Currents

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.

Mary Cassatt Show in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Museum of Art reexamines a pivotal international figure in the his­tory of nineteenth century art with the exhibition “Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia,” on view through April 14 [1985].

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was the only American ever invited to exhibit with the French impressionists. Al­though the artist settled permanently in Paris, she con­sidered herself a citizen of Philadelphia where she had at­tended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and where her brothers Lived. During her lifetime, Cassatt’s works were shown in more than forty exhibitions in the city and many entered local col­lections, including her fam­ily’s. Today, the Philadelphia area remains the largest re­pository of her work in the world. Fifty paintings, pastels and prints have been drawn from current and former Philadelphia collections-in­cluding many major pieces which have remained in pri­vate hands and have rarely been exhibited – to stage “Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia.”

The exhibition is concur­rently shown with a major traveling exhibit devoted to the prints of Cassatt’s mentor and close friend, Edgar Degas, and a smaller display of his paintings, pastels, drawings and sculptures to be shown only in Philadelphia.

Like her friend Degas, Mary Cassatt focused upon certain familiar subjects from mod­em everyday life for their natural truth and immediacy, as well as to allow full explora­tion and refinement of the compositional possibilities. In­formal portraits of her family and friends; mothers and children; women reading, sewing and at their toilet; inti­mate, domestic groups; and elegant women at the theater were the themes to which she returned again and again. The bright coloring and vigorous brushwork of her paintings, her bold composi­tions, and her spontaneous and lively handling of pastels soon won the admiration of the artist’s peers.

With encouragement from Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt also began to experiment with printmaking techniques. A series of color prints which she began in 1890 proved her most original and important graphic work. Inspired by the simplicity and refinement of Japanese prints exhibited in Paris at the time, Cassatt adopted the asymmetrical arrangement of composition (often depicting her subject from an oblique angle), as well as the use of strong out­lines, flattened perspectives and contrasting areas of pat- tern. After seeing one of her prints in 1891, Degas re­marked, “I am not willing to admit that a woman can draw that well.” Despite press­ing family obligations which frequently interrupted her work, Cassatt developed an international reputation as a painter and a printmaker whose works were eagerly acquired by major museums and private collectors throughout Europe and America during her life­time.

The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue dem­onstrate Cassatt’s important artistic achievements and also examine her role in encouraging Philadelphians to acquire impressionist paint­ings at a time when critical dis­paragement was widespread. Philadelphia was one of the first American cities to purchase works by the impressionists and much is owed to Mary Cas­satt’s tireless efforts to pro­mote her French colleagues among her friends, relatives and patrons.

Admission to “Mary Cas­satt and Philadelphia” is $4.00 for adults and $2.50 for chil­dren.

Additional information regarding the exhibition is avail­able by writing: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Parkway at 26th St., Philadelphia, PA 19101; or by telephoning {215) 763-8100.

 

Pennsbury Receives William Penn Charger

Green tiles in two fireplaces, an iron ring from a cedar storage vat and four chairs are the few remaining items at Pennsbury Manor, the re-cre­ated country plantation built by William Penn on the banks of the Delaware River, that were actually owned by the founder. The significance of this small, but authentic, collec­tion was dramatically increased by the recent gift of a charger, or serving platter.

Considered the most out­standing gift the Pennsyl­vania Historical and Museum Commission received this year, the charger is the first documented Penn object owned by the state’s official history agency. The four chairs are on loan to Pennsbury Manor from the Newtown Library and the National Park Service.

The charger was donated by the William Hutchins Moon family, direct descendants of John and Martha Lofty Sotcher who were plantation man­agers for Penn’s country estate between 1701 and 1712. The serving platter was a wedding gift to the Sotchers from William Penn in August 1701.

Visitors interested in seeing the charger may visit the historic site Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, noon to 5 P.M. For more information, write: Pennsbury Manor, 400 Penns­bury Memorial Rd., Morrisville, PA 19067; or telephone (215) 946-0400. The Bucks County attraction is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in cooperation with the Pennsbury Society. Admission is charged.

