Interview is a series of discussions with renowned Pennsylvanians - artists, athletes, authors, historians, musicians, politicians, scholars, television celebrities and others - that have appeared occasionally as features in Pennsylvania Heritage.

Shadyside, the Bucks County home of Ann Hawkes Hutton, sets the perfect stage for an animated conversation with one of the country’s foremost promoters of patriotism and historic preservation. With its views of the picturesque Delaware River, its collection of fine furnishings, and its hundreds of books, photographs, and documents chronicling American history, Shadyside embodies what many would describe as Old Money. While this lovely setting conforms in many ways with society’s expectations of fundamental American values, Hutton’s career has been anything but predictable – or conventional.

Ann Hawkes Hutton’s formative years in Philadelphia coincided with an exciting period during which the city witnessed an emerging interest in American history and traditions. During her childhood, the restoration of Independence Hall was well underway and the fabulous collections of Americana assembled by Henry Chapman Mercer of Doylestown and Henry Francis du Pont of Wilmington, Delaware, were being made available to the public in nearby museums. In the 1920s and the 1930s, as Ann Hawkes Hutton entered adulthood, Philadelphia hosted several historical pageants and commemorations – the likes of which have rarely been seen before or since – such as the bicentennial of the birth of George Washington in 1932 and the sesquicentennial of his inaugural tour seven years later. The United States’ role in World War II and the uneasy decades of the Cold War that followed profoundly shaped her perspectives and convictions as well.

By the time Ann Hawkes Hutton was selected as chairman of the Washington Crossing Park Commission in 1956 she had distinguished herself as an accomplished writer and publicist. She was also one of the few women graduates of the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania (see “Isabel Darlington, Esq., Belle of the Bar” by Gail Capehart Long in the winter 1995 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). At a time when women did not generally pursue careers in law and public relations, Hutton assumed a leadership role and would devote more than a half century to the Washington Crossing Park Commission – most of that time serving as chairman – as a tireless advocate with a bold vision.

Under her leadership, Washington Crossing Historic Park, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Washington Crossing Park Commission, became more than an idyllic place to visit in the pastoral countryside of Bucks County. Hutton developed the story of Washington’s crossing, the event, as a defining moment in American history. She literally put Washington Crossing, the historic site, on the map with the yearly Christmas Day crossing reenactments known worldwide, with the construction of the park’s handsome Memorial Building and Visitor Center in 1958 and, especially, with the revival of appreciation of Emanuel Leutze’s heroic 1851 painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. There is no doubt that Ann Hawkes Hutton’s research, writing, and tireless promotion of Leutze’s work restored his reputation but, more importantly, secured this particular image of the crossing as an American icon.

It was at Washington Crossing on the night of December 25, 1776, that General George Washington led his ragged troops across the ice-choked Delaware River and assaulted unsuspecting Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey. Washington’s victory bolstered sagging morale, changing the course of the American Revolution. It was this event that Emanuel Leutze depicted for posterity. And it was Ann Hawkes Hutton who made sure that the patriot, the park, and the painting would be inextricably linked forever.

The recognition that Hutton has garnered is widespread and impressive. She was the first woman to receive a Freedom Leadership Award from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. She was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 1958. She was appointed to the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission in 1969 and, in 1975, President Gerald R. Ford named her to the American Revolution Bicentennial Advisory Council. She founded, chaired, and guided the Washington Crossing Foundation, which has provided scholarships to college students throughout the country to recognize their dedication to public service. She has also served as president of the Historical Foundation of Pennsylvania and Historic Fallsington, Inc.

Hutton’s books include George Washington Crossed Here (1948), House of Decision (1956), Portrait of Patriotism: “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1959), The Pennsylvanian: Joseph R. Grundy (1962), and The Year and Spirit of ’76 (1972), and an award-winning play entitled The Decision (1964). She has been a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines on a variety of subjects for many years and continues to write a column for the Intercounty Newspaper Publishing Company.

In this recent interview, many of Ann Hawkes Hutton’s salient qualities became apparent – her intelligence, her dedication, her patriotism. Readers should be aware that she is neither demure nor retiring; she can be opinionated and combative, but with a style marked by civility and good humor. She gracefully agrees to disagree when pitted against friends and colleagues in controversial issues.

