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.

Let’s Motor!

Although Detroit has earned the title of “Motor City,” Pittsburgh was home to twenty automobile makers at the turn of the century, manufacturing such notable vehicles as the Penn 30 Touring Car, the Standard Model E Touring Car, the Keystone Six-Sixty, the Brush Model D Runabout, and the Artzberger Steam Surrey. Several of these automobiles attracted widespread fame for their speed, durability, and innovative design, particularly the steam-powered Artz­berger, which was manufactured in a shop on Cedar Avenue in Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh’s North Side section). Production of the Artzberger lasted only five years, despite its spectacular performances in national competitions, including a resounding victory over the better-known Stanley Steamer in a 1904 hillside climb in the city’s Highland Park. The Artzberger later captured first place in a hundred-mile run from Rochester to Buffalo, New York.

Even though Pittsburgh was rapidly outpaced by other cities as a significant center of automobile production, it continued to play a vital role in the explosive growth of the industry. Steel rolled in Pittsburgh’s mills, oil pumped from the northwestern oil fields, and glass and paint made in the western counties proved to be valuable com­modities to American auto makers as the industry developed.

In 1898, when the H.J. Heinz family brought one of the first horseless carriages (a Panhard Tonneau purchased in Paris by Heinz’s son Howard) to Pittsburgh, travel – even short distances – was a major, time-consuming endeavor. The journey from Henry Clay Frick’s palatial residence, Clayton, to downtown Pitts­burgh by horse and carriage over dirt roads took one and a half hours. Much like many centers of commerce and industry, Pittsburgh had grown along the riverside and the railroad lines. The automobile rapidly transformed cities such as Pittsburgh into sprawling complexes bounded by webs of roads linking residential, commercial, and industrial neighborhoods. Ease of travel quickly became a necessity, not a luxury.

By 1908, just a dozen years after the birth of the automobile industry­ – launched by the brothers Charles E. and James F. Duryea of Massachusetts­ – nearly five hundred companies were producing motorized vehicles in the United States. About thirty-five of the three thousand American makes were produced in Pittsburgh. One of the most significant steps in the nation’s automo­tive industry’s evolution was Henry Ford’s invention of the moving assembly line. His visionary goal was for everyone to own a car. This innovation, along with his five dollar a day wage, was a leading factor in America’s transformation to an industrial society. Ford’s groundbreaking system placed him in the ranks of the world’s great industrialists . His success reverberated throughout Pittsburgh industry, as mass production of afford­able vehicles, and the stimulation of their demand, required western Pennsylvania’s raw materials, the essentials that built the “Motor City”: steel, glass, aluminum, and paint.

To document and interpret Pitts­burgh’s place in the early history of American automaking, the Frick Art and Historical Center has recently opened its new Car and Carriage Museum. Housed in a newly constructed six thousand­-square-foot exhibition space, the museum showcases a remarkable collection of nearly twenty historic automobiles, all of which were built between 1898 and 1940. The exhibition, made possible by the museum’s principal benefactor and auto­mobile collector G. Whitney Snyder of Sewickley, tells the story of Pittsburgh’s central place in automotive history. The museum presents an uncommon assem­bly of extraordinary vehicles, most of which were produced in western Pennsylvania, owned and collected by Pittsburghers, or manufactured with materials made by the city’s various manufacturers.

The automobiles in the Car and Carriage Museum have been painstak­ingly restored, and each claims a fascinating history of its own. Inventor Thomas Alva Edison used the 1909 Bailey Electric Phaeton, nicknamed “Maude,” in the development of his storage battery, enabling him to drive one hundred miles on a single charge. The 1910 Brush Model D Runabout was a tough, affordable car with unique coil springs made by the Spring Works of the Crucible Steel Company at McKees Rocks. The sporty and expensive 1931 Lincoln Model K Double-Cowl Sport Phaeton, of which only seventy-seven were made, was purchased new by Helen Clay Frick, daughter of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick. The 1917 Standard Model E Touring Car was built in Butler by the Standard Steel Car Company of Pittsburgh, a well-estab­lished builder of railroad cars. The 1931 Pierce-Arrow Model 43 Club Sedan, owned by the family of the founder of the Pressed Steel Car Company of Pittsburgh, was one of the three most prestigious automobiles of its era, along with the Packard and the Peerless.

