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For a bunch of historians, we really are making progress with new technologies. Many of the sites on the Pennsylvania Trails of History (including the Trails as a whole) have embraced social media as a great way to make new friends and keep up with old (uh, long-time) ones. At last count we had more than 1300 fans for the Facebook pages related to the Trails of History.

Admittedly, I am something of a newbie when it comes to Facebook. But I always look forward to seeing status updates from our sites on my News Feed. I was intrigued, for example, when the Anthracite Museum announced a celebration of the 180th anniversary of the Yuengling brewery (with samples) and really wished I lived closer to Scranton.

Drake Well Museum’s director has kept us updated on Oil 150 events (also see last week’s Trailheads post) and shared photos of various programs during the year-long (plus) celebration.

Fans of Somerset Historical Center have followed some of the preparation for Mountain Craft Days as well as the reconstruction of a log barn at the 1830s Farmstead.

I’m always interested to see what shows up from Landis Valley Museum —program previews, news updates, and tantalizing promises of ice cream sundaes in September (on Sundays, of course).

PHMC/Landis Valley Museum

Old Economy Village’s page features images of the always-photogenic site, and earlier this fall, staff posted video of last year’s Erntefest (harvest festival) to entice visitors to this year’s program.

Graeme Park treats their fans to updates on programs and events and posts photos of the site during different seasons of the year (spring was particularly nice this year).

Fans of Cornwall Iron Furnace, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and The State Museum of Pennsylvania can keep up with their favorite site and hear about upcoming events or exhibits.

You can keep up with all of our sites (even those without a fan page) by becoming a fan of Pennsylvania Trails of History. Or by following us on Twitter or our YouTube channel. Whatever way you choose to enter the trails, we’re sure you’ll find something to explore and return to again and again.

Oil 150--It's Not Over Yet!

Many thanks to the staff at Drake Well for their contributions to this post.

What do you give an oil well for its 150th birthday? A gift card seemed too impersonal, so folks in Pennsylvania’s Oil Region planned a 17-month-long party of programs and events for the birth of the modern oil industry that began when Edwin Drake’s well struck oil outside Titusville on August 27, 1859.

OIL150 is the combined effort of businesses, government entities, museums, and tourist attractions to promote and coordinate a wide array of commemorative events and public programs that will culminate in December 2009.

Since Drake Well Museum is the place to go for all things oil on the PHMC’s Trails of History, museum staff and volunteers have worked closely with Oil 150 and supported regional efforts to make this series of celebrations a not-to-be-missed occasion. One of THE high spots was a day-long event at Drake Well on August 27 that featured music, demonstrations of geologic stuff related to oil-drilling, and a special edition of the explosively popular Nitro Show.

While focusing on the birth of the petroleum industry, museum staff didn’t overlook more recent times. Noting that the museum collection included examples of oil-company advertising, they set out to find the models who appeared in Pennzoil ads back in the 1960s, portraying Penny Pennzoil. With the help of good publicity and a resourceful newspaper reporter, they located Nancy DeCelle in Florida. DeCelle, one of several women who appeared in Pennzoil ads, traveled to Titusville for the anniversary festivities at Drake Well and rode in the Titusville Oil 150 parade.

While some of the celebratory hubbub has subsided, the anniversary and the attention it drew to the region will have a lasting legacy. WQED Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry and Tourism, produced a documentary on the history of oil, The Valley That Changed the World (available from Drake Well Museum Store online).

As winter settles in, Drake Well will begin an extensive, multi-year renovation of the museum building, creating more and better space for programs, collections storage, and the research library and installing an exciting new exhibit about the drop of oil and gas in your life every day. Stay tuned for the next episodes in the continuing story of the oil industry.

40th Annual Mountain Craft Days

Last week, we highlighted upcoming harvest and Halloween programs. This week, we step back a bit to visit Mountain Craft Days at Somerset Historical Center (SHC), which celebrated its 40th year this September. What began as a handful of craft demonstrators in the parking lot of the Center has grown to encompass over 120 artisans/vendors plus musicians, a magician, and great homemade food. People from the local community support the program by volunteering and by attending, and people from farther away have embraced the unique nature of this event.

Craft and trade demonstrations run the gamut from tinsmithing to weaving to sauerkraut making and log splitting (above). One of the goals of SHC is to promote and preserve traditional arts and skills. Mountain Craft Days is the high point of those efforts, although workshops and demonstrations take place the rest of the year too.

At this year’s festival, SHC dedicated the newly expanded barn at the 1830s farmstead. Site staff worked with a crew from the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps (PCC) to accurately enlarge the farmstead’s log barn. The barn can now be used to demonstrate more farm activities and will become home to some of SHC’s 19th-century farm equipment. PCC program director Paul Owens was on hand to congratulate the crew and staff on this joint effort (one of many that have taken place at SHC and at other points on the Trails of History).

