Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

Quilts Come Home

The Keystone State’s newest attraction, the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum, made its debut recently, drawing national attention for its role as a leading educational facility for interpreting and exhibiting the rich and diverse cultural traditions of Lancaster County and southcentral Pennsylvania. The mu­seum was established by the Heritage Center of Lancaster County.

Housed in the historic Lancaster Trust Building in center city, the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum safeguards a collection of more than one hundred quilts and five hundred examples of textile arts – rugs, clothing, embroidery, pin cushions, and blankets – representing the work of local quilters, embroiderers, and rug hookers of English, Scots-Irish, and Pennsylvania German backgrounds, including the Amish and Mennonite communities, from 1780 to the present.

The core of the museum’s permanent exhibition is what scholars regard as the finest public collection of Amish quilts made in Lancaster County. Once known as the Esprit Collection, this outstanding group of eighty-two quilts was assembled by Douglas R. and Susie (Russell) Tompkins, founders of Esprit de Corp, an enormously successful clothing company headquartered in San Francisco. The couple displayed the quilts throughout their offices.

The collection commenced in 1972 when the Tompkins sought a strong, relevant interior design element for their newly acquired company headquarters, a century-old brick warehouse. Their choice was antique American quilts. Grand in scale and vibrant in color and design, quilts suited the expansive brick and wooden walls of the spacious building. The quilts aligned perfectly with their clothing business. What began as a solution to a decorating challenge became a celebrated collection. In fact, the Esprit offices served as a museum during regular business hours; a rotating exhibition of quilts was available for public viewing.

After transferring the collection to a foundation he headed, Tomp­kins offered the quilts for sale. The Heritage Center of Lancaster County – thanks to donations from individuals, quilt guilds, and organizations from throughout the United States – purchased the collections to keep it intact. The collection has traveled throughout the world. Pieces in the collection encompass a fifty-year period, roughly from the 1890s to the 1940s.

Visitors to the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum learn about the history of Pennsylvania German quilting traditions, specifically those of the Amish. For students of Amish culture, the museum explores the myths and realities of Amish life, with a particular focus on the textile arts. Quilting students can appreciate the tremendous range and diversity of Pennsylvania’s Amish tradition reflected in the quilt collection. A children’s activity area enables younger museum visitors to engage in “hands-on” learning experiences.

The Lancaster Trust Building, constructed in 1911, housed a financial institution serving local farmers and businesses until its failure in 1933. The Beaux Arts-style building features a huge vaulted banking room, now the museum’s main exhibition gallery. Other rooms, including the walk-in vault and the richly paneled board of directors room, feature small rotating exhibits. The building is owned by the City of Lancaster and leased to the Heritage Center of Lan­caster County.

Information is available by writing: Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum, 37 Market St., Lancaster, PA 17603; or by telephoning (717) 299-6440. Admission is charged.


Sciences in Art

The Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum and Art Gallery at the Pennsylvania State University at University Park is among the Commonwealth’s more unusual museums. The main gallery exhibits fine minerals such as azurite and “velvet” malachite from Bisbee, Ari­zona, and amazonite crystals from the Pike’s Peak, Colorado, area. In addition to collections of rocks, minerals, and fossils totaling more than twenty-two thousand specimens, the museum maintains collections of glass, ceramics, metals, plastics, synthetic materials, mining and scientific equipment, archaeological artifacts, and works of art. Many of the specimens are on display while others are made available to students and scholars for research and educational purposes.

The museum holds one of the country’s most extensive collections of paintings and sculpture depicting mining and similar industries. The museum’s fine art holdings, known as the Steidle Collection, has been described as “a time capsule that allows us to observe the relationships among the fine arts, industry, and education in America in the years before World War II.” Edward Steidle joined the institution in 1928 as dean of its School of Mining and Metallurgy at the behest of Ralph D. Hetzel, Penn State’s tenth president, who served from 1926 to 1947. Hetzel lured Steidle, a 1911 graduate of Penn State, from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, where he had reorganized the mining engineering curriculum, initiated its first research program, and obtained assistance for mining education from private industry. One of his first actions was to change the name of the school to the College of Mineral Industries in a successful attempt to offer a broader curriculum, as well as give it more credibility. (In 1966, the name changed to the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.)

