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.

Important Pieces Acquired

The Heritage Center of Lancaster County recently received six significant pieces for its permanent collection, including five examples of documented nineteenth cen­tury furniture manufactured in the county and a rare firematic document.

A paint decorated mid­-nineteenth century chest, bearing the label of a Peters­burg, Lancaster County, crafts­man is an extremely important addition to the center’s collec­tion of regional furniture. The printed paper label affixed to the rear of the chest identifies the maker as Jacob M. Kauf­fman, and advertises his abil­ity “to manufacture to order at his shop at Petersburg, all kinds of cabinetware.” Kauf­fman’s label also advertises his services as both an undertaker and printer. The exterior of the small walnut and pine chest is paint decorated with a faux grained finish.

A second paint decorated chest, augmenting the center’s collection of Lancaster County Amish decorative arts bears on its backboard the inscription, “made Mar … 1895/by E. Fisher.” The dovetailed chest, retaining its original red paint, features a decoupaged pansy, flanked by the initials “F.F.” over the date “1895” on its front. Chests of this type are typically attributed to the workshop of local Amish cabi­netmaker Henry Lapp.

A chest of drawers, bearing the label of William Frick, a cabinetmaker who once maintained a shop on Lancaster’s North Queen.Street, is made of cherry with a mahogany veneer. The distinctive chest has paneled sides, high turned feet and is one of only two known labeled pieces of Lan­caster County furniture which pre-date the Victorian era.

Made in Lititz about 1807, and attributed to Adolph Lich­tenthaeler, the high chest of drawers recalls the elegant Federal style. Lichtenthaeler, a well-known Lititz cabinet­maker, is known to have made armchairs for the old Capitol in Harrisburg in 1821.

The early nineteenth cen­tury tall case clock, signed by Josiah Shufflebottom of Lan­caster, is crafted of mahogany and mahogany veneer. The clock is fitted with an eight day movement and decorated with an unsigned painted dial.

The elaborately framed calligraphic certificate was originally presented in 1858 by the volunteers of the Friend­ship Fire Company of Lancas­ter to riflemaker and prominent citizen Henry E. Leman. The hand-drawn and lettered certificate, surrounded by an ornate ornamental frame, includes what is be­lieved to be the earliest known photograph of a Lancaster volunteer fire company. The certificate, bearing an “Extract from the Minutes” of the Friendship Fire Company, was presented to Leman by the members as a gesture of thanks for his gift of a decora­tive ceremonial silver speaking trumpet, which had already been acquired by the Heritage Center of Lancaster County.

For additional information regarding the changing ex­hibits of the center, write: Heritage Center of Lancaster County, Box 997, Lancaster, PA 17603; or telephone (717) 299-6440.

 

Crocks, Jugs and Jars

Throughout the nineteenth century, a myriad of forms made of red clay or dense kaslin clay were available to consumers in central Pennsyl­vania, particularly in the broad Susquehanna Valley. Everyday household and utilitarian objects – such as plates, bowls, platters, porringers, jugs, jars and crocks – were common items manufactured in great quantities in the last century.

Redware, made from com­mon low fire clays, was one of the first media used by Ameri­can potters. It remained a household staple well into the third quarter of the nineteenth century, when stoneware re­placed it as the most popular ceramic for utilitarian wares. Potters in small communities in central Pennsylvania turned out their share of both redware and stoneware pottery, much of which has become ex­tremely popular with museum curators and antiques collec­tors.

The Packwood House Mu­seum in Lewisburg will open a major exhibit entitled “Crocks, Jars and Jugs: Nineteenth Century Redware and Stone­ware of Central Pennsylvania” on Saturday, February 4, 1989. On view will be examples by several well-known potters and pottery companies, including Cowden and Wilcox, Harris­burg; J .H. Dipple, Lewistown; Hyssong, Bloomsburg; and Sipe and Sons, Williamsport. The pieces have been selected from the Packwood House Museum’s extensive collection, as well as from private and public collections.

“Crocks, Jugs and Jars,” which continues through Sunday, April 16, examines the various glazing and decorative techniques used by both red­ware and stoneware potters.

For additional information, write: Packwood House Mu­seum, 15 North Water St., Lewisburg, PA 17837; or tele­phone (717) 524-0323.

 

Gold!

Throughout history, gold­ – that legendary, precious metal – has fascinated man­kind. Under its glittering, enchanting spell, man has pursued, worshipped and battled over gold. Its mysteries and power have been un­earthed in a spectacular travel­ing exhibit, “Gold,” continuing at the Franklin Institute, Phila­delphia, through Friday, Janu­ary 6, 1989. Developed by Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie, La Vilette, in Paris, the million dollar display follows the intriguing trail of gold-from its discovery to its industrial, artistic and economic applica­tions.

