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.

Exciting Erie

Before the arrival of white settlers, the southern shores of Lake Erie were inhabited by the Eriez Indians of Iroquois stock until they were virtually eliminated, by 1655, through war with the Seneca nation. A century later, the French, recognizing the military and trade advantages that Lake Erie and its waterways offered, found a harbor ideally suited for a fort, which they named Presque Isle. In 1753, the Marquis Duquesne, governor of New France, wrote that “the harbor of Presque Isle .. . is regarded as the finest spot in nature … it is … a harbor which the largest barges can enter, loaded, and be in perfect safety.” The fort was ultimately lost to the British after the French and Indian War.

The modern history of the City of Erie is traced to 1795, when the state legislature passed an act for the creation of a “town called Erie … at or near Presque Isle.” Settlement grew slowly, however, because of the fear of Indian uprisings and bitter land disputes. By 1812, only five hundred people were living in the tiny village – but it was the year that marked the turning point in Erie’s history.

Erie attracted national attention during the War of 1812 when Daniel Dobbins persuaded President James Madison to build a fleet of ships in the harbor to help protect the Great Lakes. Just one year later, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry arrived to command the fleet and lead it through the famous Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813 (see “The Battle of Lake Erie: A Victory for Commodore Perry” by James E. ValJe in the fall 1988 edition and “Sail On, O Ship of State: An Interview with Capt. Walter Rybka of the U. S. Brig Niagara” by Diane B. Reed in the summer 1993 edition). Perry’s words upon defeating the British still reverberate in the country’s history: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”

During the early nineteenth century, Erie became, with the establishment of railway and steamship routes, recognized as an important center of trade. Completed in 1844, the Erie Canal stimulated the community’s developing economy, and within less than a decade nearly six thousand people had settled in Erie, earning for it the official designation of a “city.” Following the Civil War, industrialization blossomed, enticing even more immigrants to settle in the city. Its economy grew stronger during the second half of the nineteenth century, stimulated by a thriving port which became the most successful freshwater fishing port in the world – more than one hundred steam fishing tugs left the har­bor each day! When Erie celebrated its centennial in 1895 – with three days of parades, races, speeches, and fireworks­ – it counted forty-five thousand residents.

For this year’s bicentennial, Erie – ­which is home now to one hundred and ten thousand residents – will offer a number of special events and activities through early September. On Saturday, June 24, David Stone will give a lecture entitled “Ghost Ships of Lake Erie”; on Monday, July 31 [1995], local historian Allan Belovarac will present a paper, “Oliver Hazard Perry: Was He the Real Hero of the Battle of Lake Erie?”; and on Wednesday, August 16 [1995], author and historian John Claridge will discuss “Lost Erie.” In addition to concerts, arts festivals, and public programs throughout the summer months, a day of yacht races in Presque Isle Bay will be held on Saturday, July 15 [1995].

The popular “We Love Erie Days” will showcase the city’s ethnic diversity. The annual event will be held from Thursday through Sunday, August 17-20 [1995]. The Erie Playhouse will stage a production of Fortunate Victory, a musical drama about Commodore Perry’s victory during the Battle of Lake Erie. Largely written by the late Erie playwright Alexander Clemente, and completed by his daughter and son­-in-law, the production will run from Friday through Sunday, September 1-3 [1995], and again from Friday through Sunday, September 7-10 [1995]. The bicentennial will officially end with gala closing ceremonies on Sunday, September 10 [1995], the one hundred and eighty-second anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie.

For more information about these and related bicentennial observances, write: Greater Erie Bicentennial Commission, 16 West Tenth St., Erie, PA 16501; or tele­phone (814) 455-7056.


Dipped, Slipped ….

An extraordinary selection of English earthenware is on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Delaware County, through Sunday, August 13 [1995].

The exhibition, entitled “Dipped, Slipped, Turned, and Wormed: English Mocha and Other Colored Wares,” showcases one hundred of the finest and most unusual pieces of this distinctive and col­orful pottery known to exist. Included in this exhibition are coffee pots, pint mugs, sugar boxes, bowls, and mustard pots borrowed from private collections especially refers specifically to slip-decorated earth­enwares bearing these tree-like motifs.

Early mocha ware appeared about 1780 and was made throughout England, Scotland, and Wales for the export market. Classic mocha ware decoration with tree-­like forms was achieved by first turning each piece of white pottery on a lathe (a flat, spinning wheel) during which different types of colorful liquid clay, called slips, were applied to the pottery to give it on which liquid clay slips were used to create banded, dipped, checked, marbled, and dropped and trailed decoration. While these wares were turned on a lathe, various liquid materials were used to create a variety of surface decoration, known by such descriptions as as “cat eyes,” “worm” or “wiggly line,” and “twig.”

Until recently, scholars have overlooked the significance of English mocha and slip­-decorated wares in America. On the other hand, collectors have long recognized the pottery for its rich beauty, finding highly individual design quirks and reveling in the discovery of special mocha pieces, such as Leeds and Wedgwood forms.

