Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

First in the West

More than fifteen organizations in western Pennsylvania are collaborating to commemorate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with a wide array of events, activities, and programs, such as exhibitions, reenactments, lectures, workshops, living history presentations, and performances. Participants include local and regional governments, educational organizations, businesses, entertainment enterprises, economic development agencies, historical groups, and cultural institutions. The consortium will showcase the pivotal role that Pittsburgh played in the Lewis and Clark saga.

Meriwether Lewis arrived in Pitts­burgh at two o’clock on the afternoon of July 15, 1803, and wrote to Thomas Jefferson at three o’clock so that his letter would be dispatched before the “mail closed” at five o’ dock. President Jefferson and Captain Lewis had chosen Pittsburgh as the expedition’s assembly and launch point and all purchases of supplies and trade goods were sent to the strategic Forks of the Ohio. However, the keelboat that Lewis commissioned to be built in Pittsburgh was not completed on July 20 as he had expected. Lewis wrote the president that he visited the boatyard every day. Historians believe the builder may have been Greenough’s Ship Yard, Pitts­burgh’s largest boatyard, located near the confluence of Sukes Run and the Monon­gahela River. Pittsburgh’s fledgling shipbuilding industry, which consisted of eight boat, barge, and ship builders, generated forty thousand dollars in 1803.

Lewis discovered that the individual contracted to build the boat was a liar and a drunk. Although a poor businessman, he was evidently a skilled builder. The keelboat, once it was finally launched, performed magnificently on its long journey down the Ohio River, up the Missouri River to the Mandan villages (present-day central North Dakota), and back to St. Louis. The record low water levels during the summer of 1803 severely limited river traffic and threatened to impede the progress of the expedition and its scheduled launch. Because of the low water, Lewis instructed Lieutenant Moses Hooke to send two wagonloads of goods ahead of the keelboat to Wheeling, West Vir­ginia. In Pittsburgh, Lewis purchased one flat-bottom pirogue, a shallow-draft ves­sel that may have been built upstream at Elizabeth before Lewis’s arrival and brought down to Pittsburgh before low water levels prevented navigation on the Monongahela River.

While waiting for the completion of the keelboat, Lewis recruited John Colter and George Shannon, as well as Hooke as a backup captain. Hooke had agreed to join Lewis in the event that William Clark did not accept the commission offered by Jefferson. (Had Lewis not received Clark’s acceptance letter on August 3, the expedi­tion may have been known as the Lewis and Hooke expedition.) Finally, the keel­boat was completed at seven o’clock on the morning of August 31, immediately loaded, and launched three hours later.

Lewis’s flotilla – the keelboat, pirogue, and possibly a dugout canoe – floated three miles downstream to Brunot’s Island, named for Felix Brunot, an old Army friend of Lewis’s, who had settled in Pittsburgh in 1797. A last-minute addi­tion accompanied the crew – a New­foundland, a sweet dispositioned dog at home on land or in water, that Lewis named Seaman (and not Scannon as once believed by many historians). At Brunot’s Island, Lewis demonstrated the expedi­tion’s air gun for the benefit of local digni­taries. Pittsburgher Blaze Cenas accepted Lewis’s invitation to try the gun and acci­dentally wounded a female spectator.

The expedition proceeded slowly down the Ohio River, impeded by three sandbars, described by Lewis as “ripples or riffles,” between McKees Rocks and Neville Island. Twice the crew unloaded the keelboat, transferring provisions to the pirogue, and manhandled the larger ves­sel over the obstructions. The exhausted crew moored the boats somewhere between McKees Rocks and Neville Island where, Lewis wrote, “gave my men some whiskey and retired to rest at 8 Oclock.”

Often overlooked in the grand narra­tive of the journey, Pittsburgh will be the focal point of commemoration this sum­mer. The keystone event, a reenactment of the expedition’s launch, will be conducted on August 31, exactly two hundred years to the day of the original launch. The flotil­la will depart the Sukes Run area (beneath the present-day Liberty Bridge, along the Monongahela River) at 11:00 AM.

Other events and programs include special family and school tours on the water aboard the Pittsburgh Voyager; National Geographic’s Lewis and Clark, Great Journey West at the Carnegie Sci­ence Center’s Rangos Omnimax Theater; On the Trail with Lewis & Clark at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History; a weeklong community commemoration of the boat building tradition in Elizabeth; a period herb garden at the Herb Society of Ameri­ca; and Navigating with Lewis & Clark at the Buhl Planetarium.

