Beaver’s Diary, Document and Lifesaver

The Pennsylvania State Archives has in its collection numerous diaries recording the personal experiences of prominent people in the state’s history. One of those diaries not only documented its owner’s life but also possibly saved it. James Addams Beaver (1837–1914), born in Millerstown, Perry County, was an attorney in Bellefonte, Centre County, who would serve as the 20th governor of...
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Backcast: Pennsylvania’s Legacy of Split Cane Fly Rods

  It’s important not to rush this. A mistake will obliterate a month of work. I take care to make sure that my workbench is uncluttered, the lighting is adequate to the task, and the tools I’ll need are handy but not in the way. Before me is a tapered hexagonal shaft composed of Tonkin cane (Arundinaria amabilis McClure), a type of extraordinarily tough bamboo found mostly in southeastern...
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The Hunt for Pennsylvania’s Timber Rattlesnakes

In the early 19th century, pioneer adventurer Philip Tome recalled that it was common to see 30 or 40 timber rattlesnakes at a time near his home along the Susquehanna River. “The snakes were so numerous that we used to clear the yard and build fires to keep them away,” he recalled in his 1854 memoir, Pioneer Life; or, Thirty Years a Hunter. “On leaving the house we always put on a pair of...
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Editor’s Letter

Forgotten human history exists beneath us in Pennsylvania, from as far back as 20,000 years ago to as recently as the previous century. In the last 50 years, many lost worlds have been recovered as a result of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA). A provision in NHPA, popularly known by its number in the document, Section 106, calls for the heads of federal agencies to “take...
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Digging Deep: 50 Years of Preservation Archaeology in Pennsylvania

On a lovely morning in early autumn, I arrive at an old farm along the Susquehanna River to find Dr. Frank Vento in his natural element. That is to say, he is squatting down at the bottom of a backhoe trench some 8 feet deep, carefully examining the many layers of flood-deposited sediment left behind by the great river. Frank, recently retired from the faculty at Clarion University, is a...
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History Cast in Iron: Rediscovering Keystone Markers

From Airville to Blooming Valley, from Camptown to Dornsife, and all the way to Wysox, York Haven and Zion View, Pennsylvania literally claims unusual – as well as unique – place names from A to Z. Most of the Commonwealth’s cities, towns and villages were once marked with cast iron name signs, painted in the rich blue and gold colors associated with Pennsylvania. Manufactured in an...
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Perry County: A Sportsman’s Paradise

Despite its proximity to Pennsylvania’s bustling and heavily urbanized capital city, Perry County remains a sportsman’s placid paradise with its thickly forested moun­tains and lushly verdant val­leys. Much like its neighboring counties – Franklin, Cumber­land, Juniata and Dauphin­ – Perry County claims a topogra­phy that is neither unique nor unusual: its mountains give...
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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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Southern-Born Blacks in Harrisburg, 1920-1950

Beginning in 1974, John Bodnar, Chief of the Division of History of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, some six other inter­viewers, and I have been taping the rich store of memories and experience that is the possession of Pennsylvania’s ethnic, minority, and working-class groups. This material can provide answers to some important historical questions, among them the...
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The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania: A Guide

The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania: A Guide by Susan M. Zacher Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1994 (134 pages, paper, $9.95) Pennsylvania has many types of historic structures scattered throughout its sixty-seven counties, but it’s doubtful if any are as cher­ished and admired as the covered bridge. No matter the season, enthusiasts­ – often joined by photogra­phers...
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