More Than Decoration: Barn Stars Sustain the Spirit of Folk Tradition

The rungs of the extension ladder echoed across the hollow as the barn star painters prepared to ascend the facade of the barn to begin their third and final day of work. Carefully selecting their brushes and colors, the painters took their places 20 feet above the barnyard where they worked their magic. With rapid and calculated movements, they began applying the paint to the rough contours of...
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Chicken and Waffles: The Pennsylvania Story

In his 1861 local-color novel The Young Parson, German Reformed minister Peter Seibert Davis (1828–92) described chicken and waffles as the “stereotypical” Sunday supper among the Pennsylvania Dutch. How this dish moved from a regional identity food into mainstream American cookery is indeed a complicated story, especially since chicken and waffles reached its height of popularity during the...
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The Easter Egg: A Flourishing Tradition in Pennsylvania

The hen cackled in the early morning light as the door of the chicken coup opened and the boy walked in with his basket. He had risen before dawn to help with the farmwork as usual. But on this most suspicious of days, Karfreidaag, or Good Friday, gathering the eggs was no mere ordinary task. As on all other mornings, the boy deftly reached under the clucking hens, soothing the birds with a few...
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Kutztown Folk Festival: America’s Oldest Folklife Celebration

The Kutztown Folk Festival, originally called the Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival, is a milestone among American community celebrations. Observing 70 years in 2019, it is the first and longest-running folklife festival in the history of the United States. Although many other popular celebrations preceded the Kutztown festival, it has had a national impact as the first festival founded and...
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100 Games: The Penn State–Pitt Rivalry

It “leaves an everlasting impression on you because, in Pennsylvania, it’s the only game that counts,” wrote Tim Panaccio about the rivalry between the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers in his 1982 book Beast of the East: Penn State vs. Pitt. In the same breath, he added, “Records don’t mean a thing, just who wins this game.” Panaccio’s...
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Der Belsnickel: Nicholas in Furs or Hairy Devil?

“There was a rush of noise outside that broke the silence of the winter night — a clanking of chains and a scratching at the kitchen window. Mother encouraged my brother and me to leave the dinner table to see who was outside. At the window, a ghastly masked face greeted us with an unearthly cackle. Clad in a rumpled fur overcoat, the figure carried an old gunnysack in one hand and a bundle of...
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World War I Ambulances

The face of warfare had changed by the time America entered World War I. For better or worse, the conflict was characterized by advances in technology, including air combat, chemical weaponry, and more effective firearms such as machine guns and automatic rifles. Automobiles also began supplementing horse-drawn wagons for a number of uses on the battlefront, including ambulatory medical care. In...
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A Personal Account of Pearl Harbor: The Journal and Scrapbook of Roland Ferron

The surprise and horror of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is infamous and led to the United States’ entry into World War II the following day. As most Americans know, the U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, was heavily damaged with more than 2,400 Americans killed and a number of naval vessels sunk or left in shambles. At nearby U.S. Army Air Corps’ Hickam Field, the...
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Baking Pennsylvania Dutch Style

Regional American cuisine is fast becoming the hottest trend on the food scene today, and while we still hear a great deal about Cajun or the Southwest, one of the richest areas for culinary diversity is Pennsylvania. The Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism, a nonprofit that has taken the lead in exploring the foods of our state, has identified five distinct culinary...
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Shankweiler’s Hotel and Restaurant

  Shankweiler’s Hotel and Restaurant operated on Old U.S. 22 in the village of Fogelsville, Lehigh County, just west of Allentown. As this c. 1940 postcard notes, the restaurant was well known for its delicious chicken and waffles, a meal that reflects the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage of the area. This local landmark opened in June 1934 under the management of Wilson and Daisy Shankweiler,...
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