Ann Hawkes Hutton has few equals as a leader in the field of public history. She developed the tools and techniques that have become models for today’s practitioners. Despite occasional health problems, she remains an active and vigorous participant in historic preservation, historical interpretation, museum education, and heritage tourism.

Welcome to the whirlwind world of the indefatigable Ann Hawkes Hutton of Bristol. Pennsylvania’s very own unconventional patriot!


When and how did you become interested in history?

I became interested in history as a child, but I never thought of it until now. I think of it in connection with a George Washington birthday party, my very first party. I think, too, of the fact that I was born at 2221 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia, which is very close to the Washington Monument, which is what it is called in Philadelphia. It’s a statue of George Washington on a horse, in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

My mother took me out in the coach on many trips and on walks in my first years, and I vaguely remember some mention of the man on the horse and her praise. He was considered the great American hero of that period. It was a different attitude towards George Washington then. My very first steps were up those steps surrounding this Washington Monument.

At the age of four I went to a Washington’s birthday party. That was my first party. There weren’t any children around where I lived – I was not of school age – so this made a powerful impression. We sang Happy Birthday to George Washington, and all the decorations were for him – red and white and blue. We had little cardboard hatchets, which I’ve been trying to get someone to bring back. I believed in the story of the cherry tree. I still think it’s a great story and a good lesson. As for making fun of the minister, Parson Weems [Episcopal clergyman in whose circa 1806 edition of The Life and Memorable Action of George Washington the legend of the hatchet and cherry tree appeared], well, that man was well educated for the period. He really was a teacher. I grew up believing that it was a sin to tell a lie.

Were there any teachers who interested you specifically in history?

I hate to say this – but the truth is l went to a Quaker school, Friends Select, in Philadelphia, and I didn’t know how important George Washington was then. As a matter of fact, I was great in Roman history and Greek history. My teacher didn’t approve of the American Revolution, and she didn’t quite approve of Washington, so I’m afraid I did not find any inspiration in Friends Select.

Since you attended a Quaker school, you probably learned much about William Penn?

I was inundated with William Penn. It’s been one of my classical examples of what advocates can do when they set their mind to it. Penn’s background explains his idealism and his impracticality. His vision of a new land of freedom was – and still is – worthy of praise, but he was a man of ordinary failings. He was a poor businessman, a rascal, a womanizer, and a drinker. The Quakers have done a marvelous job of reinventing and promoting William Penn. They have not done the same for George Washington.

It was only after research in college that I discovered how much trouble the Quaker establishment gave Washington in America’s fight to provide for the freedoms that Penn espoused. Fortunately, there were “Fighting Quakers” who gave help during the Revolutionary War.

I am really one of few writers who have criticized the Friends. In a play I wrote, I took them apart. My Quaker friends were astonished by what I wrote, at the lines in that play.

How long did you attend Friends Select?

Eight years, from fourth grade right on through graduation. Totally immersed in their philosophy, I had to go to meeting there, and eventually I told my parents I wanted to become a Quaker. Both my mother and father were non-church-attending Episcopalians. My father said, “Well, you know, that’s up to you.” He was a very wise man. He asked, “Why don’t you wait until you’re out of college before you make the decision and then, if you still do, fine.”

In college, history fascinated me, particularly American history, which I had not had much of at Friends Select. Then l decid­ed-heavens!-far from wanting to be a Quaker, I was very annoyed by some of them. l think the Quakers’ philosophy is excellent, but actually, in practice, it still discourages patriotism. The “Fighting Quakers” – known as Free Quakers – are the ones that I don’t want to forget. They made me one of their members of the old church in Philadelphia, near Independence National Historical Park. Betsy Ross was one of the leading members. Her family disowned her when she married an Episcopalian. For that was simply beyond the pale.

Besides the Washington statue and the Washington birthday party, were there other early influences?

My father, Thomas G. Hawkes, told me Washington stories at bedtime, every night of my early life, the ones I wanted to hear. You know how children want the same story over and over and over again. Well, the story of George Washington and the cherry tree was what I lived by. I wanted it every night, heard it every night, thought it was a sin to tell a lie.

Did your family share your enthusiasm for George Washington?

We always made much of Washington. We didn’t celebrate his birthday as such, but my birthday is the sixteenth of February, so sometimes they would use the Washington things we had collected. Those were the days when, in my childhood, people used Washington cards on his birthday. I have many of the interesting cards that were used.