The museum’s theater presents a documentary film commissioned by the Frick Art and Historical Center that offers an engaging and entertaining introduction to Pittsburgh and its early automotive history.

The Car and Carriage Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.; Sunday, Noon to 6 P.M. Admission is charged.

To obtain more information, write: Car and Carriage Museum, Frick Art and Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds St., Pittsburgh, PA 15208-2923; or telephone (412) 371-0600.


Music! Music! Music!

Musical activity in Philadelphia dates deep into the eighteenth century, despite the fact that some of the city’s religious groups disapproved of music, consider­ing it frivolous and, in some cases, even dangerous. The only specialty store for music in the colonies prior to the American Revolution was located in Philadelphia. Benjamin Carr, a Philadel­phia musician, has been described as the “most important and prolific music publisher in America” during the 1790s. By the late eighteenth century, Philadel­phia’s theaters hosted many popular musical plays, and local printers and publishers were in the forefront of the musical world. The first American imprint with a whole page of music rather than music interspersed with text, the first book of music in English printed from type published in America, and the first American piece of stamped or punched music came out of Philadelphia in the eighteenth century.

By the nineteenth century, most of the religious objections to music had quieted, and some even began to hail it as a civilizing and uplifting influence on society. Middle and upper class women were encouraged to pursue a musical education as part of the Victorian era’s cult of domesticity. The burgeoning City of Philadelphia was able to support a growing musical community, and build­ings such as the Musical Fund Hall and the Academy of Music hosted both pro­fessional and amateur musical events.

Throughout the nineteenth century, less formal musical venues attracted audiences as well. Frank Leslie’s Illus­trated Newspaper reported that the throngs attending the band concerts at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, given twice each day in the Main Building, caused such congestion that performan­ces were forced to move outdoors to the Lansdowne Ravine in Fairmount Park.

To showcase Philadelphia’s rich musi­cal history, the Library Company of Philadelphia has installed “Noteworthy Philadelphia: A City’s Musical Heritage, 1750-1915,” featuring rare books, prints, photographs, sheet music, ephemera, and manuscripts drawn from its exten­sive holdings. On view are pieces as diverse as eighteenth-century music books, broadsides announcing concerts to raise money for Union troops during the Civil War, and photographs of musi­cal groups popular at the opening of the twentieth century.

“Noteworthy Philadelphia” is orga­nized thematically around key topics, including music publishing, instrument manufacturing, musicians, and musical performances. The exhibition examines not only professional musicians and pro­grams in formal performances halls, but also how music was experienced by ordinary Philadelphians at home, in civic and community celebrations, and as members of amateur groups. In private dwellings and hotels, and in city streets and parks, music played a part in the lives of Philadelphians.

Public programs accompanying the exhibition include a series of musical performances paired with commentary.

“Noteworthy Philadelphia: A City’s Musical Heritage, 1750-1915,” will remain on view through Wednesday, December 31 [1997]. Visiting hours are Monday through Friday, 9 A.M. to 4:45 P.M. Admission is free.

For more information, write: Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19107-5698; or tele­phone (215) 546-5167.


Forever Fraktur

The first museum exhibition devoted exclusively to Bucks County fraktur, the colorful, hand-decorated and embell­ished manuscripts of the Pennsylvania Germans, has recently been unveiled at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Bucks County. Entitled “From Heart to Hand: Discovering Bucks County Fraktur,” the exhibition marks the cen­tennial anniversary of museum founder Henry Chapman Mercer’s original study of fraktur art and artists, and of his groundbreaking collection of Americana, begun in 1897.

The German settlements in Bucks County, one of the Commonwealth’s original counties, were early centers of fraktur art. Origins of these documents can be traced to the parochial schoolmas­ter in Pennsylvania German communities. Hired at a marginal salary by a local church congregation or community to teach its children, the schoolmaster often supplemented his (or her) income by selling decorated manuscripts to area families. They also presented fraktur drawings, writing samples, bookplates, and “rewards of merit” to students to encourage good behavior and religious piety.

