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...
read more

Ask A Curator Day

Sarah Buffington was quick with her response. The longtime curator at Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Beaver County, had expected the question and she was ready. “Probably a static electricity machine,” she said. “The communal Harmony Society had a science museum, which we’ve recreated. They tried to make electricity in the 1820s and ’30s. It didn’t work...
read more

The Lady in Charge

In its heyday, Philadelphia’s Arch Street Theatre seated approximately 2,000 patrons for each performance who came to see the renowned thespians of the 19th century. Popular performers – Fanny Davenport, Joseph Jefferson and Charlotte Cushman – played “The Arch” at 819 Arch Street. Even actor John Wilkes Booth took his turn there as Macbeth two years before he...
read more

Remembering the Fishing Creek Confederacy

During the summer of 1864 rumors began to circulate that Columbia County had become a place of refuge for hundreds of deserters from the Union army. The federal government promised a reward of $30 for every deserter captured. So on the night of July 31, 1864, eight men left neighboring Luzerne County hoping to track down some deserters around Benton. They cornered a house in Raven Creek Valley,...
read more

Free-Thinking, 19th-Century Style

Francis Ellingwood Abbot (1836–1903) was nothing if not determined. In 1872, as editor of The Index, the nation’s leading free-thought magazine, he began to muster the full force of his small army of subscribers against what was being called “the God-in-the-Constitution amendment.” A philosopher and theologian, he sought to reconstruct theology in accordance with scientific methodology. From the...
read more

Currents

Grand Manner Born in Nescopeck, Luzerne County, Peter Frederick Rothermel (1812-1895) was once one of the most celebrated his­tory painters in the United States (see “Painting for Peer, Patron, and the Public” by Kent Ahrens in the spring 1992 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). Neglected for decades, he is at last being celebrated in a major exhibition, “Painting in the Grand...
read more

Currents

Wrecks and Rescues In the early nineteenth century, the shore posed great danger to sailing ships seeking to reach port. The long and lonely approaches to coastal cities, such as Philadelphia, were poorly marked stretches of sand dunes and salt marshes with a few isolated settlements. Unexpected storms with winds blowing from the northeast could suddenly force a ship onto perilous sandbars...
read more

Currents

Amish Arts A comprehensive-and colorful-sur­vey of the distinctive decorative arts cre­ated by and for the Amish of Lancaster County is on view at the Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County. About two hundred objects made during a period of two hundred years, from 1790 to 1990, are showcased in “Amish Arts of Lancaster County,” on view through Saturday, Janu­ary 2, 1999. Included...
read more

Currents

Xanthus Smith It is Sunday, March 9, 1862. Smoke hangs thick in the air. The water is littered with debris. The air even tastes bitter. Cannon roar. Cries of men pierce the din. Ironclad titans, the vessels Monitor and the Merrimac, clash in one of the fiercest confrontations of the Civil War. This is the Battle of Hampton Roads. Today, museum-goers are able to revis­it the Battle of Hampton...
read more

Bookshelf

Connie Mack’s ’29 Triumph: The Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia Athletics Dynasty by William C. Kashatus McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999 (216 pages, cloth, $28.50) To baseball historians, Connie Mack (1862-1956) is a star among managers. His professionalism, penetrating knowledge of the game, and ability to handle his players helped him claim nine pennants, win five World...
read more