 

Cornwall Iron Furnace Designated Landmark

Cornwall Iron Furnace, ad­ministered by the Pennsyl­vania Historical and Museum Commission, has recently been honored with designation as a National Historic Me­chanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, head­quartered in New York.

The landmark program pro­vides a public service by acknowledging and recording significant industrial achieve­ments. The comprehensive study illuminates the coun­try’s technological heritage and encourages the careful pres­ervation of the remains of his­torically important works. The program also provides an annotated roster for engi­neers, educators, travelers, his­torians and students which chronicles America’s industrial development.

Cornwall Iron Furnace is a nearly perfectly preserved example of the type of ironmaking complex that flour­ished in Pennsylvania during the eighteenth and nine­teenth centuries. Using iron ore from a nearby open pit mine and charcoal made from the forests of the iron plantation, the furnace operated for one hundred and forty-one years, during which it supplied military material for the Revolutionary War and count­less domestic products for a growing nation. Peter Grubb erected the furnace in 1742 and named it for the area in England from which his father had emigrated. By 1800, the furnace and most of the mine had passed into the hands of Robert Coleman. His heirs operated the blast furnace until 1883 when its obsolete technology was supplanted by the use of anthracite for iron­making. Fortunately, the structures housing the works and the original equipment were preserved and donated to the Commonwealth in 1932.

Of the complex’s varied machinery, the most interest­ing is the blast equipment, which includes a steam engine installed about 1839 and an enormous cog wheel measur­ing seventy-six feet in cir­cumference. The mechanisms­ – relying on steam created by the waste heat of the furnace – drove large wooden pistons, creating a blast of cold air which entered the furnace through three openings. Visi­tors today can see this equip­ment in motion, simulated by electrical motors.

A landmark dedication cere­mony, open to the public, will be held at Cornwall Iron Furnace on Saturday, June 8 [1985]. The complex is open year­-round. Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.; and Sun­day, noon to 5 P. M. Cornwall Iron Furnace is located at the intersection of Rexmont Road and Boyd Street in Cornwall, Lebanon County. Telephone (717) 272-9711 for additional information and traveling directions.

 

Groups to Study U.S. Constitution

The Pennsylvania Humani­ties Council, headquartered in Philadelphia, recently re­ceived an exemplary award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to conduct thirty study groups on the U.S. Constitution at local libraries and historical soci­eties throughout Pennsyl­vania during 1985. The groups will meet for six two-hour sessions, weekly or bi-weekly, beginning this spring. Each group, led by a Constitutional scholar, will use an anthology of readings specifically com­piled for the program, which will cover the document from its philosophical and histori­cal background to present-day controversies and issues.

The council will provide the group leaders, the anthology, a press kit and brochures for re­cruiting participants. Libraries and historical societies will publicize the program and open their facilities to the public during evening hours or during the weekend.

Potential sponsors in highly populated areas are encour­aged to apply early as the coun­cil’s desire for geographical distribution of the groups throughout the Commonwealth may, in some cases, some­what arbitrarily curtail the selec­tion process. However, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council plans to conduct the study groups in 1986 and 1987 and sponsors not selected this year will be given pri­ority. In addition, all sponsors may schedule lectures on the Constitution through the organization’s Commonwealth Speakers Series through 1987.

Institutions and organiza­tions interested in hosting a study group should write: Joseph Kelly, Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Suite 818, 401 North Broad St., Phila­delphia, PA 19108; or telephone (215) 925-1005 or toll free 1 (800) 462-0442.

 

Roebling Aqueduct to be Restored

If current plans prevail, the nation’s oldest original wire suspension bridge will carry automobile traffic across the Delaware River between Penn­sylvania and New York this year [1985].

The Delaware Aqueduct was built for the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company by John A. Roebling, best known as the designer of the Brook­lyn Bridge. From 1849 until the canal’s dosing in 1898, the aqueduct carried canal boats above the Delaware River, avoiding right-of-way conflicts with the powerful timber industry which used the river extensively for log rafting. The aqueduct served as a pri­vately-owned toll bridge until 1980, when it was purchased by the National Park Service for seventy-five thousand dollars. It serves as a fea­tured attraction of the recently authorized Upper Delaware National Scenic and Recrea­tional River area.

