Stability and Change: Culture During Three Periods

“Religion, … the best bond of human society, provided man did not err in the meaning of that excellent word.” – William Penn   Culture, broadly de­fined, is the way of life of a group of people; it includes all their behavioral patterns, beliefs and ar­tistic expressions. Culture is not static; it varies over time and place. Culture does not arise in a vacuum; it...
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The Pennsylvania Germans: A Celebration of their Arts, 1683-1850, An Exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The art of the Pennsylvania Germans is showy and elusive, reflective and new, easy and difficult; showy because it is boldly colorful; elusive because there is more to it than decoration; reflective because one can see the Old World in details; new because Pennsylvania Germans add­ed to the European vocabulary of designs and form; easy because it is familiar; and difficult because marks, like...
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The Furniture of Soap Hollow: Makers’ Marks and a Master’s Touch

It’s been misidentified. Misunderstood. Misnamed. Mistreated. And mistakenly misla­beled by leading antiques dealers, knowledgeable collec­tors, magazine writers and curators of prestigious museums and institutions. Tt’s the little known, rarely encountered, but extremely important decorated furniture of Soap Hollow in southwest­ern Pennsylvania. To cognizant connoisseurs of antique...
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The Pennsylvania Germans’ Gentle Art

One of the most distinctive and colorful forms of early Pennsylvania art was manuscript illumina­tion or, as it’s commonly called today, fraktur-schriften. Al­though this genre of folk art was a derivative of European prototypes, those produced in Pennsylvania by the German settlers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries showed an intensity not nor­mally found in their European...
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Bucks County

As one of the three original counties of Pennsylvania created shortly after William Penn arrived in his nascent colony in 1682, Bucks County has a heritage that reaches back to the very beginnings of the Commonwealth. Long before Penn’s arrival, the intrepid settlers of the Dutch and Swedish colonies farther down the Delaware River had ex­plored the wooded banks of the river as far as the...
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A Salute to the Bicentennial of the Keystone State

The current Bicentennial celebration commemorates not the birth of the United States, but the proclama­tion of thirteen British-American colonies that were “free and independent states” as of July 4, 17.76. When they formed a loose compact in 1761, their articles of confederation declared that “each state retains its sover­eignty, freedom and independence.” The...
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The New Taste in Pennsylvania

Like the nation itself during the so-called “Federal” period, the arts in Pennsylvania reached a crescendo in their development that had an unexpected unity, a strong purpose, and a national style. Despite great varia­tions in the Germanic and English traditions, Pennsylvania emerged from the revolutionary period reasonably cohesive. City and country perspectives, naive and...
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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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Graphic Arts of Harmony Society

You shall not make unto yourself any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in the heavens above or the earth beneath … (Exodus 20:4). How can you have art when you cannot have “graven images?” The Harmony Society (1785-1905) believed in the literal truth of the Bible and followed all of the injunctions carefully, including the third commandment quoted above....
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In Search of the Elusive Basketmaster

Four years ago, when our project of tape record­ing oral traditions in the Union County area began, we became aware that several area families had been making baskets for generations. Particularly in the “tight end” of our county, where the Shivelys were, and the Forest Hill area, where the Diehls had lived, these skills and attitudes were passed down and practiced much longer than...
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