Kipona,
the Harrisburg Symphony, the Art Association of Harrisburg, and
the United Arts Fund. McCormick died in 1947 at the age of seventy
George E. Mowry,
Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement
(New York: Hill and Wang,
1946), p. 10.
George E. Mowry,
The Progressive Era 1900-1918: Recent Literature and
New Ideas. (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina, 1968, 2nd ed). This publication is part of a series by the
American Historical Association intended to print in concise
fashion the latest scholarship in specific areas of American
Paul Beers, Profiles From the Susquehanna
Valley, (Harrisuburg: Stackpole Books, 1974),
Link, Arthur S.
American Epoch: A History of the United States Since
Alfred A. Knopf. New York: New York. 1955. p. 68-69.
Annual Reports of the City of Harrisburg
1902, p. 22.
12 April 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 14
3 May 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 6
Harrisburg Telegraph 7 May 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 10 May 1902.
Patriot News 13 May 1902.
16 May 1902.
17 May 1902
24 June 1902.
25 June 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 11
17 Nov 1902.
9 Dec 1902.
11 Dec 1902.
24 Dec 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 30
31 Dec 1902.
10 February 1903.
10 Feb 1903.
19 Feb 1903.
19 Feb 1903.
20 Feb 1903.
9 Sept 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 1 Nov 1902.
Patriot News 13 Nov 1902.
Patriot News 13 Nov 1902.
Patriot News 13 Nov 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 25 Nov
Harrisburg Telegraph 2 Dec 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 4 Dec 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 4 Dec 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 4 Dec 1902.
9 Dec 1902.
9 Dec 1902.
Harrisburg Telegraph 9 Dec 1902.
Patriot News 25 Feb 1903.
4 Feb 1903.
3 Mar 1903.
6 Mar 1903.
10 Mar 1903.
10 Mar 1903.
10 Mar 1903.
10 Mar 1903.
10 Mar 1903.
10 Mar 1903.
25 Mar 1903.
25 Mar 1903.
31 Mar 1903.