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


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