“Gold” explores the impor­tant role it plays in interna­tional economy, industry and finance, and illustrates the way it is used in specific in­dustries, such as aerospace technology, architecture, den­tistry, electronics and medicine.

Visitors will be able to par­ticipate in the exhibit by panning – much like an early nineteenth century prospector – in a running sluice salted with several thou­sand dollars of gold flakes. “Gold” includes an authentic, full-scale reproduction of a gold mine shaft in which visi­tors will actually see how the metal is recovered from the earth’s crust. A smelting operation will demonstrate the melting and repouring of a twenty thousand dollar ingot of gold, and an alchemist’s laboratory, complete with old gold mining maps and tools, will reveal the rich history of gold and its many uses.

A touring exhibition, “Gold” will travel to eleven cities in the United States before its conclusion in 1991. The Franklin Institute is the exhibit’s only Pennsylvania destination.

To obtain additional infor­mation and related program­ming details, write: Franklin Institute, Twentieth St. and the Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103; or phone (215) 448-1200.

 

Two Centuries of Flowers

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine has long served to introduce botanists, nurserymen, land­scape architects and gardeners throughout the world to the great botanical explorations originating from England’s Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and the Royal Horticultural Society, as well as from the country’s leading nurseries. In its day, the magazine faithfully reported the activities of such acclaimed plant hunters as Sir Joseph Banks of the Cook Expedition, David Nelson of HMS Bounty fame, David Douglas for whom the Douglas Fir is named, and the father-and-son team of William and Joseph Hooker, who to­gether directed the activities of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew for more than eight dec­ades.

Organized to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, one of the oldest horticultural publications in the world, an exhibition at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh, is featuring more than seventy watercolors that have rarely been seen by the general public. From its found­ing in 1767, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine has demonstrated a strong commitment to both beauty and scientific accuracy, employing some of the most renowned botanical artists in the world to create master drawings for the engravings and lithographs that illustrate the journal. Until as recently as 1948, every color illustration in every copy of the magazine was painstakingly colored by hand!

“Flowers from the Royal Gardens of Kew: Two Centu­ries of Curtis’s Botanical Maga­zine” includes works that range in date from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, and have been selected from the Royal Botanic Gardens’s collec­tion of more than ten thou­sand sheets. One of the key elements in the magazine’s remarkable longevity has been the attraction of seeing on its pages – often for the first time – scores of flowering plants capable of being culti­vated in the reader’s own garden or greenhouse.

On view through Friday, December 16 [1989], “Flowers from the Royal Gardens of Kew,” will travel to the Smithsonian Institution, the New York Public Library, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Visit­ing hours are: Monday through Friday, 8:30 A.M. to Noon, and 1 to 5 P.M. Admis­sion is free. The Hunt Insti­tute’s gallery is located on the fifth floor of the Hunt Library on the campus of Carnegie­Mellon University.

For additional information, write: Hunt Institute for Bo­tanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890; or telephone (412) 268-2434.

 

Railroad Records

The State Archives, admin­istered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Com­mission, is working on one of the most historically significant – and exciting­ – collections of materials ever amassed by a single company: the records and business pa­pers of the Pennsylvania Rail­road (PRR). In the spring of 1988, after four years of at­tempting to save the Pennsyl­vania Railroad Company records, the PHMC’s Division of Archives and Manuscripts, aided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), began working on the more than five thousand cubic feet of PRR material.

The records of the Pennsyl­vania Railroad are especially important because it is a rarity to find the complete files of a company whose influence dominated the entire country. These business records are an integral segment of the Com­monwealth’s, as well as the nation’s, industrial and trans­portation heritage.

Founded in 1846, the Penn­sylvania Railroad grew to be the most successful and influ­ential company in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century. As it took over other railroads, the company became a major force behind the nation’s rampant industrial development. It was, perhaps, the greatest single contributor to economic growth in the United States during the mid-nineteenth century, and remained the country’s largest corporation until World War I.

The Pennsylvania Railroad pioneered the development of the modern corporate struc­ture. In order to be self­-sustaining, the company operated its own steel, oil and coal industries, and became the first railway in the country to invest in applied scientific research and in-house testing. In its hey-day, the PRR was the largest single employer in the United States and, as a result of its size and far-reaching influence, it evolved to be more powerful than any other business.

