What’s In A Name? Who was M. Harvey Taylor?

By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D. • Photo By Andy Gaskin

It’s been said that naming things after people put them at the deserved risk of being remembered as a thing, not a person. Such is the case of the bridge that connects the Camp Hill Bypass to Forster Street in Harrisburg—the M. Harvey Taylor Bridge. While everyone refers to it as “the Harvey Taylor,” chances are that not too many folks know why the bridge was given that particular name. Thus, while people remember the bridge, not too many know or remember M. Harvey Taylor. So who was Harvey Taylor, and why was a bridge named after him?

M. Harvey Taylor

M. (Maris) Harvey Taylor was born at Bailey’s Row, a blue-collar, working-class neighborhood in Harrisburg on June 4, 1876. He was the son of Maris and Catherine (Rishel) Taylor. 

Taylor received his education in the public schools of Harrisburg, but dropped out in 1888 to work as a laborer for his father’s employer, Central Iron Company,  a position he retained for 24 years. He married Bertha May Shertzer of Shipoke in 1897. 

He was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics ball club, but had just become assistant superintendent of the steel mill and did not make the move. He continued to play professional baseball in Harrisburg and also played on Harrisburg’s first basketball team. 

In 1897 he married Bertha May Shertzer of Shipoke. She was the daughter of William H. and Lydia E. (Keiter) Shertzer. Harvey and Bertha May had two children, Dorothy E. Taylor and W. Stewart Taylor.

Taylor replaced his father as a Republican candidate for the Harrisburg School Board, finding another political niche on the 1907 city council. After his first municipal victory, Harvey adopted Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Republican platform, a move that cost him re-election to council in 1915.  An insurance agency and a cigar shop owner by 1914, Taylor evolved into a dedicated career politician by World War I, successfully campaigning for the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds position in 1919, and Chief County Clerk before 1925. In the latter year he rejoined the city council, serving for three consecutive terms thereafter. 

In 1931, Taylor gained control of the Dauphin County Republican Committee, campaigning as M. Harvey Taylor, “Honorable, Honest, and Upright.”  Taylor became GOP state committee chair in 1934, with the full support of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association. After a frustrated attempt for election as the Commonwealth’s secretary for internal affairs during the 1936 New Deal sweep, Taylor returned as GOP state chair for 16 years. 

Taylor became a 65 year-old freshman state senator in November 1940, serving to December 1, 1964; and honored as President pro tempore from 1945 until retirement, except for the 1961-62 biennial session. 

His advantageous dual position as a state party chairman and upper-house member manifested itself as GOP insurance against passage of any undesirable Democratic legislative agenda. He became an integral part of the Republican Senate’s efforts to derail portions of the former Earle administration’s Little New Deal, killed income tax initiatives, and formulated new (pro Republican) reapportionment plans. 

Affectionately known to friends as “Pop,” Taylor had profound reverence for the office he served. Governor William Scranton noted that Taylor was not respected as much for his political ideology – “he had none” – but for his unswerving support of the “institutional” Senate and its membership. 

Maris Harvey Taylor passed away on May 15, 1982, just shy of his 106th birthday, signaling the end of a political career that began with his participation in the 1896 President McKinley victory parade.

Taylor typified the stalwart Republican, who had little time for ideologues, once remarking, “Give me a reformer and I’ll give you a taker.”  Nevertheless, he managed the upper house with fairness and commanded the respect of both sides of the aisle. The senator’s major legislative contributions to Harrisburg and Dauphin County included the Capitol Park, the State Archives and Museum, the development of Fort Indiantown Gap, the Governor’s Mansion, Harrisburg’s Zembo Mosque, and the M. Harvey Taylor Bridge.

It is a fact. Pennsylvania has over 550 named pieces of infrastructure. While many bridges in the Commonwealth have been named for an individual after they died, not so with the M. Harvey Taylor Bridge. In 1951, the Pennsylvania Senate, by a 49-0 vote, named the future steel girder bridge over the Susquehanna River and connecting downtown Harrisburg with the West Shore after M. Harvey Taylor. Interestingly, Taylor abstained from casting a vote in favor of naming the bridge after himself. 

On January 24, 1952, the M. Harvey Taylor Bridge was dedicated and opened. It was the first toll-free bridge over the Susquehanna River, and was named for one of the most influential Pennsylvania politicians of the 20th Century—M. Harvey Taylor.