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Vance Criswell McCormick was born June 19, 1872 in Harrisburg PA to Henry McCormick and Annie Criswell McCormick, Vance was by far the best-known and most celebrated McCormick, as well as one of the most influential figures in Dauphin County History.

A fortunate boy who grew to be a man of great distinction, Vance was elected mayor of Harrisburg by the age of 30, and by 42, ran for governorship. At 44, he became chair of the Democratic National Committee and went on to become appointed chair of the Commission for Peace, under President Woodrow Wilson, heading up numerous clubs and organizations along the way.

Vance attended Harrisburg Academy and Phillips Andover before completing a civil engineering course at university. A Yale man by family tradition, (his uncle James, brother Henry B., and cousins Henry Jr., James, Jr. William, Donald, Robert and Henry were all alums), Vance graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in 1893, but was given an honorary MA degree by Yale in 1907. A born athlete and leader, he became captain of the class football and baseball teams his freshman year and was on his university football team his junior and senior years, and was president of Intercollegiate Football Association his senior year. He garnered other university honors and awards, as well, including class deacon.

The athletic grace, leadership and social ease that marked his Princeton years never left him. According to reporter Paul Beers (1964), Harrisburgers remembered Vance "riding in his Rolls-Royce in later years, "walking the streets like an athlete and entertaining royally -- from Presidents to retired city patrolmen -- at his home".

A member of Harrisburg's Pine Street Presbyterian Church, Vance went into business with his father from 1893 to 1900. After the death of his father, He was trustee of the Estates of James and Henry McCormick, which operated farms, coal and mining properties, railroads and timberlands, and at various times, were officers of companies controlled by the estates. He was president of The Patriot Company, publishers of The Patriot (newspaper), from 1902-46, and The Evening News (1917-46) and Harrisburg Common Council (1900-02). He was also president of the Pinkey Mining Company.

Vance was also mayor of Harrisburg from 1902-05, and an influential personality in local politics. He instituted a million-dollar movement in Harrisburg that brought about a parks renovation project and pure water, among other initiatives.

He was chair of a committee which brought about reorganization of the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania (1910), treasurer for the State of Pennsylvania Democratic Nations Committee (1912), delegate to the Democratic National Convention (1912), 1916, 1920, 1924), Democratic candidate for governorship of Pennsylvania (1914), and chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1916-19).

Vance's work with the Democratic Party attracted the appreciation and admiration of President Woodrow Wilson. He served as Wilson's campaign manager, as chair of the War Trade Board (1916-19) and on the Commission to Negotiate Peace (1919) at Versailles. (see photo)

He was also a member of many local, state, national and international organizations.

Vance received the Commander Legion of Honor of France in 1919, and Belgium honored him with the Decoration of Grand Officer de L'Order de la Courrone in the same year. In June, 1920, he was decorated Grand Officer of the Royal Order of the Crown of Italy. (See the awards/medals sections for more information).

Vance remained a bachelor until the age of 52, when he married Mrs. Marlin E. Olmsted, the widow of an eight-time Republican congressman. Vance died at his country home, June 16, 1946, Cedar Cliff Farms, near Harrisburg, PA. Mrs. McCormick died in 1953.

Sources: Official Statement of Record of Candidates for Fellow, 1913; Vance Criswell McCormick's Personal History Information furnished to the Secretary's Office, Yale University, for the Yale Obituary Record, 1893; article: "It Was an Outstanding Family," by Paul Beers, The Sunday Patriot-News; and Louise Owen, archivist, the McCormick Family Collection, Dauphin County Historical Society.

Compiled/researched and written by MaryAlice Bitts.

This site is sponsored by the Center for Pennsylvania Cultural Studies at the Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, in cooperation with the Historical Society of Dauphin County, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Director of the McCormick Family Papers Project at the Center is Professor Michael Barton.

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