What to Do in November

I can hardly believe that it’s November already, but it is (almost). It seems like October just started and now it’s over. But then I probably wrote that last year at this time (no, I’m not going to check). Some site schedules change this month for the winter, so be sure to check ahead to avoid disappointment. Most sites will be closed on Nov. 11 for Veterans Day, but Fort Pitt Museum, Pennsylvania Military Museum, and Railroad Museum of PA will be open. All sites on the Trails of History will be closed on Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving. You can avoid the Black Friday shopping crowds on Nov. 25 by visiting Fort Pitt, Old Economy Village, PA Military Museum, Railroad Museum of PA, The State Museum, or Washington Crossing Historic Park (all other sites will be closed).

Speaking of shopping, don’t forget the Holiday Marketplace in Harrisburg Nov. 17 and 18, organized by the Pennsylvania Heritage Society and featuring museum store goodies from Ephrata Cloister, Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, Pennsbury Manor, Somerset Historical Center, and The State Museum of PA.

Anthracite Heritage Museum
Nov. 12 and 13, Under the Lackawanna Moon-telling northeastern Pennsylvania's history through monologue, dialogue, and music, this presentation shares the experiences of the area's settlers and early residents; seating is limited and reservations are recommended (call the Museum at 570/963-4804).
Nov. 19, Annual Meeting and Program-join the Anthracite Museum and Scranton Iron Furnaces Associates for their annual luncheon and then a panel discussion on the mine fires of Carbondale and Centralia; there is a fee for lunch but the panel discussion is free (call 570/963-4804 for more information or to reserve your spot).
Nov. 20, Lecture—Part of the Lackawanna Audubon Society lecture series; check the LAS website for details.

Brandywine Battlefield
Nov. 26, Patriots Day—reenactors, firing demonstrations, cooking on an open fire, and more (plus a 10% discount in the museum shop—20% discount for members).

PHMC/Conrad Weiser Homestead

Conrad Weiser Homestead
Nov. 19, Candlelight Tours—enjoy an evening of living history and 18th-century music; check the website for more information.

Cornwall Iron Furnace
Nov. 8, Friends Lecture Series—local historian Don Rhoads, Jr., will present a program entitled “Railroads of Lebanon County” (held in the auditorium of Freeman Hall at Cornwall Manor). Rhoads will use historic images of structures, equipment, and artifacts to bring several railroad companies to life.

Daniel Boone Homestead
Nov. 6, Boone Birthday Program—help celebrate Daniel Boone’s 277th birthday at his childhood home, with house tours, storytelling, old-fashioned toys, and birthday cake (yum).
Nov. 13, Fall Lecture Series—“Small Pox and Dysentery: Medicine in the Eighteenth Century” features Wendy Moyer from the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, who will speak about colonial medical procedures, home medicine, and the changing medical profession in the 18th century.
Nov. 20, Fall Lecture Series—“The Interstate System of the 1800s and Berks County’s Connection” will be the topic of Glenn Wenrich, President of the Pennsylvania Canal Society and volunteer at the Berks County Heritage Center, as he explores the importance of canals in early America.

Eckley Miners’ Village
Nov. 13, Fall Lecture Series—local author Jolene Busher will be on hand to talk about and sign her new book, Patchtown, Life in Eckley Miners’ Village 1860-1920 (more info available here).

Graeme Park
Nov. 27, Craft Fair—Friends of Graeme Park will team with the Friends of Hope Lodge for this event; check Graeme Park’s website or Facebook page for details.

PHMC/Hope Lodge

Hope Lodge
Nov. 5-6, Whitemarsh Encampment—this popular program is a reenactment of a 1777 encampment of the Continental Army; costumed reenactors, sutlers, and craftspeople will be on hand. For details and a coupon good for $1 off the admission fee, go here.

Joseph Priestley House
Nov. 6, Heritage Day—costumed interpreters will be on hand as you tour the house and laboratory on your own. Don’t miss the new exhibit in the laboratory (more info on that here).

Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum
Nov. 10, Hands on History—children of all ages can learn more about history by participating, so why not try it?
Nov. 12, Holiday Tin Class—learn to make your own holiday ornaments from Landis Valley craft demonstrator Beth Feaser; choose morning or afternoon session and register by calling the Weathervane Museum Store at 717/569-9312.

Pennsbury Manor
Nov. 6, Annual Meeting and Lecture—Former FBI special agent Robert K. Wittman will speak about his career tracking down stolen art and artifacts, including items stolen from Pennsbury in 1996.
Nov. 20, Open Hearth Cooking—“The Cook’s Choice” will showcase 17th-century recipes and techniques.

PHMC 2011 Religion Theme Lectures
Nov. 10, An Abundance of Sacred Places—this program will explore preservation issues related to historic places of worship; location is Trinity Center for Urban Life, Philadelphia.
Nov. 17, Religious Pluralism and Tolerance—William Penn’s legacy of religious freedom and its modern expression will be addressed by several speakers; location is Camp Curtin Memorial Mitchell United Methodist Church, Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania Military Museum
Nov. 2-23, Exhibit, Santa’s Draft Card--Reverend Santa Claus of Saline County Missouri registered for the draft in World War II. A copy of his draft registration from the Selective Service System will be on display in the month long exhibit.
Nov. 19, Kids Day: Dress Up and Discover—visitors age 3-13 get in for half-price and will find new ways to experience the museum. The museum education collection of field gear and head gear will be available for try-on (and photo ops) along with other discoveries.

PHMC/Railroad Museum of PA

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Nov. 5-6, Trains and Troops—learn about the important relationship between America’s railroads and military heritage through displays, programs, and reenactments; the program also includes a salute to veterans. And you can “Take the Swing Train” Saturday night, enjoying the music of the Sound of Roses Big Band. Check the website for ticket information (Trains and Troops is included in museum admission, but there is an additional charge for the dance; combination tickets are available).

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Nov. 5, Workshops in Archaeology—“A Synthesis of Native American Archaeology in Pennsylvania: What We Have Learned in 25 Years of Publicly Funded Archaeology” will present numerous speakers and sessions. Fee is $20 in advance ($15 for members) and $25 at the door. Complete program and registration info are here.
Nov. 20, Exhibit opening—“Making it Better,” an exhibit featuring the work of more than 30 master artists working in a wide variety of traditions; this is a traveling exhibit from the Erie Art Museum (which was just awarded a 2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service). On Nov. 18, as part of Harrisburg’s 3rd in the Burg, there will be a preview of the exhibit from 6 to 8 pm.

Washington Crossing Historic Park
Nov. 13, Cook Like Your Ancestors—a hands-on open hearth cooking class culminating in a delicious, shared meal. Registration and fee required, call 267-475-2353 (for photos of smiling, happy participants in the September version of this program, go here).

Mid-Week Update: Trains, Shopping and Fire

I thought I’d throw a few interesting items into the mix here on a Wednesday, as we finally seem to be moving into fall weather (or right into winter perhaps?). Just a few tidbits to savor on your way to Friday.

PHMC/Railroad Museum of PA

To celebrate their 30th anniversary as a corporation, the history-minded staff at Norfolk Southern wanted to bring together artifacts of the companies that preceded it. I can’t (in this brief space) go into the details of how railroad corporations change and merge, but suffice it to say the modern railroads include lots of others in their histories. One of the artifacts chosen was a GP-30 diesel engine, borrowed from the collection of the Railroad Museum of PA. A standout with its Conrail blue paint, No. 2233 rolled out of the Museum and was transported to Roanoke, Virginia, to be part of a photo shoot and anniversary train trip with three other locomotives. Who knows what stories No. 2233 will have to tell when it returns to Pennsylvania in the next couple of weeks?