Years of minimal main­tenance had left the superstruc­ture of the 535-foot-long span in a dangerous state of disrepair. Upon its purchase, the National Park Ser­vice closed the structure to evaluate the condition and make immediate repairs. Al­though the National Park Service promised the span would return to full service, the dosing cut a main thor­oughfare to the Pike County hamlet of Lackawaxen, adding local economic concern to an already difficult restoration project.

Replacement of the aque­duct’s safety railings and half of its oak decking permitted pedestrian traffic by October 1980, but it appeared that the funding sources to provide an estimated one million dollars for major repairs might delay necessary work until the end of the decade. How­ever, local outcry advanced the appropriation schedule which now calls for com­pletion this year. Assured of continued funding, the Na­tional Park Service initiated a four phase engineering and construction time-table that would address the complexities of repairing a structure des­ignated as a National Historic and Engineering Landmark and an interstate highway link, spanning a navigable water­way administered by the National Park Service, the Dela­ware River Basin Commis­sion, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New York.

For additional information regarding the scenic area in which the Delaware Aqueduct is located, write: Na­tional Park Service, Upper Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, P.O. Box C, Narrowsburg, NY 12764-0159; or telephone (914) 252-3355.

 

1985, The Year of the Pennsylvania Writer

Nineteen Eighty-Five has been designated “The Year of the Pennsylvania Writer” by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Philadelphia, a private nonprofit organiza­tion supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), founda­tions, organizations and in­dividuals.

As part of the council’s year­long programming, special events and forums treating both past and present Pennsyl­vania writers – including best­selling novelist John O’Hara and popular contemporary writer John Updike – will be conducted in eight areas of the Commonwealth. In addition, the council will offer topics as a special feature of its speak­ers bureau, newspaper sup­plements on Pennsylvania writ­ers and exhibits in local libraries. Featured speakers’ topics include: “John Updike: The Pennsylvania Stories”; “John O’Hara’s Pennsylvania”; “The Pennsylvania Writer”; “The Biographer as Artist: The Achievement of Catherine Drinker Bowen”; and “Willa Cather: A Historian’s Ap­preciation.”

Beginning this spring and continuing through September, regional conferences will be conducted in each of the follow­ing areas: Allentown-Bethle­hem-Easton, Erie, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton-Wilkes­-Barre and State College.

For more information re­garding “The Year of the Pennsylvania Writer,” write: Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Suite 818, 401 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19108; or telephone (215) 925-4409 or toll free 1 (800) 462- 0442.

 

National Pike Festival

With instructions to “Make the crooked ways straight and the rough ways smooth,” construction of America’s first federally-funded highway, the National Pike, was be­gun in 1811, bringing into real­ity an age old dream of an avenue for the westward expan­sion of a fledgling nation. The concept of a National Pike­ – now U.S. Route 40 – was origi­nally conceived in 1784 by Gen. George Washington and Albert Gallatin, famous Jef­fersonian diplomat, financier and statesman.

In 1811, construction was started at the thoroughfare’s easternmost point in Cumber­land, Maryland. Following a northwesterly course, the Na­tional Pike eventually crossed the Pennsylvania border near Addison. It continued north­west for more than eighty miles across Fayette and Washing­ton counties, reaching at the end of the first stage of construction its westernmost terminus at Wheeling, West Virginia. Over the years, the National Pike eventually extended as far as Vandalia, Illinois.

The National Pike during the nineteenth century provided some of the greatest chapters in the early history of south­western Pennsylvania. Fayette and Washington counties prospered, thanks to the tre­mendous traffic through the once uncharted frontier.

Nineteen Eighty-Five marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the transfer of the responsibility of maintain­ing the first road built with federal funds by the federal government to the individual states. In 1835, toll houses were erected, mile markers placed and the first toll road created! Of the six toll houses built in Pennsylvania, two still remain, as do buildings which once served the early travelers as hostelries and tav­erns.