“Dipped, Slipped, Turned and Wormed: English Mocha and Other Colored Wares” has been organized by guest curator Jonathan Rickard, an English mocha ware scholar and collector, who lent examples for this exhibition.

For additional information, write: Brandywine River Museum, P. O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; or telephone (610) 388-2700. There is a charge for admission.


Factory of Fun

The world famous A. Schoenhut Company was founded in 1872 in Philadelphia by German toymaker Albert Schoenhut (1849-1912), who had immigrated to the city in 1866 at the age of seventeen. He established a company, originally housed in one room of a small building in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, and his first toy – also his invention – was the Schoenhut Toy Piano, now eagerly sought by collectors and curators. By 1908, the company had grown into what was advertised as “The Largest and Best Equipped Toy Factory in the World,” then housed in a sprawling complex of more than five and a hall acres of floor space and famous for its ever-expanding line of toys, dolls, and games. But the success of the A. Schoenhut Company would continue for little more than a quarter century.

Several factors – among them the Great Depression, rising costs and the demands of the post-World War I labor movement, the flood of cheaper toys imported from Germany, and the growing popularity of sophisticated electrical and action toys – forced the company to close its doors in 1935.

“Philadelphia’s Factory of Fun: Albert Schoenhut and His Toy Company,” a major exhibition installed at the Atwater Kent Museum, the history museum of Philadelphia, examines how a young German immigrant was able to arrive in the city and develop one of the greatest toy manufacturing companies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On view are the distinctive toys, dolls, and games made by the A. Schoenhut Company for more than six decades.

Showcased in the exhibition are tiny musical instruments (that can actually be played), toy guns, wooden dolls, and the prized Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus, first introduced in 1903, whose clowns and animals can be maneuvered to perform amazing balancing acts. Objects featured in “Philadelphia’s Factory of Fun” reflect the changing times and tastes of the first quarter of the twentieth century, when the thriving A. Schoenhut Company was a leader in the toy industry.

“Philadelphia’s Factory of Fun: Albert Schoenhut and His Toy Company” will remain on view through Saturday, October 14 [1995].

The Atwater Kent Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A M. to 4 P. M. Admission is charged.

For more information, write: Atwater Kent Museum, 15 South Seventh St., Philadelphia, PA 19106; or telephone (215) 922-3031.


Independence Seaport Museum

On Sunday, July 2 [1995], the Independence Seaport Museum, formerly the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, will open the doors to its new headquarters on Philadelphia’s waterfront. Nationally recognized for its extensive collection of maritime artifacts, objects, and documents related to the Delaware River, the Philadelphia Maritime Museum closed in early May to prepare for the grand opening of the Independence Seaport Museum, which features state-of-the art exhibitions.

The Independence Seaport Museum is a one hundred thousand square foot, multi-million dollar educational and cultural center now housed in the renovated Port of History Building at Penn’s Landing. The museum will offer hands-­on exhibits, historic ship tours, a working boat shop, changing exhibitions gallery, and innovative programs that lead visitors on a fascinating journey of discovery through maritime heritage and tradition. The museum’s display of more than one thousand objects and artifacts is artfully combined with computer games, large­-scale theatrical props, and audiovisual equipment in an interactive, dynamic learning environment designed to be as entertaining as it is educational. The museum exhibits have been designed to explore the people, events, and technologies that have shaped the history of both the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay.

Through its permanent exhibitions, including “Home Port: Philadelphia” and “Divers of the Deep,” the Independence Seaport Museum probes virtually every aspect of maritime history – from commercial shipbuilding and shipping to navigation, immigration, naval defense, recreation, underwater exploration, and the environment. The diverse topics are united in an engaging story graphically illustrating the critical roles that water­ways have played in the social and commercial history of the Delaware Valley and the nation.

The centerpiece of the Independence Seaport Museum, “Home Port: Philadelphia,” an eleven thousand square foot exhibition, combines selections drawn from the institution’s vast collection of artifacts, objects, and works of art with interactive activities geared for the entire family. Visitors will embark on an exciting journey back through time, led by the men and women who have lived, worked, and played along the region’s waterways for more than three centuries. The adventure begins beneath a three-story replica of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and continues as visitors learn the hazards of navigation as they travel along an inlaid floor map of the Delaware River, passing displays of navigational instruments and charts. “Home Port: Philadelphia” also addresses nineteenth century immigration practices, commerce and trade, naval protection, and the growth and decline of the Delaware Valley’s shipbuilding industry from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

“Divers of the Deep,” a spellbinding exhibition, takes visitors on a trip beneath the sea to study the development of diving. The exploration begins with a look at the quest to discover the secrets of the underwater world, and continues with a look at the beginnings of underwater diving – which can be traced as far back as the days of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). The challenges and perils of early underwater exploration are thoroughly examined, followed by a segment documenting the introduction of Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA), which prompted the sport of skin diving. The exhibit concludes with a look at underwater marine archaeology and features a study of sunken ships and the treasures they have yielded.

To obtain additional information, write: Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing, 211 South Columbus Blvd. and Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19106-1415; or telephone (215) 925-5439.