Not interested in trains and their adventures? Maybe some recreational shopping is more your style. Then the Commonwealth Keystone Building in downtown Harrisburg is the place for you to be Nov. 17 and 18 for the sixth annual Holiday Marketplace. Organized by the Pennsylvania Heritage Society and sponsored by PSECU, the marketplace features museum stores from around the Trails of History. You’ll find handmade textiles, pottery, tinware and more, plus Pennsylvania food products that will help you start piling on the holiday pounds (why wait for Thanksgiving?). The best part is that your purchases support the participating sites and the work they do year-round to preserve history and keep it available to all of us.

PHMC/Scranton Iron Furnaces
photo by Lynn LoRusso

In the previous Trailheads post, I wrote about the Scranton Iron Furnaces program combining Halloween traditions with a Celtic harvest festival. Judging from the photos they’ve already posted on Facebook, it was a blast. (Get it? Iron furnace—blast? Never mind.) A great combined effort to bring new life to a significant historic site and make history fun as well.

See you all Friday!

No Frost on the Pumpkin

Reminder: If you want to submit photos to the “This is MY HISTORY” photo contest and have them considered for inclusion in the statewide preservation plan, the deadline is Oct. 31. Hurry!!

Usually at this time of year, I write a post about Halloween-themed programs on the Trails of History. I’m not really feelin’ it this year, though. Maybe it’s because it was 60°F at 7:00 Thursday morning and looks to stay in the sixties for the next week (groovy, man). Maybe it’s because the world might come to an end today. Maybe I just haven’t had enough Hershey’s miniatures yet. It’s hard to say.

Perhaps if I made a scarecrow to “plant” in the wildflower meadow at Drake Well Museum, I’d be more in the spirit (so to speak). Handmade scarecrows can be delivered to the Museum during open hours between now and Oct. 29. Judging in several categories will be Oct. 30 and there will be prizes. Learn more here and good luck if you enter.

Or I could explore my Celtic roots at the Scranton Iron Furnaces during the Samhain Harvest Festival and Bonfire tonight. As site administrator Chester Kulesa explains (see local news coverage here), this is a nice tie between the historic site and the many local miners who came from the British Isles in the 19th and 20th centuries. They’re also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Iron Furnaces’ listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Proceeds from this program will help support the popular Arts on Fire event held in June.

Maybe a trip to Eerie (ahem) is in order to check out Ghosts Afloat, a new Erie Maritime Museum/Flagship Niagara event (although I understand it’s actually a revived program—insert your own reanimation joke here). With folks from Mercyhurst College, Ghosts Afloat brings to life history and local lore and will be offered this weekend and next. Go here for info on ticket availability, and keep an eye on the weather (they had to cancel one night last weekend due to high winds).

For more programs and events coming up this month, you can read the October program preview here. I think I’m starting to feel a little more Halloweeny—although I will up my dosage of miniature peanut butter cups to be sure.

True Crime Stories at Pennsbury

Yesterday, I saw a news article about a free lecture scheduled for Nov. 6 at Pennsbury Manor. I see a lot of program announcements and always take note in case there’s something I should include in the monthly preview for Trailheads (look for November’s in a couple of weeks—I know you can’t wait). I dutifully added the lecture to my list of events and set it aside.

And then it hit me. The lecture is by Robert K. Wittman, a former FBI special agent who spent his career (much of it undercover) working to recover art objects and antiquities taken from museums all over the world. (You might have seen him on The Colbert Report in early August, promoting his best-selling book, Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.) Paintings by Rembrandt, Goya, and Rockwell (you don’t often see those three mentioned together), a piece of 2,000-year old Peruvian battle armor, and Geronimo’s war bonnet are among the notable recoveries.

From a Trailheads perspective, though, Wittman’s most important case was—anyone?—a burglary and theft at Pennsbury. On Feb. 6, 1996, three men crashed a car through Pennsbury’s gate, drove down the path toward the river and forced open a door to the manor house. While inside, they wreaked havoc and made off with about 50 pieces from the collection, including an 18-inch pewter charger that bore William Penn’s initials. (See news article here.)

