To Forge History for the Future

Not infrequently, the history of how an object, artifact, or even building or structure has been preserved for the future is every bit at least as interesting as the reasons for which it was saved. Historical organizations and cultural institutions – from large city museums to county historical societies – brim with compelling “behind-the-scenes” stories that provide...
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Sowing a Wealth Uncommon

When Pennsylvania’s thirty-seven-year-old founder William Penn (1644-1718) drew plans for Philadelphia, he specified a central park of ten acres and four symmetrically placed squares of eight acres each “for the comfort and recreation of all forever.” In his September 30, 1681, instructions to his commissioners, he also mandated private space. “Let every House be placed,...
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Making a Future for the Past: New Dating Meets New Deal Archaeology

Imagine a scene set about nine hundred years ago. It is early autumn in a small farming village in the rugged Appalachian mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania. A harried mother stands in front of her small, beehive-shaped house and watches two young men playing chunkey – a lacrosse-type game – in the central plaza of her village. She gazes wistfully across the plaza, which is...
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Building a Future with the Preservation Trades Apprenticeship Program

Mention the word “apprentice” and many Americans will undoubtedly think of the wildly popular reality television series, The Apprentice, starring none other than The Donald — billionaire real estate developer, business executive, entrepreneur, and author Donald Trump. In Pennsylvania, an innovative partnership between the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and the Thaddeus...
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Art with a Purpose: Pennsylvania’s Museum Extension Project, 1935-1943

Like other relief programs launched during the Great Depression under the aegis of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the goal of federal arts programs of the 1930s was two-fold: to rescue unemployed Americans from poverty and to produce something of public benefit. One of the unintended byproducts was controversy. In 1937, the Federal Art and Theatre Project unintentionally...
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Pennsbury Manor Architectural Drawing

Works of art featured in “Rediscovering the People’s Art: New Deal Murals in Pennsylvania’s Post Offices” by David Lembeck, beginning on page 28, are some examples of the legacy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in Pennsylvania. Another is the reconstruction of William Penn’s Pennsbury Manor overlooking the banks of the Delaware River in Bucks County. A popular attraction along...
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New Deal Artifacts at State Museum of Pennsylvania

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, created to spur economic relief in the wake of the Great Depression, did not focus solely on building and construction projects. The Frontier Forts and Trails Survey, funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission (predecessor of the PHMC), conducted archaeological investigations in western...
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Advanced Technology “Rubs” the Ancient Past

With more than 400,000 visitors, the Pennsylvania Farm Show, held each January, is a terrific opportunity to highlight the best of Pennsylvania agriculture. It’s also an exciting venue to showcase Pennsylvania archaeology and remind the public that archaeological sites are important endangered resources that need protection. Since 1980, PHMC’s Bureau for Historic Preservation and The...
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“Mackin’s Porch” Ballad by Con Carbon

The working files of the Pennsylvania Historical Survey [circa 1935–1950], Series 13.108, conducted by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, are held by the Pennsylvania State Archives. They consist of 133 cartons, five boxes, seventy-nine microfilm rolls, forty folders, seven volumes, and one bundle of materials. Among these diverse...
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PHMC Celebrates A Century of Service

The year 1914 was notable for a number of reasons. Germany declared war on Russia and France. Joyce Kilmer wrote “Trees.” Henry Bacon designed the Lincoln Memorial. Mack Sennett produced Making a Living starring Charlie Chaplin. Irving Berlin composed Watch Your Step. The Federal Trade Commission was created. Walter Hagen won the U.S. Golf Association Open. The patent for airplanes...
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