Historical Societies: News and Highlights

Historical Societies: News and Highlights presents news and information about Pennsylvania's regional and county historical societies.

Erie County Society

The Erie County Historical Society’s library and archives have had several recent accessions: the Suran papers, given by Mrs. Gertrude Suran Stark through the offices of Graham L. Marsh. These papers include Day Books, dating to the 1780’s up through the 1860’s, early assessment and road tax for Fairview Township.

Another acquisition included papers from the Gisleon J. Ball family containing diaries kept by one of the Ball women during the Civil War days and early 1870’s; Erie Weekly Gazettes from the 1820’s; a Day-Book of James and John Dunlap, Erie Builders.


Legal Problems and Historical Societies

The legal problems and responsibilities of historical societies are continually growing. Both trustees and pro­fessional staff are frequently in need of general knowledge regarding legal activities. The following bibliography should provide a brief introduction to legal questions affecting societies and museums.

A Selective Bibliography

“Accessibility,” Preservation News (June 1976). p. 4.

Advocacy for the Handicapped. Arlington. Virginia: Na­tional Therapeutic Recreation Society, 1972.

Braille Trails. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, 1975.

“Building Codes Aid Preservation,” Preservation News (November 1975). p. 3.

Code of Iowa. (2 vols.) Des Moines: State of Iowa. 1974.

“Common Law Copyright and the Archivist,” Karyl Winn, The American Archivist, Vol. 37, #3 (July 1974), pp. 375-386.

“Copyright Revision,” Society of American Archivists Newsletter, (July 1976).

“Course of Study” and “Study Materials,” Legal Prob­lems of Museum Administration, Philadelphia: ALI­-ABA, 1973, 1974, 1975.

“Impact of the New Federal Copyright Law.” William D. North, Midwest Archives Conference report of meetings, 1976.

“Insuring Against Loss,” Beverly M. DuBose, Jr., AASLH Technical Leaflet 50.

“The Law and the Manuscripts Curator,” Henry Bartholomew Cox. Drexel Library Quarterly, Vol. 11 #1 (Jan­uary 1975). pp. 72-86.

National Park Guide for the Handicapped. Washington: National Park Service, 1971.

Outdoor Recreation for the Physically Handicapped. Albany: State Council of Parks and Outdoor Recrea­tion, 1967.

“Personal Letters: In Need of a Law of Their Own,” Iowa Law Review, Vol. 44, #4 (Summer 1959). pp. 795-715.

Preservation and Building Codes. Washington: National Trust for Historical Preservation, 1974.

Protecting the Library and Its Resources. Chicago: American Library Association. 1963.

“Protection of Libraries,” Oscar M. Trelles, Law Library Journal, Vol. 66. #3, (August 1973). pp. 241-258.

Specifications for Making Buildings and Facilities Acces­sible to and Usable by the Physically Handicapped. New York: American National Standards Institute, Inc., 1961.

“Standards for Access and Appraisal of Gifts,” Judith A. Koucky, The American Archivist, Vol. 37, #1 (January 1974). pp. 153-155.

A System of Manuscript Appraisal, Seymore V. Connor, AASLH Technical Leaflet 41.

Tax Problems of the Collector, Ralph G. Newman. AASLH Technical Leaflet 31.

“Trends for the Handicapped,” Trends (July, August, September 1974), pp, 1-32.

“Universal Gift Form and Instructions,” College and Research Libraries News, Vol. 36, #2 (March 1975). pp. 95-97.


National Endowment for the Humanities

The Museums and Historical Organizations Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities assists museums and historical organizations in implementing pro­grams which convey and interpret knowledge of our cultural legacy to an interested public.

The interpretive program seeks to encourage interpretive programs other than exhibitions such as public lecture, film and slide programs and printed material. Personnel development recognizes the need to assist historical organization staff in their role of interpreting the humanities to the public. Examples of potential projects include workshop and institutes for the inservice training of museum and historical organizations professionals.

The next deadline for planning grants in the Museums and Historical Organizations Programs is June 3, 1977 for notification by November 1, 1977. For further information contact:

Museums and Historical Organizations Program,
Division of Public Programs (Mail Stop 402),
National Endowment for the Humanities,
806 15th Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20506


Federation Committee Reports

At the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies on June 12, 1976, a resolution was passed at the business meeting directing the Executive Com­mittee to establish a committee chaired by Philip Klein which would evaluate the condition of historical societies in Pennsylvania and make specific recommendations to the Federation membership before December 31, 1976. That committee met in Harrisburg on November 13, 1976.