The records recently trans­ferred to the Pennsylvania State Archives, located adja­cent to The State Museum of Pennsylvania, in center-city Harrisburg, include mechani­cal drawings, photographs, presidential papers, files of the board of directors and chief engineer, financial records, legal case files, real estate records and papers of subsi­diary companies. The collection also includes operational, technical, administrative and financial records, which are of great interest to many re­searchers, including those studying economics, business, technology, labor, industry and politics. The records are of interest, too, to local histo­rians, modelers and railroad enthusiasts. Descriptions of the collection are being en­tered in the Research Libraries Network’s database to provide for immediate – and nationwide – access to the information.

Under the terms of the grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humani­ties, the Pennsylvania Histori­cal and Museum Commission must raise ten thousand dol­lars to receive the matching funds necessary to complete the project, and contributions from interested individuals and institutions are being sought. Tax deductible dona­tions should be sent to: PRR Project/Friends of the PHMC, Division of Archives and Man­uscripts, Pennsylvania Histori­cal and Museum Commission, P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026. Individuals inter­ested in volunteering to work with the railroad papers should telephone (717) 783-9873.

 

Crafts and Community

Contemporary crafts in Pennsylvania representing ethnic, occupational and re­gional traditions will be on exhibit at the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, Philadel­phia, from Saturday, Decem­ber 10, through Friday, February 24, 1989. “Crafts and Community: Traditional Craftsmanship in Contempo­rary Society” features twelve case studies, including Hmong needlework, Afro-Caribbean steel drum-making, Amish quilts and Ukrainian embroi­deries and egg decoration.

“Crafts and Community” will utilize artifacts, photo­graphs and video documenta­ries to explore the meaning and role of traditional hand­made objects and their makers. The exhibition is based on more than two years of intensive research by ten fieldworkers on traditional crafts throughout Pennsylva­nia. Consisting of about one hundred original artifacts, the exhibit features Ukrainian Easter eggs, painted by a wax resist technique; a Hmong “story cloth,” recounting daily life in Laos; a Pennsylvania German crib quilt; and an Afro-Caribbean steel drum. Among the seventy-five photo­graphs to be shown are a mu­ral size image of steel drum players in a festival setting and photographs of Robert Moore, a Cherokee craftsman, tanning hides and making intricate beadwork. The exhibit will focus on the craftsworker, the process of craftsmaking and the interaction between the craftsworker and community.

Video documentaries of craftspeople at work and crafts objects in use will be inte­grated into the exhibition. A catalogue, with essays by fieldworkers and a variety of color and black and white photographs, will accompany the exhibit. Crafts demonstra­tions, performances and work­shops will also be conducted throughout the exhibition.

For more information, write: Balch Institute for Eth­nic Studies, 18 South Seventh St., Philadelphia, PA 19106; or telephone (215) 925-8090.

 

Chester County Farm Exhibit

What farming was like in Chester County during the first half of the nineteenth century has been thoroughly examined in a major perma­nent exhibition which opened recently at the historic Springton Manor Farm in Glenmoore. The special dis­play of farming tools and ma­chinery was developed by the Chester County Historical Society in cooperation with the Chester County Parks and Recreation Department. The exhibit, entitled “From the Earth to the Marketplace: Farming in Chester County, 1800-1850,” explores the truly golden years of agriculture in this section of southeastern Pennsylvania.

The exhibit, which illus­trates how well county farmers adapted to changes in the marketplace – and led the state and nation in agricultural production – includes several significant “firsts.” This is the first time that the Chester County Historical Society’s collection of agricultural imple­ments will be publicly exhib­ited. Most of the tools, which were used for cultivating, maintaining and harvesting crops, have never before been assembled for such a display. “From the Earth to the Market­place” is the only exhibit in Chester County that has been devoted exclusively to agricul­ture.

The exhibit examines a variety of agricultural and related subjects. Visitors can see how farmers had to be versatile, possess a wide range of skills and master various trades to be successful. The relationship of the farmers to their market, the techniques of making the land produce and the farmers’ response to dra­matically changing technology are addressed as well.

“From the Earth to the Marketplace: Farming in Ches­ter County, 1800-1850,” has been installed in the historic farmstead’s Pennsylvania German bank barn. On view are early farm implements, including spades, hoes, milk­ing stools, winnowing baskets and threshing devices. The largest piece of farm machin­ery is a single horse treadmill, built about 1830 when farmers began harnessing the power of horses. More than seventy pieces of farming tools and machinery – complemented by enlarged scenes of typical farm scenes – present a visual his­tory of the diversity of Chester County’s farming in the early nineteenth century.

Springton Manor, the new­est county park, includes an elegant manor house overlook­ing two hundred and sixty acres of fertile farmland that was one of eight proprietary manors granted by William Penn. The recently restored manor house was once the center of life on a busy, work­ing farm. The historic farm­stead is located north of Downingtown.

