Joseph Priestley, Catalyst of the Enlightenment

When Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) is remembered today, it’s usually for his 1774 discovery, in England, of oxygen. Few know he was a noted theologian, political progressive, and prolific author whose scientific contributions include the development of the carbonation process, the identification of carbon monoxide, and early experiments in electricity. He counted Benjamin Franklin, Thomas...
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Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973)

Writers seldom choose as friends those self-contained characters who are never in trouble, never unhappy or ill, never make mistakes and always count their change when it is handed to them” wrote one of twentieth-century Amer­ica’s best-known historians and biographers, Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973). Born in Haverford, Mont­gomery County, she is best known for her narratives of...
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Benjamin Rush: Patriot and Physician By Alan Brodsky St. Martin’s Press, 2004 (404 pages, cloth, $35.00) When Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) died, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams that “a better man than Rush could not have left us, more benevolent, more learned, of finer genius, or more honest,” to which Adams replied that he knew “of no Character living or dead, who had...
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Slaves at the President’s House

President George Washington arrived in Philadelphia on the morning of Sunday, November 21, 1790, exhausted and depressed. The journey north from Mount Vernon, his beloved Virginia plantation, had not been pleasant. Heavy rain made the roads impassable at various points along the route, extending the journey from two to three days. A drunken coachman overturned the president’s baggage wagon...
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The WPA His­tory of the Negro in Pittsburgh Edited by Lawrence A. Glasco University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004 (cloth, 422 pages, $39.95) The story of Pitts­burgh’s African Americans is deeply in­tertwined with that of other ethnic groups, yet in many ways it is unique. Before the Civil War, Pittsburgh’s rivers and proximity to the Mason­-Dixon Line made it a critical junction on the...
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Old World Influences on Pennsylvania Gardens

Quaker merchants who followed founder William Penn (1644-1718) to his beloved colony planted formal, English-style gardens amidst the native forest landscape. An ornamental garden suitable for a family of means in Great Britain in the seventeenth century consisted of a residence with a series of three terraces descending from the rear elevation. The upper terrace, often used as an extension of...
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Library of the Founding Fathers

Three centuries after the birth of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), the world continues to be amazed by his overwhelming contributions, from the proprietary period in the early years of Pennsylvania through the birth of the United States of America. Of his many accomplishments, Franklin’s love of the printed word seems most obvious. In 1731, he and several friends founded the first...
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A Conversation about Citizenship

Barbara Franco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), recently discussed the importance of citizen training with Pennsylvania’s First Lady, Judge Marjorie O.Rendell, and Richard Stengel, president and chief executive officer of the National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia. Judge Rendell is active in promoting citizenship education through the...
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Making Heritage Chocolate at the Historic Crossing

On Saturday, June 16, 2012, Washington Crossing Historic Park (WCHP) in Bucks County, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), partnered with the American Heritage Chocolate division of Mars Inc. to present a program entitled “Taste a Revolution in Chocolate.” The chocolate-making demonstration and lecture on the history of chocolate was attended by...
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Palace of Culture: Andrew Carnegie’s Museums and Library in Pittsburgh by Robert J. Gangewere published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011; 332 pages, cloth, $35.00 Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) is remembered as one of the world’s great philanthropists. As a boy, he witnessed the benevolence of Colonel James Anderson, a prosperous iron maker, who opened his personal library of several...
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