1916 Love Letter for Erie, Pennsylvania

WED Fac 1916

W. E. Dimorier’s 1916 faculty picture from the Erie High School Spokesman

A century ago, William E. Dimorier, an Erie educator and Colgate University alumnus, wrote a letter about Erie, PA, to the editors of Colgate’s school newspaper, the Madisonensis. Dimorier was a transplant from Afton, NY, to Erie, and this letter shows how great his love for Erie had grown in just a decade’s time. Dimorier would reside in Erie for nearly 40 years, and he made numerous contributions to the region during his stay there.

To give you a snapshot of Erie in 1916, Dimorier’s letter appears below. It is interesting to read how vibrant and growing the city was at that time. Today, many organizations are tirelessly working to ensure that the Erie region remains one of the best places to live in the nation. “Once in Erie, always in Erie” seems like a good slogan to use for the city today.


Colgate Madisonensis (2/26/1916) 

     This is the fifth in a series of letters written, at the request of THE MADISONENSIS, for the purpose of informing Colgate men of the advantages of several large cities. Albany, Chicago, Syracuse and Omaha have already been treated. Mr. W.E. Dimorier, ’03, the writer of this letter is the head of the English Department and the Principal of the summer school of the Erie High School.


Editor, Madisonensis:

Dear Sir:—

     Once in Erie, always in Erie.

     The Eriez (cat tribe) Indians furnished the Gem City of the Lakes with a name. The city is located on Presque Isle Bay, a land-locked harbor, second to none in the Great Lake region.

     Although we are Zeppelin proof, and have no fear of the naughty man across the sea,[1] one may work at his desk here all day and by riding on the finest train in the world, be in New York, Philadelphia or Chicago in time to meet “8 o’clocks.” Pittsburgh is four hours distant; the “Sixth city”[2] and Buffalo only two.

     Five railroads and three interurban electric roads enter the city. In summer, boats blow in from every port. If I were to revive an old geographical formula, I should say the city is bounded on the north by lake Erie, on the west and south by a veritable garden (in the summertime) and on the east by the greatest grape districts between the seas (I am not sure that I went around the right way).

     The two largest boiler factories in the world are here. The General Electric, in its new and rapidly growing plant, employs thousands of men. In times of peace, the Company manufactures Gas Electric Engines; in bellum[3] days it is said to make shells for the Germans (indirectly).[4] The city, on account of its large and varied manufacturing plants, furnishes uncommon advantages to engineers and chemists.

     The public schools are excellent, and we shall soon have two new high schools[5], each costing in the neighborhood of a half million dollars. Our churches, hospitals, Y.M.C.A., and eleemosynary[6] institutions rank favorable with those of other cities that have no better than ours.

     The water supply is excellent. Over a million dollars have been just been spent in the installation of a strictly modern filtration plant.[7]

     A new railroad station, six new underground crossings, conduits for wires and other modern improvements are underway.[8]

     Our city is rich in historical associations. Commodore Perry built his fleet here. After the battle, he returned and sank his boats in our harbor. One of these boats, his flagship, was fished out of the Bay and made its appearance, after its long sleep, at the Philadelphia Exposition, 1876. The replica of another of his boats is now in our harbor. It contains a very small portion of the original wood.

     Mad Anthony Wayne died here. The house[9] in which Lafayette stayed while in Erie in 1824 or 1825, is still standing. In one of the public parks is a simple monument to the memory of Captain Gridley, whose home was in Erie. After his heroic battle in manila, his body was brought here for burial.

     The U.S.S. Wolverine, built soon after Noah landed, makes its headquarters here and is Uncle Sam’s only battleship on the Great Lakes.

     Erie furnishes fine opportunities for aquatic sports. The High School has exceptionally strong football and basketball teams. Tennis, golf, baseball and almost every legitimate (and some that are not) sport that flesh is heir to, may be engaged in here.

     Our city furnishes splendid opportunities to young men.[10] The people are hospitable. The city is growing and is wide awake. It welcomes any industrious right-thinking man. The motto adopted by the Board of Commerce is “Erie Enterprise Encircles the Earth.” Another motto which many have chosen is “Not a Larger but a Better Erie.”

     Yours very truly,

         W. E. Dimorier, ’03.

[1] The United States entered WWI in April 1917.

[2] Cleveland had the sixth-largest population in the nation at this time.

[3] Bellum = War time

[4] After the US entered WWI, General Electric started manufacturing ammunition for Britain and Russia.

[5] Academy and East high schools

[6] Eleemosynary = Charitable

[7] The water treatment plant was built in response to the typhoid epidemic of 1911. A health-department report identified the problem as stemming from the water, which was piped from Lake Erie, the same place that raw sewage was dumped. Once the water started to be treated, the typhoid cases dropped dramatically.

[8] The plans for a subway under Chestnut and Cherry streets were long discussed, but eventually they were scrapped.

[9] Could be Dickson Tavern, which still stands.

[10] This was during a time period where most references were masculine, but many were intended to include the feminine also.

Overview of the Dimorier Project

Ann Silverthorn (Twitter: @annsilverthorn) is a blogger who also writes about a wide variety of topics in numerous genres, including non-fiction, fiction, poetry, travel, and grant writing.

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