For additional information regarding visiting hours and traveling directions, write: Chester County Historical Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380-2691; or telephone (215) 692-4800.

 

Rare Hebrew Manuscripts in Philadelphia

“A Visual Testimony: Juda­ica from the Vatican Library” will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from Saturday, January 28, through Sunday, April 2, 1989. The exhibition of fifty-seven rare manuscripts, many of which are illuminated, reveals the fascinating literary and artistic tradition which has linked the Jewish and Catholic faiths for centuries. The works compris­ing “A Visual Testimony” are generally unknown to the public and until now have been available only to scholars who travel to Rome.

The writings in the exhibi­tion range in date from an eighth century Babylonia Sifra, considered to be the oldest manuscript of rabbinic litera­ture in existence, to an eight­eenth century collection of sermons by Pope Clement XI in Hebrew and Latin. Also included are Bibles and biblical commentaries, prayer books, mystical Jewish works from the Kabbalah, legal codes, medical texts, a Hebrew gram­mar in Italian and a “riddle book.” Works by great Jewish writers, such as the twelfth century Spanish philosopher Moses Maimonides, are repre­sented, as are translations into Hebrew of classic Muslim and Christian texts. Many of these manuscripts are from the late Middle Ages, a period marked by intense scholarship and a free flow of ideas among Jew­ish, Christian and Muslim philosophers.

The atmosphere of intellec­tual exchange will be seen in the rich illustrations, some using gold, which decorate the books. In many cases, the style, decoration and even subject matter of Jewish art has been adapted from the con­temporary non-Jewish manu­script traditions. Books from Gothic Spain and Germany are clearly indebted to the artistic styles prevailing in those countries, and Hebrew manuscript decorations from Renaissance Italy are visually linked to those made for Chris­tian patrons.

Abra’ah Turim (“Four Columns”), a classic rabbinic commentary on Jewish law decorated with lush scenes of fifteenth century Italian Jewish life, is an example of the art of miniature at its finest. A Bible dated 1294 exemplifies the Hebrew art of micrography, miniature writing in the shape of flowers, animals and geo­metric patterns. Also unique to Hebrew writings is the decoration of the first word of a section of the text, rather than just the initial letter as in Latin manuscripts, due to the absence of capital letters in Hebrew scripts.

Hebraic manuscripts were found in papal collections as early as the fourteenth cen­tury. Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) recognized their importance when he included them in the Vatican Library, which he established in 1450. At that time, the study of Hebrew was as central to any gentleman’s education as were Latin and Greek. In 1545, the appointment of Fabio Ranucci as the first known scriptor hebraicus (Hebrew specialist) marked the beginning of at­tempts to catalogue and num­ber the manuscripts. The Vatican Library presently holds more than eight hundred Hebraic manuscripts.

For additional information, write: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Parkway at Twenty-Sixth St., Philadelphia, PA 19101; or telephone (215) 763-8100.

 

American Jewish History

A full season of exhibits will welcome visitors to the Na­tional Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia this winter.

“A Century of Ambiva­lence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881-1981,” an exhibition organized by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Re­search and the American Jew­ish Museum, New York, will be on view through Sunday, January 8, 1989. More than three hundred and fifty rare photographs offer insights into the complex and contradictory character of the alter heim, the “old home” in Russia, once the largest center of Jewish popu­lation in the world. Spanning a century of cataclysmic social change, “A Century of Ambiv­alence” is also the first major exhibit to chronicle Jewish life in the Soviet Union. Two smaller exhibitions presented concurrently will trace the experience of newly arrived Russian and Soviet Jewish immigrants to America through photographs, docu­ments and political cartoon art.

The profound effect of the unprecedented waves of immi­grants to the United States at the turn of the century is re­vealed in a showcase display, “Architects of Contemporary American Jewish Life: The Philadelphia Group.” Pre­sented in cooperation with Congregation Mikveh Israel in anticipation of its two hundred and fiftieth anniversary in 1990, the exhibition celebrates six individuals associated with the congregation -Louis Edward Levy, Sabato Morais, Solomon Solis-Cohen, Moses Aaron Dropsie, Mayer Sulz­berger and Cyrus Adler­whose public lives took dra­matic response to the massive influx of Jewish immigrants. “Architects of Contemporary American Jewish Life” con­tinues through Friday, March 31 [1989].

“Contemporary Artifacts,” on view through Saturday, December 31 [1989], is the museum’s eighth annual invitational crafts exhibit. A popular high­light of the holiday season, the sales exhibition features the finest in contemporary Judaica by artists from throughout the United States.