Considered a Renaissance Man by his peers and students, Steidle began, in the 1930s, to collect works of art illustrating the subjects taught in the school in order to enhance the existing collections of minerals and mineral industries artifacts. He intended to draw attention to the vital roles the bituminous coal, an­thracite, steel, oil, iron, coke, glass, and lime industries played. Steidle, who remained dean until 1953, donated three works to the collection by Aaron Henry Corson (1872-1933), an industrial land­scapist noted for his dramatic nocturnal and smoke-filled views of Pittsburgh’s sprawling steel mills.

The Steidle Collection contains works by a number of painters, many of them women, including Lucy Lederer, Edmund M. Ashe, Richard Crist, Walt Huber, Mary Martha Himler, Roy Hilton, Betty Rendle­man, Frances Wright, Harold L. Womer, Walter Emerson Baum, Louise Evans-­Scott, and Harold M. Brett. One fascinating aspect of this collection is the artists’ highly positive attitudes towards industry.

A perennially popular display at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum and Art Gallery is a pair of shrunken heads. Although their dates are unknown, the museum does know that the shrunken heads come from the Jivaro Indians of eastern Ecuador. The Jivaro shrank the heads of enemies killed in raids or battle and kept them for ceremonial use or as trophies of war.

To learn more about the museum and its events and activities, write: Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum and Art Gallery, Pennsylvania State University, 112 Steidle Building, Pollock Rd., University Park, PA 16802; or telephone (814) 865-6427. Admission is free.


General Celebration

When Allentown business leader and philanthropist General Harry C. Trexler (1854-1933) died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident, he left an es­tate valued at ten million dollars. In his will, Trexler directed that the residue should be held in perpetual trust, the income of which would benefit his wife Mary M. Mosser Trexler (1852-1934), daughter of Lucy and William K. Mosser, a wealthy Lehigh Valley tanner, and, after her demise, the citizens of Lehigh County. Since the couple was childless, Mary Trexler’s will complemented her husband’s, providing that her estate be merged with his. Upon her death the following year, the Harry C. Trexler Trust, with a principal of nearly twelve million dollars, was established.

Today, the assets of the Henry C. Trexler Trust total more than one hun­dred million dollars. Since its inception seventy years ago, the charitable trust has distributed more than eighty-five million dollars to Lehigh County organizations and causes, including twenty-seven million dollars alone to Allentown, the city he loved.

Characterized by writer and editor Rick Bayan of Philadelphia, as “a genial small-town combination of Teddy Roosevelt and Andrew Carnegie,” Trexler “grew businesses like so many tomato plants.” With his younger brothers, he took over the family’s prosperous lumber company upon their father’s retirement in 1890. He was also an organizer of the Allentown Steam Heat Company, a founder, with Ed­ward M. Young and George Orm­rod, of the Lehigh Portland Cement Company, a principal in the Lehigh Valley Transit Company, and a founder of the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company, now PPL Electric Utilities, still headquartered in Allentown, opposite the site of the popular Hess Brothers department store, known as Hess’s since the 1960s (see “Max Hess Jr. Puts Allentown on the Map!” by Liz Armstrong Hall in the fall 2004 issue).

In addition to his philanthropy and civic contributions – he is considered the “father” of the Allentown’s spectacular parks system – Trexler was associated with the Pennsylvania National Guard beginning in 1895, when Governor Daniel H. Hastings appointed him to his staff; the appointment continued under Governors William A. Stone and Samuel W. Pennypacker. He was later appointed deputy commissary general by Governor Edwin S. Stuart, and quartermaster general by Governor John K. Tener. Trexler retired from military service in 1918 with the rank of brigadier general.

Throughout 2004, the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Trexler’s birth, libraries and organizations in Lehigh County are participating in “150 Years: Celebrate the Legacy – Harry C. Trexler Trust” with exhibits, family activities, and special events. Continuing through Wednesday, November 17, at the Lehigh County Museum in Allentown is “Harry Clay Trexler: The Man, The Visionary Builder, and The Legacy.” The exhibit explores the life and career of the prominent philanthropist and celebrates his generosity and foresight. The Lehigh County Historical Society, which administers the museum, recently published Harry C. Trexler: His Life and Legacy, by Frank A. Whelan, a fifty-six-page biography summarizing the general’s life and the times in which he lived. The historical society also produced a film entitled Yours Truly: Harry C. Trexler. Funding for many anniversary projects was provided by the Harry C. Trexler Trust.

For additional information about the museum exhibition, write: Lehigh County Museum, Lehigh County Historical Society, Post Office Box 1548, Allentown, PA 18105-1548; telephone (610) 435-9601; or visit the Lehigh County Historical Society website. Admission to the museum, located at Fifth and Hamilton Streets, is free.