I am very serious in my belief that Washington is an ideal role model for children today, as he was then. I think it’s very sad that we’ve reached a point where sports heroes have become today’s idols, and this makes young people oblivious to the basic truths of life.

Which college did you attend?

At first I went to Wellesley College, but I was, oh, so unhappy there, an only spoiled child, in a room with a girl from the state of Washington who cried all the time. I was used to lots of dates, and I was in love then with someone at Cornell. At Wellesley, we didn’t have boys at dances. We went to our junior prom and each girl took a girl to the dance and sent her a corsage, and for me who was really interested in boys at the time this was ridiculous. I was not happy there. I remember that the boy came up from Cornell and for the weekend my father had to come from Philadelphia because you had to have a chaperon when you had a boy visiting. My father came up and sat unhappily at the inn for the weekend. It was all so very different. I was unhappy. My family was unhappy. They took one look at my room – an iron cot, a rickety chair, a broken­-down chest for two us – and they thought it was just dreadful. With their encouragement, I left at Christmas vacation, entered the second term at the University of Pennsylvania, made up credits for the year, and graduated in 1931.

Was there a particular professor or teacher you remember being influential?

Well, Master Laurie at the University of Pennsylvania. He taught poetry and English. He is one I shall always remember. He was superb and very, very influential. His wife had been my teacher at Friends Select. I had wanted to be a writer and so I wrote and wrote, and she said, “Ann, you’re going to be a good Dorothy Dix [pen name of American journalist Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer (1870-1951), a popular columnist who dispensed advice to the lovelorn], but you must aim a little higher intellectually.” And I would struggle to aim higher intellectually.

Who were your favorite writers?

I loved French, even the wicked Baudelaire. He wrote this wild, “immoral,” sexy French stuff which was big for us at the time. My French professor was fascinating, and he interest,ed me in French literature. I was always interested in Lafayette and, of course, his association with George Washington. And there was always my beloved Eng­lish writer, Charles Dickens.

Do you believe you were encouraged in your writing in school?

Yes, I do. In my law school days I always tried to write poetry, a few things, and send them off – and would get them back in the mail. Some small checks came in, though, which thrilled me. I began writing newspaper articles. Freelance. A newspaper, the Honolulu Advertiser, apparently liked what I wrote. I did articles for it and interviewed many people. I wrote about all kinds of things. Even tackled an assignment for a story about an old men’s baseball team called the “Kids and the Cubs,” while on a short vacation in St. Petersburg, Florida.

What years were you in school and what was it like?

I graduated from Friends Select in 1927, and from Penn’s School of Education in 1931. Women apparently weren’t allowed in any college courses that were given at ordinary hours. You could go if you went at queer times. My father said, “Ann, get your degree in education, because even though you’re going to law school you can always use it. I did some substitute teaching for a teacher who was very ill and I gave my salary to her during World War II when my husband Jack was in the service. So I had practical experience in education, which was good.

In the fall of thirty-one, I entered the University of Pennsylvania law school and J graduated in thirty-four. Even before I graduated I knew that I didn’t want to go on with law. The reason I knew was because I wasn’t interested in doing my father’s kind of legal work – divorces, wills, estates, and so on. I wanted to be a prosecut­ing attorney and during my clerkship my father gave me a lot of time to go to many cases and feel my way. He said, “They’re not ready for a woman yet, Ann.” And they weren’t. As far as I knew, there were no women prosecuting attorneys then. I was not for the defense. I wanted to be a prosecuting attorney. I wanted to put all the criminals in jail!

Were many women enrolled in law school at the time?

Seven of us started and two from our class graduated. The other girl who graduated worked in my father’s law office. There were very few women in law at the time.

Was Philadelphia always your family’s home?

No, some of my ancestors came from Penn’s Manor in Bucks County. It’s very interesting because the house there, the original home that William Penn built, Pennsbury, deteriorated. It was not well built and a water tank on the roof leaked badly, ruining the house. A man by the name of Crozier bought the property and built a house exactly where Pennsbury stood. He was a widower and his second marriage was to my great­-great-great grandmother Hannah Green. So, that is the house in which my ancestors were raised!

