Lois Weber, Film Pioneer

The Pittsburgh region has been home to many remarkable women over the years, including journalist Nellie Bly, abolitionist Jane Grey Swisshelm, and environmentalist Rachel Carson. Less known among them is Lois Weber, the first American woman film director. During cinema’s silent era in the 1910s and 1920s, she held a unique position in Hollywood. She was not only one of a small handful of women...
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Reforming Faith by Design: Frank Furness’ Architecture and Spiritual Pluralism Among Philadelphia’s Jews and Unitarians

Philadelphia never saw anything like it. The strange structure took shape between 1868 and 1871 on the southeast corner of North Broad and Mount Vernon streets, in the middle of a developing residential neighborhood for a newly rising upper middle class. With it came a rather alien addition to the city’s skyline: a boldly striped onion dome capping an octagonal Moorish-style minaret that flared...
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“Without Fear and Without Reproach”: Octavius V. Catto and the Early Civil Rights Movement in Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, the City of Philadelphia unveiled a monument to Octavius V. Catto in a ceremony at the southwestern apron of City Hall. Catto was a cornerstone figure in Philadelphia’s early civil rights struggle — a recruiter of an African American militia during the Civil War, an instrumental figure in the victory to desegregate Philadelphia’s horse-drawn streetcars, a...
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Gallantly Saving Railroad History: The Adventures of George M. Hart, Founding Director of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Four months before his retirement in 1983 as founding director of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, George Michener Hart (1919–2008) received high praise as the state’s premier railroad historian from the Smithsonian Institution’s curator of transportation, John H. White Jr. Addressed to Hart’s boss, Peter C. Welsh, director of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s Bureau of...
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Sure to Attract Much Attention: The Advertising Genius of Milton S. Hershey

Milton S. Hershey, the man behind the chocolate bar, was an innovative and resourceful manufacturer who used a variety of traditional as well as unconventional strategies to both advertise and attract attention to his products. He was born in Derry Township, Dauphin County, on September 13, 1857. After spending the first eight years of his life in Dauphin County, he lived 10 years in Lancaster...
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Chicken and Waffles: The Pennsylvania Story

In his 1861 local-color novel The Young Parson, German Reformed minister Peter Seibert Davis (1828–92) described chicken and waffles as the “stereotypical” Sunday supper among the Pennsylvania Dutch. How this dish moved from a regional identity food into mainstream American cookery is indeed a complicated story, especially since chicken and waffles reached its height of popularity during the...
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Fighter’s Heaven: Muhammad Ali’s Training Camp in the Pennsylvania Wilderness

On a mountainside overlooking Deer Lake, in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County, is a restored boxers’ training camp called Fighter’s Heaven, originally built by Muhammad Ali (1942–2016) in 1972. The Champ, as he boastfully called himself, designed the boxing haven during the early phase of his post-three-year-suspension comeback tour in order to escape the hullabaloo of civilization as he trained...
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Marketing Patriotism: Pennsylvania Railroad Advertising During World War II

During World War II, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) spent lavishly on patriotic magazine advertising. No other railroad put so much effort, money or creative talent into a campaign to boost the war and create favorable public opinion for itself. As the single largest railroad in the United States, the Philadelphia-based “Pennsy” carried 10 percent of all freight in America and 20 percent of all...
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From the Susquehanna to the Rhine: The Military Career of Daniel Strickler in Two World Wars

“Hold at all costs.” It’s an order no commander wants to give. It is certainly unwelcome — and perhaps even terrifying — to the subordinate who receives it. The phrase was used on the morning of December 16, 1944, at the headquarters for the 28th Infantry Division in Wiltz, Luxembourg. Maj. Gen. Norman Cota (1893–1971), the commander of the 28th, issued the order during the initial phase of the...
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After Suffrage: Pennsylvania’s Inaugural Class of Women Legislators

“For one born and reared as this writer was in hidebound Pennsylvania, it is startling to find eight women in the Legislature of that State. Moreover, to learn from their men fellow-members of the natural way they take their place and do their work.” – Ida Tarbell, 1924 “I believe these eight women are going to make an impression. I believe they are going to ask themselves on...
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