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.

White Elephants

Baseball historians generally consider Connie Mack (1862-1956) the paragon of managers. His knowledge of the game, professional disposition, and ability to acquire and, more importantly, manage players captured the attention of sports enthusiasts during a time when the national pastime was riddled with scandal, permeated with intemperance, and punctuated by rowdyism.

Connie Mack – born Cornelius McGillicuddy in East Brookfield, Massachusetts – arrived in Philadelphia in 1901. His efforts to establish a major league baseball team were belittled by National League clubs, which predicted that his Philadelphia Athletics “are going to be the White Elephants of the American League.” Mack proved his detractors wrong.

Very wrong. During his fifty years as manager of the Athletics, he won nine pennants, five World Series, and built two championship dynasties. Out of spite, he adopted the “White Elephant” as his team’s mascot.

Mack began his baseball career as a player on a team organized at the Massachusetts shoe factory where he worked. In 1886, at the age of twenty-four, he entered the world of professional baseball as a catcher and changed his name. He made his greatest contributions to the sport as manager and not as player, though. As a manager, Mack sought to bring integrity and respect to the game and to attract wider public interest. He began his managerial career in 1896 as both player and manager for Pittsburgh in the National League (see “Philadelphia’s Mr. Baseball and His Amazing Athletics” by William C. Kasha­tus III, Summer 1990).

Connie Mack’s success was due, in part, to an enlightened intuition in scouting prospective major league ability. Among his most talented players were Chester Countians Eddie Collins Sr. and Herb Pennock, whose Hall-of-Fame careers helped to establish the Athletics as one of the most storied teams in baseball history.

To showcase the famous manager and his famous team, as well as highlight Chester County teammates, the Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, will open a landmark exhibit, “Baseball’s White Elephants: Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics” on Friday, May 7 [1999]. More than one hundred objects and artifacts drawn from private and public collections, among them the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will chronicle the history of the team. Included will be uniforms, pennants, equipment, photographs, and memorabilia from Shibe Park, where the Athletics played.

“Baseball’s White Elephants: Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics” will highlight the careers of Mack, Collins, and Pennock, as well as contributions to the game by lesser-known players of Chester County.

The exhibition is accompanied by a number of programs and family activities, including opening night, Friday, May 7 [1999], during which the public is invited to tour “Baseball’s White Elephants” and preview a video presentation on Mack and the Athletics. On Saturday, May 8 [1999], David Hunt will discuss the multi-million-dollar business of collecting baseball memorabilia. The speaker, one of the foremost historic baseball memorabilia experts in the country, will explain differences between authentic objects and forgeries. He will also conduct appraisals for exhibition visitors.

Long before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, black ball players competed against each other in the Negro Leagues. “Negro League Baseball and the Philadelphia Stars,” slated for Wednesday, May 12 [1999], will feature players Gene Benson, Stanley Glenn, Wilmer Harris, and Mahlon Duckett of the Philadelphia Stars, who will share their recollections of their playing days. These former Negro League players will also discuss the process of integrating baseball and the changing nature of the game.

A daylong symposium examining the history of Philadelphia’s most successful and storied baseball franchise will be held on Saturday, May 15. “Philadelphia Athlet­ics Symposium” will present professional scholars and historians who have written about the team. Participants and their topics include: Peter Capolino, president of Mitchell and Ness Nostalgia Company, “From White Elephants to A’s: A History of Philadelphia’s Baseball Uniforms”; Bruce Kuklick, University of Pennsylvania history professor, “Shibe Park and the Philadelphia Athletics”; and David Jordan, author of Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics, “Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack.” David Kindred, columnist for The Sporting News, and William C. Kashatus, historian and author of Connie Mack’s ’29 Triumph: The Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia Athletics Dynasty, will give a presentation entitled “The 1929 A’s: Really the Best Ever?”

On Wednesday, May 19 [1999], Pamela Powell of the Chester County Historical Society will present “Hits, Runs, and Errors, Mostly Errors,” a humorous history of the game in West Chester. She will offer amusing anecdotes and insightful vignettes about women in baseball, the impact of gambling on the sport, and the glory days of sandlot ball.

Eddie Collins Sr., second baseman for the Athletics and the Chicago White Sox, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will be portrayed by historical society staff member William C. Kashatus in an unusual living history program on Wednesday, June 9 [1999]. As Collins, he will recall the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919, as well as reminisce about the careers of legendary Hall of Famers, among them Ty Cobb, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Babe Ruth, and Mack. Eddie Collins Jr., also a former player with the Philadelphia Athletics, will discuss his father’s baseball career.

“Baseball’s White Elephants: Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics” will continue through Friday, October 15 [1999].

To obtain additional information, write: Chester County Historical Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380; or telephone (610) 692-4800. There is an admission charge. Children, age thirteen or younger, who visit the historical society wearing a baseball uniform will be admitted free of charge to the exhibition and related public programs.

 

Bartram 300

America’s oldest living botanical garden, located on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, was established in 1731 by John Bartram (1699-1777), a Quaker farmer. Bartram farmed the land to feed his family, but also used it as an informal outdoor laboratory to learn about nature and to grow seeds and plants he collected on journeys through the wilds of the American colonies. His garden became famous and attracted visitors from around the world, including such notables as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington (see “Like Father, Like Son: The Extraordi­nary Bartrams” by L. Wilbur Zimmerman, Summer 1995).

