Treats for History Lovers

As we're right on the cusp of the old month and the new, you'll find the October program listings and the November program listings on the side bar. Don't forget to turn your clocks back by 2 am Sunday, Nov. 1, for the end of Daylight Savings Time. "How quaint," I hear you say, "to have clocks that must be reset manually."

Depending on where you live in Pennsylvania (if you live in Pennsylvania), you may have trick-or-treaters at your door tonight or tomorrow. Or maybe they were on your doorstep last night and you're already elbow deep in the leftover candy (why is it soooo hard to get the quantities right?). This week's post features some items that came across my screen in the past couple of weeks. None of them is directly related to a specific Trails of History site, so I haven't quite known how to share them here. But it occurred to me that they should still be of interest to Trailheads readers, most of whom I assume to be, like me, history geeks true aficionados of high-quality historical goods. So here are a few calorie-free treats to start your weekend.

I have a handful of Facebook friends who are heavily into the textile arts (knitting and quilting, in particular), so I've seen several references to London's Victoria & Albert Museum and a collection of 1940s knitting patterns they recently posted on their website. With PHMC plans beginning to form for 100th-anniversary and 75th-anniversary commemorations of U.S. entry into WWI and WWII, it made me wonder if anyone out there knows of similar patterns produced for American knitters (if you do, please leave a note in the comments). The British versions include the usual mix of sweaters and hats, but there are also specialized pieces adapted for men and women in uniform.

Knitted balaclava, WWII-era
This also put me in mind of an unfinished pair of WWII-era hand-knit socks in the collection of the PA Military Museum. One sock was completed and the second was in process when the war ended, so the knitter, Ruth Davis, simply put them aside. I have always found them to be a powerful symbol of "the homefront," as well as a sense of a defined end to the war effort that has not been part of my experience in the late 20th or early 21st century. You can see a great photo of the socks on display at the PMM last Memorial Day weekend, posted by blogger "Domer in DC" (to save some of you having to look it up, a "domer" is someone who went to the Univ. of Notre Dame).

On a related note, Yale University has recently organized and made available a collection of 170,000 photographs created between 1935 and 1945 by the U.S. Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI). The photos are housed at the Library of Congress, but Yale's "Photogrammar" project is making them more searchable (and is in process of linking photos by photographer, location, date, etc.). There are quite a few photos for Pennsylvania, including many showing homefront activities (such as scrap drives) and farming in Lancaster County before and during WWII. If you visit the Photogrammer website, I suggest you set aside some time, because you may be there awhile. UPDATE 11/6/15: It has been brought to my attention that there are some glitches with the Pennsylvania images where the county info is incorrect (for example, images from Bryn Mawr, Delaware County, are marked as being from Washington County and some images from Washington County are included with Cumberland County. So just be aware and double check if you're using these for anything other than entertainment. On the other hand, while looking at the Cumberland County photos, I found one from the U.S. Army medical field school in 1943 with a man wearing a knitted scarf, so that connected the dots of this post very nicely.


A recent link in my newsfeed (but I can't remember who shared it), led to the website of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which has been making topographical maps available for free download. They just finished a 2nd cycle of maps in September and most of the 50 states have at least some maps available (Alaska is in process). But this might be just the thing for the map lover in your life (or for yourself, of course).

Finally, there was a news item last week that should warm the heart of just about anyone involved with museums, whether you work at a museum or like to visit them (or both). NPR reported on a study by psychologists at Univ. of Oklahoma and Yale Univ. that compared how children and adults responded to different types of stories. At the risk of greatly oversimplifying the findings (you can read a fuller summary on NPR's website), researchers found that children in the study showed a greater preference for stories that were "real" and "factual" than for those that were "make-believe" or "fantasy," and adults showed some preferences for the latter. They theorized that there is a perceived difference between stories young children hear from older children or adults ("experts") and those they tell themselves or each other (in make-believe or play settings). Stories from experts help them learn new things about their world while stories with themselves or peers are about processing what they already know. I think this reinforces what lots of history museum folks know, which is that even young children respond enthusiastically to learning about the past and experiencing real places. In my unscientific opinion, I think it means we should be aware of the authenticity of programs and interpretation for children as well as adults and maybe look for opportunities to let adults engage in some make-believe. Hmmm, like dressing up for Halloween?

