The Political Ascent of James Buchanan

As the nation enters the third century of the American presi­dency, only one Pennsylvanian has had the distinction of serving as its chief executive. In 1857, at the age of sixty-five, James Bu­chanan of Lancaster County became the fifteenth president of the United States. He was well prepared for the office, having spent more than thirty years in public service in various elected and appointed...
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Berks County: Diamond of the Schuylkill Valley

Since 1811, when Schuylkill County was created to include part of what had been northern Berks County, Berks has been distinguishable by its diamond shape. It approxi­mates a geometric diamond or lozenge – an equilateral paral­lelogram without right angles. Its history also seems diamond-like, as it has com­bined a very hard, cutting, and persistently pragmatic charac­teristic with a...
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Thaddeus Stevens, Equality of Man Before the Creator

In his thirty-five year legislative career, Thaddeus Stevens garnered several reputations. Ex-Confederates called him “the scourge of the South,” an epithet which survived into the twentieth century. In D. W. Griffith’s classic film Birth of a Nation, character Austin Stoneman is unabashedly modeled on Thaddeus Stevens, complete with clubfoot and wig. For his en­deavors to...
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Finding Sanctuary at Montrose

On Friday afternoon, April 9, 1842, William Smith, a slave owned by a Maryland widow, sought shelter in her manor house from the teeming rain. He was drenched after having toiled all morning in the inclement weather. As he stood drying by the stove, one of the widow’s young sons berated him. “What are you doing in here,” snapped the youngster. “You stand there happy as a lord. You don’t belong...
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Current and Coming

Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Greatness More than five hundred objects, artifacts, documents, and photographs have been assembled for a landmark exhibit newly opened at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown. Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Greatness explores the Keystone State’s impact on the sixteenth president’s life, political career, and rise to power. Lincoln’s great-great-grandfather...
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Dispatch from Governor Andrew Curtin

A dispatch issued on June 15, 1863, by Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin (1817–1894) to various post offices in Pennsylvania alerted citizens to the imminent arrival of Confederate troops under General Robert E. Lee in Pennsylvania. It was the first public notice of the South’s advance on the Keystone State which ultimately resulted in the horrific three-day Battle of Gettysburg waged July 1-3. “Lee...
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1836 Letter to Senator John Strohm

The John Strohm Papers, 1816– 1874, Manuscript Group 121, held by the Pennsylvania State Archives, contains the correspondence of John Strohm (1793–1884), a Lancaster County Whig who served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1831 to 1833, was a state senator from 1834 to 1842, and served two terms in Congress, from 1845 to 1849. Among this correspondence is a letter written by...
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The Rise and Fall of “Young Napoleon”

On Wednesday evening, November 13, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln paid a visit to the residence of George Brinton McClellan (1826–1885), who he had recently appointed general in chief of the Union Army. Located on Lafayette Square, near the White House, McClellan’s luxurious dwelling also served as his Washington, D.C., headquarters. Accompanied by Secretary of State William H. Seward...
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