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.

Armenian American Heritage

Survivors of centuries of persecution, Armenians have developed an unbreakable will to maintain the culture of their ancestors. Even as foreign rulers forced Armenians to flee their homeland and scatter across the Near East, Europe and the United States, their culture, remarkably, survived. Today, Armenian Americans carry on a rich and full ethnic life. Through churches, schools, political organiza­tions, youth groups, fraternal associations and cultural and charitable institutions, each generation of Armenian Amer­icans has remain rotted to its ancient identity and distinctive heritage.

An important piece of this identity and heritage is repre­sented in the colorful rugs which Armenians have woven through the centuries, and which have been recognized as some of the finest in the world. With their unique char­acteristics, including Christian motifs, inscriptions in the Armenian language and spe­cial dyes, these rugs reflect the history of an entire culture. These rugs have, too, played an important role in the con­tinuing saga of Armenians in the United States as well. The first importer of Oriental rugs to America was Armenian, and through the years the manufacture and importing of Armenian and Oriental rugs has provided generations of Armenian Americans with profitable livelihoods – and generations of Americans with pleasure.

To fully tell the history and describe the social life of Americans of Armenian heri­tage, the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia has mounted a major exhibi­tion entitled “Armenian Rugs: The Fabric of a Culture.” The exhibit features an extraordi­nary collection of Armenian rugs, photographs, artifacts and objects. The core of the exhibit is a selection of thirty Armenian rugs created during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in lands where Armenians have lived, principally the Ottoman Em­pire and Persia. Several were made in orphanages in present-day Lebanon where the children of Armenians were taken after the death of their parents in 1915. Many of the rugs are woven with inscriptions, which often include the date it was created, the name of its maker or a descrip­tion of the event it commemo­rates. On several rugs the inscriptions merely welcome the visitors, inviting them to take respite.

“Armenian Rugs: The Fab­ric of a Culture” also features artifacts reflecting the Arme­nian American rug trade, such as account books, business papers, early advertising and promotional pieces and com­mercial records. A major at­traction is an operating rug weaving loom, on which dem­onstrations of weaving tech­niques wi11 be offered by expert weavers. Approximately sixty historical and contempo­rary photographs of the Arme­nian American community have been expressly loaned for this show. The images include family portraits and photographs of businesses, churches and political and social events. Also on display is a selection of documents, jewelry, textiles and related materials brought to the United States by Arme­nian immigrants.

“Armenian Rugs: The Fab­ric of a Culture” will be on view through October 29.

The Balch Institute will be the site of a conference entitled “Soviet Armenia: Problems and Prospects,” sponsored by the University of Pennsylva­nia’s Center for Soviet and East European Studies, on Friday and Saturday, October 7-8. On Saturday, October 8, a program relating Armenian heritage and the study of Ar­menian rug production will be sponsored by the Society for Armenian Studies and the Armenian Rug Society.

Additional information regarding” Armenian Rugs: The Fabric of a Culture” may be obtained by writing: Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 18 South Seventh St., Philadel­phia, PA 19106; or by telephon­ing (215) 925-8090.

Visiting hours at the Balch Institute are Monday through Saturday, 10:00 A. M. to 4:00 P. M. Admission is free.


Masonic Memorabilia

The first major exhibit of Philadelphia’s Masonic Tem­ple, “Reflections in a Museum Case: Eight Decades of Ma­sonic Collecting, 1908-1988,” marks the eightieth anniver­sary of the opening of the organization’s museum under the chairmanship of depart­ment store titan John Wanama­ker. Celebrating the rich diversity of the Masonic Tem­ple’s archival and library col­lections, the exhibit features antiques, artifacts and art works spanning several centu­ries, such as ceramics, textiles, metal work, jewelry, calligra­phy and paintings. On view through November 30, “Reflec­tions in A Museum Case” also chronicles the history of Free­masonry, which in Pennsylva­nia dates to the 1720s.

Freemasonry is an interna­tional, benevolent and frater­nal organization which engages in charitable endeav­ors. For years, popular miscon­ceptions about Freemasonry have confused the Masonic Temple with a church, a syna­gogue or a private club, and the exhibit graphically de­scribes the Masonic heritage in Pennsylvania. The scope of the Masonic Temple’s collection is immense, including ancient Egyptian bronzes, George Washington’s apron, a Bible commentary printed in 1489 and a Bible reputedly carried to the New World on the May­flower.

