The Making of a Miracle

Early in 1788, George Washington wrote his friend the Marquis de Lafayette that there had been a “miracle” in Phila­delphia. Considering the many efforts and failures be­tween 1765 and 1787 to estab­lish an enduring form of government, first for individ­ual states and then for all­ – fundamental laws, orders of government, plans of union, resolutions, declarations,...
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Historic Sites of the Revolution

Pennsylvania is unusually rich in historic sites associated with the American Struggle for nationhood two centuries ago. The Bicentennial observance under­scores the importance of this treasury of the state’s historic heritage. The deep involvement of Pennsylvania people and land in the Revolutionary War is reflected by these historic sites maintained by government as well as organizations...
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The Black Absence

Should it come as a surprise that no history of black Pennsylvanians in the American Revolution has been written? That the best modern study of the Negro in the American Revolution devotes less than four pages to his role in Pennsylvania? That the challenge to American historians to recover this aspect of the black past remains unmet at the time of the Bicentennial? There are a number of reasons...
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Gardens Change with Time

William Penn’s wish that Philadelphia, the capital of his colony, should be a “Greene Country Towne” never was to come to fruition. The town’s settlers really preferred a re-creation of London in miniature. However, gardens and gardening have been an important aspect of the Pennsyl­vania heritage. Gardening has been practiced as a fine art and as a necessity based upon...
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Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Liberty Bell – capped by an eagle from Peale’s Museum – was enshrined in Independence Hall.   Each year thousands of Americans, as well as foreigners, travel to Philadelphia to visit the dozens of historic sites, structures and complexes associated with the nation’s independence. For many, their first stop is a small glass pavil­ion...
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The Unhappy Tale of Building Philadelphia’s City Hall

Philadelphia’s City Hall is widely regarded as one of the most im­pressive in the world. A great marble wedding cake that fills the square at Broad and Market streets. So big in fact that it was the largest public building in the country until the Pentagon was built in the early 1940s. The building is also admired as something of an outdoor art museum, with decorative stone and bronze...
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Independence Hall, The Birthplace of a Nation

September 1824 was a busy month for Phila­delphians. The Mar­quis de Lafayette returned to America for the first time since the Revolution­ary War, and it was rumored that the high point of his tra­vels would be a visit to Penn­sylvania’s venerable State House. Naturally, much of the preparation for his visit cen­tered on the old red brick building where the events of the Revolution had...
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James Wilson, Forgotten Founding Father

Carlisle buzzed that night with festivities. On the streets of the usually quiet little Cumberland County town bonfires blazed while spirited political speeches rang out on every corner, all in celebration of Pennsylvania’s vote to ratify the new Constitution of the United States. The Federalists had finally won their cause, and it was time to savor the victory. But not everyone was in a...
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Executive Director’s Message

The National Park Service (NPS), which observed its seventy-fifth anniversary last year, is a federal agency which has a tremendous impact on the preservation and interpre­tation of historic resources in Pennsylvania. The National Park Service’s traditional function as a resource manage­ment agency is evident throughout the Common­wealth. Mere mention of Valley Forge, Independence Hall,...
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A Capital Idea! A Brief and Bumpy History of Pennsylvania’s Capitols

A mere one hundred or so miles separate Philadelphia’s Chestnut and Harrisburg’s Third streets. But the path­ – metaphorically, at least­ – between the Keystone State’s first and final capitol build­ings seems far longer and rockier than geography suggests. From the Commonwealth’s earliest days, when the government met in Philadelphia’s elegant State...
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