The Inventor from Ercildoun: William Chester Ruth

It is apt to remember inventor William Chester Ruth (1882–1971) as a pinion in both his community and his machine shop and as a bridge between cultures and eras. The son of a man who had been enslaved until his 13th year and a woman from a distinguished free Black family, “Chester” displayed both confirmation of talent inherited from his parents and his own innovative path to the future. Steeped...
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Editor’s Letter

As part of our mission “to introduce readers to Pennsylvania’s rich culture and historic legacy,” we at Pennsylvania Heritage seek to connect the commonwealth’s past with what Pennsylvania is today or what it is anticipated to become in the future. In this effort, we strive to publish stories on a variety of subjects, some of which have been overlooked or underrepresented in history, that relate...
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Women Made the Breadbasket of Democracy

Picturing the Pennsylvania home front during World War II might call to mind images of women working in munitions plants or shipyards. Rosie the Riveter, immortalized in a 1942 war work-incentive poster, was said to be inspired by women employed in the Westinghouse East Pittsburgh Works. Outside the factories, however, women also sustained and transformed agriculture, feeding the war effort....
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Pennsylvania Farming by Sally McMurry

Pennsylvania Farming A History in Landscapes by Sally McMurry University of Pittsburgh Press, 472 pp., cloth $49.95 For generations, most Pennsylvanians were farmers. Today, farmers are only a small percentage of the population, yet the enduring pastoral and historic character of the state’s rural landscape is a source of local pride and fosters tourism in many areas. With engaging prose and an...
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Sowing the Seeds of Victory at Polk

In 1916, as battles raged across Europe, farmers in Entente countries exchanged sickles for rifles, leaving their ground untended. Poor harvests worldwide and increased U-boat activity in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean exacerbated an already depleted food supply. The need for additional production became increasingly apparent as the United States continued its support for France and Great...
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Powwowing: Ritual Healing in Pennsylvania Dutch Country

It was just after dark when the powwow doctor arrived at the elderly woman’s home in Lebanon County. The woman had been suffering from swelling in her legs that made walking difficult. Regular medical treatment had proven to be unsuccessful, so after enduring several months of painful discomfort, she called a powwower on the advice of a friend. Tonight would be the third successive...
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The 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show: A Blue Ribbon State Fair

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the United States. Each year hundreds of thousands of people flock to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, to experience apples and alpacas, butter sculpture and blue-ribbon contests, milkshakes and mushrooms, square dancing and grape stomping, rodeos and tractor pulling, and...
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Lightfoot Mill (Mill at Anselma)

Originally built circa 1747, this working mill in Chester Springs, Chester County, is a rare example of a small 18th-century custom grain mill with its power transmission system completely intact. The basic technology of Lightfoot Mill was adapted over the years to improve efficiency, although much of the original mechanism has been retained. Today, these subsequent limited upgrades illustrate...
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Uncle Jerry and the Great Allentown Fair

Described as an “enterprising Pennsylvania Dutchman” by Governor Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker, the Honorable Jeremiah Roth (1833–1907) was best known as the father of the Great Allentown Fair. Though he was not a founding member of the fair, “Uncle Jerry,” as most people affectionately called him, worked tirelessly during the 23 years he was at its helm to ensure its success and promote its...
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Editor’s Letter

Summer is a good time to connect with the past in Pennsylvania. The state features an abundance of museums, memorials and historic structures – including the sites on the Pennsylvania Trails of History – that are especially active in the summer, presenting and commemorating our history. Festivals and special events across the commonwealth also link us to our heritage with food,...
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