February Roundup

If you're a planner, be sure to check out the list of Trails of History sites that will be open on Charter Day, March 11. The full March program page should be up next week (which is a good thing, since March starts next week.)

A week with a Monday holiday plus two days of training and meetings equals...say it with me...a Trailheads roundup!

Garden at Eckley Miners' Village (photo by AKF)
The folks at Eckley Miners' Village have installed a new lobby exhibit to supplement their long-term orientation exhibit. You can view the new exhibit, which focuses on daily life in the Village, in the Visitor Center during regular operating hours.

The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum posted about the role of African Americans in the Civilian Conservation Corps (1933-1942). Like the U.S. Army on which its structure was modeled, the CCC was racially segregated. It is estimated that roughly 10 percent of the 194,500 men who served at CCC camps in Pennsylvania were African American. You can read a much more detailed account in the post below (or find it on the museum's Facebook page).

Friends of Conrad Weiser Homestead President David Sonnen (via Facebook)
Friends of Conrad Weiser Homestead board members David Sonnen (above) and Lynn Otto (who I'm guessing took this photo) recently sat down with Jo Mercer of Y102 IHeart Radio in Reading. They were guests on Mercer's "Roundtable" program to talk about the upcoming season at the Homestead, which will reopen on Charter Day.

Okay, this isn't Trails of History as such, but he's still our only Pennsylvania President. The Library of Congress has announced that the papers of Lancaster's own James Buchanan (@POTUS15) and Harriet Lane Johnston, who served as her uncle's official White House hostess, have been digitized and are now available online.

This weekend...

Interior exhibit at Drake Well Museum and Park (via Facebook)
Tomorrow, Feb. 24, Drake Well Museum and Park offers this month's "Something More Saturday," which provides family-friendly activities in addition to the regular exhibits (see above). The theme is Games, so you know it will be fun. All activities are included in regular admission. The program runs 10 am-3 pm.

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum has a half dozen workshops and programs on their "Winter Learning for Adults" schedule for tomorrow (Feb. 24). Space is still available, as far as I can tell from the website. You'll find the details and online registration on the website. Hurry!

February 28 is the last day to view the Anthracite Heritage Museum's African American History Month exhibit, "Granville C. Smith: African-American Business and Community Leader." The exhibit documents Mr. Smith's career in Scranton over a 34-year period as owner-operator of the G.W. Brown Company and influential member of numerous community organizations. The temporary exhibit is located in the museum lobby and is free of charge; regular admission rates apply to view the rest of the exhibits.

On this Day in History - February 23

  • 1868 - W.E.B. DuBois is born. DuBois wrote his first major book, The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study, in 1899 while teaching at the University of Pennsylvania; it was the first sociological case study of an African American community.
  • 1910 - The first radio contest takes place in Philadelphia. This national contest involved wireless telegraphers in "tests of speed and accuracy in receiving and transmitting American Morse telegraphic code signals via radio."
  • 1954 - Children at Arsenal Elementary School, Pittsburgh, are the first to receive Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

The February program page has info on upcoming events. Most Trails of History sites will be closed on Monday (Feb. 19) for Presidents Day, with the exception of (as far as I know) Fort Pitt Museum and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Also, if you'd like a copy of PHMC's 2016-17 Annual Report (and why wouldn't you?), it is available online.

As you know, February is Black History Month. This provides an opportunity to focus particular attention on African American history and, I think and hope, a reminder that our history as Americans has always been multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faceted. We need to hear and tell all of these stories to gain a fuller understanding of who we are as a nation, as a state, as local communities, and as families. Here are some highlights from the PHMC's Trails of History.

Granville C. Smith, Scranton business leader (via Anthracite Heritage Museum)
The Anthracite Heritage Museum has organized an exhibit entitled "Granville C. Smith: African-American Business and Community Leader," which explores Mr. Smith's business, social, and philanthropic involvements and his legacy in the community (read much more on the Facebook entry for the exhibit). The exhibit will be in place all month in the museum lobby; entry to view the Granville Smith exhibit is free (admission rates apply to visit the rest of the exhibits).


The State Museum of Pennsylvania's Black History Month exhibit, "Trailblazers: Notable African Americans in Pennsylvania History," is now a permanent feature in the East Wing of the Pennsylvania State Capitol. The exhibit features a broad array of men and women who have played significant roles in the Commonwealth's business, political, educational, and social realms. Virginia P. Florence (above), 1903-1991, was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. Mrs. Florence was the first African American woman to receive professional training in librarianship, enrolling at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library School in 1922. Her library career began at the New York Public Library and included work as a high school librarian in Brooklyn, NY, and Richmond, VA. (You'll find an album of Pennsylvania Trailblazers on the PA Trails of History Facebook page.)

