Castanea … From Blight to Backcross Breeding

Not far from my home at the base of the South Mountain in Cumberland County, there is a wide spot in the road where you can park a couple cars at the edge of a block of public land. From that place, the visible but overgrown bed of a Colonial-era haul road ascends the mountain. Scattered along the road are the small, flat and circular remains of 18th- and 19th-century charcoal kilns that...
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The Kinzua Bridge

Once the highest and longest viaduct in the world, the Kinzua Bridge in McKean County was built in 1882 for the New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad. Designed to carry heavy railroad cars filled with coal, lumber and oil across the deep Kinzua Creek gorge, the bridge was created from more than 3 million pounds of wrought iron by the Phoenix Bridge Co., a subsidiary of the Phoenix Iron Co....
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Mount Gretna’s Spirit Lives On

Mount Gretna in Lebanon County is an enduring gem of a historic village that offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience an unembellished, Victorian-era lifestyle that shuffles on in similar fashion today. Cloistered within a 16-mile slice of forested rocky hills surrounded by a patchwork expanse of farmland between Lancaster and Hershey, Mount Gretna came to life in 1892 as a village (now...
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The Lady in Charge

In its heyday, Philadelphia’s Arch Street Theatre seated approximately 2,000 patrons for each performance who came to see the renowned thespians of the 19th century. Popular performers – Fanny Davenport, Joseph Jefferson and Charlotte Cushman – played “The Arch” at 819 Arch Street. Even actor John Wilkes Booth took his turn there as Macbeth two years before he...
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Monument to Confederate Soldiers

In 1898 Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act allowing the printing and publishing of postcards by private companies and launched a craze in the early years of the 20th century. Prior to this legislation only the U.S. Postal System was authorized to produce these cards. Billions of what are known as “real photo” postcards – depicting rural villages, picturesque panoramas, community...
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Civil War Frying Pan at Drake Well Museum

The Reverend Darius S. Steadman (1831–1907), born in Columbus, Warren County, along U.S. Route 6 in Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier, was licensed to preach in 1857. He served congregations in Clarion County before being commissioned, on October 7, 1861, a captain and chaplain of the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (PVI) known as the Wild Cat Regiment. The unit was raised in Jefferson, Clarion...
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From Wilkes-Barre to the Wild West: George Catlin, Indian Painter

His early exposure to American Indians indelibly impressed northeastern Pennsylvania native George Catlin (1796–1872). His mother Mary “Polly” Sutton Catlin (1770–1844), married in 1789 to Putnam Catlin (1764–1842), formed his earliest impressions of Native Americans. With her mother Sarah Smith Sutton (1747–1834) she was captured and held captive at the age of seven by Iroquois. The day was...
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A Culture of Sharing: Family and Community in Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region, 1900-1940

Prior to the establishment of widespread governmental assis­tance programs such as social se­curity and various other forms of social services, the working people of industri­al America devised their own means of survival and support. Drawing on the resources of family members and neigh­bors, ordinary individuals created tight­ly-knit communities in which limited in­comes, food and emotions were...
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Doing Time in Dauphin County, 1842-1901

They locked up Elias Nation on April 18, 1842, giving him official first place in Dauphin County’s new prison. (For the record, Jacob Stripe was registered nearly two weeks earlier, for assault and battery, but he was out before the prison’s grand opening.) Nation was twenty­-nine years old and looked “yellow,” wrote Keeper Wil­liam Watson; he underlined that fact in his...
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“Little Doc”: Architect Of Modern Nursing

Lavinia Lloyd Dock (1858-1956) labored long and hard as educator, settlement worker, historian, author, editor, columnist, pacifist and radical suffragist. Beyond this, she strove to internationalize the public health movement while continually elevating the status of women. But her contributions to the field of nursing­ – which helped transform what was then a despised trade into a...
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