Perhaps the most important feature of the exhibit is the Masonic Temple structure itself. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Masonic Temple opened on North Broad and Penn Square in 1873, and remains one of Philadelphia’s little altered Victorian period edifices. The ornate interior is outfitted with a stunning series of exuber­antly gilded and frescoed rooms and halls representing various architectural styles, from Egyptian to Renaissance.

“Reflections in a Museum Case: Eight Decades of Ma­sonic Collecting, 1908-1988,” is open to the public free of charge. Visiting hours are Monday through Friday, 9 A. M. to 5 P. M.; and Satur­day, 9 A. M. to Noon. Guided tours, and school and special interest tours are also available.

Additional information may be obtained by writing: Ma­sonic Temple, 1 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19107- 2598; or by telephoning (215) 988-1932 or 988-1908.


Making Waves

“Making Waves: Radio Communication in Pennsylva­nia, 1900-1935,” featuring The State Museum of Pennsylva­nia’s extensive radio equip­ment collection, will remain on view at the museum through April 30, 1989. The exhibition is augmented by several private loans and one from the National Museum of American History, Washington, D. C. “Making Waves” is divided into six sections or, aptly put, “waves.”

The opening section of the exhibit is devoted to early radio discoveries made by Elihu Thomson of Philadel­phia, Father Joseph Murgas of Wilkes-Barre and Reginald Fesenden of Pittsburgh, in addition to a discussion of the creation of air waves. Illus­trated with objects and photo­graphs, the section continues with an examination of basics, such as the antenna, tuner, detector and reproducer. The introduction also explores the work of pioneers Heinrich Hertz and Gugliemo Marconi.

The advent of the radio vacuum tube, discussed in the second segment, illustrates how this tube permitted both receiver and transmitter to be tuned more precisely so that interference and distortion could be greatly reduced. In the age before the invention of the radio vacuum tube, the radio range was so broad that a receiver could not be tuned to any selected spark gap transmitter because the broad­casts splashed over many frequencies and interfered with each other. This section showcases an array of early tubes, as well as mention of Edwin H. Armstrong’s discov­ery of the regenerative circuit, which involved a special wir­ing of a number of tubes.

Because radio and tele­phone were the first modern communications methods of warfare, World War I is consid­ered in the third part of “Mak­ing Waves: Radio Communication in Pennsylva­nia, 1900-1935:’ Armstrong’s discovery in 1918 of the super­heterodyne circuit – still in use in broadcast receivers today­ – enabled high frequencies to be used for radio transmissions. This discussion is illustrated with airplane models, military radio equipment and photo­graphs.

By 1905, individuals fasci­nated by wireless communica­tion were building their own radios. They eventually grew into a tightly knit fraternity with their own clubs, national organizations, magazines and language. In 1922, more than fifteen thousand licensed amateurs had developed a coast-to-coast radio relay sys­tem that dispatched radio traffic at a staggering rate of fifty thousand messages a month! Giving individuals the right to experiment with radio brought reward. Amateurs had originally been assigned short­wave, high frequencies be­cause business and government experts believed they were useless, unable to travel far. However, amateurs in the United States sent short­wave messages across the Atlantic.

In October 1919, Frank Conrad of Wilkinsburg, a Westinghouse engineer and the licensee of amateur station 8XK, grew weary of listening to endless amateur operators’ chatter. Rather than add to the aimless patter, he pulled the family’s Edison record player in front of his microphone and transmitted music. Because his signal was not “narrow” enough to be drawn by a par­ticular station, his transmis­sion was heard by many listeners – hence, the inaugura­tion of broadcasting. The transmission became ex­tremely popular, and individ­uals rushed out to purchase receivers. By goµd fortune, the radio industry – which had been geared up for the war effort – was able to meet the demand. Not long afterwards, Westinghouse, R. C. A. and American Telephone and Tele­graph joined the radio patent pool, which manufactured and sold radios, and controlled the market. Their competitors included independent com­panies, Crosley, Grebe, Stromber-Carlson, Pennsylva­nia Wireless Manufacturing Company of New Castle and Atwater Kent, Philadelphia.

The exhibit concludes with an examination of broadcast networks, a method invented by Edwin H. Armstrong to eliminate static by frequency modulation (FM).

Featured in “Radio Waves” are a re-creation of a circa 1925 living room setting, complete with radio, and an early broad­casting studio. Many of the pieces on view were selected from a major gift by Harry Houck, a bonafide radio pio­neer who worked with Arm­strong.

For more information, write: The State Museum of Pennsylvania, P. O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026; or telephone (717) 783-9882.

The State Museum is lo­cated at Third and North streets in downtown Harris­burg, just north of the State Capitol. Visiting hours are: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, Noon to 5 P.M.