George Washington was considered a hero, and both Valley Forge National Historical Park and Brandywine Battlefield had already interpreted his leadership. Why did you choose Washington Crossing to underscore your admiration for him?

It’s all very interesting. My father’s best friend, as a school boy living in Philadelphia, was the individual responsible for Valley Forge. He was the Reverend W. Herbert Burk, a minister who started the chapel at Valley Forge. Herb Burk and dad were friends since childhood, and my father told me what a great job he was doing for Valley Forge and for George Washington. 1 thought this was wonderful, but I was busy in my own world of writing and getting these exciting jobs in Philadelphia and later going on to advertising and promotional jobs in New York. One day I was totally surprised to read in a newspaper that I had been nominated to the Washington Crossing Park Commission! I had no advance notice. I knew nothing about the park. I knew where it was, of course, but it was not anything I was ever involved in, and I didn’t know at the time who did this. I didn’t seek the nomination to the commission and I couldn’t understand it.

Who did nominate you to the Washington Crossing Park Commission?

Undoubtedly the man who did it was United States Senator Joseph R. Grundy. Senator Grundy – whom everyone thinks of as a rabid Republican – had a hero and his was George Washington. His love was the park. But it was a local thing and he resented the fact that it wasn’t better known. Without saying a word to me, he decided that he wanted me on the Washington Crossing Park Commission. He had heard me speak several times. Someone in Harrisburg – called me and said there was a meet­ing on a certain date. Senator Grundy never admitted to the end of his life that he was the one that got me on the commission. He was the big Republican in Bucks County, and he just named people to com.missions and boards.

Had you been working at the time of your appointment?

Between 1934 and 1939 I was doing all kinds of things in public relations – promotion, writing. I wrote copy for commercials at a dollar a word, which in those days was big. I had the experience, all of which I later used at Washington Crossing Historic Park. I suppose you could call me a professional volunteer.

What was your initial response to serving as a member of the Washington Crossing Park Commission?

After my appointment, Senator Grundy asked me what was the first thing I would do on the Washington Crossing Park Commission. I said the first thing would be to have you [Senator Grundy] put more important people on the Commission. I did not want it to be used politically. I said that whichever party is in power gives out little jobs, but there are so few people on it that it will never grow this way. He put on the kind of people I thought were necessary: Thomas Elliott Wynn, president of the Welcome Society; Henry Gillam, who was head of the board of City Trust; the historian, Mrs. Charles Harper Smith; and others. He named people who didn’t make the local Republicans happy, I might add, although they were mostly Republicans.

Senator Grundy wanted me to get more young people interested in this country and in politics; he asked me to start a Republican club. I said, “No, Senator. I don’t think that’s the way to do it. I think you want to call it the Young Americans and interest the young people so much that the Democrats will come in as well as the Republicans, and we will have to look down both sides of the aisle.” He replied, “I think thee is a politician.” He often used the Quaker style of speech among friends. I adored him as a person. He was above criticism. He didn’t care what the newspapers wrote about him. He knew what he did was for the good of the country and its citizens. He did more good for Bristol than anybody has ever done – for individuals and for the town. It’s true he wanted it done his way, but he did it. And his love of the state and of the county and of the country was real and above politics.

What were among your most memorable projects as a member of the commission?

When I first went on in 1939 I was, well, hooked on George Washington. The staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opened the door to me for information about the famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze when I was writing a book, George Washington Crossed Here, my first little book, and I was hurrying to get something out into the hands of the legislators who weren’t interested in history and wanted it short and sweet. My little book did very well and money from it went to the development and furnish­ing of the Thompson-Neely House [a historic house on the grounds of Washington Crossing Historic Park, where Washington and leading American officers of the Revolutionary War met]. That’s whenIT started a private little trust fund. It seemed that the Thompson-Neely House, this lovely old house, was in dreadful shape and needed attention.

Is it true that you were the person responsible for bringing Washington Crossing the Delaware to Washington Crossing?