Members of the committee attending were Philip Klein, chairman; John Brooks, PHMC; Thomas Deans, North Central Pennsylvania Historical Association; Jacob Gruber, PHMC chairman; Harry Rinker, Historical Society of York County; James Mooney, Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Aimee Sanders, Historical Society of Berks County; Albert Goldsmith, Western Pennsylvania Research and Historical Society; William Wewer, PHMC; John Loose, Lancaster County Historical Society; Robert Crist, Cumberland County Historical Society; William Gilbert, president, Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies; and John Bodnar, PHMC.

Following a full day’s discussion the committee for­mulated and approved three specific recommendations for the executive committee’s consideration. The executive committee will make a full report to the Federation at the annual meeting on May 21, 1977, in State College. The recommendations are:

  1. That the President of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies in cooperation with the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission create a task force to pro­vide a system of classification of historical and related organizations based upon their:
    1. services and current functions
    2. financial resources
    3. membership
    4. management procedures
  2. That the Executive Committee of the Pennsyl­vania Federation of Historical Societies seek pos­sible sources of funding and write a job description for a full time Executive Director for the Federa­tion.
  3. That a task force, chaired by a person to be desig­nated by the Federation, be established to help define additional tasks, functions, objectives, and obligations the Federation can assume and address.


NHPRC Updating Directory

The National Historical Publications and Records Com­mission (NHPRC) is in the process of revising and updating the Directory of Repositories of Historical Records. The guide is designed to provide summary information on all types of historical records in as many repositories as pos­sible plus other basic information about each repository. including user fees, general restrictions on use, availability of holding. This is in addition to the address, telephone number, and operating hours of each institution. In col­lecting information, no distinction is made between the smallest historical society and the largest library; NHPRC wants to know about the records held by all of them. An automated system will be employed in compiling the directory which will permit periodic revision and updating and the production of small directories for individual states and areas. The AASLH Directory of Historical Societies and Agencies was one of the sources used in making up the list of institutions to contact. Institutions that have not yet received information forms are invited to contact the NHPRC, and those institutions that have not yet returned their forms are urged to do so. For forms and information about the project. write the Guide Staff, NHPRC, National Archives, Washington, D.C. 20408, or phone 202-724-1630.


AASLH Seminars

The seminar program of the American Association of State and Local History affords historical society personnel an opportunity to gain valuable experience and information on various aspects of historical administration and preserva­tion. An application for individual seminars can be obtained from the AASLH, 1400 Eighth Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37203. Upcoming seminars include:

“Design and Production of Exhibition Catalogs”
Fort Worth, Texas
April 18-22, 1977


Historical Publications

Pennsylvania history was significantly enriched during the past year with a number of excellent studies produced by local groups. Some of these publications have been mentioned in earlier newsletters, but among the best which have recently come to offices of the Pennsylvania Federa­tion of Historical Societies are:

Lower Merion, A Portrait, by Carl E. Doebley. This volume treats three centuries of the architectural heritage of Lower Merion in a profusion of photographs and accom­panying text. The book was published by The Lower Merion Historical Society.

Living History, Explaining the Heritage of Berks County, Pa. was developed by The Historical SocietY of Berks County and published by the Berks County Intermediate Unit. The book contains descriptions of colonial life, historic sites, education, industry, politics, Indians, and ethnic groups in Berks County. It not only provides a study aid for local schools but is a source of information for all persons interested in local history.


Other Valuable Publications

Rung’s Chronicles of Pennsylvania History is a collec­tion of 198 articles which first appeared in the Huntingdon Daily News between 1946 and 1951. The series is especially rich in Huntingdon County, railroad, and canal history. Publication was arranged by the Huntingdon County His­torical Society.

Horn’s Fort is a historical novel about frontier life in north-central Pennsylvania by Ernest Miller, former president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies. Miller, an accomplished historian of the early history of Pennsylvania’s oil fields, has written an absorbing account of white settlers and Indians in late eighteenth century Pennsylvania.

The Northwestern Pennsylvania Railway is available from C. L. Siebert, 2420 Yale Avenue, Camp Hill, Pa. 17011.

