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.

All Aboard!

Created by the state legislature in 1963 “to preserve significant artifacts appropriate to the history of railroading in the State and to present through exhibits the highlights of that history,” the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Lancaster County, serves as the Commonwealth’s official museum of railroading. The General Assembly of Pennsylvania’s action in establishing a state railroad museum was both bold and timely. Action was bold because Pennsylvania was the first state to create a major museum interpreting its railroad heritage. Although collections had been previously organized by corporations, historical societies, preservation groups, and individuals, the Keystone State took the first large-scale step toward preserv­ing its railroading history in a museum environment. It was timely because of the rapid changes occurring in the industry. Steam, which had dominated the industry and the communities it served, was gone, displaced by mass­-produced diesel locomotives. Mergers were beginning to erase well-known corporate names, and railroad employ­ment – one of the Commonwealth’s mainstays – was declining. Fortuitously, much of the collection required to estab­lish a world-class museum was still in existence – and, incredibly, available!

Although many railroads began aggressively selling obsolete equipment for scrap, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company had embarked on a plan to preserve vintage locomotives and rolling stock. From 1938, when the Pennsylvania Railroad Company began to set aside “old” locomotives for its exhibit at the New York World’s Fair the following year, through the mid-1950s, a rare and astoundingly comprehensive collection of engines and cars was kept intact at the company’s engine servicing facility at Northumber­land in north central Pennsylvania.

In the early 1960s, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, financially unable to care for this collection, began searching for ways to dispose of it. Still committed to preserving the collection, conscien­tious company officials sought out a museum or institutions that would accept and maintain all or parts of it with a guarantee of “permanency and fiscal soundness.” It did not take long for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to respond by creating the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in 1963.

In 1965, a site for the museum was selected at Strasburg. Although several communities had competed for the rail­road museum, the Lancaster County site was selected because of its proximity to an operating steam railroad and popular visitor attraction, the Strasburg Rail Road. The site also promised easy access from northeastern population centers.

Construction of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania began in 1968, and the following year the Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s extensive collection was moved from Northumberland. To accommodate the immense acquisition, railroad tracks and an operating turntable (a large revolving bridge used to turn locomotives around or to place them on radial storage or service tracks) were installed. In 1974, the museum’s exhibit building, the first major building designed specifically as a railroad museum, was completed and opened to the public the following year.

Concurrent with the acquisition of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company holdings, objects and artifacts were acquired not only to row1d out the locomotive and railcar collection, but to represent work and travel on the Commonwealth’s railroads and interpret for visitors the railroad supply industry. Today, the museum houses and exhibits a large collection of tools, uniforms, photographs, documents, works of art, signage, equipment, and ephemera (such as tickets, timetables, and brochures) chronicling the history of railroading in the Keystone State. The collection currently contains seventy-three locomo­tives and railcars, and a collection of more than two hundred and fifty thousand objects and documents.

With a world-class collection firmly in place, the museum took steps in the early 1980s to fulfill its educational mission. A volunteer organization, the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, was formed in 1983 to provide support for the museum’s programs and to raise funds for continu­ing development. With the support of the Friends, the museum initiated a comprehensive conservation program for its rolling stock and embarked on an ambitious public education campaign. New exhibits were developed to familiarize the public with the enormous significance of the railroad industry to Pennsylvania and to explain the collec­tions on exhibit in social and cultural contexts as well. As these initiatives proved immensely successful, plans to expand the museum’s exhibit hall and support facilities seemed only natural.

In 1985, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania announced plans to double the size of the museum’s main exhibit hall and shelter many of the locomotives and railcars stored outdoors. After a thorough master planning process, a drive was launched to secure more than two and a half million dollars for a forty­-five thousand foot addition. The private sector contributed three hundred thousand dollars and the Common­wealth provided more than two million dollars. Ground was broken for the new annex, christened Railroaders’ Hall, in August 1993; it was turned over to the PHMC in October 1994. This new hall, reminiscent of a huge arched train shed of the nineteenth century, not only shelters a major portion of the museum’s collections, but provides nearly twenty thematic areas that discuss particular aspects of the Keystone State’s railroad history.