To celebrate the milestone, the National Pike Festival will be held Saturday and Sun­day, May 18-19 [1985], in various communities along the eighty­-seven miles of the National Pike in Pennsylvania. Informa­tion regarding the extensive festivities and programs is available by writing: Na­tional Pike Country, P.O. Box 63-PF, Hopwood, PA 15445; or by telephoning (412) 439-5610.

 

Trans­portation and Industry in the Anthracite Region

“Gears and Wheels: Trans­portation and Industry in the Anthracite Region,” a new exhibit detailing the indus­trial heritage of the coal region, will open at the Scranton Anthracite Museum this spring. Recent donations from area industries and individuals have made possible the expansion of the museum’s collec­tions and exhibitions on mining, silk working and trans­portation in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Persons interested in the history of hard coal mining will enjoy a rare look at the work of a shaft digger, a special display made possible by the recent donation of two nineteenth century shaft buckets. Also featured will be the tools for “working at the face”: hand drills, breast drills and undercutting machin­ery. The Anthracite Com­plex’s growing collection of coal processing and coal moving machinery will complete this section. Among the items high­lighted will be the oldest surviving electric mine loco­motive.

The anthracite region’s second major industry between 1880 and 1940 was silk work­ing. By 1900, the region proc­essed ninety percent of all the raw silk used in the United States. Since World War I, the textile industry has become the area’s largest employer. The complex’s textile collection was inaugurated with the donation of three machines in 1980; since then another ten machines have been given by owners of twisting and weaving mills in the region. The new exhibit will unveil what is presently Pennsyl­vania’s largest collection of silk processing machinery. Nearly every step in the compli­cated process of turning raw silk into fabric can now be explained using these collec­tions.

The transportation segment of the new exhibition will draw on the Pennsylvania His­torical and Museum Com­mission’s outstanding collec­tion of vintage vehicles. The region’s railroads and canals – essential for the indus­trial growth of northeastern Pennsylvania’s coal fields – will feature large-scale locomo­tives and canal boats. A special section, focusing on railroad advertising, will showcase the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad’s “Phoebe Snow” advertising pieces now part of the collections of the Railroad Museum of Penn­sylvania in Strasburg, Lan­caster County. Huge Conestoga wagons and antique auto­mobiles will illustrate the impor­tance of transportation in connecting the anthracite indus­try and related commerce to distant markets.

“Gears and Wheels” will re­main on exhibit for one year. For additional informa­tion, including the opening date of the show [in 1985], write: Scran­ton Anthracite Museum, Bald Mountain Rd., R.D. 1, Scranton, PA 18504; or telephone (717) 961-4804.

 

Jewish-Ameri­can Portraits in Philadelphia

Portraits of Jewish-Ameri­cans, representing prominent figures and those whose likenesses have outlived their fame, are currently fea­tured in “The Face of His­tory: Portraits From the Col­lections,” an exhibition mounted by the National Mu­seum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia. A repre­sentative sampling of some of the recently restored canvas treasures of the museum and its sister institution, Con­gregation Mikveh Israel, the show continues through March 31 [1985].

Offering insights into the development of the paint­er’s art, as well as the per­sonalities of the subjects de­picted, works by such noted artists as Thomas Sully, Solo­mon Nunes Carvalho, Rob­ert Edge Pine and Louis Lang are featured in this display of thirteen portraits from the eighteenth century to today. Among the well-known individ­uals highlighted in the ex­hibition are Rachel Gratz, sis­ter of the famous Rebecca; her brother Hyman, founder of Gratz College, the nation’s first school devoted to train­ing Jewish educators; and contemporary philanthropists such as Isaac Hays and David Hays Solis-Cohen.

American portraiture, un­mindful of European restraints of rank and royalty, included the common citizen-as long as he could pay the fee. Jew­ish-Americans, of stature and of lesser means, joined the portrait craze of the early nine­teenth century by commis­sioning likenesses of their fami­lies. The paintings featured in “The Face of History” repre­sent a small – but rich – intro­duction to American portrait history.