The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center will unveil a major exhibi­tion entitled Rediscovering Lewis & Clark and A Journey with the Rooney Family on Tuesday, July 15, two hundred years to the day Meriwether Lewis arrived in Pitts­burgh. Alongside a fifty-five-foot replica keelboat, the center will show photographs and materials collected by Pittsburgh Steelers presi­dent Dan Rooney and his family during their “Rooney Corps of Rediscovery,” a trip commissioned by the history center.

Information about Pittsburgh’s com­memoration of the Lewis and Clark expe­dition is available by writing: Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, 1212 Smallman St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4200; telephone (412) 454-6000; or visit http: the Rediscovering Lewis & Clark: A Journey with the Rooney Family website.

 

Then in the East

Philadelphia’s venerable Academy of Natural Sciences, which played a key role in the historic journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark joins Philadel­phia and the nation in celebrating the two hundredth anniversary by hosting Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition. Opening Saturday, November 6, 2004, the exhibition will continue through Sunday, March 20, 2005.

The Academy of Natural Sciences cares for practically all of the plant speci­mens collected by Lewis and Clark, many of which will be publicly displayed for the first time in history. These plants constitute the most important and most complete scientific collection assembled by the expedition. Many plants were deposited with the American Philosophi­cal Society in Philadelphia, which later loaned them to the Academy, where they have been safeguarded since 1897. The botanical treasures, now preserved in the Lewis and Clark Herbarium of the Acad­emy of Natural Sciences, are the most well documented and historically significant collection of native plants obtained on the expedition in existence. The herbarium has been designated an “American Treasure” through the federal government’s program enti­tled Save America’s Treasures.

It was in Philadelphia that Meriwether Lewis studied with leading scientists and procured medicine, supplies, and equipment for the expedition. Philadelphia is one of only two cities on the East Coast to mount Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition. Organized by the Missouri Historical Society, the exhibition will debut in St. Louis in January 2004.

Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition will feature hundreds of superb artifacts including rare and priceless objects and documents that have not been seen together in one place since the U.S. Army’s Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis in 1806, after two years exploring the unknown. Period artifacts and works of art will represent the equipment the explorers used, the landscapes they saw, and the Native Americans they met. More than six hundred artifacts and objects will illustrate cultural encounters along the eighteen­-month journey.

Of the hundreds of specimens of animals, plants, and minerals, as well as Native American artifacts, the explorers collected, few remain extant, except for the two hundred and twenty-six plant specimens housed at the Academy. A selection of these plants, with their original labels in Lewis’s handwriting, will be on exhibit for the first time. Among the treasures featured in Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibit will be a let­ter of credit written by Jefferson to Lewis, dated July 4, 1803; the only surviving Native American artifacts present­ed to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark; the only extant zoological specimen, a stuffed woodpecker; Clark’s handwritten, illustrated field journal, bound in elk skin; and scientific equipment used during the expedition.

Objects drawn from the collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Missouri Historical Society will be aug­mented by artifacts lent by institutions holding significant expedition and ethno­graphic holdings, including the Ameri­can Philosophical Society, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Smithsonian Institution, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Oregon Historical Society.

To obtain additional details, write: Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Ben­jamin Franklin Pkwy., Philadelphia, PA 19103-1195; telephone (215) 299-1000; or visit the Academy of Natural Sciences website. Admission will be charged.

 

Eye of the Storm

Perhaps the worst storm this nation ever suffered was a bitter four-year fight among its countrymen.

Now, an eyewitness account of fierce battles, dank prison camps, and everyday experiences of a soldier takes Pitts­burgh museum visitors inside the mind of a Civil War soldier in an extraordinary exhibit entitled Eye of the Storm: Unknown Stories of the Civil War. The exhibit features nearly one hundred watercolor drawings and maps depicting Private Robert Knox Sneden’s experiences in the Union Army of the Potomac, as well as never-before-published archival materials and artifacts that explore the Civil War’s impact on western Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh was called the “Arsenal of the Union” because its industrial might contributed heavily to the Union’s victo­ry over the South. The Pittsburgh region also raised money for the war effort and sent men to fight. Even though the Civil War ended nearly a century and a half ago, there are still aspects of the war that historians are just beginning to discover, such as personal stories of the men involved in battle and the women and children on the home front. The exhibit allows museum-goers to meet the individuals behind the war and appreciate – through intimate, firsthand accounts – the suffering and deprivation they endured.

