Chester County Welcomes Thee

The history of Chester County constitutes a significant part of the history of Pennsylvania, both province and commonwealth, and of the history of the United States of America. At the beginning of our nation’s Bicentennial and on the threshold of our state’s and our county’s tricentennial celebrations, Chester County looks proudly upon its past accomplishments and with...
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William Darlington, A Man for Our Age

The first citizen of Chester County to receive the Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, William Darlington was one of the organizers of the Chester County Medical Society. Read out of Meeting by the Society of Friends for serving in the War of 1812, Darlington was elected to Congress in 1815 and was a member of the House of Representatives for six of the next eight years....
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Noble Ambitions: The Founding of the Franklin Institute

In the minds of its founders, the Franklin Institute was built on noble ambitions,” historian Bruce Sinclair has written. And born of a young man’s fury, it might be added. In 1823, twenty-two year old Samuel Vaughan Merrick was denied membership in a Philadelphia mechanics’ asso­ciation. A number of similar organizations had sprung up in the early part of the nine­teenth...
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Breaking Nature’s Silence: Pennsylvania’s Rachel Carson

She was belittled as an anti-humanitarian crank, a priestess of nature, and a hysterical woman. The director of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture believed she in­spired a “vociferous, misin­formed group of nature­-balancing, organic gardening, bird-loving, unreasonable citizenry.” An official of the Federal Pest Control Review Board, ridiculing her concern about genetic...
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The Missionary and the Clockmaker: A Saga of Two Brothers-In-Law

Scion of a decayed Anglo-Irish Ascend­ancy family of Ireland’s County Monaghan, the young Rev. Thomas Barton journeyed in spring 1755 through the largely unbroken forests of Pennsylvania to the settlement known at the time as Contwager or Conewago. He made his way – “over Susquehanna,” as the contem­porary traveler commonly described it-to lands lying along the Bermudian...
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The Valley That Changed the World: Visiting the Drake Well Museum

“They’ve struck oil!” They were only three words, but they thundered triumphantly throughout the valley along northwestern Pennsylvania’s Oil Creek during the days following the long-anticipated breakthrough – one that would change the world forever – on an otherwise quiet Saturday in August 1859. To many it was a miracle, one on which great fortunes would be...
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Like Father, Like Son: The Extraordinary Bartrams

An unusual man, of seemingly boundless talent and insatiable curiosity, John Bartram (1699-1777) was many things to many people. Although primarily regarded as a botanist, he might also have been considered a paleontologist, an archaeol­ogist, a geologist, a limnologist, a conchologist, an ethnologist, and so on. Like Thomas Jefferson, he was a prime example of that rare, almost unique,...
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Celebrating Fifty Years of State Historical Markers

On a September day in 1946, three men stood alongside U.S. Route 22, fourteen miles east of Harrisburg, inspecting a distinctive blue and gold sign that had just been erected. They were James H. Duff, chairman of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (who in four months would be inaugurated the Commonwealth’s thirty­-fourth governor), and Commission members Charles G. Webb and...
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John James Audubon, Squire of Mill Grove and Genius of Art and Science

In Pennsylvania, a beautiful state … , my father, in his desire to prove my friend through life, gave me what Americans call a beautiful “planta­tion,” refreshed during the summer heat by the waters of the Schuylkill River, and traversed by a creek named Perkioming. Its fine woodlands, its extensive acres, its fields crowned with evergreens, offered many subjects to my pencil....
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Joseph Priestley, Catalyst of the Enlightenment

When Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) is remembered today, it’s usually for his 1774 discovery, in England, of oxygen. Few know he was a noted theologian, political progressive, and prolific author whose scientific contributions include the development of the carbonation process, the identification of carbon monoxide, and early experiments in electricity. He counted Benjamin Franklin, Thomas...
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