The grand opening of Railroaders’ Hall will be held from Friday through Sunday, May 19-21 [1995], with special events, activities, and demonstrations, including railroad model displays, interpreters authentically costumed as railroad postal clerks, telegraph operators, conductors, and holiday travelers, commuters, military personnel, even hobos, who spent many hours aboard trains. Through living history dramatizations, museum staff and volunteers will introduce visitors to the men and women who helped forge the heritage of railroading in Pennsylvania.

On Friday, May 19 [1995], at 11 A. M., dignitaries will participate in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. On Saturday, the museum will celebrate Cultural and Community Day by focusing on the ab­stract culture of the railroads-traditions, customs, food, and music. In conjunction with the celebration, a railroad history symposium will be held at the nearby Historic Strasburg Inn. The grand opening weekend will culminate on Sunday at 2 P. M. with a tribute to generations of railroaders whose past contributions are safeguarded by the museum, and to their modern-day counterparts who operate the nation’s rail systems.

For more information regarding the grand opening of Railroaders’ Hall, write: Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, P. O. Box 15, Strasburg, PA 17579; or telephone (717) 687-8628 or TDD (800) 654-5984. There is a charge for admission.


Miracles By Migrants

An exhibition devoted to the unique and popular art genre of retablos – votive works created in this century by Mexican immigrants or their relatives – is on view at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology through Saturday, July 8 [1995].

“Miracles on the Border: Folk Paintings of Mexican Migrants to the United States” features sixty retablos assembled by two professors. By examin­ing art in the retablo tradition, well known in Mexico but not in the United States, the exhibition introduces new audiences to this genre while presenting a direct Mexican. immigrant perspective on the complex process of migration.

Retablos are Mexican folk paintings, usually created on small pieces of tin, offered as votives to images of Christ or the Virgin in gratitude for a miracle granted or a favor received. Made by professional retablo artists, immigrants’ relatives, or the immigrants themselves, the pieces are posted on walls inside Catholic churches and chapels in Mexico, where they serve as a public testament for all to behold. Three distinct parts generally compose each work of art: text describing the miracle; the scene where the miracle occurred; and the image of a deity, usually the Virgin Mary.

In addition to their artistic interest, Catholic churches in the early Middle Ages. Retablo painting gradually emerged as a genre in Mexico at the beginning of the seventeenth century as a unique fusion of European and Amerindian traditions. With the avail­ability of inexpensive tinplate from Great Britain and the United States in the mid­-nineteenth century, many more people could afford to have retablos created. Today, retablos are a thriving popular art form which has influenced the work of some of Mexico’s leading artists.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is located on the campus of the university. Admission is charged. For additional information about visiting hours, write: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Thirty-Third and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19104; or tele­phone (215) 898-4000 or 898-4045.


Head, Heart, and Hand

This year marks the centennial of the Roycroft, one of the most successful of the country’s crafts colonies, which employed more than five hundred workers and skilled artisans, all of whom helped spread the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement through­out the United States. Established by the visionary Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) in East Aurora, a village in western New York, the enterprise in its heyday boasted its own baseball team, marching band, debating society, fire company, art gallery, and savings bank. Hubbard’s Roycroft was, however, far from isolated; his Roycroft Inn was a favorite meeting place for artists, writers, actors, and politicians. With the opening of the inn in 1903, East Aurora became a resort and a tourist attraction; in 1905 alone, thirty thousand visitors flocked to the pic­turesque village renowned for its fine architecture and quality crafts. An exhibition opening later this spring at the Allentown Art Museum will examine the Roycroft, its charismatic leader, and its followers.

The Roycroft was loosely modeled on the medieval guild system which had recently been embraced by William Morris (1834-1896), poet, artist, utopian socialist, and leader of the Arts and Crafts movement in England. While the foremen and principal designers were master artisans, the work force was composed largely of previously unskilled boys and girls who accepted Hubbard’s challenge to improve them­selves through hard work. The objects they created – from bedroom suites to silver bracelets to copper candlesticks to leather-bound books – were well designed, finely executed, and shrewdly marketed to middle class consumers. At the same time Hubbard broadcast his own homespun philosophy through monthly magazines, pamphlets, and framed epigrams. Today, the work of the Roycrofters is highly sought after by both collectors and curators.

