Harvey Wesley Hardy (1825-1913), a pioneer Nebraska merchant, civic leader, and temperance advocate, was born at Perry, New York, in 1825. For the first forty years of his life, his chief occupation was farming. In 1868 he moved to Aurora, Illinois, and entered the furniture business. About 1870 he relocated to Lincoln, where he opened a furniture store in 1871.
At first a Whig, Hardy joined the Republican Party in its early days, and was elected mayor of Lincoln on the Republican ticket in 1877 and again in 1878. In 1884 he joined the Prohibition Party and ran on the Prohibition Party ticket for the Nebraska State Senate in 1884 and for governor in 1886. In the gubernatorial race he polled 8,175 votes, approximately six percent of a total of 138,209. In 1896 he became a Democrat and supporter of William Jennings Bryan.
Always interested in temperance, Hardy as mayor of Lincoln was the originator of the high license city ordinance of 1877, which decreased the number of saloons from twenty-two to five by raising the liquor license fee to one thousand dollars, the highest figure then authorized by state law. This ordinance formed the basis for the state license law of 1879.
Partly as an outgrowth of his interest in temperance, Hardy promoted the establishment of a Lincoln public library. In 1877 during his first term as mayor the city took charge of a library established several years before in 1875. Temperance advocates hoped that such facilities would substitute for saloons as meeting places and leisure centers. Hardy was a skillful writer and served for a time as editor of the New Republic, a prohibition newspaper published in Lincoln. During his later years he devoted most of his time to writing, travel, gardening, and speaking on public questions.
He died in Lincoln in January of 1913. The Sunday State Journal, January 12, 1913, said of Hardy, “Mr. Hardy’s name is so clearly associated with the history of Lincoln, especially in matters of social and political reform, that a complete story of his life also includes almost the full story of the agitation in Lincoln against the liquor business and gambling and the wiping out of special privilege.”