The Yoyo Drilling Rig at Drake Well

Last week's post lists events on the Trails of History through August 22, and the August program page covers the rest.

My thanks to guest blogger Susan Beates, curator at the Drake Well Museum and Park, for this week's post. Sue notes that site staff "have rearranged the outdoor exhibits at the museum. The goal is to have the outdoor exhibits mirror the themes of the indoor museum, with new signage to challenge visitors to think about the old machinery in new ways. The first phase called for most of the machinery to be moved so the artifacts will be grouped by subject – drilling, producing oil, etc." But first, a brief recap of recent events on the Trails of History.

Previously on the Trails of History

  • The Pennsylvania Military Museum has posted as series of albums from the 2019 Boot Camp for Kids; check out their Facebook page to see them all.
  • If you like photos of animals, you need to visit Pennsbury Manor's page for Duo the Barn Cat, Bill the Ox, and several geese whose names I don't know
  • Ephrata Cloister shared photos from their Ice Cream Social, with visitors enjoying tours of the Saal, music by Ethan Fasnacht and (of course) Turkey Hill ice cream. Visitors also saw demos by the Lancaster Spinning and Weaving Guild and got to know the K-PETS therapy animals
  • Kids attending the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum's Cork Camp spent the first day learning "woodhick" skills and the second day demonstrating those skills at the Cherry Springs Woodsmen Show

The Yoyo Drilling Rig

Metal machinery with geared wheels and a tall structure at one end
The Yoyo Drilling Rig at Drake Well Museum and Park. The tall piece on the left side of the photo is called a "mast."
Seventy-five years ago John Hawley, owner of Northern Ordnance Company of Minneapolis, MN, thought the U.S. needed a new system of exploration in order to avert a potential oil shortage. He jumped into the oil industry and said “Oilmen are a bunch of fuddy-duddies.” His system was to “drill all over hell.” The portable Yoyo Drilling Rig at Drake Well Museum was one way he accomplished that.

Hawley and Albert “Slick” Spence of Pleasantville, PA, designed a heavy-duty "spudding" machine for exclusive use on Northern Ordnance’s Pennsylvania oil leases, which covered over 10,000 acres. Using surplus naval pumps and gun-mount parts from Northern Ordnance's World War II defense contracting jobs, they built about 40 of these flat-bottomed 14-ton machines at Hawley’s Minneapolis factory. It takes a D-6 Caterpillar bulldozer hooked on to the front bottom to tow the rig to a new drilling site. When drilling, the mast leans forward then jumps back up like a yoyo. The machine could drill wells to a depth of 2,000 feet and was used in Warren, Forest and Venango Counties in Pennsylvania's oil region.

Man positions one of two tow trucks needed to move oil drilling rig

This past summer, Shambaugh Towing of Titusville moved the Yoyo Drilling Rig onto a cement pad. As the photo above shows, it took two large tow trucks to pull the beast in place. Its new location next to the Standard Steel Drilling Rig will help visitors see how drilling technology changed over time. (To plan your visit, check out Drake Well Museum's website.)

The PA Trails of History, August 9-22

The full August program page lists events through the end of the month. This week's post gets you through August 22.

Large water wheel with gears, axle and surrounding stairs inside Cornwall Iron Furnace
There's still time to get your tickets for the Blast! food and beverage event on August 16 at Cornwall Iron Furnace - see below for info (photo via Facebook)
Bushy Run Battlefield
Aug. 10: Games Day—Bushy Run will have a variety of historical miniature war-games ranging from fights between groups of tough foot-sloggers to aerial combat over the skies of the Pacific. If you are an experienced war-gamer and want to bring a game to run at the event, please email If you would just like to play in one of the games, all you have to do is show up. Included in regular admission. Food and drink will be available for purchase. 9 am-4:30 pm.

Cornwall Iron Furnace
Aug. 13: Lecture—James A. Lewars will present "The Kauffman Farm of Oley" (additional info on topic and speaker). Part of the Friends of Cornwall Iron Furnace lecture series, the program takes place in the auditorium of Freeman Community Center at Cornwall Manor. 7 pm.
UPDATE 8/15: EVENT IS SOLD OUT - NO TICKETS AT THE DOOR Aug. 16: Blast!—this event features local breweries and wineries (more info on Facebook event page or this LebTown post), music by jazz keyboardist Wayne Fox, and catering by Hess Barbecue (pulled pork sandwiches, marinated chicken, sides, and dessert). You must be at least 18 years old to attend and 21 to sample alcoholic beverages. Advance tickets are $40; designated driver and under 21, $25. On the day of the event, tickets are $45 ($30 for DDs and under 21). Advance tickets may be purchased at the furnace or by calling 717/272-9711 to charge by phone. 6-9 pm.

