Three Generations on the Underground Railroad: The Gibbons Family of Lancaster County

Shortly after sunset, a fugitive slave from Maryland tapped on a window of a modest farmhouse near Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. Daniel and Hannah Gibbons walked swiftly to the door. The Quaker couple escorted the young man to the barn to sleep and in the morning summoned him back to the house. If the fugitive’s owner was in close pursuit, they would send him to another farm. If there seemed to be...
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Soldiers of Production: Berwick’s Honey Tanks Contribute to the Allied Victory in World War II

  One hundred years before Adolf Hitler’s troops invaded Poland, Mordecai William Jackson and George Mack established a foundry in Berwick, in Pennsylvania’s Columbia County, to manufacture farm implements. From these humble beginnings grew a larger company that by the turn of the century joined 12 railroad equipment-manufacturing firms (in six other states) and became the American Car...
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To Form a More Perfect Union: Violet Oakley’s Murals in the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber

At breakfast tables on Sunday morning, December 3, 1911, readers of The New York Times were confronted with a surprising headline running across the magazine section: “A WOMAN CHOSEN TO COMPLETE THE ABBEY PAINTINGS.” Four months earlier, the news that the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey (1852–1911) had passed away in London raised speculation about who would receive the remainder of his...
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Ringing Out for Women’s Suffrage: The 1915 Campaign to Win the Vote for Women in Pennsylvania

  “The appearance in villages of this car with a “Votes for Women” apron in front, yellow pon-pons floating in the breeze and pennants flying, awakens interest in the most lethargic.” – The York Daily, October 25, 1915 On June 24, 1919, Pennsylvania became the seventh state to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. For Philadelphia suffragist...
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Kutztown Folk Festival: America’s Oldest Folklife Celebration

The Kutztown Folk Festival, originally called the Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival, is a milestone among American community celebrations. Observing 70 years in 2019, it is the first and longest-running folklife festival in the history of the United States. Although many other popular celebrations preceded the Kutztown festival, it has had a national impact as the first festival founded and...
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Life of a Portrait: Laura Wheeler Waring’s Anna Washington Derry

Until recently, painter Laura Wheeler Waring (1887-1948) has been relegated to the sidelines in artist histories. A member of the African American elite, she specialized in portraits and figurative painting and did not share the hand-to-mouth experience of many of her fellow artists. Rather, she worked as an art instructor and choir director for nearly 40 years at the institution now known as...
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100 Games: The Penn State–Pitt Rivalry

It “leaves an everlasting impression on you because, in Pennsylvania, it’s the only game that counts,” wrote Tim Panaccio about the rivalry between the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers in his 1982 book Beast of the East: Penn State vs. Pitt. In the same breath, he added, “Records don’t mean a thing, just who wins this game.” Panaccio’s...
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Pleistocene Preserved: The Lost Bone Cave of Port Kennedy

On October 29, 1895, more than 90 members attended a meeting at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Following the routine business of the publication committee’s report and the announcement of one member’s death, Henry Chapman Mercer (1856–1930) rose to speak about the ongoing exploration of a geological feature known as Irwin’s Cave in Montgomery County. The Philadelphia Inquirer...
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Backcast: Pennsylvania’s Legacy of Split Cane Fly Rods

  It’s important not to rush this. A mistake will obliterate a month of work. I take care to make sure that my workbench is uncluttered, the lighting is adequate to the task, and the tools I’ll need are handy but not in the way. Before me is a tapered hexagonal shaft composed of Tonkin cane (Arundinaria amabilis McClure), a type of extraordinarily tough bamboo found mostly in southeastern...
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Bubley by Greyhound: Photographing Wartime Rationing

Most photographs from World War II document industries or overseas military activities. Rarely do we get a look at daily life on the home front. One young woman who was documenting ordinary lives at that time was Esther Bubley (1921–98), who became known for taking intimate photos of people despite lugging around a large camera. There’s no better example of that than a story from her niece Jean...
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