Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.
Don Yoder during the early part of his career at the University of Pennsylvania. Roughwood Collection

Don Yoder during the early part of his career at the University of Pennsylvania.
Roughwood Collection

In 1710, Hans Joder, originally from Canton Bern in Switzerland, arrived in Pennsylvania and made a home in the fertile Oley Valley of southeastern Pennsylvania. Twenty-eight years later, Johannes Cronister of Franconia in northern Bavaria, whose grandfather had been a Protestant fugitive from Lower Austria, came to the province and settled in the region that would later become Adams County. Within another decade, a Swabian immigrant from near Stuttgart, Casper Heppler, found a home in the Lehigh Valley. These three settlers were part of a great migration of German-speaking immigrants from Europe’s Rhine Valley — most likely as many as one hundred thousand between 1683 and 1820 — who found refuge from poverty and religious persecution in Pennsylvania. Like most of the other immigrants, Joder, Cronister, and Heppler farmed the rich soils of Piedmont, where they raised their children. Their progeny became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, an ethnic group distinguished by a common dialect and a unique culture of craft. Among the descendants of these three particular men is Don Yoder, folklife scholar and foremost authority of that ethnic group.

Born in the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR) hub of Altoona, Blair County, in the 1920s, Don Yoder was steeped in the culture of Central Pennsylvania. His father, Jacob Herbert Yoder, a mechanical engineer for the PRR, wrote the definitive book on locomotive valves and valve gears in 1917, which brought him great recognition in his field. Don’s father’s family hailed from Schuylkill County, and his mother, Ora Cronister, was from Centre County.

At an early age, Yoder developed an appreciation of his home region, learning to discern the cultural variations between relatives in different counties — the way they spoke, the songs they sang, the stories they told, and the churches they attended. The religious aspects, in particular, became one of his main preoccupations. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in history from Franklin and Marshall Col­lege in Lancaster, Yoder broadened his focus on religion. In 1947, he earned a PhD in American church history from the University of Chicago, and two years later returned to Franklin and Marshall College to accept a posi­tion in its religion department.

Yoder was cofounder of Pennsylvania Folklife in the 1950s and was sole editor from 1961 to 1978, His ancestral farm appears on the cover of the Winter 1971 edition, Roughwood Collection

Yoder was cofounder of Pennsylvania Folklife in the 1950s and was sole editor from 1961 to 1978, His ancestral farm appears on the cover of the Winter 1971 edition,
Roughwood Collection

Shortly before his appointment, Yoder met Alfred L. Shoe­maker, the now-legendary folklife scholar and founder of the first department of folklore in the United States. Both professors recognized the need for a research institute, similar to those at universities in Europe, to document the entire folk culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch, not just the verbal aspects that dominate the folklore approach. Along with another professor, J. William Frey, they established, in 1949, the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, the first of its kind in the United States to study one eth­nic group’s folk culture. The center gathered information on the day-to-day activities of the Pennsylvania Dutch, their work and leisure, and their various rituals and traditions. They recorded oral histories and folk music, photographed buildings and farm­ing practices, and acquired and archived folk art, tools, and other artifacts. Much of the research was reported and interpreted in their journal, The Pennsylvania Dutchman. The founders later changed the name of the center to the Pennsylvania Folklife Society, to reflect their commitment to the folklife approach and to expand their mission to include the documentation of other ethnic groups in diverse Pennsylvania. They renamed the jour­nal Pennsylvania Folklife.

The most enduring accomplishment of the society was its development of the Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival at Kutztown in Berks County. Beginning in 1950, the festival, which initially ran a few days and then expanded to an entire week in the summer, encourages visitors to experience the Pennsylvania Dutch culture by sampling food, music, costumes, comedy, games, dialect performances, and even informal religious prac­tices, such as powwowing, a method of folk healing. The first of its kind in the country, the festival became the model for similar folklife events in other states, including the National Festival of American Folklife, held annually in Washington, D.C.