Elbert Hubbard – called “America’s first super-salesman” and “a stirrer of cosmic dust” – was born in Bloomington, Illinois, the son of a country doctor who in his later years practiced at the Roycroft. At the age of fifteen he went to work selling soap door to door. Three years later he arrived at Buffalo, New York, to work for a soap company newly founded by his brother-in-law, John D. Larkin. A natural genius at marketing and promotion, Hubbard popularized such techniques as direct-mail solicita­tion and the use of premiums as a sales incentive. In a short time he was made a partner in the company, and had a home in the prosperous suburb of East Aurora, a wife, and three children. In 1892, at the age of thirty-six, Hubbard sold his interest in the soap company for about sixty-five thousand dollars (then a princely sum) in order to write, travel, and complete his education. He attended Harvard for a while, studying history and literature, but quickly became disillusioned by academia.

A trip abroad in 1894 was to prove a turning point in Elbert Hubbard’s life. In England he visited Kelmscott Press and crafts center, established by William Morris. At Kelmscott, Morris was putting into action some of his most fervent beliefs: that the worker must be an artist and the artist must be a worker, and that this ideal craftsman need not be formally educated. Morris’ ideas borrowed freely from the medieval guild system, and Hubbard was galvanized by them.

Returning to East Aurora, Hubbard developed the Roycroft Press, a print shop in the tradition of William Morris. It was, he claimed, named for a pair of seventeenth century London printers noted for their beautiful books. Hubbard began publishing The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest and The Fra, pocket­-sized magazines filled with wit, wisdom, and irreverence. The Philistine was to prove tremendously popular – its subscribers numbered more than two hundred thousand in 1915 – and it was, in spite of contributions by such distin­guished writers as Stephen Crane (1871-1900), author of The Red Badge of Courage, primarily a forum for Elbert Hubbard and his views.

Following the success of the print shop, Elbert Hubbard established first a book bindery and, later, shops for making furniture, metalcraft, and leather articles. He summarized his dreams in a 1902 catalogue: “The Roycrofters are a community of workers who make beautiful Books and Things – making them as good as they can …. Our work is the product of the three H’s: Head, Heart, and Hand.” As the leader of the Roycroft, Hubbard perfected his skills as promoter, never missing an opportunity to heighten the visibility of his enter­prise. The Roycroft logo was carved, stamped, painted, or otherwise applied to every object produced, no matter what its size (a mousetrap, for instance, or a limited-edition book, or an oak bookcase) or nature (the Roycroft baseball team uniforms or marching band drum).

For Hubbard, the Roycroft offered a means of rescuing young individuals from a life of lowly unskilled labor and allowing them to improve themselves through hard work. Although their wages were low, Roycrofters received guaranteed job security; free medical services, clothing, and schooling; inexpensive meals; and opportunities for “self-improvement” through cultural and recreational activities. The system was, in a word, paternalistic, and Hubbard was a stem taskmaster. Although he espoused the “widest, freest, and fullest liberty for individuali­ty,” he could be puritanical, especially on the subjects of alcohol and tobacco. Nevertheless, morale was high and his charisma so strong that he was able to attract hundreds of workers.

While most of the Roycrofters were unskilled and uneducated country boys and girls, Hubbard’s principal designers were such master craftsmen as Dard Hunter, Karl Kipp, Victor Toohaker, Frederick Kranz, Louis Kinder, Cy Rosen, Walter Jennings, and Herbert Buffum. Painters, sculptors, and drafts.­ men attracted to the Roycroft included Jerome Connor, Alex Fournier, and Sandor Landau.

“Fra Elbertus,” as Hubbard often called himself, cut an imposing figure. He was unconventional, even theatrical in dress, and wore his hair in a Dutch bob that gave him a bohemian air. Despite the moral tone of his writings, Hubbard’s life was unconventional for the period. Not long after his first wile Bertha Crawford divorced him, Hubbard married his long-time mistress Alice Moore, a writer and ardent feminist. Alice Hubbard soon became an integral part of the Roycroft and manager of its business affairs. It is quite a tribute to the Hubbards’ charm and leadership capabilities that the colony survived a threatened schism.