Edinboro: A Dirt Street Town by John L. Marsh was sponsored by the Edinboro Rotary Club, Box 743, Edinboro, Pa.

Recent historical society journals also afford interesting accounts. Anyone interested in the Revolutionary Era should consult the “Journal of Captain Samuel Massey, 1776-1778,” edited and annotated by John F. Reed, Bulletins of the Historical Society of Montgomery County Pennsylvania (Fall, 1976).

The Settler (September, 1976), a publication of the Bradford County Historical Society, contains fascinating glimpses of Bradford County history.

A useful pamphlet is “A Brief History of Venango County, Pennsylvania,” available from the Venango County Historical Society.

Finally, Gunmakers of the Wyomissing Creek was printed by the Governor of Mifflin Area Bicentennial Committee of Shillington.


Association Formed

On October 16, 1976, representatives from approximately 12 historical societies and museums in the counties of Lycoming, Centre, Clinton, Union, Snyder, Columbia, Northumberland, Bradford and Sullivan gathered at Williamsport to form the North Central Pennsylvania Historical Association. The organization hopes to increase inter­society cooperation by providing assistance in funding, preservation and other areas. The organizational meeting re­sulted in the selection of an executive committee with Thomas Deans of Muncy, president; Thomas Taber of Muncy, George Fisher of Bloomsburg, Charles Snyder of Mifflinburg, Everett McLaughlin of State College, Linda Mensch of West Hazleton. Robert-Smink of Williamsport and Craig Newton of Bloomsburg.


News Notes

A Regional Workshop of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies will take place on Saturday, April 30, 1977, at the Westmoreland County Historical Society in Greensburg. A program will be circulated shortly to all societies. The Annual Meeting of the Federation of Historical Societies will be held on May 21, 1977, at State College. Activities this year will include the election of a new slate of officers as well as informative programs and the annual luncheon.

The Wyoming Historical and Geological Society announced the appointment of William H. Siener as executive director on October 1, 1976. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has sold one of its three complete sets of signers of the Declaration of Independence to help cover the cost of its recent $1.3 million modernization and expansion.

The Mifflin County Historical Society has recently instituted a newsletter which has helped double its membership. This was facilitated partially through the inclusion of a “Return-Envelope-Membership Application” in the newsletter. The society has also reprinted the 1877 Atlas of Perry, Juniata and Mifflin Counties and A Pictorial History of Mifflin County. This very active society also sponsored a workshop on “Family Roots in Central Pennsylvania.” The Cumberland County Historical Society is sponsoring a series of six dinner meetings during 1976-1977. On March 24, a talk on Cumberland County barns will be presented by David Spance and David Coyle. Past topics have included “Folk Toys of Central Pennsylvania” by Mac Barrick and “The Life of George Stevenson” by Roland Bauman. The societY has presented its “Historian of the Year” award to Arthur R. Rupley, a widely-known collector of American folk art. It is the first time in four years the award has been given.

Lycoming County Historical Society will present “Highlights in the History of the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad,” by Homer T. Rosenberger at its dinner meeting on March 23, 1977.

Through solicitation by letter, the Cameron CountY Historical Society raised $25,000 in a county of only 7,000 residents for construction of an addition to their Little Museum. The new addition will be dedicated to all who served in the armed forces from Cameron County. The Board of Directors of the Blair County Historical Society and its members recently passed a “Memorial Resolution” expressing their sadness over the death of Jesse L. Hartman. Hartman served with distinction as president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies in 1971 and 1972.

The Delaware County Historical Society has held an exhibit on “Signers of the Declaration of Independence” and is currently involved with a series of genealogy lectures.


AASLH Announces Awards

The National Awards Committee of the American Association for State and Local History recently voted an Award of Merit to Dr. Alice P. Kenney, associate professor of History, Cedar Crest College, “For continuing contribu­tions to the understanding of the Dutch colonial heritage.”

The Association has also voted a Certificate of Commendation to the Pennsylvania Postal History Society (Box 309, Darby, PA 19032). “For their continued efforts at preserving and interpreting the history of Pennsylvania’s Postal History.”

For information relevant to the AASLH’s awards program contact the State Awards Chairman, Harry E. Whipkey, Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Box 1026, Harrisburg 7120.