In 1956, Yoder began teaching at the University of Pennsylva­nia, where he later established and headed the country’s first graduate folklife program. His work at the Pennsylvania Folklife Society also continued and remained a commitment for another two decades. He and Shoemaker jointly edited Pennsylvania Folklife through the fifties, and Yoder served as sole editor from 1961 to 1978. During this period, he sharpened his focus on specific aspects of the Pennsylvania Dutch folk culture, earning a reputation as the authority on the subject. He contributed articles to the journal on the celebration of Harvest Home (the Dutch Thanksgiving); the foodways of sauerkraut, schnitz, and cornmeal mush; witch tales; trance preaching; and dialect church services. One of the country’s leading folklife scholars, he published essays in a number of academic journals, producing some of the landmark statements on folklife and its various genres, such as sectarian costume, folk cookery, folk medicine, and folk religion.

J. William Frey, Don Yoder and Alfred L. Shoemaker founded the Pennsylvania Folklore Society in 1949.
Roughwood Collection

During his tenure at the Pennsylvania Folklife Society, Yoder produced two significant books on Pennsylvania folk music. Songs along the Mahantongo, co-written with Walter E. Boyer and Albert F. Buffington in 1951, was a collection and interpretation of folk songs from the dialect-rich Pennsylvania Dutch region near Sunbury, Northumberland County. Yoder’s monumental Pennsylvania Spirituals, released in 1961, documents camp meeting songs of revivalist churches and remains one of the classic works of folklife studies.

In the seventies and eighties, Yoder embarked on several large-scale projects, both exhibits and books, focusing on various aspects of Pennsylvania Dutch culture. With one of his doctoral students, Thomas E. Graves, he created, in 1989, a traveling exhibit on hex signs for the Museum of American Folk Art in New York. A resulting book, Hex Signs: Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Symbols and Their Meaning, debunks many of the widespread misconceptions about the circular designs that some Pennsylvania Dutch farmers paint on their bank barns, mostly in Berks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Schuylkill Counties. In 1989, Yoder also completed the two-volume Picture Bible of Ludwig Denig, a masterpiece on folk religion and folk art.

Yoder retired from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. In his forty-year tenure, he directed fifty-three doctoral dissertations and witnessed the spread of the folklife concept as his students took positions at universities and public institutions across the country. Since his retirement, he has contributed articles and essays to a number of distinguished publications, and many scholars and authors have sought his seal of approval by asking him to write the forewords for their own books. His recent books include Groundhog Day (2003), a thorough examination of the popular holiday that is rooted in Pennsylvania Dutch culture, and The Pennsylvania German Broadside (2005), a compilation and study of the printed sheets in English, German, and dialect that were circulated among the Pennsylvania Dutch.

The folklife festival is still held every summer in Kutztown, now run by the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center of Kutztown University. Yoder and I traveled the winding back roads of picturesque Montgomery and Berks Counties to attend the 2005 festival, during which we discussed his long career as a folklife scholar and his fascination with Pennsylvania Dutch culture.

For those unfamiliar with the subject, will you define the term folklife and explain how it differs from folklore?

The term folklife is a nine­teenth-century European development, which broadened the concept of folklore. The trou­ble with the term folklore, as used by many scholars in Britain and the United States, is that it draws a very tight line around verbal culture and concentrates on folk tales, folk songs, speech patterns. They neglect material culture. They neglect religion. They neglect many aspects of folk culture that the European scholars included under folklife. And the European scholars feel folklore should be subsumed under folkllfe, because folklore is only a small part of the larger folk-culture panorama.

Young Don Yoder at the Cronister family farm. Roughwood Collection

Young Don Yoder at the Cronister family farm.
Roughwood Collection

Did your family or back­ground influence your decision to study folklife?