The Ladies’ Work Table

Between the years 1800 and 1900, a dramatic evolution took place in the techniques and styles of domestic needlework, or textiles made by hand by women in the home. The nineteenth century saw the democratization of needle­work. In the early part of the century, all women sewed but only wealthy women made elaborate decorative embroi­deries. Skill with the needle was part of a young lady’s schooling and was considered a necessary social accomplishment. The cost of embroidery silks – in addition to the amount of training and leisure time needed to complete an elaborate piece – limited deco­rative needlework to the upper classes.

Needlework became a mid­dle class occupation about 1830-1876. Women of the grow­ing middle class, whose hus­bands forbade them to work, needed a respectable but inex­pensive pastime for their lei­sure hours. New and simpler techniques of working in counted stitches on canvas or punched paper required less training and became im­mensely popular. Cheaper materials, such as wools, re­placed the costlier imported silks. By the close of the nine­teenth century, needlework was no longer thought of as a pastime, but as recreation; it had evolved into a craft. Amer­ican needlework societies organized and devoted them­selves to promoting the new “art needlework” among the working classes. Pattern man­ufacturers catered to the tastes of middle and working class customers who were embroi­dering to decorate the home. Inexpensive manufactured patterns and embroidery silks were available everywhere, in shops and by mail order. As the materials and techniques of needlework changed during the nineteenth century, so did aesthetic tastes. Needlework changed dramatically, from the simple, utilitarian works of the Federal period to the exuberant embellishments of the Victo­rian era.

On view at the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley from September 25 through January 8, 1989, “The Ladies’ Work Table: Domestic Needlework in the Nineteenth Century” will chronicle the diverse artistic tastes, social changes and the impact of the Industrial Revolution on this aspect of nineteenth century life. Nearly two hundred objects – on public display for the first time – include sam­plers, white-on-white embroi­dery, Pennsylvania German hand towels, quilted clothing, hooked rugs, Berlin work, lace, tea cloths, pattern books, tools and related period arti­facts.

“The Ladies’ Work Table” will also chart the difference between urban and rural needlework traditions. While all America, or so it seemed, admired and copied fashion ideas and trends emanating from the industrial Northeast, a variety of ethnic, rural and regional needle crafts existed in tandem, most notably pieced and appliqued cotton quilts, sewn or hooked rugs, and embroidered hand towels of the Pennsylvania Germans. Several rooms of the exhibition will explore the form and func­tion of these American folk arts.

The exhibit will illustrate how needlework was an inte­gral part of the lives of nineteenth century American women. It indicates how do­mestic needlework reflected the rich spectrum of aesthetic taste and the evolving role of women in both urban and rural America. This exhibit will serve as much as a study of material culture as a study of textile and art history, appeal­ing to students, needlework­ers, historians, collectors and antiques dealers. A fully illus­trated catalogue will accom­pany the exhibit.

For more information re­garding “The Ladies’ Work Table: Domestic Needlework in the Nineteenth Century,” write: Allentown Art Museum, Fifth and Court Sts., P. O. Box 117, Allentown, PA 18105; or telephone (215) 432-4333.


Mennonites of the North Penn Area

In 1713, the first Menno­nites settled in what is known as the North Penn Area, now the most concentrated Menno­nite settlement in eastern Pennsylvania. They settled in a portion of Skippack, which by 1728 became Towamencin Township. These settlers origi­nally traveled from Germany and Holland, entering through the port of Philadelphia, to flee “hard usage, intolerable servi­tude and Religious grievances” in Europe. Aided by wealthy Dutch families, they chose the English colonies in North America to make their new home, one in which religious tolerance was promised-and one in which new opportuni­ties awaited them.

Since the Skippack area was largely inhabited, they moved to Towamencin, Salford and Franconia and lived among the Lutherans and Reformed who had emigrated from many of the same towns as had the Mennonites. From Towamencin, Salford and Franconia, they again fanned out to settle in other localities. Some traveled southeast to Hatfield, Gywnned and New Britain; others went eastward to Rockhill and to the springs of the Skippack Creek, now Souderton. Mennonite settle­ments existed in Salford by 1717; in Franconia by 1729; in Hatfield by 1735; in Rockhill by 1736; and in Line Lexington by 1748.

The Mennonites at first worshipped in homes, but shortly afterwards erected meetinghouses for the gemiens­chaft, or fellowship of believ­ers. Salford claimed a meetinghouse by 1728; Rock­hill and Line Lexington by 1755; Franconia and Hatfield by 1765; and Towamencin by 1775. From these congrega­tions of the Old Franconia Conference other congrega­tions eventually emerged. However, a split in 1847 frac­tured the area and two distinct groups evolved: the Franconia Conference, labeled as the “Old Mennonites,” and the new Eastern Conference, re­ferred to as the “New Menno­nites.”