In the early thirties, people wanted to know where Leutze’s famous painting was. Well, it was in the basement of the Metropolitan, all rolled up, because for many years his work was considered “unfashionable.” In 1930 and 1931 – just before the celebration of George Washington’s two hundredth birthday in 1932 – when visitors to the Metropolitan asked to see Emanuel Leutze’s masterpiece, they were simply told it was not on exhibit. The press dug up several good stories and the whole affair became quite controversial. The Metropolitan received a number of letters suggesting that, if the museum did not want to exhibit the painting, it should be placed where it could be on permanent exhibition. Soon everybody wanted the painting – the first official request to borrow the painting came in January 1931 from New York’s Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who wanted to exhibit it in Albany. Several other states asked for Washington Crossing the Delaware, too. The painting went back on exhibit. It took twenty years for the painting to come to Washington Crossing.

The credit for the painting’s use here at Washington Crossing Historic Park should go to Paul Pedigo who was editor of the Bristol Courier [which has since merged with the Levittown Times and is published as the Bucks County Courier Times]. The newspaper was, incidentally, owned by Joe Grundy.

Washington Crossing the Delaware arrived in January 1952. The question came up of what we could do to publiciZe the painting’s importance. During a Commission meeting someone asked, “Aren’t there many mistakes in the painting?” I wasn’t well informed and I answered, “1′ m not sure, but I have heard many criticisms.” I do remember distinctly that during that meeting Mr. Pedigo, also a Grundy appointee to the Washington Crossing Park Commission, shook his finger at me and said, “Ann Hutton, I don’t care what you say or think about the painting, but the fact is that it is the trade­ mark of the principal event in Washington’s life and it was the turning point of the American Revolution and you’d better look up what’s behind that painting and you’ll find out that a lot of these things that you’ve heard are untrue!” And so I began research on Emanuel Leutze and became fascinated by what I learned.

What did you learn about Emanuel Leutze during the course of your research?

I became an absolute believer in Leutze. First of all, I had great backing from an intellectual source, a friend of mine who had been a fine arts major at Bryn Mawr College, Delphine Fitz. My uncle, George B. Hawkes, who was a lawyer and very proper sort of person, said, “Now, Ann, I want you to talk to Delphine Fitz about this, and I want to know what she thinks.” I called her and we had lunch and she said, “Ann, Emanuel Leutze was basically an American who came over here as a child and couldn’t make a living because then everyone wanted to be painted by a European. So he went to Germany. The painting is superbly done, and Leutze was admired by the art critics of his day.”

We had Washington Crossing the Delaware installed in a nearby Methodist Church in 1952 because none of the park buildings could accommodate it – it measured twelve by twenty-two feet! After it was installed, one of Leutze’s descendants walked in, was fascinated, and wrote to me. We corresponded, and she gave me a wonderful collection of his letters which he had written to his mother. “I use a pipe and wear a certain hat in my studio and I look like a real German painter,” he wrote. Leutze always regarded himself as an American – totally American in his viewpoint – but he married a German girl who was highly born and didn’t like to come to this country, so the poor man would travel back and forth. He did manage to persuade her to visit here at least once, but she was miserable and that’s why he spent time in Germany. But his heart was here.

I researched Leutze in Germany, but I don’t speak German and had a difficult time there. I did learn that Germans said he was “that painter who left Germany for America.” They regarded him as an American painter. People here who didn’t know him regarded him as a German painter.

What incidents do you recall during the painting’s installation at the park?

A highlight for me was the dedication of the park’s Memorial Building, in September 1959, when the artist’s grandson, Rear Admiral Trevor William Leutze of the U. S. Navy attended. He was in full naval uniform and he stood at attention. As the curtains covering the painting parted, tears rolled down his cheeks. He and his father, who was also an admiral, loved this country, as did Emanuel Leutze.

Was the painting at Washington Crossing Historic Park for the opening of the Memorial Building?

Washington Crossing the Delaware was here, on indefinite loan, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had the money because Senator Grundy offered to buy it for the Park. It was only twenty-five thousand dollars at the time. Well, it was worth well more than that but Grundy pulled some ropes – and so did l­and James Rorimer, then head of the Metropolitan, saw the real value of keeping the painting where the event actually occurred. That was the reason the deal was going thrrough. Unfortunately, we had only a gentleman’s agreement.

Was there trouble?

Rorimer died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in May 1966. Thomas Hoving, who succeeded Rorimer, would not recognize the oral agreement. Grundy’s lawyer went to New York with me. I said “I’m very worried about this. We don’t have a written agreement with Rorimer.” He said, “We have a gentleman’s agreement, Ann.” But it fell through.