Yes, my background as an incurable Pennsylvanian, as I call myself, growing up in the high Allegheny Moun­tains of Central Pennsylvania, in that very beautiful country, gave me an interest in Pennsylvania’s heritage. It’s only natural that I broadened it into the study of folk­life. I grew up in Blair County, and I had relatives in Centre, Clearfield, and Hunt­ingdon Counties on my mother’s side, and I had my father’s relatives in Schuylkill County, in Hegins or Lykens Valley and the Mahantongo area, which I researched later. It was from this double background that I really became conscious of who I was. My mother’s people were mixed British Quaker and Pennsylvania Dutch, but her Dutch family had lost the dialect by the time mother came along. She still cooked certain Pennsylvania Dutch foods, and I grew up with those on the table, but my father’s background was very, very different. When I visited my grandmother’s farm in the Hegins Valley, it was all Dutch there, and my aunts and uncles and my father, when he was there, talked Dutch together. And they knew folk songs, which I later recorded and published in books and articles. My moth­er’s people didn’t have that active folk culture in song that my father’s people did. They only knew the hymns of the church and the popular songs of the First World War era. The difference between my father’s culture and my mother’s helped me to understand who I was. I inherited both strands of the Pennsylvania culture and have used it in my writing.

This is something I’ve always stressed with my students in folklife studies. Look at your own heritage. Study yourself. Study your own background. You don’t have to be a Margaret Mead anthropolo­gist and go to a strange, nonwestern culture — although that’s very important — and live yourself into an understanding of that culture. You can grow up in a culture, go away to study scientifically how peo­ple can look at culture, then come back and put this knowledge together with your memory of your own environment. And this is what I did, of course. It’s just my approach — to look at my own culture using all the tools of folklife studies and anthropological knowledge and history and religion and so forth.

When did this interest begin?

It began when I was about six. I had a wonderful grandfather from Centre Coun­ty, Wharton Cronister, who had been county sheriff in the 1890s. I would sit on his lap when I was a tiny little boy and he would tell me stories about his back­ground. He was born in 1861 and his grandfather, whom he told me stories about, was born in 1776. That was five generations to me from the time of the Revolution. I often used that in folklife classes to suggest that we all have a memory cul­ture that we carry around with us. We get it from our parents and grandparents, from our childhood, from our uncles and aunts, from our contacts with friends, and we carry this mem­ory culture around with us. My memory culture, of course, is largely focused on Pennsylvania Dutch ideas.

There are two common names for the cultural group you study, Pennsylvania Dutch and Pennsylvania German. Can you explain why two names coexist?

The terms are equal in my opinion, even though there’s been a big fight over them by some scholars in the twentieth century. Some actively promote Pennsylvania German and say we are Germans, which we are not. We are Pennsylvania Germans, which is entirely different. We are from German­-speaking people in America. Pennsylvania Dutch, is an old term, too. Both terms go back to the eighteenth century. The more popular one, used by the people them­selves, is Pennsylvania Dutch, and this is why I prefer it, although I use both in my writings.

People ask, “Do you talk Dutch?” Dutch, as language, to us, doesn’t mean Holland Dutch, it means Pennsylvania Dutch, Pennsylfawnisch. People refer to themselves as Dutch without the term Pennsylvania. And I do, too. Both terms can be used, but they both have to be explained. The term Dutch goes back way before Shakespeare’s time into the Middle Ages and it meant to an Englishman any­one from the continent of Europe, especially from the Rhine Valley. They were later divided into Low Dutch, a term that includes the people of Holland and the north Germans, and High Dutch, for peo­ple of central and southern Germany. Pennsylvania German implies that there was a united Germany in the eighteenth century, which there was not. People were not conscious of being Germans in the nationalistic sense that arose in the nine­teenth century. They were conscious of being Palatines or Swabians, and if you say German, you keep out the third or possibly half of the population in many counties that was originally from Switzer­land. My name, Yoder, is a typical Bernese Swiss name. Another name, my grand­mother’s name on my mother’s side, Gingrich, is also a typical Swiss name from Canton Bern. But in Pennsylvania, all of the Swiss became Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German. And the word Dutch is not a corruption of Deutsch. Some books say that it is, but it is not. It’s simply an early German cognate form, which goes back to the Middle Ages. There are several pages on that usage in the Oxford English Dictionary.


Hex signs adorn a barn near Kutztown, Berks County. Photo, Kyle Weaver

Hex signs adorn a barn near Kutztown, Berks County.
Photo, Kyle Weaver

What have you found to be the greatest misconceptions about the Pennsylvania Dutch?

