News and Notes

News presents briefs about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

On the Cover

The cover illustrates a fundamental step in the steel making pro­cess at the Basic Oxygen Furnace Shop in the Steel Division Plant of the Sharon Steel Corporation, Farrell. The worker stands on the teeming aisle, as the catwalk is called, while a ladle pours just tapped steel into ingot molds. These reusable molds partially shape the steel into its first solid form. After the molds are stripped off, the ingots are placed into soaking pits, a type of furnace, where they are heated to a uniform temperature. Following that process, the ingots are then transferred to the rolling mills where they are rolled to the desired gauge, width and finish.

Sharon Steel Corporation is a specialty steel producer. Organized in 1900 as the Sharon Steel Hoop Company, it is representative of an industry which has played a significant role not only in the history and development of Mercer County but of the Common­wealth as well. (Photo: Sharon Steel Corporation)


The Library Company Celebrates 250 Years

The Library Company of Philadelphia, the nation’s oldest cultural institution, marks its 250th anniversary this year. A special feature of the celebration will be an ex­hibition of more than 250 items from the Library Com­pany’s treasury of books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, paintings, furniture and sculpture. Visitors will be able to view pieces ranging from a tenth-century Greek manu­script to the First Continental Congress’ address to the King, and from the earliest painting of Philadelphia to a first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. There will even be a mummy’s hand presented to the Library Com­pany by artist Benjamin West.

The Library Company was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin and his associates and served as the de facto Library of Congress from 1774 to 1800. By 1850, it was the second largest library in the United States. Today, it is one of fifteen independent research libraries in this country and a scholarly resource which houses an internationally important collection. Particularly strong holdings are found in the areas of American history of the revolutionary and federalist periods. the history of science, American educa­tion through 1860. eighteenth century travel, women’s history, and Afro-Americana.

The exhibition. which opened in Philadelphia in Octo­ber, will remain at the Library Company, 1314 Locust St., through March 1982 and then travel to the Grolier Club in New York for two months. To further the enjoyment of the exhibition, a fully-illustrated interpretive catalogue which traces the acquisition of each item on display has been prepared and is available. For further information, write the Library Company, or call (215) 465-3221.


State Black History Exhibition Opens

A major exhibition, the largest ever assembled on the black history of a single state, has been opened at the Afro. American Historical and Cultural Museum. The exhibit celebrates the 300th anniversary of the founding of Penn­sylvania and documents, graphically. over 300 years of black presence, development and accomplishment in the Commonwealth. The show is entitled “Of Color, Humanitas and Statehood: The Black Experience in Pennsylvania Over Three Centuries.”

Much of the museum has been revamped to accommo­date this exhibition, which will comprise rare historical documents – broadsides, first edition publications, works of art and memorabilia – relevant to the heritage of Pennsyl­vania’s black community. While the displays will highlight the role played by Afro-Americans, they will also shed light on the many non-blacks who contributed to the struggles for black freedom, equality and recognition.

“Of Color, Humanitas and Statehood” will utilize three museum galleries and cover six thematic periods from 1681 to 1979 . Topics include “Slaves Amidst the Peaceable Kingdom,” “Black Pennsylvania and the Newborn Nation,” “Prophets of Equality, Patriots of the Union,” “The Search for Equality,” “111e Black Talented and Toilers During Pennsylvania’s Industrial Age,” and “Troubled Minority in the Modern Commonwealth.” Historians from throughout Pennsylvania, as well as scholars and museum experts of national prominence, form the Advisory Board for the ex­hibition. Also, a number of major institutions, including the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania State Archives, have contributed to the project.

Special exhibition materials have been developed for classroom use, and a corps of tour guides has been recruited and trained through the museum’s new volunteer program to give specialized tours through the exhibit. A major cata­logue, with an introduction by noted historian Lawrence D. Reddick, also accompanies the exhibition which will run for one year at the museum, located at 7th and Arch Sts., Philadelphia.


Signal Flags Added to Military Collections

Two significant items recently added to the military collections of the William Penn Memorial Museum (WPMM) are U.S. Army Signal Corps “Battle Flags” used by Col. Benjamin Franklin Fisher, Chief Signal Officer of the Union Army from 1864 to 1866. The donor is Dr. B. F. Fisher IV.

Colonel Fisher began his military service as a first lieu­tenant in the 3rd Pennsylvania Reserves in June 1861 but was soon detached to serve as a signal officer. While on reconnaissance near Aldie, Virginia in September 1863, he was captured and sent to Libby Prison, but soon escaped. After his return to duty, he was appointed Chief Signal Officer in December 1864, serving in that capacity until July 1866.

The particular significance of the flags is that they were not merely souvenirs but were formal awards, authorized by General Orders stating that” … every signal officer who shall skillfully and bravely carry in action and use his signal flag shall hereafter while serving as a signal officer bear upon his service flag a star in place of the block now occupying the center … . ” The order goes on to say,” … The name of the action in which the star is won shall be in­scribed in black letters upon the upper point of the star. The names of subsequent actions in which this flag is dis­tinguished shall be bourne upon the other arms of the star …. ”

The Fisher flags are of red cotton with the prescribed white star in their centers. One has the names of the battles “Gaines Mill,” “Malvern Hill” and “Williamsburg”; the second carries the names “Williamsburg” and “Lee’s Mills.”

Signal Corps “Battle Flags,” while known to exist in other locations, are quite rare. One flag also associated with Colonel Fisher is held by the Loyal Legion Museum in Philadelphia. Being white with a red star, it is probably the third flag in what was, with the WPMM’s pair, a complete set of three. Another set is also known to be housed in the New York State Capitol Museum.