Nineteenth-century technology provided the ability to capture images of the Civil War in a way no other war had been recorded – with cameras. In addition to being rare and awkward, cameras of the period were incapable of taking action shots. While there are photographs of soldiers and even battlefield aftermath, none exist that actually show battles being waged. However, one individual did record these events, on paper with pencil. He was Robert Knox Sneden (1832-1918).

Sneden’s works of art, the largest body ever created by a Civil War soldier, offer an eyewitness account of the hor­rors of warfare, the trials of military ser­vice, the daily routine of an ordinary soldier, and the campaigns mounted by the Union Army of the Potomac.

Born in Canada, Sneden, at the age of eighteen, moved with his family to New York. When the war broke out in 1861, he became a member of the 40th New York Volunteers, a unit called the Mozart Regiment because it was sponsored by the Mozart Hall Committee of New York City’s Democratic Party. Shortly after his arrival in Virginia, Sneden was detached from his regiment to serve as a mapmak­er for General Samuel Heintzelman, commander of the Third Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Sneden was pre­sent during the 1862 Peninsula Cam­paign and participated in the Second Battle of Bull Run. In the dark of night, in 1863, with the cold barrel of a Confed­erate pistol at his temple, Sneden was captured by soldiers under the command of the celebrated guerrilla caviler John Singleton Mosby, who earned the moniker “Grey Ghost” because he would seemingly appear out of nowhere and disappear in much the same way. Pistol­-whipped and wounded, Sneden was imprisoned in Richmond, Virginia.

Held in some of the worst and most infamous Confederate prisons, including Pemberton and Andersonville, Sneden continued to document his harrowing experiences. He secreted his dramatic pencil sketches in his shoes and sewed them in his coat so that they would not be confiscated by guards. His depictions of captivity are disturbing and uncomfortably detailed, depicting scenes of starvation, fear, and hopelessness. After spending more than a year in prison camps, Sneden was released in a prisoner exchange in December 1864 and was mustered out of the army in January. He returned to Brooklyn to discover that he had been declared missing or dead. Permanently disabled by thirteen years in prison, he used his time to turn his pencil sketches into watercolors. (He also made new sketches after the war.) His drawings depict ruins of buildings and structures after battles, headquarters of important military leaders, gunboats under fire, encampments, battlefields over which smoke from cannons wafted, precise maps, and prison camps.

The Keystone State’s western counties played a vital role in the Civil War, providing men, munitions, and money for the Union effort. The western Pennsylvania portion of Eye of the Storm explores this tumultuous time in regional history by relating personal stories of the individuals who lived through it. The exhibit showcases rare artifacts and objects – including three artifacts loaned by the Smithsonian Institution – that reveal little-known stories behind the battles and life on the home front.

One artifact of note is a model of the Fort Pitt Foundry as it appeared during the Civil War, which is on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The foundry was located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, opposite from the present-day John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Cen­ter. The Fort Pitt Foundry produced munitions for the Union, including the largest cannons that had ever been cast. Cannonballs for the enormous Rodman Columbiads, including a huge fifteen inch ball loaned by the Smithsonian, is also included in Eye of the Storm.

Colonel Strong Vincent’s sword will be exhibited for the first time since it fell from his hand on Little Round Top, dur­ing the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 2, 1863. Vincent, an attorney who practiced in Erie, turned the tide at Little Round Top. The twenty-six-year-old Vincent urged his men to continue fighting as the battle grew more fierce, exhorting them “Don’t give an inch!” Vincent died during the engagement, but the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point for the North. His sword, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, was found by one of his aides after the battle. Until this exhibition, it has only been seen by a handful of museum professionals.

Among the most poignant and inti­mate artifacts in Eye of the Storm is a dried flower from the Gettysburg battle­field. The rose was sent with a letter from a soldier to his wife in Pittsburgh. The soldier made a habit of sending home flowers he had plucked from bat­tlefields.

Eye of the Storm also explores the Allegheny Arsenal and aspects of Pitts­burgh’s industrial contribution to the war effort. The role of women is exam­ined through a discussion of the Sanitary fair of 1864, an event in which women helped raise thousands of dollars for the relief of sick and injured soldiers.

The exhibition features a variety of interactive stations and a full schedule of special programming. In conjunction with Eye of the Storm, the history center has published a collection of essays entitled Industry and Infantry: The Civil War in Pennsylvania.

Eye of the Storm: Unknown Stories of the Civil War continues through Tuesday, September 30 [2003].

For more information, write: Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, 1212 Smallman St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4200; telephone (412) 454-6000; or visit the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center website.