Forward, March!

As most of you know, March 13 is Charter Day, our annual celebration of Pennsylvania’s birthday (when King Charles II of England granted the land we know as Pennsylvania—and Delaware and New Jersey—to William Penn). There will be a Trailheads post devoted to Charter Day on March 11, so this week is focused on the other stuff going on in March. Enjoy!

PHMC/Anthracite Heritage Museum

March 19: Event, Museum reopens—the museum is scheduled to reopen following a major project to upgrade HVAC systems; since projects like this sometimes take longer than expected, please check with the museum to confirm they’re open if you plan to visit.

Bushy Run Battlefield
March 19-20: Program, Ohio Country Conference—this annual conference explores a variety of topics related to the French and Indian War and takes place at the Westmoreland County Community College in Greensburg (this year’s program available here).

March 8: Lecture, Coal Mining Patch Towns of Stony Creek Valley—speaker Brandy Watts will present a program on the lost towns of Rattling Run (Dauphin County), Yellow Spring, Rauch Run, and Gold Mine (Lebanon County), which were all stops on the Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad. Ms. Watts is a student at Penn State University and a Cornwall volunteer who has been studying local history since she was a young child.

Daniel Boone Homestead
March 6: Program, Fireside Tales—bring your family to the Wayside Lodge to enjoy a cozy fire and storytime (geared to children ages 4-8); light refreshments will be available.
March 27: Program, Women’s History—watch the Homestead’s website for more details

Drake Well Museum
March 17, 24, 31: Lecture Series, More Oil Men – Famous and Not So—Thursday evening lectures begin with refreshments (March 31 program also includes a celebration of Colonel Edwin Drake’s birthday); check out the Museum’s new multipurpose room!
March 26: Program, Oil Valley Blacksmiths—blacksmithing demos start for the season and continue the last Saturday of each month through October.

PHMC/Ephrata Cloister

Ephrata Cloister
Thursdays in March: Program, Winter History Class—this popular annual program continues through March with speakers on a variety of topics related to Ephrata Cloister (for a list of sessions go here); single session or multiple session registration is still available, call 717/733-6600 for details.
March 6: Concert, Ephrata Cloister Chorus—the Chorus will perform a concert of 18th- and 19th-century American music at Union Meeting House in Marietta; tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance at Ephrata Cloister (call 717/733-6600 or email

Graeme Park
March 19: Program, Paranormal Investigations—this monthly program includes a tour of the site and information on reported hauntings and previous investigations; reservations required, 215/343-0965.
March 25-27: Program, School of the Civil War Soldier—reenactors from the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry will be encamped on site, providing firing and drilling demonstrations and teaching about camp life for soldiers and civilians.

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
March 2, 9, 16, 23: Program, Homeschool Classes—Wednesday morning programs featuring hands-on activities for students; registration is required, call Sheri Brown, 717/569-0401 x 228.
March 5, 12, 19: Workshops, Folk Art and Friendship—The Weathervane Museum Store offers Saturday afternoon workshops on Rug Hooking (March 5), Wool Felt Candle Mat (March 12), and Beginners Cross Stitch (March 19). Registration is required (series continues into April), contact the Weathervane, 717/569-9312.
March 26: Workshop, Heirloom Seed Project—Backyard Fruit Growers will teach participants how to graft applewood onto rootstock to make two trees. Instruction includes selecting the appropriate applewood (from over 100 varieties) for your yard or orchard and tips for planting the trees. Space is limited and registration is required, call 717/569-0401 x202 or x204.

Old Economy Village
March 12: Event, Site reopens for tours—Old Economy kicks off spring as it reopens for the season; admission will be $1 and refreshments will be served.

Pennsylvania Military Museum
March 30: Lecture, Human Dimensions of Leadership—speaker Lt. Col. Ryan P. Heritage, USMC, will discuss the characteristics and traits needed by military leaders in today’s uncertain and complex environment; part of the Friends of the PA Military Museum monthly Speaker Series.

Spr-abin Fever

Every once in a while I like to just pull together a compilation of items that I’ve run across on the Trails of History. This, campers, is one of those times. We’re having some “unseasonably warm” weather as I write this and I’m experiencing a combination of cabin fever and spring fever. (Anyone who wants to suggest a better name for it than the title of this post, PLEASE leave a comment.) So, for your short-attention-span pleasure…

We’ve been paying attention here at Trailheads to the visitor center expansion at Drake Well Museum over the past year or more (here, here, and here). According to the latest update, staff will begin the process of moving back into the building next week. I hope to have some pix to share in coming months as the “new” museum comes to life.

PHMC/Flagship Niagara League

Winter is always a season of maintenance for the Flagship Niagara, but this year saw a major project to recaulk the ship’s deck. This is the kind of job that, if left undone, results in huge problems down the road. Niagara’s captain, Wesley Heerssen, shares a thorough explanation of the project here. I’m usually not that interested in technical details, but I found this a really engaging read.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Pennsbury Manor posted excerpts of letters William Penn wrote to Hannah Callowhill during their courtship in England in 1695. William (a widower) was twice Hannah’s age at the time and needed to convince her that he was a good match. (Spoiler alert: He did. Hannah and William were married in 1696.)