Daniel Boone Homestead
Aug. 14, 21: Sawmill Operation Days—subject to staff availability, there will be demonstrations of the site’s water-powered sawmill at 11 am and 2 pm.
Aug. 17: Braided Wool Rug Workshop—learn to make a round braided rug. Materials are included in the cost ($40), and the instructor will have tools for participant use (and to purchase if you want to take them home). More info on the Facebook event page. You must be at least 18 years old to participate and registration is required; call the site at 610/582-4900. 10 am-4 pm.

Drake Well Museum
Aug. 10-11, 17-18: Historic Pithole Open—the visitor center will be open, so enjoy the orientation film and the excellent diorama that shows the town in its heyday. Admission charged. 10 am-4 pm.

Map, flute, playing cards, cannonball, journal, other repro ship items
One of the rolling carts to be found in the galleries at the Erie Maritime Museum
Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara
Thursday-Saturday through Aug. 31: Experience History – Rolling Cart Series—the new rolling cart program presents maritime-themed activities for visitors or all ages. Find out what’s in a sailor’s seabag, learn about the busy life of a lighthouse keeper, build your own warship and more! Included with Museum admission. Stay tuned to Erie Maritime Museum’s social media accounts (such as Facebook) for more information and weekly schedules.
Aug. 22-25: Tall Ships® Erie—this is a huge event with 10+ ships, sailing excursions (most of these are sold out), entertainment, and more. Find details on the website or the Facebook event page. Schedule varies by day.

Fort Pitt Museum
Please visit the Fort Pitt Museum website for information on this month's programs and events.

Graeme Park
Aug. 18: Living History Sunday—costumed interpreters will be on hand to talk about life at Graeme Park (info on the website). There will be a special focus on 18th-century clothing and what it reflects about the wearer's status. Living history program is free; admission is charged to tour the Keith House. Noon-3 pm.

Hope Lodge
Aug. 11, 18: Site open—enjoy the grounds and take a guided tour of the mansion. Admission charged. 1-4 pm (tours at 1:00 and 2:30 pm).

18th century style women's cap made of white linen with pleated front
Basic Hand-Sewing Skills (Aug. 10) is one of several workshops coming up at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum
Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum
Aug. 10, 17: Workshops—Landis Valley offers a variety of craft workshops for adults throughout the year. See the list and find out how to register on the website. Costs and times vary.

Old Economy Village
Aug. 9: Exhibit Opening and Reception—in 1832, one-third of the members of the Harmony Society living at Oekonomie left to follow a new leader. This new exhibit, Out of Harmony: Secession from the Harmony Society, takes a look at the seceders and the impact of their leaving on the group they left behind (more info on the website). The exhibit will be on view through Dec. 31. To register for the opening reception, contact Chloe Thomas at or 724/266-4500 x104. 7-9 pm.
Aug. 11: Picnic in the Garden—bring a picnic and a blanket and enjoy the beautiful gardens. There will be some tents, tables, and chairs available. Included in regular admission (Buy One-Get One if you bring a picnic basket), so please start at the Visitor Center (more info on Facebook event page). Noon-5 pm.
Aug. 17: Beer Brewing Class, Part 1—brewer Zack Ruskin will teach you how to make beer from scratch, using only water, barley, and wheat. (Part 2 on Aug. 31 will be when you come back to taste the beer you made.) Class size is limited, so please register by August 10 (info on the website). 10 am-4 pm.

Pennsbury Manor
Aug. 11, 18: Special programming—8/11, Living History Theater: "The Runaway Servant"; 8/18, Open Hearth Cooking: "Cook's Choice". Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
Aug. 17: All about BATS!—the Pennsylvania Game Commission will present this family-friendly program. Included in regular admission (or membership). 1-2 pm.

Pennsylvania Military Museum
Aug. 10: Lecture—Rick Bigelow will present "American Caesar: MacArthur as Viceroy of Japan, 1945-1951," discussing General Douglas MacArthur's role in post-WWII planning for peace in the Pacific. Included in regular admission. 2 pm.

black steam locomotive (model) with tracks and miniature buildings
HO scale steam locomotive at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Aug. 17-18: Model Railroading Days—model train layouts from numerous railroading clubs will join the museum's layouts for a weekend of family fun and learning. Included in regular admission. 9 am-5 pm.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Please visit the Planetarium webpage for a full schedule of shows.
Aug. 14, 15, 21, 22: Nature Lab and Curiosity Kids programs—a variety of presenters will share their expertise in Nature Lab and lead younger visitors on an exploration of the museum (program details are on the events calendar). Included in regular admission. 11:30 am.
Aug. 9, 16: Summer Fridays—general admission is "pay as you wish" on Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm. Curiosity Connection will have free timed tickets available. Art docents will be on hand in the "Art of the State" exhibit from 11 am to 1 pm. Regular fees apply for planetarium shows. From 12:15 to 12:45 pm, a variety of Learn at Lunchtime programs will be offered (check website for specifics).
Aug. 16: 3rd in the Burg—the "Great Summer Switch" is on the program. Susquehanna Art Museum director of education Tina Sell will lead a tour of the State Museum's Art of the State exhibit at 6 pm. Visitors can then travel up the street to the Susquehanna Art Museum, where PHMC Commissioner and artist Ophelia Chambliss will lead a group through Picasso: A Life in Print at 7:30. Admission is free. The State Museum will be open 5:30-7:30 pm.