After seventeen years an alarming thing happened. Shortly before my husband’s death, in 1969, I had word that the Metropolitan Museum had to have Washington Crossing the Delaware returned. They had to have it for the American Wing exhibit! I was desperate. I thought: the painting will go – and so will our park visitation. Then I went through the terrible loss of my husband Jack, suddenly, from a heart attack. Afterward, I decided that I would ask the Metropolitan Museum’s permission to have a copy made of Washington Crossing the Delaware. They had never before given permission for a copy, but at least I was able to persuade them. They said, “We’ll allow this; it will be the only approved copy ever made.”

I had a Washington painter in mind, Robert B. Williams, whose work I admired. I’d seen his work, and I thought: he’s the one who can do it. He did a great job and he did it for me for ten thousand dollars. I gave it to the Washington Crossing Foundation in my husband’s memory. The painting is on loan to the Washington Crossing Park Commission from the foundation. The painter has since become so famous. He does all these society and famous people, such as Bob Hope. I called him before my granddaughter got married several years ago and I thought I’d have him do a head of her as a wedding present. Williams said, “Ann, my secretary handles all the prices. I don’t get into that, so I’ll turn you over to her.” His secretary got on the telephone and said, “I’ll send you our list, Mrs. Hutton, and, well, Mr. Williams gets thirty-five thousand dollars for just a head.” The whole thing was out – need I mention that?

The birthday party held each year on Washington’s actual birthdate, February 22, is a popular event for park visitors. Who conceived the idea?

I started that – I say “I” and it must sound very egotistical­ – but that was my job, I always felt, to think of something new to do. It’s been very successful. We do that in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which now administers the park, and the event has always been a great success.

The Christmas Day reenactment of the crossing of the Delaware River by Washington and his troops is also a popular event. When and how did this annual commemorative program begin?

That began in 1953. I had read in a newspaper that St. John Terrell was going to cross the river with a few friends. I knew St. John Terrell was a theater producer in New York and he liked a lot of fun and I thought he was going to do this in a humorous way. They were going on into Trenton, New Jersey, for a party or something and I thought, uh-oh, this just can’t be made fun of. This is wrong. So I called St. John, whom I didn’t know, and I asked if he would meet me at Washington Crossing, which he did. My toughest job was telling St. John that this crossing had to be done differently. He and his friends couldn’t go on to a party in Trenton. Their crossing had to be made in good taste and seriously, because so much depended on this event and its future development.

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to turn St. John into a Washington fan. He felt George Washington was a hero. He bought some of the fine things that the park has-he had a lot of money in those days, although he lost it later. He performed as Washington for twenty-five years. He used a little boat that held only about five people, and I decided the next thing I had to do was to get a boat that was the actual size. Contributions for the first of several boats, called Durham boats, were given by the American Business Club of Trenton in memory of Frederick Banks, a former club president and secretary of the Washington Crossing Park Commission. The second boat was given by Ivy Jackson Banks in her husband’s memory in 1970. A third Durham boat was added five years later, and a fourth in 1976. Each boat added to the excitement.

Ivy Jackson Banks, a librarian and former teacher, and I began research on the Durham boat in 1964 and we went up to the Peabody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and worked with them. We collected whatever information we could and had one built by this old company on the Jersey coast, Johnson’s Boat Yard. The man who built it, Harold Peterson, also made a model of the boat that he presented to the Washington Crossing Foundation and it is now on exhibit at the park.

How did the crossing reenactment, which is known through­out the world, become so well recognized?

I had a friend who worked for a Swedish company over here and he became interested in it. He, in turn, interested Princess Christina of Sweden in the park, and she came over. That was a great publicity event. Its popularity just blossomed over the years.

There has been a struggle to keep the focus on George Washington at Washington Crossing Park. Would you com­ment on controversies that occurred during your association with the park?

One of the controversies that was quite difficult was caused by the chairman, a Democratic labor leader, E. J. Leaver. He’d come from South America, and how he ever got this role as chairman – or why – I can never tell. He announced, “St. John Terrell is not going to continue to cross the Dela­ware.” He and Sol Feinstone were determined that this event must be prohibited. At first, a majority of the Democratic members of the commission backed them. I managed to defeat this viewpoint, thanks to the understanding of some of the commissioners who could see the dangers in publicity about the controversy. Tune has since proven that the crossing reenactment gets favorable publicity throughout the world.