Each year the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, sets an annual theme for Black History Month. 2018's theme, set to coincide with the centennial of the end of World War I, is "African Americans in Times of War."


Last weekend, Tyler Gum, director of the Pennsylvania Military Museum offered a lecture program, "They Fought Equally: USCT in the Civil War." The program highlighted the 11 Pennsylvania regiments of the United States Colored Troops, including their training at Camp William Penn (see historical marker above). One of the Pennsylvanians featured in the presentation was 1st Sergeant Alexander Kelly, Company F, 6th U.S. Colored Troops. Sgt. Kelly, born in 1840 in Saltsburg, Indiana County, was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions taken on Sept. 29, 1864, at Chaffin's Farm, Virginia. The medal citation reads: "Gallantly seized the colors, which had fallen near the enemy's lines, raised them and rallied the men at a time of confusion and in a place of the greatest danger." (You can read more about Sgt. Kelly, pictured below in post-war life, on the PA Civil War 150 website.)

Alexander Kelly (1840-1907) served with 6th USCT and was awarded the Medal of Honor

On Tuesday of this week (Feb. 13), I had the opportunity to attend a multi-agency event centered on the 2018 Black History Month theme, "African Americans in Times of War." The organizing committee for the program included Janee Corbin of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, and the program took place in the museum auditorium. Other agencies represented were the Governor's Advisory Commission for African American Affairs, Office of Administration, Dept. of Community & Economic Development, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Human Services, Dept. of Labor & Industry, Public Utility Commission, and the PA State Library. The program started with the Harrisburg School District's Naval Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NJROTC) Color Guard presenting the colors and the assembled speakers and audience singing the National Anthem. Governor Wolf appeared via pre-recorded remarks and representatives from the organizing agencies spoke on various aspects of the theme. Two members of the NJROTC talked about their interest in military service, followed by Brigadier General David E. Wood, Director of the Joint Staff for the Pennsylvania National Guard, and Colonel Korvin "Kory" Auch, Special Advisor on Veterans Programs to the Secretary of Administration.

Col. Auch introduced the keynote speaker, Chief Master Sergeant Trae R. King, United States Air Force, Retired, who now serves in a civilian capacity as Chief, Force Support Readiness Policy for the Air Force. She spoke briefly but movingly about her experiences in the military and about the ongoing work of securing civil rights for all Americans. The program, which I found both educational and inspiring, concluded with James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing," performed by the Earth Tones (a multi-agency chorus) and the audience. My thanks to all who organized and presented at this event.

On This Day in History - February 16

In honor of the cadets from Harrisburg High School who participated in this week's program at The State Museum...

What's New?

Please check the February program page for info on upcoming programs. The sledding party at Historic Pithole that had to be cancelled last weekend due to lack of snow is back on for tomorrow, Feb. 10 (more info on Facebook).

Pennsbury Manor wished the Philadelphia Eagles well in advance of the Super Bowl (via Facebook)
Go Eagles!! Professional football is not without controversy (I am the master of understatement), but I have enjoyed watching the genuine elation of the Eagles players and fans peaceably celebrating this long-awaited victory. Before the Super Bowl, there were the usual Big Bets between Philadelphia and Boston institutions, including museums (such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the American Revolution Museum and the Massachusetts Historical Society). Some Trails of History sites took to social media to wish the Eagles well and to highlight eagles in their collections (see above and below).

1837 Trade sign with eagle motif from Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum (via Facebook)

In 1943 (their only year of existence), the "Steagles" posted a 5-4-1 record (via America in WWII Facebook page)  
Did you know that in 1943 the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers played as one team? I'm sure some of you did. Because so many were serving in the military during WWII, men's professional sports teams were in need of players. One solution for football, at least for one year, was to combine Pennsylvania's two teams. That meant there were eight professional teams and a full season could be eked out. The result was the Eagles-Steelers, or "Steagles" (read much more in this PennLive article from 2016). UPDATE: a New York Football Giants fan has noted that the Steagles and Giants played twice in 1943, with a cumulative point total of Giants 56, Steagles 42 (but they each won one game). I also learned from some follow-up Googling that in 1944, the Pittsburgh Steelers merged temporarily with the St. Louis (Football) Cardinals and played games as Card-Pitt (or as this New York Times article notes, the "Carpets," because "opponents ran over them.")

Non-football items of interest...

Lancaster's Sunday LNP (newspaper) ran a feature on Feb. 4 spotlighting Railroad Museum of PA director Patrick Morrison. Pat began working at the museum in the late 1990s and was named director in May of last year.