5 Things You May Not Know About the Trails of History

The October program listings have plenty of things to keep you busy this weekend. I, on the other hand, will be attending my 35-year high school reunion. Yikes!

Pardon the clickbait title, I've spent a lot of time on the internet today. What happens next will amaze you!

You may have heard about the recent discovery of the remains of an early 19th-century chemistry lab behind the walls of the historic Rotunda at the University of Virginia. Historic preservation architects at UVA noted similarities between the chemical hearth on the Rotunda's lower level and those in the laboratory of William J. MacNeven (1763-1841) at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (NYC). MacNeven was the mentor of John Emmet, who worked with Thomas Jefferson to design the lab at UVA and was the first professor of natural history there.

I'm very curious, however, as to whether there might also be some connection with the chemical hearth (or what remains of it) at the Joseph Priestley House. Jefferson and Priestley met at the American Philosophical Society (APS) in Philadelphia and carried on a friendly correspondence until Priestley's death in 1804. Among their letters are discussions of religion, science, and education (including Priestley's advice on Jefferson's plans for the University). MacNeven was also associated with the APS and had, like Priestley, a history of political controversy. So, I guess, add this to the lengthening list of stuff I'd love to research further. In the meantime, you can read about Priestley's lab (and a project to interpret it more effectively for the public) on the Priestley House website.

(Above) Remnants of chemical hearth foundation, Joseph Priestley House
(Below) Recreated sandbath and vent hood with repro glassware
(photos courtesy Joseph Priestley House)

Speaking of chemistry, Pennsbury Manor's brewing program was recently featured on "Cheers to You!" The weekly program explores craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the Bucks County area. Pennsbury's brewing activities, part of its interpretation of 17th-century foodways, has gained a following among people interested in craft brewing, as has its annual "Brews and Bites" event in June.

Looking for Halloween-themed fun with a historical angle? Check out Bushy Run Battlefield, Daniel Boone Homestead, Eckley Miners' Village, Ephrata Cloister, Graeme Park, Pennsbury Manor, and Somerset Historical Center.

Don't forget that Washington Crossing Historic Park's "Capture the Park" photo contest is underway. You have until Nov. 1 to submit photos taken in the park between Oct. 1 and 31. A chance for fame, glory, and a $50 gift card from the Washington Crossing Inn.

This past Wednesday, the internet and airwaves were overflowing with images and memes and puns for "Back to the Future Day." It was hard to miss and even found its way onto the Trails of History.

"Come on, men, let's get this Durham boat up to 88 miles per hour!" #BackToTheFuture Day

Posted by Washington Crossing Historic Park on Wednesday, October 21, 2015

News from the Trails of History

The October program listings will tell you all there is to know about your weekend plans.

Photo from Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum's Harvest Days last weekend (find more pix on their Facebook page)
Not noted in the October program listings is the fact that this Sunday, October 18, is the last day of operation for the replica oil rig and Olin engine at Drake Well Museum until they come out of hibernation in May. So if you want to see these important pieces of oil field equipment in action (and I'm fairly sure some lovely fall foliage as well), this is it for a while. The museum remains open throughout the year (with exhibits and programs) but the outdoor operating equipment shuts down as winter approaches.

Last chance to see this baby before it goes to sleep for the winter
On Sunday, Oct. 11, the Scranton Iron Furnaces joined an elite group that includes the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower (the real one, in Paris), and our own Cornwall Iron Furnace. ASM International (American Society for Metals) has added the site to its list of Historical Landmarks, in recognition of its role in the "discovery, development, and growth of metals and metalworking." You can check out the site for yourself tomorrow night (Oct. 17) at the annual Bonfire at the Furnaces event.

Ceremony bestowing ASM Historical Landmark citation on Scranton Iron Furnaces (photo via FB)

This last item is from early September, but it was news to me, so now it can be news to you (some of you, anyway). As many of you know, the U.S. Brig Niagara is the flagship of Pennsylvania, helping to promote the state throughout the Great Lakes region and, in tandem with the Erie Maritime Museum, educating the public about the Battle of Lake Erie and the War of 1812. Another of the ship's important roles is as a Sailing School Vessel (SSV), which involves inspection and certification by the U.S. Coast Guard. Niagara's captains and crew provide sail training and experience to a wide range of students from day sailing 4th graders to live-aboard adults. For 10 days this September, the ship served as home away from home for fall semester enrollees in the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, a collaboration between Williams College in Massachusetts and Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. According to Niagara's senior captain, Walter Rybka, the program's goal for the sail was an immersion experience for the students - "to create a sense of the isolated community of a ship at sea." This was Williams-Mystic's first sail on Niagara, chosen because the ships they normally work with were unavailable this fall. While the geography of a Great Lakes sail meant they were not completely isolated, Niagara and her crew provided the students with an excellent shipboard experience. I found two blog posts about the trip - one by faculty member Richard King and the other by student Caitlyn Stewart - including photos of the ship and crew.

