The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: An Ideal and a Symbol

By 1805, the year the Pennsylvania Acad­emy of the Fine Arts was founded, Phila­delphia had achieved a large measure of political, social and economic stability. It had been the nation’s capital and contin­ued to thrive as a center of banking and commerce. The largest city in the United States at the opening of the nineteenth century, it was arguably the center of culture, with Boston its...
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Wayne County: A History Deep and Clear

The Land of Lakes, it might best be called. Its sweeping verdant valleys and velvety golden meadows harbor dozens of picturesque settlements – and more than a hundred natural and artificial lakes. Its resorts teem with summer colonists – primarily expatriate New Yorkers escap­ing the stifling heat of Manhat­tan in August – and recall a less frenzied era when there seemed to be...
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A Special Place for Photography

Edward L. Wilson wanted photography to have a special place at the Centennial Exhibition. Smartly dressed, the publisher of the nationally­-read Philadelphia Photographer stood out from the typically rumpled and chemical-stained lensman. But his enthusiastic promotion caused him to stand out even more. Wilson nudged his colleagues toward professionalism and toward his vision of a productive,...
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Watts’ Folly

When he is remem­bered at all, Fre­derick Watts is likely to be men­tioned in connection with the McCormick Reaper, the Cum­berland Valley Railroad, the establishment of the Pennsyl­vania State University or, more recently, the controversy over the demolition of his farm­stead in Carlisle. It may seem an incongruous legacy but therein lies the charm and the extraordinary genius of this man from...
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“And Who is Eakins?”

By late 1912, in his sixty­-eighth year, Thomas Eakins – who today is frequently referred to as the greatest of American painters, notwithstanding more familiar names such as Homer, Whistler and Wyeth­ – was a tired and ailing man. The compact, rugged physique he had retained throughout his middle years had finally given way; first, briefly, to an almost delicate obesity; then, with...
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Original and Genuine: Unadulterated and Guaranteed!

John Wanamaker felt ill. He didn’t have time for an autumn cold. There was so much work to do, espe­cially now as his great department store readied itself for the coming Christmas season. Anticipating a busier day tomorrow, he made an heroic effort to stem the cas­cade of papers across his desk into orderly piles before taking a parting glance around his office. Banks of filing cabinets,...
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A Historical Sketch of Indiana County

Indiana County was named for the native Indians. During historic times the two principal tribes were the Delawares and Shawnees. Being reluctant to give up their lands, the Indians struggled desperately to keep out the tide of European settlers. Perhaps the first white settler to enter Indiana County was James LeTort, an Indian trader, about 1726-27. A place called “Letart’s...
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The Search by Blacks For Employment and Opportunity: Industrial Education in Philadelphia

I Historian Sol Cohen describes the industrial­-education movement at the end of the nineteenth century as an effort to relegate the new immigrant to the lower levels of society. Placing emphasis on the “status rivalry” between the middle-class progressives and the new immigrant, Cohen views industrial education as the means used by the progressives to keep the immi­grant in his...
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Jefferson County: Of Wilderness Tamed

Jefferson County. Its hallmarks are as disparate as Thomas Jef­ferson and Punxsutawney Phil. Village names as dissimilar as Panic and Desire. Inhabitants as distinctive as Indian chief Cornplanter and Moravian missionary John Heckewelder. And a tranquil­ity which masks the turbu­lence of the nineteenth century’s lumber boom that spawned settlement and nu­merous ancillary industries....
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Pittsburgh’s Designing Women

A man does not marry an artist, but a housekeeper …. I put away my brushes; resolutely crucified my divine gift, and while it hung writhing on the cross, spent my best years and powers cooking cabbage.” So wrote Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884) of Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County. Swisshelm’s bittersweet memoirs recall the painful sacrifice that she made to the Victorian code of...
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