The Ethnic Factor: Backbone of the Commonwealth

“… that those of our own, or other nations, that are inclined to transport themselves or families beyond the seas, may find another country …” – William Penn   The story of Pennsylvania can­not be adequately told without great emphasis upon its ethnic di­versity. More than simply an incidental feature, from the first contacts between Europeans and Indians to...
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Stability and Change: Culture During Three Periods

“Religion, … the best bond of human society, provided man did not err in the meaning of that excellent word.” – William Penn   Culture, broadly de­fined, is the way of life of a group of people; it includes all their behavioral patterns, beliefs and ar­tistic expressions. Culture is not static; it varies over time and place. Culture does not arise in a vacuum; it...
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Geography and Resources: The Story of Adaptation

The country itself, in its soil, air, water, seasons, and produce, both natural and artificial, is not to be despised. – William Penn Man is a creative and inventive creature capable of either adapt­ing to the environment, when need be, or adapting the environment to suit his particular needs. In the words of Max Savelle, “the history of the Anglo­American colonies is . . . a history...
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A Good Day’s Catch: Commercial Fishing in Erie

The view from the crest of Erie’s lower State Street is a powerful one. Framed by the tall masts and spars of Oliver Hazard Per­ry’s restored War of 1812 flagship, the Niagara, are the waters of Presque Isle Bay. In the distance, the Presque Isle Peninsula is visible as it curves around and shelters the bay, and beyond that looms the ocean-like expanse of Lake Erie. The bayfront area...
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Cambria County: Coming Full Circle

Located in the highlands of west­-central Pennsylvania and amidst forbidding mountains – the Allegheny escarpment and the Laurel Ridge standing sentinel on its eastern and western borders­ – the territory that would become Cambria County was not easily accessible to early Pennsylvanians. Migrants bound westward during the second half of the eighteenth century avoided its...
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Ethnic History: Of the Children, by the Children, for the Children

Interest in the study of history is drifting in conflicting directions. The teaching of Pennsylvania history in schools is steadily declining and enrollment in history classes at all levels including college has slipped. The growing idolization of exact sciences such as physics and chemistry and quantif­ication has discredited the sometimes subjective perceptions of historical studies. On the...
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Women in Pennsylvania … The First Two Hundred Years

In the past two hundred years thousands of women have contributed significantly to the social, economic, political and cultural richness of Pennsylvania. An encyclopedia could barely sketch their contributions. Since this article cannot possibly present a complete picture of women’s history in our state, it will survey the changes in women’s roles with brief accounts of a few famous...
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The Sacred and the Secular: Immigrant Values in Pennsylvania History

Since its founding, the history of Pennsylvania has sprung from the successive waves of immigrants who have settled within its boundaries. Colonial Pennsylvania was peopled by English, Scotch-Irish, German, Swe­dish, and Welsh arrivals. Germans continued to come after 1800 but were joined by thousands from Ireland and Wales. With industrial expansion after 1870, Hungarians, Lithu­anians, Poles...
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Ernest: Life in a Mining Town

In 1904, the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company began deep mining in Ernest, Pennsylvania. In 1965, the industry there came to an end. Between these two dates, people lived out their lives in this small community northwest of Indiana, where for over sixty years every facet of existence revolved around the digging of coal from the hillsides surrounding the town. But what was life like in a...
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The Lattimer Tragedy of 1897

Sheriff James Martin of Luzerne County in Pennsylvania was vacationing in Atlantic City, New Jersey, when he received an important telegram on Saturday, September 4, 1897, from George Wall, his deputy. The message indicated that Superintendent Lathrop of the Lehigh Valley Coal Company requested the sheriff’s presence at Hazleton to deal with a deteriorating strike situation that was...
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