Into the Dark World of Catching Crooks, Culprits and Convicts: An Interview with Robert K. Wittman

by Michael J. O’Malley III Robert King “Bob” Wittman in no way resembles the highly romanticized portrayals of FBI agents made famous over the decades by movie studios and television series. He is not the heavy-hitting, gang-busting, chain-smoking G-man, replete with fedora rakishly angled atop his head. Instead, he embodies the old-school preppy style – looking as though...
read more

Back in Plain Sight: Restoring the Midcentury Modern Furnishings at The State Museum and Archives Complex

October 14, 1964 With the construction of the new William Penn Memorial Museum and Archives Building (now The State Museum and Archives Complex) in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, PHMC Executive Director S.K. Stevens penned an urgent memo to the commonwealth’s secretary of property and supplies requesting nearly $25,000 worth of “chairs, sofas, and upholstered benches,” as well as numerous...
read more

The Great Escape: Camping in the 19th Century

During the turbulent nineteenth century, Americans were as mobile as wheels, waterways and ambition could make them. The population was preoccupied with carving out a new nation, emigrating, pioneering, surveying, sod busting, prospecting for gold and, fundamentally, attempt­ing to preserve body and soul. With the surge westward and the consuming desire to push on to the frontiers, there was a...
read more

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...
read more

George H. Danner: The Retailer and His Relic Rooms

In the early 1930s Milton S. Hershey established an Indian Museum in the town which he had built around his chocolate factory. Like the town’s amusement park, ornate theater and fa­mous Starlight Ballroom, the museum was provided as a source of enjoyment and recre­ation for Hershey’s workers and their families. In 1935, in a move which broadened the focus of the original Indian...
read more

The New Taste in Pennsylvania

Like the nation itself during the so-called “Federal” period, the arts in Pennsylvania reached a crescendo in their development that had an unexpected unity, a strong purpose, and a national style. Despite great varia­tions in the Germanic and English traditions, Pennsylvania emerged from the revolutionary period reasonably cohesive. City and country perspectives, naive and...
read more

One Should Not Overlook Union County

Union County on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River is one of Pennsylvania’s smaller counties, encompassing a bare 258 square miles, with a population of 30,000, including 3000 college stu­dents and 1900 inmates of two federal prisons. Few of its residents have held high political office and fewer of its names have appeared in Who’s Who in America. Yet the historical...
read more

Central Pennsylvania’s Very Own Painted Ladies

The painted plank bottom chair, a sturdy survivor of Pennsyl­vania’s golden age of chairmaking, is at long last garnering the recognition it has long deserved – thanks to the nation’s seemingly insatiable appetite for what many call The Country Look. This hand-decorated chair, admired by many for its graceful stenciling and skilled workmanship, has weathered a century of heavy...
read more

Commemorating a Centennial by Revising a Vision

The American museum was and is an idea. The European museum was a fact. Almost without exception the European museum was first a collection. With few exceptions most American museums were first an ideal,” Philadelphian Nathaniel Burt wrote in his 1977 history of the American museum, Palaces for People. Unlike their European counterparts, which were usually created to house the great...
read more

Finding the Fabulous Furniture of the Mahantongo Valley

The exuberantly decorated furniture made during the first half of the nineteenth century in the Mahantongo Valley of south central Pennsylvania continues to attract considerable attention. The Mahantongo Valley, roughly seventeen miles long and four miles wide, lies about twenty-five miles north of Harrisburg, and its topography is formed by a series of sharp ridges, meandering creeks, and steep...
read more