Violet Oakley, Lady Mural Painter

When Violet Oak­ley accepted the commission – and challenge – of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to decorate the State Capitol then under con­struction in Harrisburg, she announced that the subject of her mural series would be “The Romance of the Found­ing of the State.” In 1902, the ardent lady mural painter, then twenty-eight years old and the only one of her kind,...
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“Prepare Thyself … to Meet the Lord Thy God!”: Religion in Pennsylvania During the Revolution

Religion in the colony of Pennsylvania was distinctive. In contrast to most areas of the western world, this province practiced freedom of religion. It never had an established church. Friends who controlled the first legislative assembly, meeting in Upland, now Chester, in 1682, specified that no one was “at any time [to] be com­pelled to frequent or Maintain anie religious worship, place...
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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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The Emergence of Black Religion in Pennsylvania, 1776-1850

The emergence of Black churches at the beginning of the nineteenth century was crucial to the survival of Black people in Pennsylvania and in the North because it provided two key resources. First, it provided a sense of meaning and destiny grounded in hope. Secondly, the Black church provided the institutional base for the economic, social, and political struggle of Blacks, including the...
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Historical Sketch of Elk County

Elk County is named for that noble animal that once abounded in the region in great numbers. The last native elk, however, was shot in 1867 in Elk County by an Indian, Jim Jacobs. Today, Pennsylvania’s only Elk herd roams freely over the area bounded by Elk and Cam­eron Counties. It is descended from the Elk herd imported into Pennsylvania in 1913 from Montana and Wyoming. The history of...
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Lawrence County

Bart Richards, the unofficial historian of Lawrence County, indicates that little of historical significance has occurred in the county. He points out that it has had no wars, Indian uprisings, or great discoveries to its credit. Very few of its citizens have qualified for the pages of Who’s Who. Therefore, this history is the story of average, ordinary people striving to make a better...
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Religion on a Moving Frontier: The Berks County Area, 1700-1748

Because of the tolerant policy of the Penns, thousands of people of various ethnic backgrounds and religious faiths poured into the colony of Pennsylvania, many of them moving directly to the frontier. Within fifteen years after the founding of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania frontier had moved more than fifty miles north and west of the city. By 1700 the area comprising the southeastern part of...
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The Resurrection of Henry Ossawa Tanner

The annals of American art are crowded with artists who achieved renown in their life­times, but whose reputations – for a variety of reasons – faded after their demise. No story is more poignant than that of Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), a gifted African American painter who grew up in Philadelphia, but, to escape painful discrimination, pursued his career in France. Henry Ossawa...
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The Young Lady of Lewisburg Grows Up

The year is 1864. It is summer. The time is morning. Enter Sallie Meixell, a young woman. Wearily, Sarah Rebecca Meixell trudges up the stairs to the attic of her parents’ home in Lewisburg, lugging the cradle Annie Cowden had used. After returning it to its proper place, she gratefully sinks down and falls asleep until noon. Upon awakening she hurries to McMahon’s Store to purchase...
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The Magic of Mount Gretna: An Interview with Jack Bitner

Set in the picturesque Conewago Hills of central Pennsyl­vania, the village of Mount Gretna is a treasure of natu­ral beauty and quaint architecture. In 1882-1883, millionaire Robert H. Coleman built the Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad through these rolling hills to connect his vast ironmaking enterprises in Colebrook and Corn­wall to the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Lebanon. At the...
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