Also in Lancaster, Ephrata Cloister's Winter History Class was included in an article on places to learn new stuff. For details on how you can take part in the class, which continues through March 22, visit Ephrata's website or Facebook page.

Anthracite Heritage Museum director, Dr. Bode Morin, was quoted in a recent Bloomberg article about Scranton's immigration history. The article notes that Scranton ranks #1 among U.S. cities for descendants of Polish, Welsh, and Lithuanian immigrants; #2 for descendants of Russian immigrants; and #3 for descendants of Italian, Slovak, Austrian, and Ukrainian immigrants. Morin is quoted on the shifts in immigration and the persistent mix of ethnic customs (including food) in Scranton today.

Last week, the Flagship Niagara League announced that a second ship will be joining the U.S. Brig Niagara at the Erie Maritime Museum. The schooner Lettie G. Howard is owned by the South Street Seaport Museum (NYC) and will expand sail training opportunities in Erie during this two-year programming collaboration (see FAQ on the website). YourErie.com posted an article on the collaboration as did (thanks Google Alerts) BroadwayWorld.com. Both articles note that 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal, which linked commerce in NYC and the Great Lakes, including Erie.

William Penn Wisdom (via Facebook)
In order to reach teachers directly, Pennsbury Manor has started a dedicated Facebook page, Pennsbury Manor for Educators. This provides streamlined info on education programs and other offerings (including programs from other area organizations) to help teachers connect with Pennsbury Manor and William Penn beyond their field trip. The page is also designed to be a resource for teachers who can't physically visit the site.

On This Day in History - February 9

Settle in folks, we're going to be baseball-themed for a while...

A Busy Winter on the Trails of History

Please consult the February program page for upcoming events.

Regardless of what the various groundhogs saw earlier this morning (I schedule these posts ahead of time - I'll update when I can), we're approximately halfway through the winter. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Some sites on the PHMC's Trails of History are closed to the public over the winter and more of them reduce their hours. Often, winter (whether closed or not) is a great time to catch up on projects that go on the back burner during the busy summer season or that require more time and attention. That said, some sites ramp up their programming in the winter to provide visitors with alternatives to cabin fever. So here's a sampling of both. Enjoy.
Dave Smoyer whitewashing a fireplace in the Sisters' House, Ephrata Cloister (via Facebook)
At Ephrata Cloister, the site is open through the winter but it's a slower time. They recently posted a series of photos (including the one above) showing maintenance repairman Dave Smoyer doing repairs to whitewashed walls and fireplaces. According to the Facebook post, Dave has developed his whitewashing techniques through lots of practice: "White-Washing is a tricky process that has involved almost 14 years of trial and error. [Dave says] 'Put it on too thick and it flakes off. Too much water and it takes off the layer of clay beneath it. The trick is to put on a number of very light layers and eventually build it up.'" In addition to maintenance, Ephrata uses the bleak season for its popular Winter History Class, which features a wealth of speakers on a wide variety of topics (see details). And they're starting a new history discussion group, which debuts Feb. 7 (learn more on the Facebook event page). It may be slower, but it's not dull.

Curator Todd Galle cleaning collections at Pennsbury Manor (via Facebook)
Pennsbury Manor is closed to the public during January and February (some tours by appointment with one-week notice). Staff take the opportunity to do a thorough cleaning in the Manor House when they can dismantle the period room settings to get into every corner. They'll reopen to the public March 1.

Caulking the deck of the U.S. Brig Niagara, March 2017 (via Facebook)
Winter is also the time when the crew of the U.S. Brig Niagara perform annual maintenance on the ship. The ship is at its berth at the Erie Maritime Museum and is under winter cover. Maintenance work takes place on the ship itself and in the workshop on the museum's lower floor. The Erie Times-News ran an article on this year's maintenance earlier this week with lots of good info and photos.

Sledders take their turn down the hill at Pithole, 2014 (via Facebook)
Looking for outdoor winter fun? You can find it on the Trails of History. Lack of snow has (we hope temporarily) postponed the Sledding Party at Historic Pithole scheduled for tomorrow, Feb. 3, but be sure to check Drake Well Museum's Facebook page for updates. Next weekend, Feb. 9-11, the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum will host a Snow-mobility event where folks can snowmobile from Susquehannock State Forest to the museum. There will be other activities as well. And yes, the weather will determine a lot of that. Find out more on the Lumber Museum's Facebook page.

On this Day in History - February 2

Two things that make me hope for spring:
  • 1876 - baseball's National League was founded
  • 1887 - the first groundhog day celebration