Historical Societies: News and Highlights

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

Incorporation and Taxation for Historical Societies in Pennsylvania

Much concern has been expressed recently about the adequacy of local societies’ by-laws, especially in relation to government requirements concerning tax exempt organ­izations. In response to these requests, the following infor­mation is being provided to all members. It consists of guidelines for incorporating non-profit organizations and special requirements necessary for their by-laws according to federal income tax regulations and Pennsylvania law.

Before incorporating, societies should know that a non­profit corporation shall have power to continue as a corporation; to have a corporate seal; to acquire, own and dispose of any real or personal property; to sell or dispose of all or part of its property and assets; to guarantee, acquire or own capital stock and other securities; to borrow money and to secure any of its obligations by mortgage; to invest its surplus funds; to lend money; to make contributions and donations for charitable purposes; to transact any lawful business which would be in aid of governmental authority; to grant allowances or pensions to its directors, officers and employees; to adopt, amend, and repeal by-laws; to elect or appoint and remove officers, employes and agents of the corporation, define their duties and fix their reasonable compensation; to dissolve and wind up.

To organize as a non-profit corporation a society must follow two important steps. An application form for filing as a non-profit corporation in Pennsylvania should be ob­tained from the Department of State, Corporation Bureau, Harrisburg. Second, federal tax exemption status should be acquired from the Internal Revenue Service. Most historical societies will probably fall under section 501-C-3 of the IRS for “Charitable, Religious, Educational, Scientific, and Literary, etc., Organizations.” In this case, application for recognition of exemption must be filed on Form 1023 with the District Director. Form 1023 and accompanying statements must show that:

  1. The organization is organized exclusively for and will be operated exclusively for purposes which qualify for exemption recognition.
  2. No part of its net earnings will inure to the benefit of private shareholders or individuals.
  3. It will not, as a substantial part of its activities attempt to influence legislation or participate to any extent in a political campaign for or against any candidate for public office.

The Internal Revenue Service is particularly insistent that:

  1. The articles of organization limit the organization’s purposes to one or more of those described by the IRS as qualifying for exemption. The articles must not expressly empower it to engage, otherwise than as an insubstantial part of its activities, in activities which are not in furtherance of one or more purposes entitled to exemption. The requirement that your organization’s purposes and powers must be limited by the articles of organization is not satisfied if the limitation is contained only in the by-laws or other rules.
  2. Articles of organization should also contain a provision insuring the distribution of assets for an exempt pur­pose in the event of dissolution. Although reliance may be placed upon state law to establish permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes, an applica­tion probably can be processed much more rapidly if such a provision is included in the articles. IRS re­quires that should an organization dissolve, its assets must be distributed for an exempt purpose. Further­more, IRS states:
    • “To establish that your organization’s assets will be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose, the articles of organization should contain a provision insuring their distribution for an exempt purpose in the event of dissolution. If a named beneficiary is to be the distributee, it must be one that would qualify and would be exempt under IRS regulations. Also, the articles of organization may not ex­pressly authorize your organization to distri­bute earnings to any private shareholder or individual.”

For a sample set of “by-laws” write the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies, Box 1026, PHMC, Harrisburg 17120.


Next Regional Workshop

The next regional workshop of the Federation of His­torical Societies will be held on Saturday, October 9, 1976, at the Historical Society of Berks County.


Publications Available for Historical Society Use

During 1976 the American Association for State and Local History is offering numerous publications of value for local historical societies. The following appear to be particularly useful and are available from the AASLH, 1400 Eighth Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37203:

Dorothy Weyer Creigh, A Primer for Local Historical Societies. The book is written for the historical society which is “short on money, but long on enthusiasm, imagination and in­quenuity.” The volume covers such topics as incorporation, financing, publicity, oral history, restoration, and publishing. Information is also provided on foundations, government agencies. and the National Register. Price: $10.00, $7.50 to members.

Kenneth W. Duckett, Modern Manuscripts, A Practical Manual for Their Management, Care, and Use. This volume is a practical guide for the novice curator of manuscripts. Topics discussed include microfilming, conservation, and the mechanics and ethics of acquisitions. Price: $16.00, $12.00 to members.

William T. Alderson and Shirley Payne Low, Interpretation of Historic Sites. The practical problems of developing and conducting inter­pretive programs are considered. Steps involved in acquiring and administering a site are high­lighted. Price: $6.00, $4.50 to members.

Carl E. Guthe, The Management of Small History Museums. This book covers technical matters such as acquiring, documenting, and installing the collections in smaller, community-oriented museums. Price: $3.00, $2.25 to mem­bers.

Frederick L. Roth, Jr. and Marilyn Rogers O’Connell, editors, Historic Preservation. This is a useful bibliography of the subject. Price: $10.00, $7.50 to members.


New Clarion Museum and Library Opens

The Clarion County Historical Society dedicated its new Museum and Library June 13 with Pennsylvania Common­wealth Court Judge Genevieve Blatt delivering the dedica­tory address. The Museum resulted from a $100,000 fund drive named Project 76, sponsored by the Society and the Clarion County Bicentennial Commission.


Erie Hosts Regional Workshop

History is alive and well in Northwestern Pennsylvania. That was the writer’s conclusion while attending a Regional Workshop, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies.