One last, related, tidbit. The American Bus Association has included Tall Ships Erie 2016, scheduled for Sept. 8-10, to its list of the Top 100 events for 2016, citing its potential to draw group tours and individual travelers. Congrats!

Odds and Ends

As you may know, Monday, Oct. 12, is Columbus Day. Several Trails of History sites will be open on the holiday (find the list here). I've included some info below on events happening Saturday and Sunday, but you'll find the list for the rest of the month on the sidebar.

So, I subscribe to Google Alerts for the sites on the Trails of History and usually what shows up in my Gmail are program announcements, calendars of events, and coverage of the many wonderful programs offered to the public. This morning I checked to see what I had and found an interesting item related to one of our sites. Due to a major public works project in Birmingham, England, several statues are being moved from Chamberlain Square into storage at the Birmingham Museum Trust's Collection Centre. One of the statues is of Dr. Joseph Priestley, who lived in Birmingham from 1770 to 1791. Public animosity to his support of the French Revolution caused him and his family to flee Birmingham; they eventually settled in Northumberland, PA, where their house and laboratory are part of the Trails of History.

Joseph Priestley statue, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham - DSC08788
Statue of Joseph Priestley by Francis John Williamson
(photo by Rept0n1x via Wikimedia Commons)

The Ephrata Cloister Chorus is currently holding open rehearsals for singers interested in auditioning. They ask that prospective members attend 3 consecutive Tuesday night rehearsals in October, which would mean you'd need to attend the rest of the October rehearsals (more info in this news article).

You still have a couple of weeks to "Capture the Park" by taking a stunning photo at Washington Crossing Historic Park and entering it in the photo contest. Eligible photos must have been taken this month and must be submitted by November 1 (details here). Watch for details of the Eckley Miners' Village Winter Wonderland photo contest starting in December.

Selected Trails of History events this weekend (full listing for October)

Anthracite Heritage Museum and Scranton Iron Furnaces
Oct. 11: Award Ceremony—the American Society for Metals (ASM) has named the Scranton Iron Furnaces its Historical Landmark for 2015. Please note that the ceremony will take place at the Anthracite Heritage Museum. Admission will be free during the event, and refreshments will be served after the award presentation. 2-5 pm.

Drake Well Museum
Oct. 10: Something More Saturday—today's theme is "Preserving Your Family Heritage"; learn about ways to save your family treasures for future generations. Included in regular admission; there is a special family rate of $20 for up to 2 adults and up to 3 children. 10 am-3 pm. (Titusville Historical Society will be holding their annual Genealogy Conference at Drake Well, 8 am-4 pm.)

Ephrata Cloister
Oct. 9-10: Aschenbach's Apple Dumpling Sales Benefit—enjoy a delicious PA Dutch tradition and support the Back to the Cloister Fund (which helps to return original furnishings and objects to the site). $4 per dumpling (regular admission applies if you want to tour the site). 9:30 am-4 pm (or until sold out).
Oct. 11: Day of Music—the Ephrata Cloister Chorus will perform in the Saal at 2, 3, and 4 pm. Admission charged.

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Oct. 10-11: Harvest Days—a classic special event and a great way to celebrate the coming of fall. Loads of demonstrations and activities for the whole family in a beautiful setting. Admission: age 12-64, $12; age 65+, $10; age 6-11, $8; free parking. 11 am-5 pm.