In Souderton, the Franco­nia Conference established the Souderton Mennonite Church in 1879 and the Eastern Con­ference of the General Confer­ence Mennonite Church founded the Zion Mennonite Church in 1887. The Eastern Conference continued to estab­lish congregations in the North Penn Area with Grace (Lansdale) in 1929 and Indian Valley (Harleysville) in 1968.

Drawing from its own-as well as from congregational and private-collections, the Mennonite Heritage Center in Souderton is showing a major exhibit reflecting the life and faith of the sect, “Mennonites of the North Penn Area.” The exhibit features a broad variety of artifacts and objects, includ­ing furnishings, tools, per­sonal items, books, needlework, clothing, docu­ments and folk art. An inter­pretive version of an early Mennonite meetinghouse has been created with furnishings drawn from a number of local meetinghouses. On view are a rare early example of a pulpit Prediger Stuhl (preacher’s bench) from the 1755 Bally Mennonite Meetinghouse and a decorated iron stove cast at Hopewell Furnace about 1730 and purchased for the 1833 Franconia Meetinghouse. Other objects include slat­backed benches, hat racks, alms boxes, rare eighteenth century Sauer bibles, baptismal basins and pewter communion cups.

Mennonite clothing is rep­resented by nineteenth cen­tury bonnets, shawls and dresses, while home furnish­ings are reflected by redware dishes and baking bowls, cookie cutters, carpenter’s tools, a Jacob Hagey (Hegy) grandfather’s dock, crocks and quilts.

“Mennonites of the North Penn Area” will remain on view through Sunday, Novem­ber 27. Visiting hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 4 P. M.; and Sun­day, 2 to 4 P. M. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

To obtain additional infor­mation, write: Mennonite Heritage Center, 24 Main St., Souderton, PA 18964; or tele­phone (215) 723-1700.


Reflected Light

The Chester County Histor­ical Society prizes its “family album,” an immense collection of photographs of county people, places and events, some of which have been selected to appear in a fasci­nating exhibit scheduled to open Sunday, October 1, in its West Chester museum gal­leries. Entitled “Reflected Light: A Century of Photogra­phy in Chester County,” the exhibit features the work of both professional and amateur photographers from the 1840s to the 1940s. Many of the im­ages will be on display for the first time since their acquisi­tion by the historical society.

The earliest form of photog­raphy, the daguerreotype, was a speciality of George Pyle, a native of West Marlborough Township, Chester County. After honing the skills taught to him by Philadelphia pho­tographer John E. Mayall, Pyle traveled to Maryland, Ohio and Indiana before returning in 1849. Several of Pyle’s strik­ing portraits will be on display, as well as a rare outdoor scene and his original photographic apparatus.

Other early photographic media will be explored through albums, tintypes and visiting cards dating from the 1860s through the 1880s. The work of Anna Belle Swayne of Kennett Square, one of the first professional woman pho­tographers in Chester County, will be highlighted. Among her achievements were the successful operation of a stu­dio for nearly twenty years and the production of a series of photographs of typical Pennsylvania farms for the Columbian Exposition in Chi­cago in 1893.

“Reflected Light” will ad­dress the field of amateur photography and offer distinc­tive and personal insights into county life during the nine­teenth century. Featured will be the work of J. Max Mueller, a West Chester piano teacher, and Gilbert Cope, the noted late nineteenth century histo­rian and genealogist. A selec­tion of street scenes and landscapes by Mueller, active in several photography clubs in the 1880s and 1890s, will be on display, in addition to ama­teur photographic equipment from the turn of the century. Cope, co-author of The History of Chester County, used photog­raphy to help gather informa­tion for this and other books. Prints reproduced from the society’s collection of more than twenty-five hundred glass plate negatives will also be included.

The advent and early use of color photography will be illustrated through color im­ages made by William C. South of Downingtown at the turn of the century. An avid experimenter, South patented a color printing process in 1906 known as the Solgram Color Print, and briefly operated the Keystone School of Photogra­phy. South’s patents and the work of some of his students will complete this in-depth photographic exhibition.

“Reflected Light: A Century of Photography in Chester County,” to be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, will continue through February 12, 1989.

Visiting hours at the histori­cal society are: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 A. M. to 4 P. M.; Wednesday, 1 to 8 P. M.; and Sunday, Noon to 4 P. M. There is an admission fee.

