The Fastest Man on Earth: Barney Ewell and the Story of Two Missed Olympiads

Who is the fastest sprinter of all time? Usain Bolt won eight Olympic gold medals between 2008 and 2016. He also secured 11 World Championships, and his world records in the 100 metres and 200 metres have yet to be broken. Before Bolt was Carl Lewis, winner of nine Olympic golds and 10 World Championships in the 1980s and 1990s. A generation earlier was Tommie Smith and Bob Hayes. Before Smith...
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Pennsylvania’s Buckshot War of 1838

  Protesting election results in the United States is nothing new. Neither is storming a capitol building when results are contested. In 1838, only 55 years after the Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolutionary War, armed opponents confronted each other at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. Accusations had flown for days previously about which candidates should be seated in...
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Harrisburg in World War II by Rodney Ross

Harrisburg in World War II by Rodney Ross The History Press, 192 pp., paperback $21.99 Like the rat-tat-tat of a machine gun, author Rodney Ross fires off brief declarative sentences to tell his story of how Pennsylvania’s capital city prepared for and aided the war effort between 1941 and 1945. As it became apparent that the United States would enter the war, the citizens of Harrisburg were...
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The Early Days of the William Penn Highway: How Present-Day U.S. Route 22 Got its Start

At the dawn of the automobile age, the major roadways crossing Pennsylvania were rutted, dusty, farm-to-market thoroughfares traveled mainly by horses and wagons. Many of these were still privately owned turnpikes, some with wooden-plank road surfaces. Most towns had improved streets, but the paving, if any, usually ended at the city line. Stagecoach lines still operated here and there, but...
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The Longest Walk in Pennsylvania

  In the summer of 1978, cars on the Pennsylvania Turnpike slowed as they carefully drove past a procession of American Indians walking along the superhighway. The group, closely packed into the road’s shoulder, carried colorful banners and a sacred pipe. Some beat drums and chanted prayers for peace as they marched ahead. As these marchers continued across Pennsylvania, they were joined by...
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A Gathering at the Crossroads: Memorializing African American Trailblazers and a Lost Neighborhood in Harrisburg

Twice during the second half of 2020, people gathered at Harrisburg’s Capitol Park to witness the dedication of A Gathering at the Crossroads, a monument commemorating four statewide civil rights crusaders and the African American residents of a now-vanished neighborhood in Harrisburg who contributed to the commonwealth’s entrenched legacy of freedom. The monument, sculpted by Becky Ault,...
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“Without Fear and Without Reproach”: Octavius V. Catto and the Early Civil Rights Movement in Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, the City of Philadelphia unveiled a monument to Octavius V. Catto in a ceremony at the southwestern apron of City Hall. Catto was a cornerstone figure in Philadelphia’s early civil rights struggle — a recruiter of an African American militia during the Civil War, an instrumental figure in the victory to desegregate Philadelphia’s horse-drawn streetcars, a...
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After Suffrage: Pennsylvania’s Inaugural Class of Women Legislators

“For one born and reared as this writer was in hidebound Pennsylvania, it is startling to find eight women in the Legislature of that State. Moreover, to learn from their men fellow-members of the natural way they take their place and do their work.” – Ida Tarbell, 1924 “I believe these eight women are going to make an impression. I believe they are going to ask themselves on...
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“The Not So Good Old Days”: Disease and the Struggle for Public Health in Pennsylvania

In 1930 A. J. Bohl was proud to work in the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH). After 25 years there, he wrote an article in Pennsylvania’s Health in which he recalled growing up in the 1880s, when disease and illness ravaged the state. “There wasn’t much attention paid to the communicable diseases. Everybody, as a matter of course, had measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and mumps, and...
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Pennsylvania Polymath: Samuel Stehman Haldeman

Samuel Stehman Haldeman was a pioneer in American science with an uncompromising empirical bent who made definitive contributions in geology, metallurgy, zoology and the scientific study of language. His groundbreaking lifework touched nearly seven decades of science and included identification of one of the oldest fossils in Pennsylvania, elucidation of a plan for an anthracite coal furnace for...
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