Currents

It’s a Zoo! When the Zoological Society of Philadelphia was organized at the home of Dr. William Camac (its first presi­dent) on March 21, 1859, it was the first of its kind in North America. In spite of its auspicious beginnings, the early years of the Philadelphia Zoo – now touted as “America’s First Zoo”­ – were dampened by the Civil War, which not only...
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Drake Well Museum

Visitors can sense the feverish excitement of Pennsylvania’s oil boom years – which spurred the country’s greatest land rush since gold was discovered in California a decade earlier – by touring the Drake Well Museum near Titusville, Venango County. In August 1859, Edwin L. Drake drilled the world’s first producing oil well, forever hallmarking the site as the...
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Shorts

“From Ft. Wagner to Verdun: African Americans in the U.S. Military, 1863-1918,” is on view at the Civil War Library and Museum in Philadelphia. The exhibition, continuing through August 30, 1998, showcases artifacts, objects, and documents chronicling the experience of African Americans in mili­tary service from the Civil War through World War I. The Civil War Library and Museum is...
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McClintock Well No. 1 at Drake Well Museum

McClintock Well Number 1 – the world’s oldest continuously producing oil well – was recently acquired by the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Venango County. Drilled near Oil Creek in August 1861, the well produced fifty barrels of oil a day. The Quaker State Oil Corporation purchased the McClintock Well in 1952 and nominated it for the nearby state historical marker four years...
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Trainloads of Goodwill and Gratitude

Pittsburghers, on the evening of Saturday, November 15, 1947, witnessed a ceremony at the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Station that marked the beginning of an extraordinary occurrence: the journey of a Friendship Train across the Keystone State. By the time it reached Philadelphia, three days and seven stops later, the train hauled an additional fifty-one cavernous boxcars packed to capacity with...
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Genealogical Research of Pithole

Genealogical research can best be described as a search for matching up the crosshairs of “time and place” to find what records a specific era and particular location can yield. The phenomenon of the “boom town” can be one of the most frustrating situations for family historians. While many might think of boom-to-bust ghost towns in terms of the American West,...
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Survival of an American Boom Town

No stirring debates reverberate through the chambers of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall; white-hot molten steel no longer pours out of the fiery cauldrons in the sprawling mills of Pittsburgh and Bethlehem; and little coal ripped from the earth by giant steam shovels in Carbon, Schuylkill, Luzerne, and Lackawanna Counties in the Keystone State’s anthracite region. As surprising as...
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An Impressive Legacy: A Half-Century of Historic Preservation in Pennsylvania, 1955-2005

A quarter-century ago, James Biddle (1929-2005), president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, from 1968 to 1980, was named chairman of Pennsylvania’s first State Historic Preservation Board. Jimmy, as the scion of one of the Commonwealth’s most notable families was known – especially to fellow preservationists, many of them working at the grassroots level –...
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Duck Pond, River Ridge Farm

On May 6, 1925, an individual known only as Murray wrote to Harry Snively of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, on a postcard depicting a duck pond at River Ridge Farm near Franklin, Venango County: “Talk about a beautiful sight, you should see those ducks.” River Ridge Farm, the creation of Joseph Crocker Sibley (1850–1926) in 1911, consisted of four duck ponds, six stone bridges, thirteen miles...
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Can It Already Be Fall?

New Exhibits An exciting new long-term exhibit recently opened at Drake Well Museum and Park at Titusville, Venango County. In the Summer 2011 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage, I profiled the building renovation project at Drake Well, including plans for a geothermal climate control system and a new comprehensive exhibit. There’s a Drop of Oil and Gas in Your Life Every Day, which made its...
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