Fathers of Modern Photography: The Brothers Langenheim

Two brothers – German immigrants who left their native Brunswick and chanced upon one another in Philadelphia several years later – have been praised by scores of scholars and histo­rians as the “Fathers of Mod­ern Photography” for their technical contributions to the first twenty years of American photographic history. William and Frederick Langenheim achieved...
read more

Bedlam in Penn’s Woods

Pennsylvanians have been concerned with the welfare of the insane since the earli­est provincial days. Indeed, as befits the Commonwealth’s humanitarian Quaker heritage, Pennsylvania has made pio­neering efforts in the field. For most of the pre­Revolutionary period, care of the mad was restricted to physical support and occa­sional confinement for public safety. Victims’ families...
read more

Original and Genuine: Unadulterated and Guaranteed!

John Wanamaker felt ill. He didn’t have time for an autumn cold. There was so much work to do, espe­cially now as his great department store readied itself for the coming Christmas season. Anticipating a busier day tomorrow, he made an heroic effort to stem the cas­cade of papers across his desk into orderly piles before taking a parting glance around his office. Banks of filing cabinets,...
read more

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...
read more

Chin Up, Smile, Keep ‘Em Happy!

With the construc­tion of movie palaces through­out Pennsylvania in the years immediately fol­lowing World War I, ushering – quite ordinary employment in the days of the nickelodeon – became a much-sought-after vocation. For it was then that movie house showmen first pronounced that service was the “personality” of show business, and that ushers were an individual...
read more

A Grande Dame Named William Penn

A hotel is more than a place where people seek shelter, conduct business, entertain, work, play, make friends, and, perhaps, fall in love. It is so much more. It is a stage on which both small and large dramas of daily life are played out – where individuals celebrate the important occa­sions of their lives or where they may seek solitude. While all hotels are interest­ing places, a grand...
read more

Clatter, Sproing, Clunk Went the Trolley…

On a balmy autumn day in 1923, a young boy riding his pony along the banks of the Schuylkill River near Valley Forge stumbled upon the mortal remains of a once-famous movie star. De­spite the mud and tangle of weeds, he recognized her at once. She was well preserved and the boy wondered-as he raced back to his grandfather’s house in nearby Audubon-if the carcass couldn’t be salvaged....
read more

Gettysburg: The Killer Angels Comes to the Screen

Writing about the Civil War in Specimen Days, poet Walt Whitman prophesied that the “real war will never get in the books.” Essentially, he issued a bold challenge to following generations of writers to capture the essence of battle – that cacophony of drama, death, smoke, stench, dauntless battle cries, and soldiers rising – in many cases, vainly – to fight again...
read more

Moonbeams and B-Movies: The Rise and Fall of the Drive-In Theater

In June 1933, J. Borton Weeks, president of the Keystone Automobile Club, wrote to Richard Hollingshead, Jr., a Camden, New Jersey, businessman, congratulating him on a project “finely conceived and splendidly executed for the convenience, comfort, and entertainment of the motoring public.” Weeks predicted that Hollingshead’s brilliant venture would be copied across the country...
read more

A Jewel in the Crown of Old King Coal: Eckley Miners’ Village

It survives – somewhat miraculously – as a vestige of Pennsylvania’s coal mining heritage, a link in what was once a chain of little coal communities, or patch towns, that dotted the anthracite region. “Eckley is part of the puzzle, but not a unique part. There were numerous, almost identical, mining patch towns like Eckley,” explains Vance Packard, site...
read more