Sol Feinstone gave us another problem because in the beginning he was quite enthusiastic and mentioned that he had an exhibit in mind, utilizing his collection of manuscripts and docu­ments. Well, I was all for this, but Maurice K. Goddard [Secretary of the Common­wealth’s Department of Forests and Waters, which administered the park at the time] fought me on it. It’s the only time we ever crossed swords. Secretary Goddard said, “Ann, you’re making the mistake of your life.” He was right. Sol turned out to be a very difficult person. He was never satisfied with the director of the library. He was really annoyed with me because we didn’t have his son, the late Ezra Stone, who played the comic role of Henry Aldridge on radio, narrate what I had written for the orientation film at the visitor center. Instead, Chet Huntley, the NBC television news commentator, was the narrator of the film which was based on my book, George Washington Crossed Here.

Do you think George Washington is given proper credit today?

Not at all, and for several reasons.

First of all, there is a political aspect to all of this. Thomas Jefferson gets more credit today, but he represents a very different school of thought from Washington. Jefferson, the theorist, will be remembered forever for the ideals he penned so courageously in the Declaration of Independence. But it was up to Washington to make those words become reality. It was the difference between a man of great abilities in speech and writing, but a theoretical man against a practical man, whose great ability was to inspire the common man to follow and fight with him in the Revolutionary War. Washington had the kind of mind I admire. It was not the mind of an intellectual, but rather the mind of a realist and man of action.

One of Washington’s contemporaries who seems to have fared much better in history is Benjamin Franklin. Why are people today more appreciative of Franklin?

I am a great admirer of Franklin. He was a practical man. His mind was so superb. He established great institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania, my alma mater. Franklin’s judgment and principles were without peer, as was his sense of duty towards this nation. He loved life, and I’m sure he enjoyed his popularity both here and abroad. He was more brilliant than Washington, but Washington possessed an ability to inspire and to lead. He had the courage to go on when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. George Washington is the greatest American who ever lived. And I feel that without his greatness in leadership, we wouldn’t have a country.

The Commonwealth, through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and the Washington Crossing Park Commission have forged a partnership that chronicles this momentous event in American history. What do you think the future holds?

I think it’s extremely important, first of all, that the Commonwealth recognizes the full significance of this event and of this historic site. Unfortunately, there have been times when the Commonwealth did not recognize the greatness of either George Washington or his crossing. I feel that now, for the first time since I began my work here many, many years ago, that the state has begun to see what we’re trying to do here and what it means to the state and to the nation.


Washington Crossing Historic Park, which covers five hundred acres in Bucks County, includes thirteen historic buildings, the one hundred acre Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve and observation tower, and many recreational and picnic areas. For visiting hours and direc­tions, write: Washington Crossing Historic Park, P. O. Box 103, Washington, Crossing, PA 18977; or telephone (215) 493-4076. Individuals with disabilities who need special assistance or accommodation should telephone Washington Crossing Historic Park in advance to discuss their needs. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired who wish to contact a hearing person via Text Telephone may use the PA Relay Center at (800) 654-5984.


For Further Reading

Davidson, Marshall B., and Elizabeth Stillinger. The American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Harrison House, 1987.

Hoving, Thomas. Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Hutton, Ann Hawkes. House of Decision. Philadelphia: Dorrance and Company, 1956.

____. Portrait of Patriotism: “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Philadelphia: Chilton Company, 1959.

Kammen, Michael. Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1991.

Smith, Samuel Steele. The Battle of Trenton. Monmouth Beach, N. J.: Philip Freneau Press, 1965.

Stember, Sol. The Bicentennial Guide to the American Revolution: The Middle Colonies. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1974.


Brent D. Glass has served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission since 1987. From 1983 to 1987, he acted as executive director of the North Carolina Humanities Council and was the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for the North Carolina Division of Archives and History for four years. In addition to lecturing, he has written articles on urban, industrial, and public history. His contributions to Pennsyl­vania Heritage include “Expanding a Vision: Seventy-­Five Years of Public History” (winter 1989); “‘The Public is Entitled to Know’: Fighting for the Public Memory of Henry Clay Frick” (Winter 1992); and “Homeward Bound: An Interview with David McCullough” (summer 1994).