Pennsbury Manor
Oct. 10: Paths Less Traveled Tourexplore areas not usually included on tours at Pennsbury Manor and learn about people behind the scenes in the 17th and 20th centuries. The tour involves climbing stairs and walking on uneven terrain. $15 per person (free for members). 1-4 pm.
Oct. 11: Living History Theater—William Penn’s steward and housekeeper, John Sotcher and Mary Lofty, will be united in marriage according to 17th-century Quaker wedding customs. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
Oct 10-11: 34th Annual Fall Antique and Collectable Showthis semi-annual event supports the programs of the Lumber Museum, and this year includes a chance to see the newly renovated and expanded Visitor Center and the new exhibit, "Challenges and Choices in Pennsylvania's Forests." Other activities include birch still and blacksmithing demos, horseshoes and greased pole contests, and food for purchase in the community room. Admission charged. 10 am-4:30 pm both days.

Washington Crossing Historic Park
Oct. 10: McConkey's Marketoutdoor artisan market near the visitor center, featuring handcrafted, vintage, and upcycled items, as well as food vendors and beautiful scenery. 10 am-4 pm.

Honoring Women's History in Erie County

It's October already, and you can find the monthly program listing on the sidebar.

Lucky you. We're back to guest posts! This week frequent Trailheads contributor Linda Bolla, Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara, writes about two recent PHMC historical markers dedicated in Erie County. Photos are courtesy of Allan Montgomery, Linda Bolla, and John Baker.

This has been a banner year for the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program in Erie County, with three new markers dedicated this summer: Miracles on Maple Hill; Pennsylvania National Guard 112th Infantry Regiment; and Making of the Flag “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”

The fact that two of these recognize the efforts of women gives one pause to reflect on the nature of women’s contributions to history and culture in the age before the later 20th Century feminist movement. These words come to mind: quiet, but profoundly inspirational.

In her children’s novel Miracles on Maple Hill (1956), Virginia Sorensen reveals the miracles of nature as well as of healing body and mind. Her simple story, inspired by people she knew and experiences she had living in Edinboro, PA, was honored in 1957 with a John Newbery Medal, given for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Sorensen’s book has not lost any of its appeal, even as we approach the 60th anniversary of its publication. Generations continue to read a very old-fashioned story about a little girl and her family, because the values and bonds of family and friends are universal, and because Sorensen crafted her story in a way that transcends the modern age. Her picture of a place in time has proven to be timeless.

Children and adults met and had their books signed by Marilyn Hilburn (left), who was Virginia Sorensen's model for the character Margie, and Amy Hipple Bjork (second from left), Sorensen's model for Marly. Lisa Nathanson of Hurry Hill Maple Farm Museum (background) had Sorensen's book, Miracles on Maple Hill, for sale. Sorensen’s Newbery Medal is on exhibit at the Museum.

While the weather was not-too-cooperative for the June 27th unveiling of the Miracles on Maple Hill marker, the event was still full of old-fashioned fun, with nearly 200 people enjoying music, talks, book signings (photo above), and maple ice cream sundaes. In the photo below, Amy Hipple Bjork has the honor of unveiling the marker, located on Route 6N in Edinboro.


The women who made Oliver Hazard Perry’s “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag remained steadfast to their task amidst the fear and tension of Erie preparing for war. The flagmakers shared the common bond of family (all were part of the Forster family) and quietly made their stitches while fathers, brothers, and sons engaged in the more obvious aspects of war as soldiers. They certainly had no thoughts beyond the immediate. While they hoped their work would inspire Perry’s men, they could not have known that the flag they made in 1813 would continue to speak through centuries, inspiring generations of naval officers as well as anyone who needs to stand persistent to win the day. While their work is preserved and exhibited at the US Naval Academy Museum, their names are not remembered there – it is on the state historical marker that they are finally brought out of the shadows.

East High JROTC joined Ship’s Company, US Brig Niagara 1813 to provide a color guard for the Battle of Lake Erie Commemoration. In honoring both the 1813 period colors along with our nation’s flag, we honor the fallen of the War of 1812 as well as the veterans and those who continue to serve today.

Dedication of the “Making of the Flag” marker took place on September 10th at the Erie Maritime Museum as part of the annual commemoration of the Battle of Lake Erie. While the service itself was solemn, there certainly was a sense of joy when the marker honoring the flag makers was unveiled. In the photo below, Forster Family descendants N. Lane Nelson and Becky Forster (center, left and right), along with Sabina Freeman (left) and PHMC Commissioner Craige Pepper Victor (right) reveal Pennsylvania’s newest marker. Descendant Nancy Gorman (far left) and Master of Ceremonies Jay Breneman (far right) applaud.