Museum visiting hours are Sunday, noon to 5 P.M.; Monday through Thursday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. Admission is $1.50 for adults, $1.25 for students and senior citizens, $1 for children. For more information, write: National Museum of American Jewish History, Independence Mall East, 55 North Fifth St., Phila­delphia, PA 19106; or tele­phone (215) 923-3811.

 

Johnstown Flood Mu­seum Opens Library

Following an intensive two year development pro­gram, the Johnstown Flood Mu­seum has opened a local history research library and archives. The library, housed on the second floor of the mu­seum’s downtown Johnstown headquarters, makes avail­able to researchers extensive collections of local historical materials. Major research collections include books, photographs, maps, documents and original manuscripts relating to the area’s three tragic floods and the city’s devel­opment as an industrial and transportation center.

Establishment of the library and archives began in Jan­uary 1983 with a grant from the Allegheny Foundation of Pittsburgh. Thousands of items – collected since the muse­um’s founding in 1973 – were boxed, catalogued and given conservation treatment. The library area was refurbished and supplied with shelving, carpeting and equipment. Considerable effort was given to stabilizing and preserving soiled and crumbling docu­ments, newspapers and re­lated fragile papers.

Situated in a city which offers many insights into the social, cultural and industrial forces which shaped modern America, the museum’s ex­tensive collections document the triumphs of the Penn­sylvania Canal and the Alle­gheny Portage Railroad; the huge strides forward in the steel industry made in the mills of the Cambria Iron Company; and the dark days of disaster and rebuilding following the catastrophic Johnstown Flood of 1889. The Johnstown Flood has become a bonafide saga in American folklore, and the museum’s collec­tions of photographs, books, manuscripts and taped inter­views with survivors of the dis­aster are the most complete in existence. In addition, the archives contains a valuable collection of photographs, maps and business records recording the growth of the coal mining industry of western Pennsylvania from the early nineteenth century to the present.

The museum and new Library and archives are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.; and Sunday, 12:30 to 4:30 P.M. Researchers desiring to use the facilities are encouraged to contact the museum for an appointment. For more infor­mation, write: Johnstown Flood Museum Association, 304 Washington St., Johns­town, PA 15901; or telephone (814) 539-1889.

 

“Carried Away by Indians” at Philadelphia

As part of its ongoing pub­lic education program, the Rosenbach Museum and Li­brary, Philadelphia, has staged an exhibition of some of its most significant holdings­ – seventeenth to nineteenth century Indian captivity nar­ratives. These accounts, written by white settlers taken captive by North American Indians, are virtually the only firsthand accounts available of North American Indian life from the inside; they also had a pervasive influence on shaping the attitudes of white Americans toward the Indians.

The chronicles comprising “Carried Away by Indians: Indian Captivity Narratives and the Evolution of a Stereo­type” provide a rich and dra­matic source of frontier and cultural history. Not only do the eyewitness accounts provide information on the daily life of an Indian tribe­ – important from both a histor­ical and anthropological point of view – but they also reflect and illustrate attitudes, chang­ing and unchanging, toward Indians. The stories had a great impact on nineteenth cen­tury American literature; in fact, most of the stories sold extremely well and reached a wide audience during a long period of time.

The exhibition explores the attitudes of white Americans and Indians toward each other and raises poignant questions: Why were the nar­ratives so popular? How accurate a picture of Indian life do they convey? What hidden fears did the stories tap? “Carried Away by Indians” emphasizes that while many captives wrote with horror about their experiences, a signif­icant number, when given the chance to return to “civiliza­tion,” chose instead to re­main with the Indians.

“Carried Away by Indians” illustrates both the accuracies and the inaccuracies found in the captivity narratives, how they can be employed to study and compare both Indi­ans and white American culture, and examines the im­plications that continue to influence perceptions of North American Indian culture and history. Although most of the material is drawn from the extensive collections of the Rosenbach Museum and Li­brary, the exhibition is supple­mented by prints, artifacts and photographs.

The exhibition continues through April 30 [1985].

For additional information, write: The Rosenbach Mu­seum and Library, 2010 Delan­cey Pl., Philadelphia, PA 19103.