Delivery, Ritual and Discretion: Discovering the Past in an Early Pennsylvania Midwife’s Register

Hoofbeats on the dirt path announced the arrival of the midwife, who traveled on horseback from her home at Lower Salford in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County to attend a birth at the residence of the Haag family in nearby Franconia Township on August 1, 1770. Johannes Haag was the first delivery attended by Rosina (Krauss) Heydrich (1737–1828) when she began her Hebamme Büchlein, or midwife’s...
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House on a Hill: Connecting with the Past in Western Pennsylvania

“It is our family and local histories that are our most precious parts of culture, in my estimation. They put ‘meat on the bones’ of the artifacts we find. Of course, all family history is myth until we have the documentation that backs it up.” — Lynne Humphries-Russ   The narrow access road was hidden, and I almost missed the turnoff. I was anxious to see the...
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Finding Truth in the Frame: Leah Frances’ Discovery of Pennsylvania’s Historic Places

The National Park Service describes historic preservation as “a conversation with our past about our future.” Historic places are vital to this conversation, revealing the stories about the events, people and developments of a community’s past and representing its identity. In 1935 Verne E. Chatelain, a pioneer of public history and the first National Park Service historian, wrote the paper...
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Pennsylvania State Archives Multiyear Freezer Negative Project

The Pennsylvania State Archives is home to many photographic collections. Recently, a project was initiated to remove unstable nitrate and acetate negatives in the archives’ walk-in freezer to clear storage space and prepare for the future move to a new State Archives building, planned to open in 2022. The negatives have been stored for years in the freezer to slow down their deterioration and...
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Mather Mill: A Model for Developing Resiliency for Historic Properties

The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO), a bureau of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) that administers federal and state programs for protecting historic properties in the commonwealth, hosted a demonstration workshop on October 3, 2018, to explore resiliency options for Mather Mill, a National Register–listed gristmill constructed circa 1820 in...
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History, Retail: Pennsylvania Historical Marker Dedications

Of all the duties PHMC commissioners perform, the one I enjoy most is representing the commonwealth at Pennsylvania Historical Marker dedications. Sometimes there’s music. Often there’s food. Always there are speeches, which is the best part of all. There’s always something surprising to learn about Pennsylvania’s past. The first marker dedication I attended was with PHMC Commissioner Ophelia...
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American Helicopter Museum & Education Center: Commemorating the Delaware Valley’s Contributions to Vertical Flight

Nestled in a large but unassuming building at the Brandywine Airport, just northeast of  West Chester, Chester County, is a museum that may seem out of place in Pennsylvania: the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center. After all, Russian émigré Igor Sikorsky (1889–1972) flew the first successful helicopter in the United States at Stratford, Connecticut, on September 14, 1939, many...
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Worthy of Preservation? Considering the Future of Architecture in Historic Preservation

The roots of historic preservation run deep in this country, especially in Pennsylvania. Taking hold in the 19th century as a response to unchecked modern development, the field has grown into a multidisciplinary profession, but what galvanizes concerned citizens to oppose the demolition of historic properties for new construction remains much the same today as two centuries ago. After the U.S....
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Mount Gretna’s Spirit Lives On

Mount Gretna in Lebanon County is an enduring gem of a historic village that offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience an unembellished, Victorian-era lifestyle that shuffles on in similar fashion today. Cloistered within a 16-mile slice of forested rocky hills surrounded by a patchwork expanse of farmland between Lancaster and Hershey, Mount Gretna came to life in 1892 as a village (now...
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Preserving Bartram’s Garden: Recent Restoration of the House, Garden and Riverfront

Sitting on 45 acres of pastoral landscape, the Colonial-era house at Bartram’s Garden has long been recognized as a Philadelphia architectural landmark and one of the first historic buildings preserved as a public park in Pennsylvania. John Bartram (1699-1777), the first American-born botanist, began construction shortly after he purchased the farm of 102 acres in the fall of 1728 in what...
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