Exhibitions of fraktur, which have become extremely popular this year, appeal to many audiences. Fraktur­-embellished religious verses and hymns appeal to church members; family histo­ries recorded by baptismal certificates sought by genealogists; bookplates fascinate scholars and educators; and folk art enthusiasts are intrigued – if not charmed – by the use of vibrant colors, fanciful flowers, exotic birds, comical animals, and exaggerated human forms.

“From Heart to Hand: Discovering Bucks County Fraktur” presents visitors an opportunity to see this large and important selection of Bucks County fraktur assembled in one locale specifically for this exhibition. The museum’s col­lection has never before been exhibited in its entirety, and many pieces on view have been borrowed from more than twenty public and private collections and are normally unavailable to the public. The chief forms of fraktur fea­tured in this exhibit of more than two hundred examples and related objects include baptismal certificates, writing samples, house blessings, bookplates, and religious manuscripts. Several pieces have been returned to Pennsylvania from as far away as Canada; they had been taken there nearly two centuries ago by Bucks County’s Mennonite settlers.

“From Heart to Hand: Discovering Bucks County Fraktur” will continue through Sunday, January 4, 1998. Special programs and activities will be offered in conjunction with this exhibit, including a symposium on Saturday, October 25, focusing on the religious and educational significance of Bucks County fraktur.

Administered by the Bucks County Historical Society, the Mercer Museum safeguards fifty thousand objects and artifacts reflecting life and work in pre­industrial America. Admission is charged.

For more information, write: Mercer Museum, Bucks County Historical Society, 84 South Pine St., Doylestown, PA 18901; or telephone (215) 345-0210.


Revolution Revisited

The American Revolution in Chester County will be the focus of three interre­lated exhibitions at the Chester County Historical Society’s recently opened History Center to mark the two hundred and twentieth anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine (see “A Commonwealth Treasure: Brandywine Battlefield Park” by Nancy V. Webster in the fall 1997 issue), the Paoli Massacre, and the 1777-1778 encampment at Valley Forge, events that profoundly affected the rural communi­ties of the region.

“War Comes to Chester County, 1777-1778,” the centerpiece exhibition opening Friday, October 3 [1997], showcases military equipment, weapons, uniforms, maps, diaries, letters, objects, and artifacts that depict the lives of soldiers and citizens during this turbulent period. The exhibi­tion provides a comprehensive view of the military events that took place in the region, beginning with the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, and concluding with the emergence of the Continental Army from the Valley Forge encampment in spring 1778. Two addi­tional galleries, slated to open Friday, January 24, 1998, include a selection of period flags and an exhibit examining daily life in Chester County at the time of the Revolutionary War.

The American Revolution wrought havoc on Chester Countians. Families and neighbors were tom apart, first by the politics of the 1770s and then by the presence of the military and the break­down of law and order. The pacifistic beliefs of Quaker residents added yet another dimension to the clashes between loyalists to the Crown and supporters of the rebellion. The county experienced the trauma of battle across the hills of the Brandywine Valley, followed by plundering and isolated acts of violence. The British surprise attack near Paoli sullied the reputation of the county’s most famous Revolutionary War leader, Anthony Wayne, and the extreme priva­tion of American forces at Valley Forge prompted foraging parties that combed the area time and time again in the search for sustenance.

“War Comes to Chester County, 1777- 1778,” will incorporate a timeline and analysis of each significant military encounter. The exhibit will contain a “Who’s Who” of the leaders of both sides, as well as an in-depth look at the daily life of a soldier, the technology of eighteenth-century warfare, and the impact of the war on local life and com­merce. It will also feature “hands-on” activities to engage visitors of all ages, and full-sized replications of an officer’s tent and a soldier’s hut.

Objects, artifacts, and archival material to be shown in “War Comes to Chester County, 1777-1778,” have been drawn from the historical society’s extensive collections, and borrowed from historic sites, museums, and private collections throughout the region.

Throughout the year, the installations will be accompanied by numerous pub­lic programs, including collaborative projects with related historic attractions in the area, educational events, on-site lectures, and family activities. The exhi­bitions will continue through July 25, 1998.

To obtain additional information, write: Chester County Historical Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380-2691; or telephone (610) 692-4357.