Bartram, America’s first botanist, naturalist, and explorer, possessed an insatiable curiosity about nature and a determination to document the native flora of the New World. He traveled by horseback in search of curious seeds and plants to bring back to his farm and became a self-taught expert on the flora of eastern North America. As his garden grew more popular, he corresponded about botany and natural history with Europe’s greatest scientific minds. King George III appointed him Royal Botanist for North America, and renowned Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus called him “the greatest natural botanist in the world.” Bartram’s wide-ranging interests included natural science, medicine, philosophy, politics, and religion, and he became a member of a circle of American intellectuals, among them James Logan, John Clayton, and Franklin. Together, John Bartram and Benjamin Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, in 1743.

William Bartram (1739-1823) frequently accompanied his father on plant exploration trips, which prompted the elder Bartram to call him “Billy, my little botanist.” William Bartram is famous for his botanical illustrations and for writing Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogules, or Creek Confederacy and the Country of the Choctaws (1791), a book about his four-year expedition through the South. The pioneering book influenced Romantic era poets such as Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth, and continues to influence writers today, evidenced by its inclusion in Charles Frazer’s recent best seller, Cold Mountain. Travels is regarded as an American nature classic.

During one of their trips, the Bartrams made their most famous discovery; they found a small grove of an unknown tree growing along the Alatamaha River in Georgia in 1765. On a later trip William brought seeds back to propagate at the garden. The tree was named Franklinia alatamaha in honor of John Bartram’s great friend, Benjamin Franklin. The Franklinia alatamaha was never seen again in the wild after 1803, and all trees growing today are descended from those propagated and distributed by the Bartrams, who are credited with saving it from extinction (see “A Flowering for the Ages” by Albert G. Mehring, Summer 1988).

As the garden’s reputation grew, so did the number of visitors. John James Audubon and Meriwether Lewis visited, and in 1787 several of the nation’s founders, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton among them, broke away from the Constitutional Convention to journey to the garden. After John Bartram’s death, his son John Bartram Jr., granddaughter Ann, and her husband Robert Carr, turned the garden into a commercial nursery. When the aging Carrs in 1850 had to sell the site – ending one hundred and twenty-five years and three generations of family ownership – Philadelphia industrialist An­drew M. Eastwick promised that not a “solitary branch” would be cut. In 1891, Eastwick’s former gardener, Thomas Meehan, by then a member of city council, helped make the garden part of Philadelphia’s public park system. Two years later, descendants of the famous botanists organized the John Bartram Association to assist the city with the historic site’s preservation and interpretation. Today, Historic Bartram’s Garden is administered by the John Bartram Association in cooperation with the Fairmount Park Commission.

To mark the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Bartram, Historic Bartram’s Garden is sponsoring a number of programs and activities. On Thursday, April 29 [1999], the John Bartram Association will host a reception for noted garden author and photographer Ken Druse. On Saturday, May 1 [1999], the historic site will conduct its annual native plant sale, a popular event featuring a distinctive selection of native plants, vines, shrubs, and trees. For one week, beginning Sunday, May 16 [1999], the world’s newest tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckel, of Delaware, will dock at the base of the Garden’s wildflower meadows and offer tours. The presence of the Kalmar Nyckel, a full-size recreation of a seventeenth-century pinnace distinguished for the beauty of her carvings, will reflect the site’s Swedish heritage. The United States Postal Service will unveil a commemorative stamp honoring John and William Bartram at a first day ceremony on Tuesday, May 18 [1999], at Historic Bartram’s Garden. The stamp features a depiction of the Franklinia alatamaha in bloom. The historic garden is conducting a “Franklinia Census” to collect information about the fall-blooming trees. The survey seeks to determine how far north and west the tree grows, how large it can become, and how long it can live.

The celebration’s highlight, “Bartram 300: A Gathering,” will take place at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia from Wednesday through Friday, May 19-21 [1999]. The international symposium will bring together scholars representing botany, history, history of science, medicine, natural history, horticulture, and American studies to examine John Bar­tram’s impact on eighteenth-century science and exploration. Panelists will look at Bartram as a scientist and the context of his ideas with the eighteenth-century world of science, as well as his friendship and correspondence with other Quakers, scientists, and botanists. Speakers will examine colonial era expeditions and Bartram’s foray into a broader, natural world, and his continuing legacies in horticulture, botany, environmentalism, and preservation. Symposium keynote speaker is historian, biographer, and award-winning author David McCullough (see “Homeward Bound: An Interview with David McCullough” by Brent D. Glass, Summer 1994).

Reenactors will portray John Bartram and Benjamin Franklin at a living history festival at Historic Bartram’s Garden during the weekend of May 22-23 [1999]. The event will feature tours of both the family’s gardens and house, traditional crafts demonstrations, period music, workshops, and activities specifically designed for children.

For more information, write: Historic Bartram’s Garden, Fifty-Fourth St. and Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19143; or telephone (215) 729-5281.