Why is Williamsport Called Millionaires? Unraveling the Fascinating History Behind the Nickname

Williamsport, Pennsylvania is a small town that boasts a big reputation. Many people outside the area are puzzled by a certain nickname that the town is known for: The Millionaires. People wonder why such a moniker is attached to a place that’s not as glamorous as LA or New York. But, if you spend a little time in Williamsport, you’ll quickly understand why they earned this nickname. Being part of their rich cultural heritage, the term Millionaires is deeply ingrained in Williamsport’s history.

Before delving in further, it’s worth mentioning that this small town was once an important industrial hub with a rich history. For a while, the town’s primary claim to fame was its booming lumber industry. However, Williamsport saw a gradual shift during the early 1900s when the local population boomed due to the success of the gas and oil industry. A handful of affluent families from the region took part in these industries, which made them wealthy and helped them establish themselves as some of the most prominent people in Williamsport.

This newly acquired wealth filtered down into the town’s culture, and people started to refer to these families as The Millionaires. Over time, the term stressed the fact that class distinctions and social status were prevalent in the area. Today, though, this nickname still resonates with the town and is proudly embraced by residents. It highlights the historical significance and the pride that Williamsport’s people feel towards their cultural heritage.

The History of Williamsport’s Wealth

Williamsport, a city in Pennsylvania, is known for its history of wealth and industry. The city first gained its reputation as the “Lumber Capital of the World” in the 19th century, due to its abundant supply of timber and its location at the confluence of the West Branch Susquehanna River and Pine Creek. This led to the growth of the lumber industry in the region and the establishment of numerous sawmills, which in turn created vast fortunes for a few individuals who became known as the “Millionaires of Williamsport.”

So, who were these millionaires, and how did they come to acquire such vast wealth? To understand this, we need to take a closer look at the history of Williamsport and its development as an industrial center.

  • One of the earliest and most prominent of the Williamsport millionaires was James H. Perkins, who arrived in the city in 1833 and went on to found several lumber companies.
  • Another notable figure was Peter Herdic, who made his fortune as a lumber baron and later became involved in real estate development and public transportation in Williamsport.
  • A third key player was Benjamin Hepburn, who started out in the lumber industry but later diversified into banking and other businesses.

These men, along with others like them, became enormously wealthy from their investments in the lumber industry, which was driven by the demand for timber to build homes, furniture, and other products. As their fortunes grew, they invested in other ventures such as banking, hotels, and railroads, helping to transform Williamsport into a major industrial hub in Pennsylvania.

To get a sense of the scale of the wealth generated in Williamsport during this time, consider the following figures from the 1920s:

Name Net Worth
Henry W. Shoemaker $20 million
Robert Packer $15 million
Edwin Van Bramer $10 million
George Peppard $8 million

These individuals, along with others like them, were among the wealthiest people in the United States at the time, thanks to their investments in Williamsport’s thriving lumber and related industries.

Today, Williamsport still bears the marks of its wealthy past, with many elegant mansions and other historic buildings dating back to the 19th century. Although the lumber industry is no longer the dominant force it once was, the city continues to thrive as a center of manufacturing, healthcare, and education.

Williamsport’s industrial revolution

During the 19th century, Williamsport was at the center of the lumber industry in the United States. The city’s abundant supply of timber and proximity to the Susquehanna River made it a prime location for sawmills and other related industries. This led to a booming economy and a massive influx of wealth into the city.

  • By the 1880s, Williamsport was producing nearly one-third of all the lumber in the country.
  • The lumber industry fueled the growth of other industries in the area, such as paper mills and furniture factories.
  • Many of the wealthy businessmen and entrepreneurs in the city made their fortunes in the lumber industry and became known as the “Lumber Barons.”

