The Witch Trial of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s founder and original proprietor William Penn (1644–1718) was not only a great lawgiver but also a clever arbiter of disputes between residents of his commonwealth. His thoughtful handling of a witch trial on December 27, 1683, at a Provincial Council meeting in Philadelphia helped to prevent a crisis in Pennsylvania like the hysteria that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, only...
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Marketing Patriotism: Pennsylvania Railroad Advertising During World War II

During World War II, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) spent lavishly on patriotic magazine advertising. No other railroad put so much effort, money or creative talent into a campaign to boost the war and create favorable public opinion for itself. As the single largest railroad in the United States, the Philadelphia-based “Pennsy” carried 10 percent of all freight in America and 20 percent of all...
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After Suffrage: Pennsylvania’s Inaugural Class of Women Legislators

“For one born and reared as this writer was in hidebound Pennsylvania, it is startling to find eight women in the Legislature of that State. Moreover, to learn from their men fellow-members of the natural way they take their place and do their work.” – Ida Tarbell, 1924 “I believe these eight women are going to make an impression. I believe they are going to ask themselves on...
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Barbara Gittings, Activist for LGBTQ Equality

Barbara Gittings was one of the leading activists for LGBTQ equality, from the early years of the gay rights movement in the late 1950s until her death in 2007. Born in Austria in 1932 and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, she grew up feeling disconnected from her peers in a time when homosexuality was taboo in American society. She attended college in Chicago where she was called a lesbian. When...
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Little Italy in the Great War by Richard N. Juliani

Little Italy in the Great War Philadelphia’s Italians on the Battlefield and Home Front by Richard N. Juliani Temple University Press, 302 pp., paper $37.95 With this work Richard N. Juliani, a professor emeritus of sociology at Villanova University, provides an admirably researched microhistory that explores how Philadelphia’s Italian Americans responded to the demands of World War I, the...
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“The Not So Good Old Days”: Disease and the Struggle for Public Health in Pennsylvania

In 1930 A. J. Bohl was proud to work in the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH). After 25 years there, he wrote an article in Pennsylvania’s Health in which he recalled growing up in the 1880s, when disease and illness ravaged the state. “There wasn’t much attention paid to the communicable diseases. Everybody, as a matter of course, had measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and mumps, and...
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Pennsylvania State Archives Multiyear Freezer Negative Project

The Pennsylvania State Archives is home to many photographic collections. Recently, a project was initiated to remove unstable nitrate and acetate negatives in the archives’ walk-in freezer to clear storage space and prepare for the future move to a new State Archives building, planned to open in 2022. The negatives have been stored for years in the freezer to slow down their deterioration and...
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World of Trouble by Richard Godbeer

World of Trouble: A Philadelphia Quaker Family’s Journey through the American Revolution by Richard Godbeer Yale University Press, 480 pp, hardcover $38 Fortunately, some historians are meticulous researchers, and their thoroughness inspires deep confidence in their narratives. And fortunately, some historians are skilled topic-choosers and narrative-spinners; readers are mesmerized by their...
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Indomitable: Ora Washington, Philadelphia’s Ultimate Sports Trailblazer

On June 5, 1971, the African American newspaper Philadelphia Tribune published an obituary for an individual it called “Superwoman.” Although it was a fitting homage, few who read the Tribune that day would have appreciated the level of deference granted to the individual at the center of that tribute. Her name was Ora Mae Washington (1898–1971). Another African American paper, the Pittsburgh...
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Terror and Extortion on the Pennsylvania Railroad

Threats of terrorism and challenges to security are nothing new for railroads; these phenomena have been around for nearly 200 years of railroading in the United States. Safety and security, therefore, have been of the utmost importance for railroad lines from the 19th century to the present, and railroad police have had authority equivalent to state police in many locations. Yet, the amount of...
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