Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

On May 6, 1925, an individual known only as Murray wrote to Harry Snively of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, on a postcard depicting a duck pond at River Ridge Farm near Franklin, Venango County: “Talk about a beautiful sight, you should see those ducks.”

River Ridge Farm, the creation of Joseph Crocker Sibley (1850–1926) in 1911, consisted of four duck ponds, six stone bridges, thirteen miles of roads, manager’s house, gardener’s cottage, gatehouse, several dozen oil wells, and a baronial residence designed by Pittsburgh architect Louis Stevens (1880– 1961). The farm was self-sufficient — it grew its own produce and meat, generated electricity independent of outside sources, and had its own water supply and sewage system. On the grounds of the 1,200-acre estate were blacksmith and machine shops, an automobile repair facility, two greenhouses, company store, twelve-car garage, and a railway station.

Sibley, who began amassing his fortune by “making a signal oil superior to those previously in use in quality of light, safety, and cold test,” was president of the Signal Oil Works, Franklin. With his brother-in-law Charles Miller he had established the Galena Oil Company which specialized in manufacturing railroad lubricants. He served as mayor of Franklin as well as several terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected president of the Pennsylvania State Dairymen’s Association and also served on the Pennsylvania State Board of Agriculture.

In addition to raising Pekin ducks, Sibley’s experimental farm featured an assortment of livestock and wild animals, including Wapiti elk, American buffalo, horses, sheep, Angora goats, Poland China hogs, and Canada geese.

Joe Jurgielewicz and Son Ltd., Hamburg, Berks County, continues the Keystone State’s tradition of raising and marketing ducks. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recognized the company because it “is almost exclusively integrated, meaning they breed, hatch, raise, and process all the ducks on the farm. Aside from purchasing feed, which also comes from local companies, the business is completely self-sufficient. The ‘closed flock’ prevents the introduction of any diseases that could devastate the business.” Jurgielewicz and Son — a family-owned company which processes more than seventy-five thousand ducks weekly — is also a member of PA Preferred.

This postcard was selected for this installment of Wish You Were Here! to observe the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s annual theme for 2012, “The Land of Penn and Plenty: Bringing History to the Table.”