Below is a table showing the rise of Williamsport’s lumber industry:

Year Number of sawmills Lumber production (in millions of board feet)
1850 25 70
1870 248 1,525
1890 524 2,662

The success of the lumber industry brought great wealth to Williamsport, and the term “millionaire” became synonymous with the city’s elite. It wasn’t just the Lumber Barons who were millionaires, but also their employees who had invested in lumber and related industries.

Who were the original millionaires of Williamsport

Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is known as the birthplace of Little League Baseball and the home of the World Series. However, long before the famous sports events, it was dubbed “The Millionaires’ Row”.

The late 19th century saw a massive lumbering industry that exploited the vast forest resources of Pennsylvania. The city became a hub of lumber-processing, and with it came great wealth. The lumber barons piled on immense profits and acquired vast estates.

The millionaires of Williamsport were a group of wealthy businessmen who were the pioneers of the logging industry. These individuals had accumulated significant wealth through their entrepreneurial endeavors, hailing from diverse backgrounds, including civil engineering, finance, and politics. The following are some of the original millionaires of Williamsport:

  • Peter Herdic: he owned Herdic House, Herdic Flour Mill, and Herdic Transportation, and he built the Herdic hotel, which still operates today
  • James H. Perkins: owned lumber companies and banks and made his money in the lumber industry
  • Robert Packer: owned silk mills and served as president of the Erie Railroad, Union National Bank, Tredegar Iron Company, and Lehigh Valley Railroad

Their Exquisite Estates

The wealth of the Williamsport millionaires was manifested in their striking mansions. Each mansion was crafted with elegance and grandeur, the most prominent being:

  • Acacia (James H. Perkins Mansion)
  • Pine Street Mansion (Peter Herdic Mansion)
  • The Williamsport National Bank Building (Robert Packer)

How They Shaped Williamsport

The millionaire’s status gave them substantial leverage during their time in governance. The city council was often dominated by the lumber industry tycoons, which allowed the interests of the logging industry to be prioritized, often to the disadvantage of the workforce. The millionaires also contributed to the city’s growth and development by investing in infrastructure, such as roads, hospitals, and schools. Robert Packer, in particular, was instrumental in creating the Williamsport Hospital, which still functions today.


Name Notable Accomplishment
James H. Perkins Owned lumber companies and banks and made his money in the lumber industry
Peter Herdic Owned Herdic House, Herdic Flour Mill, and Herdic Transportation and built the Herdic hotel, which still operates today
Robert Packer Owned silk mills, and they served as president of several railroads and banks; he was instrumental in creating the Williamsport Hospital

The original Millionaires of Williamsport played a significant role in the city’s history. Today, their legacy lives on as a reminder of how the exploitation of natural resources can lead to immense wealth and how the elite can maneuver governance to favor their interests.

Williamsport’s Lumber Industry

Williamsport, Pennsylvania earned the nickname “The Lumber Capital of the World” during the 19th century due to its booming timber industry. The forests of Pennsylvania provided the perfect conditions for the logging industry, as the rolling hills and abundant water sources provided easy transportation for the lumber. By the 1850s, Williamsport had emerged as the center of the lumber industry, and soon became home to some of the wealthiest citizens in America.

  • Timber was collected from the surrounding forests and transported by river rafts to Pennsylvania lumber mills, where it was processed and cut into lumber.
  • The lumber was then transported by railroads to urban areas in the east, such as Philadelphia and New York, where there was a high demand for building materials.
  • The lumber industry brought great wealth to Williamsport, with many of the lumber barons becoming millionaires and building grand mansions in the city.

It’s no surprise that Williamsport’s success in the lumber industry led to the city being nicknamed “Millionaire’s Row.” Many of the homes built by the wealthy lumber barons still stand today and offer a glimpse into the city’s rich history.

The lumber industry also had a significant impact on the environment, as the deforestation caused by the logging had long-lasting effects on the forests in Pennsylvania. In fact, it was these environmental concerns that eventually led to the decline of the lumber industry in Williamsport.