For more information, write: Chester County Histori­cal Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380; or telephone (215) 692-4800.



Although dictionaries de­scribe the catboat as “a broad­beamed sailboat with the mast forward and rigged with one sail,” the vessel – as well as the individuals who own them – is beyond clinical definition. Why would anyone construct a boat that is too wide for its length and too shallow for its width? Or why would anyone sail a boat whose mast is stepped too far forward and does not have stays to stop it from falling overboard? To answer these questions, the Philadelphia Maritime Mu­seum has mounted an exhibit, “Catboats!” which provides a history of this unique, colorful boat and which offers insight into the equally unconven­tional owners. The exhibit is on view in the museum’s Workshop on the Water, a converted barge moored at the boat basin at Penn’s Landing, through Sunday, October 1 [1988].

The lure of catboats has been widespread. Albert Ein­stein was known to take a leisurely outing in a catboat at his summer house in Nassau Point, New York. Both Thomas Eakins and Edward Hopper depicted them in their paint­ings. But the most significant uses of catboats were not by such celebrities, but by the
“ordinary” folk who sailed them for business and plea­sure.

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the catboat was particularly popular, not only because of its relatively easy handling and flexibility, but also because it could be used for a number of purposes. While oystering, damming, fishing and cargo hauling were among the com­mercial ventures afforded by the catboats, they, too, could be used for recreation, notably pleasure cruises, races, day sails and fishing parties. The catboat’s great popularity waned in the early twentieth century, and the vessel all but disappeared from the waters of the New Jersey shoreline, where it had once been so common, if not abundant. Recently, however, the catboat has been enjoying a resur­gence with the A-Cat, a small craft that has garnered new acclaim as a finely-crafted racing yacht.

“Catboats!,” through a variety of models, half­-models, paintings and prints, will discuss the history of the uniquely American craft. In order to bring the saga to life for museum visitors, an actual twenty-eight foot A-Cat has been constructed by the Work­shop on the Water boatbuild­ers.

The Philadelphia Maritime Museum, located in Philadel­phia’s Old City section, is a treasure house of maritime lore and legacy, including marine art, ship models, navi­gational tools, ship building equipment, scrimshaw, weapons, figureheads, photographs and presentation silver. Founded in 1960, the museum offers an extensive maritime library and regularly conducts a number of special activities and events. The Workshop on the Water is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. There is a suggested one dollar contribution for admission.

Additional information regarding “Catboats!” or mu­seum programming is available by writing: Philadelphia Maritime Museum, 321 Chest­nut St., Philadelphia, PA 19106; or by telephoning (215) 925-5439 or 925-7589.


WPA Posters

Working on the second and third floors of the old Johnson Mansion in Philadelphia in the late 1930s and early 1940s, local artists, such as Katherine Milhouse, Isadore Possoff, Nathan Sherman and Robert Muchley, created and printed a variety of posters which docu­mented the city’s and the Commonwealth’s culture and heritage. Using the innovative – and newly created – silk-screening proc­ess, as well as the traditional woodblock and lithographic printing techniques, perhaps more than four hundred different poster designs were pro­duced by these and other artists under the auspices of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administra­tion (WPA).

WPA posters warned of the dangers of syphilis and vene­real diseases, and Nathan Sherman’s images sternly reminded factory workers about the importance of safety in the workplace, while Katherine Milhouse’s work celebrated the legacy of the Pennsylvania German’s folk culture. Other posters invited viewers to visit the Philadel­phia Zoo and various land­marks throughout Philadelphia, including Car­penters’ Hall, the Betsy Ross House, Independence Hall and Fairmount Park. Several posters, particularly those by Robert Muchley, promoted Philadelphia’s commercial importance by depicting busy port scenes.

Beginning September 30, an exciting exhibition at the Philadelphia Branch of the National Archives, “Works By and For the People: Posters of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administra­tion” will showcase more than seventy-five posters created by Philadelphia artists between 1935 and 1942. The exhibit will include posters advertising the Federal Theater Project’s One Third of a Nation, then playing at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theater, and posters promot­ing the Federal Writers Project and the Index to American Design. Photographs and plaster and wooden models (made during the WPA Mu­seum Extension Program) of Carpenters’ Hall, Old Swedes Church, Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House will also be exhibited. In addition, “Works By and For the People” will examine the techniques used in the woodblock and silk-screening processes.

For more information, write: National Archives­Philadelphia Branch, Ninth and Market Sts., Room 1350, Philadelphia, PA 19107; or telephone (215) 597-3000.