Don’t think that Mountain Craft Days is all work and no play. Entertainment abounds with a variety of musical performers, including classical, celtic and folk. There’s also an 18th-century charlatan (Rodney the Younger, portrayed by Taylor Martin), who has developed quite a following with festival audiences.

Activities for children at the festival include the Young Apprentice tent where they can try out new skills and make something to take home. This year’s focus was rope-making; past years have featured paper-making, stenciling, quilting, leather-tooling, and much more. The stilts are always popular, as are the old-fashioned toys and the big pile of hay. Not a video game in sight, just a lot of happy faces.

No visit to Mountain Craft Days would be complete without checking out the food vendors (no photo here, because I don’t want you to drool on your keyboard). The Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County (PHMC’s partner at the Historical Center), local churches, and community organizations staff a wealth of food booths that offer delicious fare such as apple dumplings, chicken pot pie, buckwheat pancakes, chicken corn soup, fried corn mush, barbecued chicken, okay I have to stop now before I faint from hunger.

Mountain Craft Days always takes place the weekend after Labor Day, so mark your calendars for Sept. 10-12, 2010. You won’t be sorry.

Harvest Time on the Trails of History

It seems as if autumn came early this year, at least in the Laurel Highlands. The fall color peaked a little sooner than usual and the nights were chilly before September was gone. Summer wasn’t really over, but thoughts of fall traditions had started their annual dance.

PHMC/Somerset Historical Center

On the Trails of History, fall means it’s time for harvest and Halloween programs. With haunted hayrides, moonlight tours, open hearth cooking, and more, there’s a program to suit anyone’s interest and help usher in that mystical (to me, at least) transition from summer to winter. Somerset Historical Center’s Mountain Craft Days and Old Economy Village’s Erntefest started off our harvest season in September but there’s a great variety of programs still to come this month.

PHMC/Old Economy Village

Crisp autumn air filled with the smell of a wood fire, pyramids of bright orange pumpkins or scarlet apples, and the taste of apple butter cooked over an open fire. Sound like a good way to spend a Saturday or Sunday? Check out the 50th annual Harvest Days (with the Pumpkin Patch) at Landis Valley Museum (tomorrow and Sunday) or Harvest Day at Washington Crossing Historic Park (Oct. 18). (For a great review of last year's event at Landis Valley, go here).

If homemade food is mostly what you’re looking for, try Apple Dumpling Day at Ephrata Cloister (Oct. 9-10), Hearth Cooking at Hope Lodge (Oct. 17), or Cider Making and Smoking Meats at Pennsbury Manor (Oct. 25).

PHMC/Eckley Miners' Village

For those of you looking for something spookier with your history, we can scare up a program or two. Visit Eckley Miners’ Village for Halloween Lantern Tours (Oct. 16-18 and Oct. 23-25) or Graeme Park for Haunted Moonlight Tours (Oct. 16-17) and Ghostly Gatherings (Oct. 22-24). Bushy Run Battlefield has a Haunted History Hayride on (Oct. 24). On Oct. 31, you’ll find a Halloween Program at Pennsbury Manor or Night of the Great Pumpkin at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Of course you can always find excellent tours, beautiful vistas, and friendly people at any site on the Pennsylvania Trails of History. We’re looking forward to your visit.

Vintage travel film takes you back in time

I’m making an assumption (yes, I know where that can lead) that those of you reading Trailheads are interested in visiting historic sites, either in person or virtually. The folks at Landis Valley Museum recently shared with me a vintage piece of travel film featuring Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. “Beautiful Lancaster County, 1960s,” as it’s titled on YouTube, was produced by the Penn Dutch Tourist Bureau and provides an overview of farming, industry, and tourism. Many of the tourist attractions and historic sites shown are still in business, although some of the industries are not.

In addition to the vintage cars, clothes, and hairstyles (not to mention the soundtrack that will remind you 40-somethings of 2nd grade filmstrips), you’ll see several sites along the Pennsylvania Trails of History, mostly in the last 10 minutes of the 26-minute film. If you don’t have time (or interest) for watching the whole thing, Ephrata Cloister makes an appearance at about 18:40. Landis Valley Museum shows up at 20:45 (warning: don’t watch this if you’re hungry). A few PHMC historical markers are also featured.

YouTube has another film titled “Lancaster County Heritage, 1960s” that features many of the same elements, but in a different order and with different footage. This was also produced by the Penn Dutch Tourist Bureau. Please note: if you're planning a trip to Lancaster County, the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau can provide much more up-to-date information than the films.

Both of these films are part of The Travel Film Archive . Other sites that may be of interest to Trailheads are The Savvy Grouse , Pennsylvania’s official tourism blog, and Gozaic--Connecting through Places that Matter, a new blog launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as part of its Heritage Travel initiative.