“Drawing to Represent”: Lewis Miller of York, Chronicler of 19th-Century Life

Lewis Miller’s depictions of people and their everyday lives have been used repeatedly to illustrate 19th-century American life. Whether it is a flood of molasses flowing down the street or Simon Einstein bringing a load of cabbages to town to celebrate his election victory, Miller seemed to have seen it all, and he depicted many of these scenes during his long lifetime. Miller also recorded...
read more

Linton Park, Pennsylvania Folk Artist

  Linton Park (1826-1906) is recognized today as a significant artist in the primitive or folk tradition; however, his work was unknown during his lifetime. At his death, in fact, he had less than $100 to his name. He never married or had children, and his relatives and neighbors considered him an eccentric hermit. Evidence indicates that he was a self-taught painter, only beginning in the...
read more

From the Executive Director

For a long time, the Smithsonian Institution has called itself “The Nation’s Attic.” The name conjures up its role as America’s memory. Storerooms hold bits and pieces of the lives of Americans, famous and less celebrated. That metaphor also works for us here at PHMC. We consider ourselves to be like a Pennsylvania version of the Smithsonian museums, capturing the broad history of the...
read more

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...
read more

“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...
read more

Untouched by the Conflict, edited by Jonathan W. White and Daniel Glenn

Untouched by the Conflict: The Civil War Letters of  Singleton Ashenfelter, Dickinson College edited by Jonathan W. White and Daniel Glenn Kent State University Press, 142 pp., hardcover $29 The title of this unique collection of Civil War letters draws from an influential work of modern scholarship. The editors observe in their introduction that it was social historian J. Matthew Gallman who...
read more

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...
read more

Rooted in Family History: Archivist Reflects on Four Decades of Genealogical Research

Jonathan Stayer had been working at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society for several weeks in 1985 when he received a call from the Pennsylvania State Archives. The PHMC bureau wanted to hire an archivist with experience in genealogical research and Stayer, who had previously worked for the archives surveying county records, was already immersed in the growing field of genealogy. Stayer...
read more

Beaver’s Diary, Document and Lifesaver

The Pennsylvania State Archives has in its collection numerous diaries recording the personal experiences of prominent people in the state’s history. One of those diaries not only documented its owner’s life but also possibly saved it. James Addams Beaver (1837–1914), born in Millerstown, Perry County, was an attorney in Bellefonte, Centre County, who would serve as the 20th governor of...
read more

Battlefield Pennsylvania by Brady J. Crytzer

Battlefield Pennsylvania A Guide to the Keystone State’s Most Sacred Ground by Brady J. Crytzer Westholme Publishing, 288 pp., cloth $28.00 Ironically, the soil of Pennsylvania, founded by pacifist and Quaker William Penn, was soaked with the blood of its inhabitants. Brady J. Crytzer’s Battlefield Pennsylvania documents the many battles waged in this state. Some near present-day...
read more