Pepper Hill Fire of 1938

In 1933 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a New Deal program, and several camps were located in Pennsylvania. The CCC was charged with various types of projects including structural improvements, transportation enhancement, wildlife preservation, flood control and fire protection. When several forest fires broke out in the vicinity of...
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The Kinzua Bridge

Once the highest and longest viaduct in the world, the Kinzua Bridge in McKean County was built in 1882 for the New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad. Designed to carry heavy railroad cars filled with coal, lumber and oil across the deep Kinzua Creek gorge, the bridge was created from more than 3 million pounds of wrought iron by the Phoenix Bridge Co., a subsidiary of the Phoenix Iron Co....
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Editor’s Letter

This issue of Pennsylvania Heritage marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the First World War in April 1917. The focus comes as part of PHMC’s Pennsylvania at War initiative, a multiyear commemoration of the centennial of World War I and the 75th anniversary of World War II. The Keystone State contributed significantly to the Allied effort in World War I, with more than...
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A Tragic Day in Echo: The Southern Cambria Railway Trolley Accident

There are few hot days during the summer in Johnstown, Cambria County, but this day, Saturday, August 12, 1916, would be one of them. It was a good time to live in this bustling mill town nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. Newspapers were reporting appalling numbers of soldiers killed and wounded in the Battle of the Somme, an ocean away, but the war was not yet a local...
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Anthracite Mining and the Slavic Immigration

Those unfamiliar with Pennsylvania’s ethnic geography might be surprised to see a 1918 postcard penned in Russian like this one sent from Hazleton, Luzerne County, which translates as, “Tomorrow we are moving to a different place. Here is the address…. Greetings and kisses.” Following earlier immigration waves of primarily Northern and Western Europeans, the United States experienced an...
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A Most Deadly Business

During the early morning hours of December 5, 1885, John Lynot labored hundreds of feet underground in the stale air of his “breast,” a black chamber in the coal seam the size of a small room, preparing an explosive charge. An anthracite miner for the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, Lynot earned eighty-five cents for each two ton mine car he filled. Finding the weakest point...
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The ‘State’ of Allegheny

One of the first centers of the organization of the Re­publican party and scene of its first national conven­tion in February, 1856, Allegheny County was strongly for Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860. As the vote count proceeded, one of the leaders kept sending telegrams to Lincoln’s home in Illinois, keeping him up on the news that “Allegheny gives a majority of …...
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Historical Sketch of Greene County

Greene County lies in the southwestern corner of the state. Its many hills, the distinguishing feature of the countryside, grow more pronounced as one travels from the eastern to the western areas. The old Washington Waynes­burg Railroad, traveling through the hills, was famous for its 178 sharp turns, each of which jolted the passengers. There were some who took the trip just for the roller...
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Memories of a Crisis

Living and working in Hummelstown, only five miles from Middletown, the home of Three Mile Island (TMI) and it nuclear power plant, I listened anxiously as the radio announcer warned of a radiation emission or leak from the plant (see “From Chaos to Calm: Remembering the Three Mile Island Crisis, An Interview with Harold Denton” by Kenneth C. Wolensky, Spring 2000). Windows were to...
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From Chaos to Calm: Remembering the Three Mile Island Crisis, An Interview With Harold Denton

Thursday, March 28, 1979, is a day forever etched in the memory of most Pennsylvanians and, indeed, many Americans. During the pre-dawn hours, events swiftly unfolded at a nuclear power plant on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg that would lead to the worst commercial nuclear accident in the nation’s history. In the days that followed, Three Mile Island (TMI)...
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