Historical Societies: News and Highlights

Historical Societies: News and Highlights presents news and information about Pennsylvania's regional and county historical societies.

Junior Historians Honor Donald Kent

Dr. Donald H. Kent, retired Direc­tor of the Bureau of Archives and History of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, was recent­ly honored at the 37th annual Penn­sylvania Federation of Junior Histor­ians Convention at the Historic Stras­burg Motor Inn. Strasburg. The PFJH honored Dr. Kent by naming this year’s innovative program as the Dr. Donald Kent Historical Research-Pub­lication Award and dedicated its initial Junior Historian magazine vol­ume entitled “Our Town” to him. Recognition of Dr. Kent was given in appreciative acknowledgment of his past service as liaison between the federation and the PHMC when the student movement was a part of the Commission’s programs. His advice and assistance has been termed “in­valuable” in the republication of a “Junior Historian” newspaper and in assisting in the reorganization of the federation and establishing its policies. He had acted as a consultant for federation business until he retired in 1975.

Linda Shaub of the Ephrata Cloister Associates’ chapter received the Kent Award for her original research paper dealing with the town history of Ephrata. Ms. Shaub, Class of 1979 at Ephrata High School, will be attend­ing East Stroudsburg State College upon graduation. Lisa Yungel, Blood­root Chapter member from Dover High School, placed second in the competition with her paper, “Our Town, Dover.” Shari Hall, a junior at North Clarion High School, Leeper, wrote “Our Town, Fryburg: Its People, Their History, and Their Church” to receive Honorable Mention. The new PFJH Advisory Council administrative echelon announced at the convention is: Chairman, Don Crownover, Lancaster County Histori­cal Society; Vice Chairman, William Gilbert, North Clarion High School; Treasurer, Shirley Bischoff, Ephrata Cloister Associates; and Secretary, Ms. Roxanne Harman, TRAH.


Historical Society Notes

A striking example of the manner in which historical societies must broaden their perspectives to include the historical environment, as well as artifacts and manuscripts, is the con­cern displayed by the Delaware Coun­ty Historical Society over plans to develop Tinicum Island. The society has published in its Bulletin reserva­tions about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposals to implement a project which, among other things, would disrupt the prime wildlife habitat area on this historic island. Slowly but steadily, historical societies are becoming aware that the historical landscape is an integral part of any historic site.

The annual meeting of the Penn­sylvania Federation of Historical Soci­eties will be held May 2 and 3, 1980, in Landis Valley. Nominations for federation awards to be presented at the annual meeting should be sub­mitted by March 1, 1980, to PFHS, William Penn Memorial Museum, Box 1026, Harrisburg 17120.

The Haverford Township Historical Society reports the theft of a number of valuable items from two of its prop­erties. Missing pieces include an apple­ butter ladle, an iron trammel, a tin fireplace roaster, pewter spoons and mugs, and a Pennsylvania side chair. The incident serves as a reminder that all historical organizations must be aware of the need for adequate secu­rity. The American Association for State and Local History publishes a useful pamphlet for fifty cents entitled “Security for Museums and Historic Houses: An Annotated Bibliography” (Technical Leaflet, 85).


The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, 1879-1979

1979 marks the one hundredth an­niversary of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh. The actual forerunner of the present society was the “Old Residents Asso­ciation of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania” which was organized in April of 1879. Initially, membership was restricted only to men over age fifty, but eventually women and “youngsters” were admitted as well. Unchanging, however, was the society’s purpose: “To perpetuate the facts relating to our local history, by secur­ing the legendary and traditional be­fore they pass into the region of mythology.”

Much as the Bicentennial served as an impetus for local historical activity in 1976, similar celebrations in the past also helped to arouse local interest. An earlier organization emerged from the Pittsburgh centennial celebration of 1858. A revival of sorts followed the sesquicentennial in 1908 of the capture of Fort Duquesne. Reorgani­zation followed in 1909 and new popular summer historical tours were introduced. Shortly afterwards in 1914 the dream of a society head­quarters was realized with the con­struction of the first unit of the pres­ent headquarters (seen above) made possible by a state appropriation of $25,000.

During the past century, the society has become one of the leading histori­cal organizations in Pennsylvania. While its accomplishments are numerous, none has exceeded the completion of its massive publication project, the Western Pennsylvania Historical Sur­vey (1931-1936). Resulting publica­tions include impressive works such as Leland Baldwin’s Pittsburgh: The Story of a City and The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania by Solon and Elizabeth Buck. The University of Pittsburgh Press was actually founded to launch the entire series of items emerging from this massive research project. Upon such impressive foundations U1e society has continued to build its image as a recognized leader in the field of local history until the present day.