To obtain additional infor­mation, write: National Mu­seum of American Jewish History, 55 North Fifth St., Philadelphia, PA 19106; or telephone (215) 923-3811.

 

Eckley Restoration

Eckley, one of hundreds of small company mining towns or “patches” built in the an­thracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania during the nine­teenth century, is a living history museum of the daily and seasonal life of the hard coal miner and his family. In 1854, the mining firm of Sharpe, Leisenring and Com­pany, later known as Sharpe, Weiss and Company, leased land from the Tench Coxe Estate of Philadelphia and began work on the Council Ridge Colliery and the Village of Eckley. The village, erected near the colliery where the coal was processed, provided housing for miners and their families; it was built essentially as a planned community, a common feature of large in­dustrial enterprises a century ago.

Eckley’s stores, schools and churches supplied the eco­nomic, educational and reli­gious needs of the villagers. By owning the settlement, the company had greater control over the lives of its workers. After 1875, when the Sharpe, Weiss and Company lease expired, the Coxe family either operated the colliery itself or leased it to other coal compan­ies, a period during which many changes took place. To this Luzerne County village came a succession of immi­grant groups seeking eco­nomic opportunities and religious or political freedom. English, Welsh and German miners were supplemented by Irish immigrants and then by southern and eastern Europe­ans. The influx of these vari­ous immigrants formed an ethnic mosaic typical of Penn­sylvania’s anthracite region.

Strip mining, begun in 1890, gradually replaced “deep” (or underground) mining. Steam shovels strip­ped away the land around Eckley, as well as a part of the village itself. The work force at the colliery and the population of the village, which had num­bered more than one thousand in 1870, declined.

Eckley’s first company doctor, George S. Wentz, ar­rived in 1855, one year after the patch town was estab­lished. Throughout the years, seven physicians maintained a practice in the town’s Doctor’s Office, located at the western end of the village. The type of practice maintained by a coal company doctor created unique situations not experi­enced by general practitioners or the day. The company doctor agreed to a system of “contract practice,” whereby a specific sum was deducted from each miner’s paycheck to cover the costs of medical expenses for treating the worker and his family. This system assured that the resi­dents of such isolated com­pany towns received prompt medical care. Since contract practice provided security and coverage, it proved to be an ideal situation for recent medical school graduates. Even experienced physicians did not have to enter the competitive “fee for service” market faced by general practitioners. For this reason, contract practice was discouraged by the Ameri­can Medical Association and considered a trade, not a pro­fession. In addition to his questionable position within the community, the company doctor faced many special medical problems caused by the hazardous working conditions in the mines. He treated mining accident victims and other villagers too ill to be cured by home remedies. Serious illnesses and injuries were treated in the nearby Drifton Hospital or by doctors in Freeland, some of whom paid regular visits to the vil­lagers.

The Eckley Miners’ Village Associates, a volunteer group supporting the many activities of the complex, has recently announced a major campaign to assist in the restoration of the village’s Doctor’s Office. The project will not only raise money to aid in the restoration of the structure, but will also establish a permanent tribute to the many doctors who prac­ticed in the anthracite region. In 1984, the Women’s Auxiliary to the Hazleton Branch of the Luzerne County Medical Soci­ety, adopted the Doctor’s Of­fice restoration project and initiated funding for the planning stage, which included a historic structures report, a plan for furnishing and prepa­ration of architectural draw­ings. The actual restoration, including structural changes, will cost approximately sev­enty thousand dollars.

The Doctor’s Office will be carefully restored to the period of about 1874. The restoration will focus on three rooms used by the doctor: the waiting room, consultation room and operating room. The interpre­tation will explain the unusual social and medical circum­stances faced by the company doctor. A permanent exhibit documenting the history of medicine in the anthracite region will eventually accom­pany the restoration project.

To underwrite the restora­tion of the Doctor’s Office, the Women’s Auxiliary imple­mented the idea of memorial giving, by which contributions can be made as tributes to physicians who practiced in the area. Since the program was announced, contributions have been made in the mem­ory of local doctors, as well as their wives. Contributions have been received from indi­viduals throughout the Com­monwealth and surrounding regions who claim ties to northeastern Pennsylvania and who wish to preserve the unique medical heritage of the anthracite region. The memo­rial giving program has since been turned over to the Eckley Miners’ Village Associates.

Individuals desiring to make a donation to the resto­ration of the Doctor’s Office may send a check to: Eckley Miners’ Village Associates, Box 236, R.R. 2, Weatherly, PA 18255. All gifts should be ac­companied by information for whom the contribution is being made. Information re­garding the opening a fund in the name of an individual is available by telephoning (717) 636-2070. All contributions are tax deductible.