“Restless Progress in America”: Drawing the Mason-Dixon Line

“When I found I had crossed that line,” recalled Harriet Tubman, “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything . . . I felt like I was in Heaven.” Such was the power of the Mason-Dixon Line. Within 75 years of its completion to resolve an eight-decade-long dispute between two colonial proprietors, a boundary line drawn in the 1760s by two English...
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Archeology Project Culminates

When you walk through the Hall of Anthropology in the William Penn Memorial Museum, you will almost be able to feel that you are an integral part of one or more of the many life ways portrayed there. For some persons that feeling will be even more intensified – for they actually participated in finding materials that will be there on display. The Anthropology Hall, scheduled to open...
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The French and Indian War and the Revolution

If in spite of all the Bicentennial reminders the Revolutionary War seems somewhat far away, the French and Indian War must seem so much more remote as to be irrelevant. The familiar Pennsylvania events of the Revolution – the battles of Brandywine and German­town, the Valley Forge encampment, the Declaration of Independence – took place in the settled parts of the State, the battles...
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A Tour Through Very Early York County

Everyone has some interest in the past, even if only an intrinsic realization that our present existence is shaped by past experiences. For many, there is a much greater aware­ness of our debt to the past, or at least an abiding interest in prior human events and products. The degree and reasons for these curiosities vary enor­mously: from the function of a rusted tool, or the fascina­tion with...
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Courageous Cumberland County

Anxious to persuade a Scottish cleric, the Rev. Charles Nisbet, to become the first president of Dickinson Col­lege, its founding trustee Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote the Presbyterian worthy in 1784, describing central Cumberland County. The town of Carlisle lies 120 miles to the westward of Philadel­phia and about 18 miles from the river Susquehannah. It consists of about 300 houses, most of which...
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The Missionary and the Clockmaker: A Saga of Two Brothers-In-Law

Scion of a decayed Anglo-Irish Ascend­ancy family of Ireland’s County Monaghan, the young Rev. Thomas Barton journeyed in spring 1755 through the largely unbroken forests of Pennsylvania to the settlement known at the time as Contwager or Conewago. He made his way – “over Susquehanna,” as the contem­porary traveler commonly described it-to lands lying along the Bermudian...
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Susquehannocks, Catholics in Seventeenth-Century Pennsylvania

With its seemingly endless vistas of shopping malls, housing developments, technology parks, truck terminals, and warehouses, it’s hard to imagine Pennsylvania’s lower Susquehanna River valley a vast, undisturbed wilderness. Yet, little more than two centuries ago, the region was home to a group of Native Americans generally called the Susquehannocks, but also known as the Minqua, the Andaste,...
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WPA Survey of State and Local Historical Records: 1936

The Works Progress Administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal provided funding for many historical research and publication projects, including the Pennsylvania Historical Records Survey charged with compiling inventories of various public records. The Inventory of Church Archives of Pennsylvania, including Records of Pennsylvania Jewish Congregations, 1937–1940, in Record...
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On the Road in Search of William Penn’s Holy Experiment

When we think of historic sites in Pennsylvania, places such as the hallowed ground at Gettysburg, Philadelphia’s stately Independence Hall, or Fort Pitt in Pittsburgh, immediately come to mind. These places are normally associated with great military engagements or important political events. Yet when William Penn (1644–1718) ruminated about the things that would make Pennsylvania unique, he...
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