The greatest misconception at the present time is that the Amish are the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Amish attract five million tourists to Lancaster County every year. They’re attractive because they live as our grandparents did around 1900, using horse-drawn transportation and the men wearing beards and old­ fashioned dress, that sort of thing. The Amish are only about five percent of the total Dutch population. Most of the Dutch are not sectarians or countercul­ture groups like the Amish and Mennonites of the old order, but rather they are from the large churches of the Lutherans and Reformed, now the United Church of Christ. These were the main churches that grew up on the continent of Europe during the Protestant Reforma­tion. The majority of the Dutch people, at least seventy­ five percent, and I think maybe more than that, belong to those traditions and they don’t dress differently from other Americans as the Amish do. Another misconception is about hex signs. The tourist trade often superimposes hex signs on the Amish culture, but the Amish do not use them. If an Amish family buys a farm that has hex sign decorations they paint them out, because they don’t believe in symbols of that sort.

Can you tell readers some of the places they can visit to see authentic Pennsylva­nia Dutch culture in practice?

The Pennsylvania Dutch were mostly farmers and small town people in the eigh­teenth and nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and I would suggest that you go to northern Montgomery County to the Goschenhoppen area, where there are some handsome churches like the New Goschen­hoppen Church, one of my favorites. It stands out in the country with a high tower. It was founded about 1730, and it’s surrounded by a very beautiful cemetery with German inscriptions on the stones. Another place is the Kutztown area, which is still Pennsylvania Dutch in language. It’s mostly farmers in that area, in the East Penn Valley, as it’s called from Reading to Allentown. This region is also where the hex sign belt is located. And another area is the Mahantongo region in Schuylkill and Northumberland Counties. That’s where my father’s people come from. I have many cousins up there who still talk Dutch every day. They have church suppers where they serve pig stomach, a typical Dutch dish, and in the spring, ham and dandelion. These churches still have occasional dialect services and sometimes they combine that with a din­ner. Then, of course, there’s Lancaster County, where Amish and other plain groups can be seen along the highways in horse-drawn buggies and on scooters, and at market selling their goods. Many areas in central Pennsylvania are still Dutch, too. The Dutch area of Pennsylva­nia covers a third of the counties of Pennsylvania, from Stroudsburg in the east to Somerset in the west, and including Centre County. This whole area is just the size of Switzerland — fifteen thousand square miles, and it’s one-third the size of Pennsylvania. I like to point this out, that the area of Pennsylvania Dutch settlement is a geographical area exactly the size of Switzerland.


The August Goschenhoppen Folk Festival, Montgomery County. Photo, Kyle Weaver

The August Goschenhoppen Folk Festival, Montgomery County.
Photo, Kyle Weaver

You’ve been active in the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklife community for half a century. What changes have you seen over the years?

The big change of course, is that the language is gradually fading away, although in central and eastern Pennsyl­vania, and in other settlements in the Midwest and Canada, the language is still alive. Several hundred thousand people speak it, and it’s fascinating to me that it is still alive. There are still dialect dinners called Fersammlings, and there are Groundhog Lodges in which all attendees speak in dialect. There are church services in dialect. There are two radio programs and a television program in Reading.

When the older Dutch farmers and their wives talk English, they still have the wonderful “Dutchified” accent. But their children do not have it anymore. They have gone to school. Very often they can’t use the dialect. They can understand some words, but they don’t try to speak it. So eventually it will be gone. But we have so many recordings and wonderful books about it. It’s the most researched Germanic language in North America. Certain expressions are still here in Eng­lish. Dutch words like spritz — I have to spritz the lawn — that’s a Pennsylvania Dutch word.

What led you and Alfred L. Shoemak­er and J. William Frey to establish the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center?