The workshop was held last spring at the Holiday Inn, Erie, and was hosted by the Erie County Historical Society. Highlights are included here as guides for other societies in their work at the local level.

Steps in utilizing oral history as a historical tool were given by Stuart Campbell, Mercyhurst College archivist. Campbell is preparing an article for Pennsylvania Heritage to be published in a future issue. Basically, however, he noted these steps:

  1. Form a committee
  2. Do research
  3. Obtain equipment
  4. Contact ahead the person to be inter­viewed and explain the purpose to the person to be inter­viewed
  5. Try to let questions flow naturally
  6. Write a formal introduction for the interview
  7. Agree on a mutual site and try for one with few distractions
  8. Take notes so you are not staring at the person
  9. Consult forms available from Mercyhurst or consult attorneys for any legal problems that might arise,
  10. Label your boxes with name, date, time and section


Frakturs Stolen In York

The Historical Society of York County is searching for three frakturs, stolen from the society. The frakturs, which are German hand printed birth and baptismal certificates are valued at $10,000.

Two of the three frakturs announce the birth of Henrich Konig in Manchester Township, York County, on January 8, 1770, and of Lucyana Stambach, Paradise Township, on September 16, 1846. The Konig certificate measures 12 by 17 inches and bears the artist’s initials, J.Z. The certificate is mounted on cloth and framed. It has holes and the lower right corner is torn off.

The Stambach certificate is 12.12 by 14 inches and the artist is anonymous, although Harry L. Rinker, executive director of the York society, is fairly sure it was done by Daniel Peterman. The certificate is in excellent condition.

The third fraktur is a birth and baptismal certificate for William Gerberich, born November 16, 1853, in Shrewsbury Township. The certificate is 16.50 by 13.25 inches, is cloth mounted and has spots.

All three frakturs are in German text and are vividly colored.


Four Societies Receive Awards

The Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies made four awards at its annual meeting June 12 [1976] in State College.

Awards of Merit went to (1) the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation for its Bicentennial project of restoring the site of Fort Mcintosh and for its related publication, It Happened Right Here, and (2) the McKean County Historical Society for the major renovation project of its McKean County Museum, utilizing only a minimum of out­side funding.

Honorable Mention awards went to (1) the Clarion County Historical Society for its Bicentennial project of developing the society’s headquarters and its pamphlet, Clarion County and Its Beginnings, and (2) the Pennsyl­vania Postal History Society for its support of the publica­tion of Pennsylvania Postal History by John L. Kay and Chester M. Smith, Jr.

Federation membership has grown to 159 societies. New affiliations include societies from Fort Vance, Exeter Township, Union County and the Pennsylvania Postal Historical Society.

The following were nominated and re-elected to the Executive Committee: Dr. Ernest C. Miller of Warren, president emeritus; William D. Gilbert of Sigel, president; Mrs. LeRoy Sanders of Reading, first vice president; Robert Grant Crist of Camp Hill, second vice president; Carl Burkett of Meadville, third vice president; John W.W. Loose of Lancaster, fourth vice president; William J. Wewer, executive secretary; John E. Bodnar, assistant executive secretary; and Ralph Hazeltine of Trucksville, treasurer.

Two new members were elected to terms expiring in 1979 for the Executive Committee: William Porter of Greensburg and John L. Earl III of Scranton. Other committee members are Albert Goldsmith of Pittsburgh, Harry Hoehler of Wayne, James Mooney of Philadelphia, and Fred E. Long of Altoona.

A resolution was adopted directing the Executive Committee to create a task force to explore ways for the Federation in conjunction with the PHMC to advance their common interest in Pennsylvania history. Philip S. Klein, Commission member, is to chair the committee.


Chester County Display

The Chester County Historical Society’s Coverlet Exhibit will continue through October 20 at the society’s museum. More than sixty coverlets from the society’s large collection will be displayed for the first time.


Pennsylvania Society of New England Women

At its Bicentennial luncheon, the Pennsylvania Society of New England Women (founded February 11, 1899, in Philadelphia) honored the 225th birthday of Judge William Lewis. Judge Lewis was an eminent Pennsylvanian and noted Federalist lawyer who built Summerville (c. 1789), now known as Historic Strawberry Mansion in Fairmount Park East, Philadelphia.

PSNEW has had charge of the Judge William Lewis Parlor at Strawberry Mansion since 1930 and since last November, members were preparing the room for Bicentennial visitors. The Mansion was reopened April 1, 1976, and is open to the public every day except Monday.


AASLH Seminar

The American Association of State and Local History will sponsor a seminar on The Administration of the Small Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, January 17-21, 1977. Applications for fellowships to cover travel and partial maintenance must be sent by December 1, 1977 to AASLH, 1400 Eighth Avenue South, Nashville, Tenn. 37203


Brockway Celebration

A unique feature of the Bicentennial year in Brockway, and in neighboring Elk County was a ceremony to honor Revolutionary War patriots buried in that area. Researchers, working over a period of years, have discovered that six veterans of the American Revolution are buried within a forty-five mile circuit comprising Little Toby Valley, a high ridge in Fox Township, and Bennett’s Valley. With the help of veterans’ administrations and the historical societies of the region all six graves, as well as those of the veterans’ wives, have been suitably marked.

The program was sponsored by a joint committee from the Brockway Area and the Elk County Historical Societies.