Ephrata’s Comet Book

  In the late winter of 1744 a bright comet with six tails that spread out like a fan was visible in the sky. It was so brilliant at its perihelion – its point closest to the sun – that it could be seen even in the daytime. Known as the Great Comet of 1744, the astronomical object mystified the world and led to speculation about its meaning in both scientific and religious...
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Jim Popso’s Lokie

  James “Jim” Popso (1922-98) documented the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region of the 20th century in folk art assemblages he made from scrap wood, found objects, glue, household supplies and bargain paints. For more than 20 years until his death, he handcrafted scenes of collieries, breakers, mining machinery and patch towns, most of them supplemented with his models of real...
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George Rapp’s Coat and Cap

Silk was all the rage in America during the 1820s and 1830s. Initially imported from Europe, silk fabric was used in men’s suits, women’s dresses and miscellaneous household articles. The Harmony Society, always at the forefront of industry at the time, added silk manufacturing to its long list of enterprises shortly after the religious communal group settled in 1825 at their last home in...
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Piney Island Face Rock

Is this face carved into a 5-inch-diameter river cobble a sort of ancient emoticon? Perhaps. It is more likely a ceremonial figure used by a shaman during tribal rituals. But it may be a purely decorative object. Archaeologists are not quite sure. What is known is that the artifact, called “Face Rock,” is the earliest of its kind found in Pennsylvania. Face Rock was unearthed on Piney Island,...
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Spitz Model A3P Star Projector

  The Planetarium at The State Museum of Pennsylvania first opened to the public on July 14, 1965, and will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year on July 15-19. Early patrons and those who followed until 2004 will recall the tall, unconcealed mechanism emerging from the floor in the center of the theater, as much a part of the show as the stars and planets it projected onto the sky dome...
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Piper J-3 Cub

Even before the William Penn Memorial Museum was under construction in the early 1960s, PHMC Executive Director S.K. Stevens had initiated an ambitious plan to acquire objects for a massive Pennsylvania “transportation exhibit.” The gallery was to be arranged chronologically, starting with a pair of Indian moccasins, on to wagons and carriages, then to locomotives and automobiles, and ending...
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The Deerslayer by N.C. Wyeth

  In December 1967 PHMC chairman James B. Stevenson accepted an original painting by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) for the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania from Mrs. George R. Bailey of the George R. Bailey Foundation of Harrisburg, Dauphin County, in a ceremony held in the museum’s Memorial Hall. The painting had been created as the cover design for the 1925 Scribner Illustrated...
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Gulielma Penn’s Dressing Box

  Gulielma Maria Springett Penn never lived in Pennsylvania. When her husband William Penn, founder and proprietor of the colony, made his first trip from England to America in 1682, she was too ill to make the journey with him. She had been deceased for five years before Penn’s second trip in 1699. Although Gulielma was unable to ever experience the splendor of the Penn country estate on...
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John Wilkes Booth’s Cane at Drake Well Museum

Precisely 150 years ago this summer, actor-cum-assassin John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) – who had joined the stock company of Philadelphia’s Arch Street Theatre in 1857 where he acted for the season – spent more than a month in northwestern Pennsylvania’s oil region looking after his investments during petroleum’s boom years. While appearing at the theatre, later managed by Louisa Lane...
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Model of USS Michigan at Erie Maritime Museum

While she was being constructed, beginning in July 1842, the vessel known at her December 5, 1843 launch as USS Michigan (in honor of the Union’s newest state) and later as USS Wolverine (renamed in 1905 for Michgan’s state animal so the state name could be used for a new dreadnought battleship) was simply called “Lake Steamer” or “Iron Steamer.” Two decades...
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