Sunday, May 29, 2016

Crawford County Native Won the First Indy 500

Ray Harroun 1879-1968
The winner of the first Indianapolis 500, Ray Harroun was born on January 12, 1879 in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania in northern Crawford County. Harroun was the youngest of Russell and Lucy Harroun’s four children, and as he grew up, it was clear Harroun had no use for school work. Eventually he dropped out early, but despite the lack of a formal education, Ray demonstrated a natural understanding of cars and engineering, later earning the nickname, “Little Professor” for his work in designing race cars and his almost scientific approach to racing strategy.

Racing Career

Harroun’s interest in automobiles lead to his early career in racing, and by 1905, he had built his first racing car. Among his initial races, Harroun participated in the original distance race from Chicago to New York in 1903, during which Ray and four others drove in shifts non-stop to establish the record of 76 hours at the end of September, 1903. That time was bested by another team nearly a year later, but Harroun and his team would re-take the title again with a time of 58 hrs, 35 min—a record that would stand for nearly two years.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Steel, Concrete, and Politics: A History of the Mead Avenue Bridge

The architectural beauty of the Mead Avenue Bridge in modern times
The Mead Avenue Bridge, as many can recall, has through the years, been a stalwart fixture within the Meadville Community. The bridge not only spanned French Creek but also generations, linking Meadville with Fredricksburg since its original construction in 1871. With the reinforcements made in 1912 the bridge carried the unique distinction of being essentially two bridges in one in the eyes of architecture historians.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Story of James Densmore and the First Typewriter

James Densmore
As you string out words into strings of sentences across the screen of your computer, tablet, or mobile phone, know that the keyboard layout we have all become so familiar was conceived in Crawford County. The story behind this claim begins with a man named James Densmore and the invention of the first typewriter.  

James was one of seven children who arrived in Meadville when their father, Joel, moved the family from Rochester, New York in 1836 to open a water-powered plant for making wooden bowls. Despite having less than a year of formal schooling, Joel had educated himself so well that he engineered the machinery needed for his plant and could even accurately predict the various eclipses that occurred in the area. It was this grasp of mathematics and mechanics that Joel  would pass along to James and his brothers.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

We'll Leave the Lights On: Hotels of Crawford County

Hotel Conneaut with new south and north wings added - 1920's
What do the coming of the railroad, the discovery of oil, a major lakeside resort, the healthful promise of mineral springs and travel have in common? The answer lies in the role they played in the development of the hotel business in Crawford County. To list every hotel from the early days of Crawford County would be an exhaustive exercise; and thus we are limited to highlighting a short list of notables.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mapping History: How Chasing Sanborn's Show What Once Existed

The Sanborn Map Company 
Those interested in the past often obsess over the "when" of things. The first person settled in 1822. The first brick home was built in 1845. The first train arrived in 1888. Columbus sailed the ocean blue in…

But the "where" is important, too, because things exist in both time, and space. There's a reason your home, your town, or the road you travel is where it is. Hardly anything, in fact maybe nothing, ends up where it is purely by chance.