Natural History Trails

Charles Willson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum, although relatively short-lived, influenced the development of similar projects elsewhere. In 1827, the year Peale died, the Harmony Society at Economy in Pennsylvania opened one of the first natural history museums west of the Alleghenies. Like Peale’s museum, the Harmonist effort was largely exhausted by the middle of the 19th century, and its...
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Old Economy Village: The Centennial of the First Site on the Pennsylvania Trails of History

One hundred years ago, on February 3, 1916, the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas, in an escheat case, awarded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 6 acres of land that had been part of the town of Economy. World War I was raging in Europe, and with the United States’ entrance in the war the following year, the state had little time or money to deal with a newly acquired historic site. In 1919 the...
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Unlikely Capitalists: Harmonists as Textile Manufacturers

At the end of the eighteenth century, George Rapp (1757-1847) planned to create a religious community in the wilderness as near to heaven on earth as was humanly possible. He succeeded to a large extent, but in the process achieved a different kind of success: he created one of the largest textile manufacturing enter­prises in the Pennsylvania of his time. While still in his native Württemburg,...
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Butler County: A Story in Diversity

The story of Butler County is one of many stories. It is the story of an unusual religious commune. Of an engineer whose invention made the Brooklyn Bridge a reality. Of a European baron who con­structed a German castle he named Bassenheim. Of an oil boom town which sprang up­ – and crashed nearly overnight. Of the birthplace of that be­loved American automotive institution, the jeep. Of...
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Harmony in the Wilderness: A Walk through Old Economy Village

Imagine a band of religious zealots creating a community, furnishing households, and planting flowers on western Pennsylvania’s frontier with the absolute certainty that the second coming was imminent and that Jesus Christ would walk the garden paths and be made welcome in their homes. That’s what George Rapp (1757-1847) and his harmonist followers believed. Such was his confidence...
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