PHMC/State Museum of Pennsylvania

Here in Harrisburg, the State Archives Search Room has reopened after a renovation project. And the State Museum’s rejuvenated Paleontology Gallery, featuring the Marshalls Creek mastodon skeleton, will debut to the public on February 27 (a gala reception will be held the night before—tickets are still available, I believe).

Time Travelers

Many thanks to guest blogger Joe Horvath, museum educator at the Pennsylvania Military Museum, for the text and photos.

Penn State mechanical engineering students recently completed the design, construction and testing of 21st-century technology that will be used to understand the manufacturing principles of the distant past. The Radial Measuring Device (RMD) is designed to image the inside surface of artillery tubes, providing researchers with data on the construction of those Renaissance weapons of war. The RMD successfully scanned a naval artillery tube on its inaugural test run with a real artifact at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Centre County.

Under a summer 2011 grant from the British Academy, part of the PSU team will travel to museums in Paris, Copenhagen, and Berlin in an attempt to unlock the secrets of design from the fifteenth century, when artillery was just becoming a potent force on the battlefield.

The Radial Measuring Device (RMD)

Luke Gustasfon, Senior/Mechanical Engineering, prepares the RMD for its mission.

PSU Mechanical Engineering students Luke Gustasfon and Keith Martin
receive final instructions from Assistant Professor of
Science, Technology and Society Steve Walton.

PSU Mechanical Engineering majors Keith Martin and Luke Gustasfon
prepare to deploy the RMD into the bore of an 18th century British iron cannon
at the Pennsylvania Military Museum while Professor of
Mechanical Engineering H.J. Sommer looks on.

The RMD, inserted into the muzzle of a British 18 pounder cannon,
sends telemetry to a laptop computer for analysis.

William Penn's Legacy

Sometimes life and history bring quirky juxtapositions. As you may know, PHMC adopts an annual theme to help focus attention on Pennsylvania’s rich (and wide-ranging) history and heritage. For this year, the theme is religion. Or to be more precise, “William Penn’s Legacy: Religious and Spiritual Diversity.” I spent a pretty good chunk of Tuesday afternoon pulling this blog post together and writing about how the theme relates to the Trails of History. So I thought it was pretty cool when that evening’s episode of CBS’s NCIS (I’m eclectic, what can I say?) included an impromptu lecture by Dr. Mallard (during an autopsy, of course), who described William Penn’s influence on the U.S. Constitution. Nice to see history getting some play in the mainstream (lots more people watch NCIS than, for example, read Trailheads—shocking, but true).

As the year progresses, we’ll be rolling out a special theme website, programs, exhibits, and articles in Pennsylvania Heritage magazine. Trailheads will report on those developments as they shape up. For now, though, let’s take a look at a few offerings already out on the Trails of History.

PHMC/Pennsbury Manor

No discussion of William Penn is complete (Trails-of-History-wise) without mention of his American home, Pennsbury Manor. The current manor house is a reconstruction, but it (along with outbuildings, gardens, and exhibits) provides the setting for a wealth of insights into Penn’s plans and designs for his “Holy Experiment.” Religious toleration was one of the cornerstones of Pennsylvania’s founding, although it was not as simple as we sometimes think. This year’s theme aims to celebrate Penn’s legacy while exploring the complexities of religious freedom both in the past and for those of us in the 21st century. Helping visitors understand the intricacies is something the folks at Pennsbury have been doing for a long time.

PHMC/State Museum of PA, photo by Don Giles

A new temporary exhibit at the State Museum of Pennsylvania ties in beautifully with the 2011 theme. When Gov. Tom Corbett wanted to use William Penn’s 1698 family bible for his inauguration ceremony (the bible was also used by Gov. Richard Thornburgh), the object was placed on loan to the State Museum by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (the bible was given to HSP in 1874 by the subscribers to the Penn Papers). The exhibit, open through March 27, also features the 1682 Great Law, a series of statutes that includes Penn’s direction that Pennsylvania would have no official religion (one of the influences Ducky was talking about). Closer to Charter Day (March 13), Penn’s bible and the Great Law will be joined on exhibit by the original Charter of Pennsylvania, by which King Charles II granted William Penn the land that became our Commonwealth.

PHMC/Ephrata Cloister

The absence of an official church resulted in a great variety of religious practice here, evidence of which dots the Pennsylvania landscape. Ephrata Cloister and Old Economy Village embody the attraction that Pennsylvania held for Europeans whose religious views diverged from the established order. Visitors to these sites experience the built environment, the material culture, and the traditions of groups who lived and worshipped peacefully outside of the dominant religious denominations.

For more on the State Museum exhibit and perceptions of William Penn, check out this article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.