Bicentennial News

Bicentennial News features reports about the American Revolution Bicentennial in Pennsylvania, including programs, events and publications of PHMC, as well as projects and activities of the Bicentennial Commission of Pennsylvania, county historical societies and other institutions.

Commission Activities

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is actively involved in planning and carrying out major historical programs for the overall commemoration of the Bicentennial Commission.

Among twenty-five project grants approved by the National Historical Publication Commission on May 21, 1974, was one to accelerate editing and publication of The Papers of Henry Bouquet by the Commission, under the editorship of Donald H. Kent and Louis M. Waddell. Two volumes of the projected seven appeared in 1951 and 1972, but a third is now being readied for the printer.

The papers of Bouquet, a Swiss officer in British service, cover his career in America from 1756 to his death in 1765. Despite his background, he was an American figure in a sense that few British officers ever were. His untimely death in Florida disassociated him from the later conception of the British as enemies, and he was remembered in the back country of the Middle Colonies as a leader and protector, even entering into folklore.

Among the Americans serving with him who later gained prominence in the Revolution were George Washington, Horatio Gates, John Armstrong, Charles Lee and Lachlan McIntosh. Other correspondents included Benjamin Franklin, William Allen, Thomas Willing and Richard Peters. His papers are a highly significant body of documentary materials relating to the military, social and political background from which the Revolution developed.


Other Commission Activities

Historic properties especially associated with the Revolution include Valley Forge, Washington Crossing, Ephrata Cloister and Cornwall Furnace. In addition to emphasis on historic properties, various out-of-print commission publications bearing on the Revolutionary period have been republished. Included are Bining’s Pennsylvania Iron Manufacture in the 18th Century, Brunhouse’s Counter Revolution in Pennsylvania and Fletcher’s Pennsylvania Agriculture and Country Life, 1640-1840.

A Bicentennial edition of The Guide to the Historical Markers Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has been authorized, and a new Directory of Pennsylvania Historical Organizations is being prepared. A brief pamphlet on Pennsylvania and the Revolution is also planned.


Publications Issued

The approaching Bicentennial of American Independence should draw public attention Increasingly to the years of conflict and decision in which thirteen British colonies became a nation. This presents a singular opportunity for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to execute its educational mandate by developing a wider public understanding of Pennsylvania’s place in the formation of a new nation.

Next to the historic meetings of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, which declared independence and conducted the war, the story which has captured the imagination is the winter encampment of the American army at Valley Forge. A new study of this difficult time has been prepared by John B. B. Trussell, Jr., associate historian of the Commission. Trussell has examined records, Journals, correspondence and has written from a topical rather than chronological point of view. His view is wide, for he examines problems of supply, health, morale of both officers and men, training, crime and its punishment, and of General Washington himself.

From his study, the author has distilled a shorter account which has just been published by the Commission as a forty-six page illustrated booklet, Epic on the Schuylkill, the Valley Forge Encampment, 1777-1778. It will be sold at Valley Forge State Park and other historic sites and may be purchased from the Commission in Harrisburg.

Trussell, meanwhile, continues his study of Pennsylvania in the Revolution, with a history now in preparation of the organization of the Pennsylvania regiments in the Continental Line.

Before his retirement as a colonel in the United States Army, Trussell was chairman of the Department of Research and Studies of the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle.

Three leaflets that explore areas of special Pennsylvania interest in the American Revolution are being added to the Historic Pennsylvania Leaflet Series. Trussell has written two leaflets about two major battles, The Battle of Brandywine and The Battle of Germantown, both fought by Washington’s men against the invasion of Pennsylvania and the occupation of Philadelphia by the British and their Hessian mercenaries in the fall of 1777.

Finally, another leaflet tells the story of the Liberty Bell from its purchase for the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) in 1752, to its proclamation of American independence, to its transformation from a simple bell to a symbol of liberty. The author is Christine Sweely, a 1973 graduate of Elizabethtown College.


Commission Begins Major Project

A major Bicentennial project for the Division of Archives and Manuscripts of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission began in September. To support the project, “Records of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council, 1775-90: Microfilm and Guide,” the Commission received a federal grant of $67,335.

Harry E. Whipkey, state archivist and chief of the Commission’s Division of Archives and Manuscripts, will direct the project. Martha L. Simonetti, associate archivist for the Commission, will serve as associate investigator.

The grant, awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is for a two-year period.

Specifically, the project is to encompass records of the Committee of Safety, 1775-76; Council of Safety, 1776-77; (Second) Council of Safety, 1777; Secretary of the Supreme Executive Council, 1777-1790; the Navy Board, 1777; the Board of War, 1777; and the Council of Censors, 1784. The total volume of manuscript material would be 43 cubic feet or approximately 60,000 pages.


Document Donated

A Revolutionary War document has been donated to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission by Mrs. Ethel L. Koch in of Pittsburgh, wife of the late Dr. Louis M. Koch in. The document is dated April 19, 1776.

The document is made out to Andrew Simpson, who was made an ensign of a Company of Foot in the First Battalion of Associators in Westmoreland County, commanded by Col. John Proctor. Ensign Simpson was commissioned for the “Protection of this Province, against all hostile Enterprises, and for the Defence of American Liberty.” The document is signed by order of the Pennsylvania Assembly, John Morton, speaker.

Dr. Kochin practiced medicine in Pittsburgh for almost forty-four years and was an avid history student and antique collector.


Statewide Plans

Another grant of importance to Pennsylvania history provides for the microfilm publication of the Tench Coxe Papers by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, making these papers of the significant figure in the beginnings of the Federal government readily available. Peter Parker, chief of manuscripts at the HSP, will direct the project. The microfilm will be edited by Lucy F. West, who edited the microfilm edition of the papers of James Buchanan.

The Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies, which allies more than 146 historical organizations, seeks to stimulate more publications on county and local history. The Federation has also scheduled a series of regional workshops to stimulate historical society activities throughout Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Historical Association, statewide organization of professional and amateur historians, is featuring the Revolutionary period in its quarterly journal, Pennsylvania History, and plans to assemble and edit from its pages a volume of essays on The American Revolution in Pennsylvania.