Year Lumber Production (in millions of board feet)
1872 435
1882 1,034
1892 934

Despite these environmental concerns, the lumber industry played a significant role in shaping the city of Williamsport and its history. Today, visitors can learn more about the city’s lumber heritage by visiting museums such as the Thomas T. Taber Museum and the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum.

The importance of the Susquehanna River to Williamsport’s development

The Susquehanna River played a crucial role in the growth and development of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. It not only provided a source of transportation but also served as a source of power for the region’s growing industries.

  • Transportation: The river was an easy and convenient way to transport goods to and from Williamsport. This made it a hub for trade, as goods from various parts of the country could be brought in and shipped out with ease.
  • Power: The Susquehanna River was also a source of power for the city’s growing industries. Mills and factories were built along the river to take advantage of its waterpower, which they harnessed to power their machinery.
  • Inspiration: The Susquehanna River also inspired the city’s famous logging boom, which made it the lumber capital of the world for many decades. The river’s abundant supply of trees made it possible for Williamsport to become the center of the timber industry for the entire region.

All of these factors combined to make Williamsport a booming city in the 19th century. It attracted a diverse population of entrepreneurs, workers, and investors, many of whom struck it rich in the burgeoning economy.

Today, the Susquehanna River remains an important part of Williamsport’s identity. It is a popular destination for kayaking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. It also serves as a reminder of the city’s rich history and its role in shaping the economic and cultural landscape of the region.

Overall, the role of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport’s development cannot be overstated. It was a crucial factor in the city’s success and continues to be an important part of its identity today.

Advantages of the Susquehanna River to Williamsport’s Development Disadvantages of the Susquehanna River to Williamsport’s Development
Easy and convenient transportation of goods Damage from flooding
Source of power for mills and factories Debris and pollution caused by industry
Inspiration for the logging boom and growth of the timber industry Navigational obstacles for boats and other watercraft

Despite these challenges, the Susquehanna River has remained an important part of Williamsport’s development and continues to be a valuable resource for the city and the region as a whole.

The Impact of Williamsport’s Wealth on the Surrounding Areas

Williamsport, Pennsylvania was once known as the Lumber Capital of the World, and its wealth was built on its vast forests and thriving lumber industry. Its nickname of Millionaires’ Row came from the numerous mansions built by those who profited from the industry, including the city’s first millionaire, Peter Herdic, who built a grand hotel and established the city’s first streetcar line.

But what was the impact of this wealth on the surrounding areas and communities?

  • Development: Williamsport’s prosperity helped to spur development in the surrounding towns and cities. The lumber industry required not only trees but also railroads, mills, and factories, and this infrastructure helped to support a growing economy in the region.
  • Migrant Workers: The lumber industry brought in thousands of workers from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and Africa. These workers often lived in company towns or camps, and some brought their families with them. While the industry provided jobs and income, it also resulted in a transient workforce that was often exploited and mistreated.
  • Environment: The clear-cutting of the forests had a profound impact on the environment, as it destroyed habitats and disrupted natural systems. The pollution from the mills and factories also had negative effects on air and water quality, which impacted both human health and the health of ecosystems.

Despite these challenges, the wealth of Williamsport helped to drive the economy of the region and laid the foundation for its continued growth and development. Today, the city and its surrounding areas are known for their strong manufacturing and healthcare industries, as well as for their rich history and natural beauty.

In conclusion, while the wealth of Williamsport had both positive and negative impacts on the surrounding areas, it played a crucial role in the development and growth of the region. Understanding this history can help us to appreciate the challenges faced by previous generations and the opportunities that we have today.

The Legacy of Williamsport’s Millionaires

Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is known for its wealthy past and the lavish lifestyles of the city’s elite of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city was once home to more millionaires per capita than any other American city, earning it the nickname “Millionaire City.” But why was Williamsport called Millionaire City, and what is the legacy of Williamsport’s millionaires?