Washington Crossing Historic Park
Please visit the Washington Crossing website for information on programs and events.

What Are We Up To?

Last week's post covers events through Thursday, August 8, and the August program page takes you to the end of the month (which will come sooner than we think).

New Developments in Accessibility

As part of our 21st Century Museums Initiative, we met in January with staff from the Dept. of Labor and Industry's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS). We wanted to explore ways that we could partner to improve accessibility at our Trails of History sites for people who are blind or have low vision. BBVS staff were enthusiastic and offered to do some site visits to provide us with specific suggestions. A team visited Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum in May, and we have a visit to the Pennsylvania Military Museum tentatively scheduled for later this month. BBVS also told us about Aira, an app that uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to remotely assist people who are blind or low vision with everyday tasks. Aira "explorers" subscribe to the service, which connects them to professional agents who provide audio description of whatever their smartphone or smart glasses camera is pointed at. When we talked to the folks at Aira, we learned that destinations (stores, museums, etc.) can also subscribe and allow explorers to visit their locations without using up their subscription minutes. The Smithsonian Institution had just launched as an Aira location, so we talked with the accessibility coordinator to get her experience.

Woman with guide dog talks with man in exhibit gallery at Erie Maritime Museum
Shelley Rhodes, Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, her guide dog, Humphrey, and museum guide Chuck Lehr explore the Erie Maritime Museum using the Aira app (photo Natalie Ditzler)
We decided to create a pilot project for Aira (see PHMC press release) and selected six sites: Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara, Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, Old Economy Village, Pennsylvania Military Museum, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and The State Museum of Pennsylvania. We worked with Aira to geo-fence each site so that explorers could use the service for free while visiting. The service went "live" on June 1, and we are gradually learning about the kinds of information we need to provide for the agents. The Erie Maritime Museum, especially staffer Natalie Ditzler, has been proactive in working with the Erie BBVS, where the staff has been very generous with their time and expertise. Several staff members have tested Aira in the galleries and provided the rest of us with useful insights. Shelley Rhodes, a vision rehabilitation therapist in the Erie BBVS office who is blind, said she found Aira easy to use and enjoyed exploring the exhibits - "One of the hardest things I had to accept about my vision loss was that I could not see art and artifacts any longer with my eyes. But with apps like Aira I can explore things in a new and exciting way." She also noted that she was able to browse in the museum store, with the Aira agent describing items or reading book titles. In addition to helping us test Aira, staff from the Erie BBVS office also returned to the museum to provide some training for guides on how to create the best visitor experience for people who are blind or low vision. That information will also be shared with the other pilot sites. Stay tuned.

Learning about Marine Archaeology

Students around a table with worksheets and other papers
Students learn about charting shipwrecks with Erie Maritime Museum educator Chuck Johnson (in maroon shirt) (photo by Marcus Masternak)
Trailheads Erie correspondent, Linda Bolla, reports that "Erie Maritime Museum Educator Chuck Johnson is taking summertime opportunities to roll out a Museum Archaeology Lab, piloting the activities for the museum’s 2019-2020 school field trip schedule during Flagship Niagara League’s Tall Ship Summer Camp. Among other goals, the program will help students develop observational skills and apply math concepts through activities such as locating and charting objects. While the activities meet several Pennsylvania Core Standards, the Lab meets the campers’ most important criteria – fun!"

Table with pieces of wood, tin cup and plate, and coins to simulate shipwreck debris field
Two students next to debris field table ruler and worksheet, one student is wearing latex gloves
Top photo shows the simulated shipwreck debris field (photo Linda Bolla)
Bottom photo shows students learning how to measure and chart the debris field (photo Marcus Masternak)

Wrapping Up July

Vietnam era military encampment with tents and jeep, people in uniform
Vietnam Revisited event at PA Military Museum, July 20-21 (via Facebook)
Just to recap late July a bit, the photo above is from the Pennsylvania Military Museum's 2019 Vietnam Revisited event, which took place July 20-21 (more photos in the Facebook album for the program). Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum's Civil War Days was held the same weekend. Lancaster Online covered the event and posted a gallery of photos with their article. Photographer Jennifer MacNeill's photos of the cavalry demo are on her Facebook page. MacNeill regularly photographs events at Landis Valley; her portfolio also includes other Lancaster County scenes and numerous photos of horses and the people who love them (you can find one of her horse photos, Back Scratch, in the current Art of the State exhibit at The State Museum of Pennsylvania).