In 1915, Elbert and Alice Hubbard, on their way to report on war-torn Europe, perished aboard the S. S. Lusitania when it was sunk in the Irish Sea by a German U-boat. Leadership of the Roycroft passed into the hands of Hubbard’s son Bert, who managed the colony for nearly a quarter of a century. The Roycroft closed its doors in 1938, succumbing to lingering effects of the Great Depression and changing American taste and style. In 1968, the fourteen-building complex which once housed the Roycroft commu­nity was designated a National Historic Landmark by the federal government.

“Head, Heart, and Hand: Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters,” an exhibition marking the one hundredth anniversary of the colony’s founding wiU open at the Allentown Museum of Art on Sunday, April 23 [1995]. Nearly two hundred examples of beautifully designed and finely crafted furniture, metalcraft, tooled leather, works of art, and books, as well as copies of magazines, pam­phlets, and advertisements will also be on view. Period photographs of the community at work and at play will help convey a sense of the communal spirit that animated the Roycrofters’ daily activities.

Organized by the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and the American Federation of Arts, “Head, Heart, and Hand: Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters” is a national touring exhibition. It will remain on view at the Allentown Art Museum through Sunday, June 25 [1995].

For more information about this and related programs, including a symposium devoted to the Arts and Crafts movement scheduled for Saturday, April 29 [1995], write: Allentown Art Museum, Fifth and Court Streets, P. O. Box 388, Allentown, PA 18105-0388; or telephone (610) 432-4333. There is a charge for admission.


Simply Sendak

Maurice Sendak is possibly the greatest living American children’s book author and illustrator, engaging the minds of both younger and older readers alike. Recipient of numerous awards and honors for his work, Sendak is widely known for his classics, which include Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1970). His most recent work, We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993), was acclaimed for dealing with such timely issues as homelessness and AIDS. It was a book that both critics and educators praised highly.

Opening Tuesday, May 2 [1995], at the Rosenbach Museum and Library, Phila­delphia, is an exhibition of “Sendak at the Rosenbach,” part of a major collaborative project, “Sendak in Philadelphia,” mount­ed by the institution and the Please Touch Museum, the city’s award-winning museum for children. The Rosenbach Museum and Library’s exhibit will explore Maurice Sendak as author, artist, and bibliophile by displaying his original works of art with his personal collection of rare books and manuscripts. The Please Touch Museum will present a large-scale interactive exhibition based on his work.

Maurice Sendak’s association with the Rosenbach Museum and Library dates to the 1960s. He traveled to Philadelphia to see an exhibition of drawings by Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), British author, illustrator, and creator of Peter Rabbit, which was on view at the Free Library of Philadelphia. During this visit he also toured the Rosenbach Museum and Library. Tn 1967, he placed all of his original illustrations for books, totaling more than three thousand drawings, on permanent deposit with the Rosenbach Museum, thus creating the Sendak archive. Through the years, the museum has held a number of exhibitions featuring Sendak’s work. The first of these, mounted in 1970, was “The Art of Maurice Sendak.” Others have showcased his drawings for the stage set of The Nut­cracker and for his 1988 book Dear Mili.

“Sendak at the Rosenbach” will be presented in two parts. The first section, organized by a guest curator, will offer a panorama of Sendak’s oeuvre, including pen-and-ink drawings, manuscripts, maquettes, watercolors, and dummy books from 1952 through 1993. First editions of Sendak’s most celebrated books will be on view, as well as prepara­tory materials illustrating his work for the theater. The second segment of the exhibition, curated by Maurice Sendak himself, draws from the artist’s own collection. Providing a background to the history of his creations by focusing on the writers and artists who have influenced him most deeply, this portion of “Sendak at the Rosenbach” will include rare works by William Blake, Samuel Palmer, and Herman Melville, among others. Particularly noteworthy among the pieces in the exhibition will be the original publisher’s contract for Melville’s novel Pierre, a new edition of which is sched­uled for release in fall – with illustrations by Sendak! The exhibition of works of art by Sendak, together with selections from his own collection of rare books and manuscripts, will demonstrate the lasting appeal of books as art.

“Sendak at the Rosenbach” will continue through Monday, October 30 [1995].

Additional information may be obtain­ed by writing: Rosenbach Museum and Library, 2010 DeLancey Pl., Philadelphia, PA 19103; or by telephoning (215) 732- 1600. There is a charge for admission.