After receiving a license (1705) to trade with the Susquehannock (Susquehanna) Indians, John Harris, an Englishman, established (c. 1718) a trading post and ferry service. The settlement, known as Harris’ Ferry, was called Louisbourg in honour of Louis XVI of France when it was laid out in 1785 by William Maclay for John Harris, Jr. The name Harrisburg, however, was used on the borough and city charters of 1791 and 1860. Harrisburg was the scene of the National Tariff Convention of 1827 and the first national Whig convention in 1839, which nominated William Henry Harrison for U.S. president. It developed as a transportation centre after the opening of the Pennsylvania Canal in 1834, the arrival of the first railroad train (1836), and the completion (1847) of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. An American Civil War skirmish was fought at Camp Hill, 3 miles (5 km) southwest, in June 1863.
Harrisburg is the metropolitan center for some 400 communities. Its economy and more than 6,900 businesses are diversified with a large representation of service-related industries (especially health) and growing technological industry to accompany the dominant government field inherent to being the state’s capital. National firms either headquartered in the region or with major operations there include Tyco Electronics Corp. (components), IBM, Hershey Foods, Harsco Corp., and Rite Aid Corp. (retailers). The largest employer, state government, provides stability to the economy and attracts attendant services. Excellent roads and rail transportation contribute to the city’s prominence as a center for trade, warehousing, and distribution.
Harrisburg is also the home of the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show, the largest agricultural exhibition of its kind in the nation. Farmers from all over Pennsylvania come to show their animals and participate in competitions. Livestock are on display for people to interact with and view. In 2004, Harrisburg hosted CowParade, an international public art exhibitthat has been featured in major cities all over the world. Fiberglass sculptures of cows are decorated by local artists, and distributed over the city center, in public places such as train stations and parks. They often feature artwork and designs specific to local culture, as well as city life and other relevant themes.
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