  • The lumber industry: In the late 1800s, Williamsport was the logging capital of the world. The city’s location near the Susquehanna River made it ideal for transporting lumber to markets up and down the East Coast. As the timber industry boomed, so did the fortunes of the wealthy lumber barons who dominated the city.
  • Architecture: The mansions built by the city’s elite were some of the most impressive and opulent in the country. The Millionaire’s Row section of Fourth Street is still lined with historic homes built by wealthy lumber barons. These homes are known for their grandeur, with ornate exteriors, expansive grounds, and luxurious interiors.
  • Philanthropy: Many of Williamsport’s millionaires were known for their philanthropy. They donated money to build hospitals, schools, and cultural institutions that still serve the community today. One of the most notable philanthropists was Peter Herdic, who donated land and money to establish Lycoming College, one of the city’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.
  • Community Development: The city’s millionaires also played a significant role in the development of Williamsport’s infrastructure. They funded the construction of public parks, the city’s water system, and other public works projects that would lay the groundwork for Williamsport’s growth and development.
  • Social Status: Being a millionaire in Williamsport was not just about money; it was a social status that brought with it a certain prestige. The millionaires of Williamsport held elaborate parties and social events, creating a culture of wealth and extravagance that was the envy of other cities.
  • Absence: While the millionaires of Williamsport left a lasting legacy in many ways, their absence is also felt in the city today. The decline of the lumber industry and the departure of many of the wealthy families left Williamsport struggling economically. Although the city has reinvented itself in recent years, the legacy of the millionaires is a reminder of both the city’s opulent past and its uncertain future.
  • Inspiration: The legacy of Williamsport’s millionaires continues to inspire the city today. The opulent homes and historic landmarks serve as reminders of the city’s rich heritage, while the philanthropy and community development projects funded by the millionaires continue to benefit the community. The Millionaire’s Row Historic District is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and the city’s millionaires have inspired generations of entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

The Mansions of Williamsport’s Millionaires

The mansions built by Williamsport’s millionaires are still some of the most impressive examples of American architecture from the late 19th century. The houses, many of which are now on the National Register of Historic Places, are known for their intricate details and luxurious interiors. Here are some notable examples:

Mansion Name Owner Location
Grampian Hills Henry McCormick Lycoming County
Hills House George A. Foresman Fourth Street
Peter Herdic House Peter Herdic Center City
Vine Cottage James H. Perkins Center City

These mansions are a testament to the wealth and opulence of Williamsport’s millionaires, and they serve as a reminder of a bygone era. Today, they continue to inspire and impress visitors to the city who come to see the mansions and learn about the city’s rich heritage.

Why is Williamsport Called Millionaires?

1. What is the origin of the Millionaires nickname?

The nickname Millionaires was given to Williamsport in the late 1800s when the city’s lumber industry was booming, making several residents very wealthy.

2. Who were the millionaires of Williamsport?

The “millionaires” of Williamsport were the wealthy lumber barons whose fortunes were made in the late 1800s during the city’s lumber boom.

3. How did the Millionaires influence Williamsport?

The Millionaires had a profound impact on Williamsport’s development as they invested heavily in the city’s infrastructure, creating parks, libraries, and other public amenities.

4. Is Williamsport still home to millionaires?

While Williamsport no longer has the same concentration of millionaires it once did, it is still home to several wealthy residents and continues to have a thriving business community.

5. What is the Millionaires Row in Williamsport?

Millionaire’s Row is a stretch of West Fourth Street in Williamsport that features grand and opulent mansions built by some of the city’s wealthiest residents during the lumber boom.

6. How does Williamsport celebrate its Millionaires heritage?

Williamsport celebrates its Millionaires heritage in various ways, including the annual Millionaire’s Row Home Tour, which allows visitors to tour the historic mansions, and the Millionaire’s Row Festival, which celebrates the city’s history and culture.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to learn about why Williamsport is called Millionaires. The city’s rich history and culture continue to thrive, and we hope you’ll visit us again to learn more about all that Williamsport has to offer!