The Giant That Stumbled: Baldwin Locomotive Works Dominated Its Field for a Century, Then Vanished

How could a Philadelphia-based global giant with 20,000 employees and a history of 120 years of operation disappear, leaving little trace? It happened to the Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW), which perfected the art and science of building steam locomotives for domestic and worldwide markets. Baldwin was so dominant that in 1901, eight smaller builders that were scattered around the East banded...
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More Than Decoration: Barn Stars Sustain the Spirit of Folk Tradition

The rungs of the extension ladder echoed across the hollow as the barn star painters prepared to ascend the facade of the barn to begin their third and final day of work. Carefully selecting their brushes and colors, the painters took their places 20 feet above the barnyard where they worked their magic. With rapid and calculated movements, they began applying the paint to the rough contours of...
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Piecing Together Pandenarium: Archaeology at the Site of a Free Black Community in Western Pennsylvania

In 1854 newly freed African American men, women and children hailing from a plantation in Ablemarle County, Virginia, arrived at a dusty country crossroads in northwestern Pennsylvania’s Mercer County. Estimates vary, but approximately 63 free people settled together on 100 acres of their own land. Local abolitionists prepared for the arrival by building houses along the hill, digging wells, and...
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Lois Weber, Film Pioneer

The Pittsburgh region has been home to many remarkable women over the years, including journalist Nellie Bly, abolitionist Jane Grey Swisshelm, and environmentalist Rachel Carson. Less known among them is Lois Weber, the first American woman film director. During cinema’s silent era in the 1910s and 1920s, she held a unique position in Hollywood. She was not only one of a small handful of women...
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Reforming Faith by Design: Frank Furness’ Architecture and Spiritual Pluralism Among Philadelphia’s Jews and Unitarians

Philadelphia never saw anything like it. The strange structure took shape between 1868 and 1871 on the southeast corner of North Broad and Mount Vernon streets, in the middle of a developing residential neighborhood for a newly rising upper middle class. With it came a rather alien addition to the city’s skyline: a boldly striped onion dome capping an octagonal Moorish-style minaret that flared...
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“Without Fear and Without Reproach”: Octavius V. Catto and the Early Civil Rights Movement in Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, the City of Philadelphia unveiled a monument to Octavius V. Catto in a ceremony at the southwestern apron of City Hall. Catto was a cornerstone figure in Philadelphia’s early civil rights struggle — a recruiter of an African American militia during the Civil War, an instrumental figure in the victory to desegregate Philadelphia’s horse-drawn streetcars, a...
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Gallantly Saving Railroad History: The Adventures of George M. Hart, Founding Director of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Four months before his retirement in 1983 as founding director of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, George Michener Hart (1919–2008) received high praise as the state’s premier railroad historian from the Smithsonian Institution’s curator of transportation, John H. White Jr. Addressed to Hart’s boss, Peter C. Welsh, director of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s Bureau of...
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Sure to Attract Much Attention: The Advertising Genius of Milton S. Hershey

Milton S. Hershey, the man behind the chocolate bar, was an innovative and resourceful manufacturer who used a variety of traditional as well as unconventional strategies to both advertise and attract attention to his products. He was born in Derry Township, Dauphin County, on September 13, 1857. After spending the first eight years of his life in Dauphin County, he lived 10 years in Lancaster...
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Chicken and Waffles: The Pennsylvania Story

In his 1861 local-color novel The Young Parson, German Reformed minister Peter Seibert Davis (1828–92) described chicken and waffles as the “stereotypical” Sunday supper among the Pennsylvania Dutch. How this dish moved from a regional identity food into mainstream American cookery is indeed a complicated story, especially since chicken and waffles reached its height of popularity during the...
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Fighter’s Heaven: Muhammad Ali’s Training Camp in the Pennsylvania Wilderness

On a mountainside overlooking Deer Lake, in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County, is a restored boxers’ training camp called Fighter’s Heaven, originally built by Muhammad Ali (1942–2016) in 1972. The Champ, as he boastfully called himself, designed the boxing haven during the early phase of his post-three-year-suspension comeback tour in order to escape the hullabaloo of civilization as he trained...
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