Dr. Shoemaker grew up in the Dutch area of Lehigh County, near Allentown. Dr. Frey was born in the Harrisburg area, but had York County Dutch background and grew up with Dutch knowledge. They both studied Germanics at the University of Illinois, where they got to know each other in the 1940s. I began publishing my first articles at the same time. We met at a Pennsylvania German Society meeting at Easton one year, and it was decided that we would start an institute to study this Pennsylva­nia Dutch culture, since I was joining the faculty of Franklin and Marshall College in 1949. We were folklorists then, but we later took over the term folklife and changed the name to the Pennsylvania Folklife Society, modeling the center on the European institutes. This was the first of its kind in the country, as far as I know, to study one ethnic culture and to look at our own heritage. We examined the cul­ture in two very important correlative ways. We were current ethnographers, visiting people in their homes, recording interviews, and using what we could get from their memories and so forth. We also were historical ethnographers. That is, we used documents to reconstruct the past levels of the Pennsylvania Dutch culture in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. And we used both of these in our work and in articles in our journal.

The Pennsylvania Folklife Society was also committed to educating the pub­lic. Can you explain how this mission was carried out?

We believed that the public, the tourists especially who came to Permsylvania by the thousands, were misinformed about Pennsylvania Dutch culture, and we began in 1950 the Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festi­val at Kutztown. We started with several thousand people that first year and a few tents. By 1960, it had become the largest festival of its knd in the country, and we had one hundred thousand people coming to visit us in a week. It was the first Ameri­can folklife festival. The difference was that to most Americans a folk festival was a performance on a stage of different musi­cal and dance performers, nothing about the folk culture of any group represented. I went to the National Folk Festival in 1951 and was shocked at the program. It was mostly comparative. There were several authentic black singing groups from the South and other ethnic singing groups, but it wasn’t an overall view of American cul­ture at all. It was just a hodgepodge of different ethnic approaches to folk song and dance, one after another on stage, performance for a captive audience. But our festival was concentrated on the entire Dutch culture. What we tried to do with the festival was to present Dutch culture in ways that can’t be done in a museum. We had craftsmen there and you could talk to them. We had programs in and about the Pennsylvania Dutch language, Pennsyl­fawnisch. We had musical groups, too, and folk dancing competitions. We also had farming displays and demonstrations. We had a tent with Victorian horse-drawn hearses, where two former undertakers told about how death was faced in the cul­ture. We had two stages, a main stage and a seminar stage. I was in charge of the seminar stage, and I had a program on powwowing with Sophia Bailer, the lead­ing, most important powwower [folk medical practitioner] in twentieth-century Pennsylvania, and she demonstrated with a patient how she powwowed with a red string to take away the ailment erysipelas, or wildfire. So we tried to help the tourists understand what this fascinating culture that’s been here for three hundred years was all about.

Alfred L. Shoemaker established the nation's first folklore program at Franklin & Marshall, Lancaster, in 1948, and worked with Yoder for 15 years before illness ended Showmaker's career. Pennsylvania Folklore Society Collection, Ursinus College Library

Alfred L. Shoemaker established the nation’s first folklore program at Franklin & Marshall, Lancaster, in 1948, and worked with Yoder for 15 years before illness ended Showmaker’s career.
Pennsylvania Folklore Society Collection, Ursinus College Library

You worked with Alfred Shoemaker for many years. Can you explain a little bit more about his career and significance?

Alfred Shoemaker was a brilliant, charismatic figure who influenced the Pennsylvania Dutch more than any other person in the twentieth century. He stirred up the country people to recognize their own heritage. He was born in 1913 and raised on a farm in Lehigh County. He grew up speaking Dutch, although he told me that he consciously attempted to rid his English of a Dutch accent. He felt that in the academic world, one should speak perfect English, and he did. He had a theological education. He went to two seminaries, and he always spoke kind of like a preacher, I always felt, in his evan­gelistic manner. He could speak very well in public. He had the experience before the war to go to Germany for the junior year, so his German became very good. He later went to Europe after the war and became interested in the way German and other European scholars were looking at their own cultures. This is how the terms folklife and folklife studies came to America, through his discovery of this concept in Germany, Sweden, Ireland, and Britain.

Dr. Shoemaker and I worked together for about fifteen years. We published five books and a lot of pamphlets, even cook­books. We edited Pennsylvania Folklife together. Very closely, we planned each festival. We were both there a week ahead to put up exhibits and plan our seminars and presentations.

What happened to Alfred Shoemaker?

