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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Celebrities Discover Who They Are at the Pennsylvania State Archives

Archivist Aaron McWilliams smiles and shifts his gaze toward the floor when asked about his brush with TV stardom. Every so often, a patron visiting the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, where he works, will ask him what it was like to appear alongside veteran Hollywood actor Steve Buscemi on a 2011 episode of Who Do You Think You Are? a reality series in which...
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The Amish by Steven M. Nolt

The Amish: A Concise Introduction by Steven M. Nolt Johns Hopkins University Press, 52 pp., paper $16.95 In this brief but thoughtful book, Nolt leads his readers through the thicket of scholarship on Amish life to provide a concise introduction to America’s most distinctive religious community. He starts at the right place, delineating eight myths about the Amish that his book eventually...
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Baking Pennsylvania Dutch Style

Regional American cuisine is fast becoming the hottest trend on the food scene today, and while we still hear a great deal about Cajun or the Southwest, one of the richest areas for culinary diversity is Pennsylvania. The Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism, a nonprofit that has taken the lead in exploring the foods of our state, has identified five distinct culinary...
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Pennsylvania Dutch by Mark L. Louden

Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language by Mark L. Louden Johns Hopkins University Press, 504 pp., cloth $59.95 The controversy over the origins, identity and persistence of one of America’s most misunderstood minority languages has been positively settled by Louden’s unparalleled presentation of Pennsylvania Dutch, for which even the proper name has been the subject of...
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A Glimpse of Mercer County

Mercer County, situated on the western edge of the state about midway between Erie and Pittsburgh. takes its name from Hugh Mercer, who emi­grated to Pennsylvania from Scotland. Mercer settled in Franklin County where he established a medical prac­tice, but he achieved prominence as a military man fighting in the French and Indian War and serving with Gen­eral Washington in the early campaigns...
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Juniata’s Hills: “Rolling Over Crags to Woodlands”

Oh, the hills of Juniata, Oh, her stony wooded hills, and her flower-scented valleys and her crystal streams and rills, Rolling over crags to woodlands, ‘Tis a sight worth far to go, Sun-kissed hills of Juniata, Oh, they thrill and still me so. The above lines are taken from the county poem (officially accepted as such during the 1981 Tercentenary celebration), written by the late Dr....
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The Furniture of Soap Hollow: Makers’ Marks and a Master’s Touch

It’s been misidentified. Misunderstood. Misnamed. Mistreated. And mistakenly misla­beled by leading antiques dealers, knowledgeable collec­tors, magazine writers and curators of prestigious museums and institutions. Tt’s the little known, rarely encountered, but extremely important decorated furniture of Soap Hollow in southwest­ern Pennsylvania. To cognizant connoisseurs of antique...
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Mifflin County: The Crossroads of the Commonwealth

Mifflin County will celebrate its two hundredth birth­day on September 19, during a customarily beau­tiful month when glowing foliage sweeps over four hun­dred and thirty-one square miles of farms, small towns and wooded mountains. Ex­tending from Bear Gap to Kistler Borough through rug­ged and scenic valleys to the banks of the Juniata River, it’s just fifteen miles from the Seven...
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The Sacred and the Secular: Immigrant Values in Pennsylvania History

Since its founding, the history of Pennsylvania has sprung from the successive waves of immigrants who have settled within its boundaries. Colonial Pennsylvania was peopled by English, Scotch-Irish, German, Swe­dish, and Welsh arrivals. Germans continued to come after 1800 but were joined by thousands from Ireland and Wales. With industrial expansion after 1870, Hungarians, Lithu­anians, Poles...
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