The Last Days of William Penn

“My poor Dearests last breath was fetchd this morning between 2 & 3 a Clock.” So wrote a distraught Hannah Penn to longtime friend and advisor Thomas Story on July 30, 1718. The remains of her husband were taken to Jordans Meeting House in Buckinghamshire and buried there on August 5 beside his first wife Gulielma. Quakers and non-Quakers alike attended the funeral. Jordans is a quiet place,...
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The Sacrifices of Company C: Somerset County’s Valiant Soldiers in the Great War

In spring 2004 a resident of Somerset in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, chanced upon an aged postcard that had fallen behind a dresser many years before. Dated November 7, 1918, the postcard had been sent by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, and was addressed to “the Family of Herbert Foust,” a soldier of Company C, 110th Infantry Regiment, a Pennsylvania...
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Young William Penn

There’s an old idiom that says “the child is father of the man,” but this is complicated by the stage between childhood and adulthood – adolescence. The usual image of William Penn is of a pious, peaceable Quaker who rejected anything loud, proud or worldly. But his upbringing took place in the extremism, violence and carnality of mid-17th-century England. By the end of...
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William Penn’s Side Chair

Pennsylvania founder and first proprietor William Penn lived in his colony for a total of only four years during two trips of two years each, 1682-84 and 1699-1701. Even before his first visit he had engaged his agent to purchase from the Lenapes land along the Delaware River that would become Pennsbury Manor, intended to be his permanent summer home in America. As fate would have it, however,...
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Gulielma Penn’s Dressing Box

  Gulielma Maria Springett Penn never lived in Pennsylvania. When her husband William Penn, founder and proprietor of the colony, made his first trip from England to America in 1682, she was too ill to make the journey with him. She had been deceased for five years before Penn’s second trip in 1699. Although Gulielma was unable to ever experience the splendor of the Penn country estate on...
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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...
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Historian of Pennsylvania Exceptionalism: Samuel W. Pennypacker

Reflecting on “the play of forces” that propelled him to Pennsylvania’s governor’s office in 1903, Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker (1843–1916) confidently declared, “there is no such thing as an accident” (a notion popularized by Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis). This was not to say chance plays no part in history because he pronounced with equal certitude: “To every man certain...
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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...
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Bookshelf

Amish Houses and Barns by Stephen Scott Good Books, 1992 (158 pages, paper, $5.95) Home is the center of Amish life, and most – if not all – major life events occur within its walls: birth, mar­riage, visiting, worship, recreation, and death. Amish Houses and Barns is a carefully researched “behind-the­-scenes” look at these events on three farms in particular, as well as...
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Executive Director’s Message

The two hundredth anniver­sary of Joseph Priestley’s arrival in Pennsylvania presents a time to reflect on the life and work of an individual who was truly a unique citizen of our state, nation, and the world. During his lifetime, Priestley was the representative man of the Age of Enlightenment in England and America. His discovery of oxygen in 1774 established his reputation worldwide as...
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