Dr. Shoemaker began to suffer from mental trouble and was hospitalized. The Pennsylvania Folklife Society went bank­rupt because he had overspent. He would have lucid periods and then he would have to go back to the hospital and, unfortunately, he seems to have died homeless in New York City. We don’t know what year. He evidently didn’t carry identification with him. And possibly, I suggested in something I wrote about him recently, he was consciously or unconsciously imitating that great stream of colorful oddballs that he delighted in writing about who traveled the roads of Pennsylvania in the early nineteenth century — the evangelists and the itinerant artists and the tramps who brought new songs to the farmhouses and that sort of thing. This is simply a suggestion, though.

You taught at the University of Pennsylvania for four decades and established its folklife deportment.

I began at the University of Pennsylva­nia in 1956 in the Religious Thought Department, but through the years I became more interested in folk culture, and I was involved with the festival and the magazine and so forth, so I shifted to the folklore department that had been founded in 1964. In another year I was appointed chairman. I was able to change the name of the department to Folklore and Folklife. This was very important, since ours was the first folklife depart­ment with graduate and doctoral degrees in the country.

How do you teach folklife?

You teach folklife by using models. I used the Pennsylvania Dutch and Penn­sylvania Quaker cultures as my principal research areas, of course, and I used examples from my own knowledge of my own culture. I took up the subjects of folk­life, more or less like cultural anthropology, discussing different aspects, like settlement history and land use patterns, medical ideas, foods, the costumes that were worn. I took up religious aspects — folk religion and organized religion and the tension between them. I worked a great deal in the folk arts. I’ve taken up folk music, both reli­gious and secular, and taught all of those things in different courses. My method in each class was to give a lecture for an hour with discussion and then show slides or play tapes — I had wonderful tapes of inter­views with powwowers and others. Then three or four times a semester, on a Satur­day, I took my students on a field trip and we went up into the Dutch Country or the Quaker Country to look at churches, cemeteries, farmhouses, barns, and cultural landscapes in general. The students wrote excellent papers, and I urged them to the ethnographic approaches that I mentioned — the current one, using interviews on a subject, and then the historical one, using documentation.

You taught many distinguished doctoral students. Can you tell us what they’ve done with their folklife degrees?

They teach or they go into museum work, and others have gone into the public sector, like Charles Camp, who is the State Folklorist of Maryland. A brilliant student named Leonard Primiano is teaching at Cabrini College, and he has become the principal scholar in the United States look­ing at Catholic folk religion. Gerry Pocius at Memorial University in Newfoundland teaches courses in folk religion. Jay Ander­son went into museum work, and he founded and headed some agricultural museums, and wrote a book on living museums. Another of my students, Bill Fer­ris, founded the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mis­sissippi. He was appointed by President Clinton as the head of the National Endow­ment for the Humanities. And, of course, Henry Glassie, who teaches at Indiana Uni­versity and has written several important works on the folklife of Ireland.

You’ve written many books and articles on Pennsylvania Dutch folklife. Which one are you most proud to have written?

Discovering American Folklife. This is one of my favorites because it’s a collection of thirteen of my best essays, covering witch­craft, fraktur, “Sauerkraut for New Year’s” on the holiday customs, folk costumes of the sectarian groups, Pennsylvania cookery, and so forth. It also includes my seminal essay of 1963, “The Folklife Studies Movement,” the first American article dealing with the concept of folklife studies as such, summarizing the whole thing, and its 1976 follow up, “Folklife Studies in American Scholarship.”

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

Spreading the term folklife and the concept of folklife studies. My students at Penn have gone out and spread the concept in the academic world. My arti­cles and books brought it into the public sector. We now have folklife departments of various state governments, with folk­life scholars in charge. There are at least a dozen or more gathering material about folklife in their states. Beginning in 1976, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress — which I helped to found because I was there at the first meetings and I gave testimony before Congress about the importance of look­ing at your own culture — has been funded permanently by the U.S. govern­ment. Also in Washington, the Smithsonian Institution operates an influ­ential folklife program. So the concept has spread widely and is still spreading, and I’m proud of that.