Pennsbury’s staff, still in shock and taking it personally, moved quickly to get the word out. They called on local law enforcement, and the FBI was also brought in. Assuming that the thieves intended to sell the items rather than start a rival historic house museum, they notified arts and antiques dealers throughout the Philadelphia area. (I remember assembling a list of dealers in central PA and forwarding Pennsbury’s notice from our Harrisburg office.)

A week to 10 days after the burglary, the three began to panic and, with the help of several female accomplices, dumped most of the loot into the Delaware River (not a good environment for historic artifacts). In perhaps the most cinematic twist in this story, the thieves were arrested soon after when they attempted to steal a 400-pound safe from a local coffee shop (ironically, the safe contained only $120).

With information provided by the guilty parties, divers began searching the Delaware and recovered about two-thirds of the stolen artifacts, including the pewter charger. The staff were exuberant when the items returned home and could eventually be put back on public view (see article here.) The thieves pleaded guilty (here and here) and were sentenced under the 1994 Theft of Major Artworks statute (Pennsbury’s theft was the first case prosecuted under this new federal law).

Wittman (and Pennsbury staff) can tell the story much better than I, so for details about the lecture, go here. I’ll be working on my screenplay; any casting suggestions?

New and Noteworthy

Reminders: our “This is My History” photo campaign is still going; if you want your photos to be considered for inclusion in the Statewide Preservation Plan, they must be submitted by Oct. 31. The deadline for receipt of nomination materials for PHMC Historical Markers is Dec. 1.

Well, it’s here. PHMC’s new mobile website launched earlier this month. Accessing the site is easy—if you visit www.patrailsofhistory.com using a smartphone you will be magically connected to a website optimized for mobile devices (which you already know if you use a smartphone—can you guess that I don’t, yet?). As we print new Trails of History brochures, they will include QR codes to make finding visitor info on the fly even quicker (your download times may vary).

To mark this new venture, sites on the Trails of History are offering a $2 discount on adult general admission tickets between now and the end of October. You must show the person at the front desk the website on your mobile device to take advantage of this; the discount is not valid for special events and can’t be combined with other discounts (we do, after all, need to pay the bills).

CCC Veterans Andrew Majorsky, George Pryslak, Austin Carr, Bill Roberts and James Franklin, Sr., with Mike Wennin, Lumber Heritage Region Executive Director, at CCC Worker Statue Dedication [photo by Amanda Jones, Bradford Era]

On Sept. 25, as part of the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum Associates (PALMA), about 100 people gathered to unveil a statue honoring the Civilian Conservation Corps (1933-42). The Lumber Museum exhibits include a cabin built in Potter County in 1936 by CCC enrollees and moved to the museum grounds in the 1990s as a memorial to the thousands of young men from Pennsylvania who served their communities in “the Cs.” The statue adds a human figure to the scene and is part of a project by the National CCC Legacy Association to erect statues in all 50 states.

On the same day, the museum also showcased a new birch still, which was built by staff and volunteers of the state Bureau of Forestry. Birch stills are used to distill oil from birch bark; birch oil has had various uses, including as an ingredient in Bengay ointment (according to an article in the Wellsboro Gazette on Sept. 21). The museum will demonstrate the still several times during the year (it takes two days to produce a quart of birch oil), including the ever-popular Bark Peelers Convention in July. (Many thanks to Amanda Jones of the Bradford Era, Mike Wennin of the Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage Region, and David Brooks of the Potter County Visitors Assn. for sharing info and photos for this post.)

Watch the full episode. See more The War of 1812.

Way back in 2009, we had a post about the filming of a documentary for public television. The producers spent a couple of days onboard Niagara, with the ship’s crew and the Erie Maritime Museum "Ship’s Company" interpreters cast as their historical counterparts. Two years later, The War of 1812 will premiere on PBS stations across the country on Oct. 10. You can preview it online (the clip above includes Niagara) or wait for the larger screen (I’m presuming). Anyway, it’s great to see a project like this come to fruition. (Thanks to Linda Bolla at Erie Maritime for the info and for including a link to the Trailheads post in the Flagship Niagara League e-newsletter.)