Travel Tips

Readers wanting to experience the cus­toms and traditions of the Pennsylvania Germans are able to visit several world-class organizations and institutions, all of which are located in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania German Cultural Center at Kutztown University pre­serves and interprets the history, folklore, and traditions of the Pennsylvania Germans as an integral component of the university’s educational and cultural program. The center’s museum collection of more than ten thousand objects and artifacts offers a graphic look at Pennsylvania German rural life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and its extensive genealogical holdings document several thousand families dating to the mid-eighteenth century. A year-round series of events celebrating Pennsylvania German culture and tra­ditions include musical presentations, children’s performances, classes in Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, lectures, and demonstrations of home life, foods, arts, and crafts. A circa 1870 one-room school house allows visitors to experi­ence the classroom of the late nineteenth century.

The center’s most famous program, the annual Kutztown Festival, show­cases the work of two hundred traditional craftspeople, offers a taste of the Pennsylvania German way of life, invites visitors to take part in numerous activities designed for the entire family, and presents nonstop entertainment with old-fashioned fiddling, dancing, storytelling, comedy, and cakewalks. The 2006 Kutztown Festival will be held from Saturday through Sunday, July 1-9.

To learn more about the center and its activities, write: Pennsylvania Ger­man Cultural Heritage Center, 22 Luckenbill Rd., Kutztown, PA 19530; telephone (215) 683-1589; or e-mail Heritage@kuztown.edu.

A Berks County Hex Barn Art Tour takes motorists to twenty barns deco­rated with examples of folk designs and geometric patterns that have become synonymous with the “Pennsylvania Dutch.” The twenty-five mile tour intro­duces visitors to a wide repertoire of hex signs, a term created by Wallace Nutting when he referred to the colorful barn signs as “hexafoos” in Pennsylva­nia Beautiful, first published in 1924. For a free copy of the tour guide, write: Greater Reading & Berks County Visitors Bureau, 325 Penn St., Reading, PA 19602; telephone toll-free (800) 443-6610.

Founded in 1891, the Pennsylvania German Society, a nonprofit educational organization devoted to the study of the Pennsylvania Germans and their three-hundred-year history in North America, publishes scholarly research, conducts educational meetings, and promotes an appreciation of the culture. To learn more, write: Pennsylvania German Society, P. 0. Box 244, Kutztown, PA 19530-0244; telephone (610) 894-9551.

No visit to Pennsylvania Dutch Country is complete without a stop at the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, a popular attraction along the PHMC’s Pennsylvania Trail of History. The exciting living history museum brings to life the story of the German population in Pennsylvania during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The complex immerses visitors in Pennsylvania Ger­man rural life with tours of historic buildings and structures, landscapes, farm animals and plants, and rich collections consisting of seventy-five thousand early farm, craft, and household objects. Visitors are also treated to living histo­ry programs, which include craftspeople and artisans at work.

Plan a visit today to this fascinating attraction by writing: Landis Valley Museum, 2451 Kissel Hill Rd., Lancaster, PA 17601; by telephoning (717) 569-0401; or by visiting www.landisvalleymuseum.org on the Web.


For Further Reading

Boyer, Walter E., Albert F. Buffington, and Don Yoder. Songs along the Mahantongo: Pennsylvania German Folksongs. Lancast­er: Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, 1951.

Yoder, Don. Pennsylvania Spirituals. Lan­caster: Pennsylvania Folklife Society, 1961.

____. The Picture-Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1989.

____. Discovering American Folklife: Essays on Folk Culture and the Pennsyl­vania Dutch. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001.

____. Groundhog Day. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2003.

____. The Pennsylvania German Broadside: A History and Guide. Universi­ty Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005.

Yoder, Don, and Thomas E. Graves. Hex Signs: Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Symbols and Their Meaning. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2000.


Kyle R. Weaver, a resident of York County, received his master’s degree in American studies from the Pennsylvania State University. He is the acquisitions editor for Pennsylvania and regional titles for Stackpole Books, headquartered in Mechanicsburg. His feature with foodways historian and author William Woys Weaver, “Dishing It Out with William Woys Weaver,” appeared in the Fall 2004 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage.