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 “standard rig,” with its towering wooden derrick, perhaps more than any other image symbolizes the early oil industry. These giants were used to drill the vast majority of the oil wells in the Great Bradford Oil field from 1871, when oil was discovered there, until the 1930s, when portable rigs became more popular. In the early years when oil flowed freely, derricks such as this one dotted the landscape of McKean County, having been left in place even after the wells began to produce. Only later, when pumping jacks became necessary to extract the oil, did the derricks begin to disappear. These old rigs generated slang terms such as “walking beam,” “headache post” and “hurry-up stick,” phrases which have become part of oil country lore and are still commonly used by workers in the fields.

The rig on the cover is part of the Penn-Brad Historical Oil Well and Museum near Bradford, open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and is believed to be the only completely accurate, operational replica of a wooden oil rig in the country today. Visitors to the site can watch the well in action and reflect upon a time when McKean County led the world in the production of petroleum.

 

Penn’s Great Law

Under the Charter by which William Penn was granted Pennsylvania, he not only was sole owner of the territory com­prising the colony but also held extensive powers over the peo­ple residing there. He could raise a militia; create offices and appoint individuals to fill them; establish towns, counties and seaports; and, with the consent of the colony’s freemen, pass such laws as he chose. The only qualifications were that Penn could not use his militia to wage war on his own initiative; any deputy he might appoint to serve as Governor during his absence had to be approved by the Crown; he himself or an agent he named was to be available at or near London; he could not enact any laws contrary to the laws of England; and all Pennsylvania laws had to be approved by the Crown within five years after their passage.

With such broad authority, a Proprietor with values dif­ferent from Penn’s could have become an autocrat. Instead, Penn drew up a tentative plan of government which was, for the times, a model of enlightenment. It provided for a Gover­nor, who would be the Proprietor himself or a Deputy ap­pointed by him, a General Assembly of two hundred members and a Council of seventy-two, the Assembly and Council to be elected by the freemen of the province. The Governor and Council comprised the executive, with power to convene or dissolve the Assembly and to initiate legislation, but the Assembly could approve or reject the legislation proposed. While the Assembly was relatively weak, the fact remained that neither the Governor, the Council nor the Assembly could impose its will on the others.

One of Penn’s first actions after arriving at Chester on Oc­tober 29, 1682 was to organize the counties of Philadelphia, Chester and Bucks and then issue a call for the freemen from each of them, together with those of the three existing counties (in what is now Delaware), to meet at Chester on December 4 to consider the proposed governmental structure.

About half of the freemen responded to this call. After mak­ing some minor additions and modifications, on December 7 the assembled citizens adopted as a constitution, known as the Great Law, the structure that Penn had drawn up. They also set March 12, 1683 as the date and Philadelphia as the place where the new government would first convene.

Although only three months passed before that meeting, they were enough to reveal some flaws in Penn’s plan. Basical­ly, the organization was too cumbersome, and objections were raised concerning the lack of balance in the relative strength assigned to the Governor and Council on the one hand and the Assembly on the other. After sometimes heated discussion, an uneasy compromise was reached and a new constitution, the “Second Frame of Government,” was accepted on April 2. Further changes would bring a succession of “frames of government” until finally, in 1701, Penn would grant the “Charter of Liberties” which would remain Pennsylvania’s constitution until the American Revolution (see “William Penn’s Constitutional Legacy“). However, the solid foundations for what was one of the most representative and democratic governments then in existence had been laid with the Great Law.

 

Official Penn Statue Available

The history of the statue of William Penn which rests atop the clock tower of Philadelphia’s City Hall is long and in­volved. The idea for the sculpture first surfaced in 1872 when John McArthur’s architectural plans showed Penn in the place of honor. This feature of the plans created more interest among sculptors than any of the other 250 figurative works which were to adorn the building; the commission would even­tually go to Alexander Milne Calder, who was selected as the official “Plaster Modeler” for the entire City Hall project. When it was realized that the work of art could never be com­pleted by the Centennial Celebration to be held in Philadelphia in 1876, however, serious attention was not directed toward its completion until 1885. By that year, Calder has completed the bulk of the plaster models for the architectural and sculptural details for the remainder of City Hall. His attention was next turned toward the figures which were to grace the clock tower. For the next eight years Calder concentrated on these groupings; two and one-half years, alone, were spent in the creation of Penn.

From pen to plaster to clay and finally into bronze would emerge the largest commemorative statue in the world, stand­ing almost thirty-seven feet high and weighing twenty-seven tons. At the time, no foundry in the country could handle such a monumental task and a special foundry bad to be built to cast the sculpture in fourteen sections. Finally, in November 1894, twenty years after the first sketches were submitted, the completed statue of Penn would stand majestically atop Philadelphia’s City Hall.

For the first time in over ninety years, the City of Philadelphia has officially endorsed a reproduction of Calder’s masterpiece and declared it the official statue of William
Penn Heritage Week, as designated by Philadelphia’s Cen­tury IV Committee. The statuette, authentically reproduced down to the most minute detail, has been cast from Calder’s last working model. The five-inch gold plated, pewter and brass-plated editions are each hand cleaned and hand finished. (The gold and pewter of­ferings are limited editions and are numbered in sequence.)

To obtain further information and ordering details, contact The Wills Group, PKS Industries, Inc., 1700 Walnut St., Philadel­phia 19103, or call (215) 985-2800.

 

Early Industry at Cornwall

Cornwall Furnace, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, is a vestige of the Com­monwealth’s earliest efforts in industrial enterprise. Begun in 1742 by Peter Grubb, Cornwall is one of the few iron furnaces that has remained virtually intact since its shutdown in 1883. Under the direction of Grubb’s son, the furnace provided am­munition and cannon for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. By 1803 Cornwall had been acquired by yet another famous ironmaster, Robert Coleman, whose descendants owned it until 1931, at which time they donated it to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The nearby Cornwall Ore Banks, mined continuously until 1972, provided the iron ore for the furnace. These banks have the unique distinction of being the most productive in the eastern part of the nation.

The site features the original blast furnace stack, which was enlarged in 1856. Extensive remodeling done in that year in­cluded the replacement of the water wheel by the present cog wheel. A steam engine was also installed to drive the wheel and blowing tubs were furnished in place of the old-fashioned bellows to provide the blast. The enormous great wheel and ponderous stone stack are the most awesome aspects of Corn­wall Furnace. The walls and roof of the furnace complex also date from 1856, as can be seen from the Gothic pointed-arch windows, a distinctive and charming feature in an industrial building. The remodeling of 1856 provides the focus for the in­terpretation of the site, which focuses on life in the community during the mid-nineteenth century.

Near the furnace is the charcoal house. Originally used for storage of that fuel, it now houses offices and a museum. Also close by are two small buildings, once the wagon and blacksmith shops, which now hold a transportation exhibit displaying late nineteenth-century, horse-drawn vehicles typically used in central Pennsylvania. Included are a piano box buggy, a horse-breaking cart and a utility bob sled. The building of a charcoal pile and a collier’s hut are among future plans for interpretation at the site.

Pennsylvania Trail of History signs show the way to Corn­wall Furnace from Rt. 322 or from Rt. 72. The Furnace, located five miles south of Lebanon, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P .M., and Sunday, noon to 5:00 P.M. Admission is $1 for adults, $.70 for senior citizens; children under twelve are admitted free. Group rates are also available.

 

Roots and Branches

“Roots and Branches” is an extraordinary traveling exhibi­tion of historical memorabilia which traces the evolution of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh from 1847 to the present. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the show, which consists of 300 photographs, documents, artifacts and ritual objects, is jointly sponsored by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Jewish Committee and the Institute for Research in History.

The exhibition centers around five free-standing units composed of horizontal panels with three-sided Kiosks at each end and is organized into five major sections. “Families and Faces” traces the thread of Jewish immigration from the mid­-nineteenth century through the great migration to recent im­migrants from the Soviet Union. “Neighborhoods” maps out the settlement patterns of Pittsburgh’s Jewish population, and “Religious Life” traces the development of the synagogues in the city from 1856 when Rodef Shalom, the city’s oldest con­gregation, was organized. The fourth section, entitled “Tzedakah – Meeting Human Needs,” presents a visual history of the organizations and institutions of the Jewish community, and the final section, “Making Pittsburgh Someplace Special,” demonstrates the participation of Jewish people in the economic, civic, cultural and sports history of the city. The text for the show is enriched by excerpts from tape recorded oral histories broadcast at six audio stations.

In its first month on display, “Roots and Branches” fascinated and informed more than 10,000 visitors at the Pitts­burgh Plan for Art. Since then it has traveled to Rodef Shalom Temple and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. People of every racial, religious and ethnic background have responded to the story of the Jewish immigration experience, for all Americans share many of the same memories, and this multi-media exhibit clearly shows how ethnic heritage connects generations of Americans to their roots.

For further information about “Roots and Branches” or to schedule exhibition dates for the show, contact Corinne Krause, Project Director, through The American Jewish Com­mittee, 128 North Craig St., Pittsburgh 15213.

 

State Folklife Program Underway

Pennsylvania joined the ranks of approximately thirty other states which sponsor statewide folklife programs on July 1, 1982 when the Office of State Folklife Programs was created under the sponsorship of the Governor’s Heritage Affairs Commission. The mandate of this public sector folklife pro­gram is to present and preserve the heritage of Pennsylvania folklife through research, publications, exhibitions, public presentations and training programs.

Contrary to popular conception, folklore and folklife are not the static relics of ways of life outdated in our modern times. Folklife is represented in the ongoing activities which give symbolic expression to any community’s values and iden­tity. Tradition, an essential and characteristic feature of folklife, must not be viewed as customs frozen in time. Tradi­tions evolve and are shaped by individuals and communities who turn to their past to guide them in the present and into the future.

The essential purpose of the Office of State Folklife Pro­grams is to encourage a greater public awareness and apprecia­tion for the richness and diversity of traditional culture in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and serve as a catalyst and as a resource for individuals, organizations and communities who may seek to present and/or preserve their cultural traditions. The basic goals of the Office include the following:

  • to encourage the development of new folklife programs and support those already in existence,
  • to serve as a central clearinghouse of information and facilitate communication among the many constituencies concerned with folklife,
  • to encourage the collection and presentation of communi­ty folk traditions, both rural and urban,
  • to develop awareness of parts of the state and specific groups which are not well known to the general public,
  • and to create programming which links the generations from young to old, and the many ethnic groups which enrich the heritage of the Commonwealth.

A sample of some of the projects which have already been initiated include the following: a Directory of Pennsylvania Folklorists, a Pennsylvania Folk life Speakers Bureau and Con­sultants Bureau, a resource bibliography and a directory of courses on Pennsylvania folklife, and a guide to collections and archives of Pennsylvania folklife. A Student Internship Program has been created and plans exist for the establishment of a permanent Pennsylvania Folklife Archive in Harrisburg. Information concerning ongoing activities and new developments in many areas of Pennsylvania folklife is found in the bi-monthly publication, Pennsylvania Folklife News. Readers are invited to send in information about local projects and events which relate to Pennsylvania folklife.

To receive Pennsylvania Folklife News or further informa­tion about the Office, please contact Shalom Staub, Director of State Folklife Programs, Governor’s Heritage Affairs Ad­visory Commission, 309 Forum Building, Harrisburg 17120, or call (717) 783-8625.

 

Coal Heritage Center Opens

From the turn of the century to the early thirties, men and mules struggled daily to dig and haul coal through miles of dark and dripping tunnels to the surface of the earth. Working by the flickering, smoking light of tin “Sunshine” lamps with ears attuned to the cracking of roof supports, early miners bailed water from their working places, set props, laid track and shot down the coal with hand-rolled explosives. these by­gone days of the coal industry are now preserved in a major new exhibit called “Spraggers and Sunshine Lamps” at the Coal Heritage Center in Johnstown.

Visitors to the Center, which is housed in the second-floor gallery of the Johnstown Flood Museum, enter a simulated mine tunnel framed by panels depicting the old-time coal miners’ daily underground tasks. Inside the tunnel, hand­made tools of another era are mounted with historic photos showing their uses. A visitor-operated silent movie, edited from a 1926 original, captures miners at their work, including several small boys and, in the days before Social Security, a miner with one arm. Reinforcing the movie images, tools shown in the film are within easy access of the viewer and iden­tified with artifact labels. Informational panels further explain how miners of the past prepared their “rooms,” undercut and blasted down coal, loaded it into mine cars, and persuaded their four-footed companions to drag it outside.

Rare photographs also show how Pennsylvania coal was pulled into the tipple, weighed, cleaned, sized and loaded into railroad cars for shipment to markets as far away as New England and Canada. A seventy-five-year-old wooden mine car stands on steel rails, and frames a label describing railroad routes and coal sales districts of the area.

“Coal’s Many Uses” depicts the early consumption of coal in home heating and as fuel for foundries and factories, as well as its transformation into coke. Diagrams point out the dif­ference between beehive and by-product cokemaking, and photographs show coke-workers “pulling” coke from ovens with wooden-handled forks.

“From Candles to Cap Lamps” covers the history of underground lighting, from the first “Sticking Tommy” candlesticks to the electric battery-operated cap lamps of the thirties. Conversion from oil-burning to carbide lamps is also documented in photographs and labeled artifacts. Rare ex­amples of a mule-driver’s lamp, one-of-a-kind lamps, and one of the first patented carbide lamps are also displayed.

Considerable space is devoted to the social history of mining towns. Room-sized reconstructions of a company-owned store and miner’s kitchen of the 1930s vividly recall the days when miners bathed in tin washtubs and coal town families bought all their daily supplies on credit. Candid snapshots, schoolbooks, a coal town band uniform, and tape-recorded in­terviews with retired miners’ wives further convey the impres­sion of company town life.

Mine safety is also chronicled through the presentation of photographs, examples of gas-testing lamps of various manufacture, and mine foremen’s ledgers. A panel tracing the history of the United Mine Workers in the area presents a series of related documents and original photographs. An overview of the geology of western Pennsylvania’s coal seams, combined with a 4’x6′ map of an underground mine, adds to the visitor’s understanding of the mining industry of the past. A unique example of a compressed-air “punching machine” helps trace the stages of mechanical mining from the 1890s to the present.

The exhibit, funded by the Pennsylvania Humanities Coun­cil, the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company and the Central Pennsylvania Coal Producers’ Association, comprises only the initial stage of development for the Coal Heritage Center. An oral history project and lecture series are also underway, and additions are being sought for an already existing collection of photographs and archives relating to the heritage of the area’s mining industry. A group of retired miners is also being developed to serve as tour guides at the Center.

The Johnstown Flood Museum, located at 304 Washington Street, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., and Sunday from 12:30 to 4:30 P.M.

 

Pinchot Plates Now in WPMM

Artifacts often return to Pennsylvania from far away places by interesting routes. Indeed, the official plates and automobile flags of Pennsylvania Governors Pinchot, Fisher and James have recently reappeared by way of the Harlacher family of Holiday, Florida. The artifacts were retained by Vic­tor Harlacher, a thirty-year state employee and official chauf­feur during these gubernatorial administrations.

While not so very long ago in time, the pre-World War II era is far removed in terms of the pomp and circumstance sur­rounding the office of the governor. In those days, the Com­monwealth’s chief executive’s limousine sported a 31″ x 22″ automobile flag during official occasions. This flag bore the Arms of the Commonwealth surrounded by a ribbon lettered “The Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” in gold script. Flying from the other fender was a U.S. flag of cor­responding size. The governor’s license plates were marked with either the state seal or the numeral “1” along with “Governor” in black letters.

This type of perishable artifact is necessarily rare, and accordingly the William Penn Memorial Museum staff was both surprised and delighted to find a letter from Mrs. Edna Harlacher offering not only a set of the automobile flags, but also the license plates for 1928, 1930, 1931 and 1939. When these were received from Florida, another automobile flag was found to be included. This flag proved to be the headquarters color for the Pennsylvania National Guard, and pro­vides a previously unsuspected type of specimen which now joins the Commonwealth’s superb collection of military col­ors. Also included was a small United States flag packaged in a reversible storage case for handy use at parades.

To document the collection, Mrs. Harlacher contributed photographs of the governor’s limousine and a signed photograph of Governor Pinchot, as well as many photos of Victor Harlacher.

 

In Every Nook and Cranny

The raison d’etre for any museum is its collections-objects to study; objects to commemorate events, techniques and per­sonalities; objects to arrange in meaningful patterns as educa­tional, artistic and entertaining exhibits. In most cases, however, the public sees only a small fraction of a museum’s holdings at any one time. Behind the public displays and ex­hibitions are frequently concealed more objects than could be imagined by the visitor. Such is certainly the case with the col­lections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania held by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and housed at the William Penn Memorial Museum (WPMM) in Har­risburg. While most of the artifacts in the state museum, whether being exhibited or not, are cataloged (described on in­dividual cards under a number written on the object), there was no single list and count of collections until recently, for the collection process began long before the introduction of modern museum practices of record keeping. In order to modernize the system and gain greater control, however, the last year has been spent inventorying all objects.

Although a museum inventory can never be complete­ – objects continue to be donated, are returned from loan, etc.­ – with the assistance of several dedicated volunteers, more than 135,000 objects at the WPMM have been listed and their loca­tions (from regular storage cabinets to hidden cubbyholes) recorded. Natural Science’s count of 45,573 items was the highest of any single department. The most memorable single entry was for 1,170 seed pearls, which gives some idea of the patience this task required. Archeology declined to count in­dividual pot sherds and Indian beads, listing them instead by the boxful. Earth Science must wait to complete its count, now over 28,000 pieces, until additional storage facilities are available. The point has been raised that it might be more ap­propriate to inventory these collections by weight than by number. In this way it would be easier to calculate where to place several hundred pounds of boxed rocks so as to distribute the weight in a way which would not result in the collapse of the building.

Mini balls, G.A.R. medals and political campaign buttons dominated the count of the Military and Political History Sec­tion. Science, Industry and Technology, the count for which stayed under 10,000 items, would not reveal how many of these were gruesome medical implements. Decorative Arts, which discovered bow many different places a number can be written on a piece of furniture, is still deliberating over whether a pair of shoes is one object or two, resulting in a debatable figure of around 26,500 objects in the William Penn alone. Since many of those collections are on loan to other Commission sites and museums, however, it might be a long time before that section can consider its inventory complete.

While most of those participating in the project would agree with the curator who summed it up by saying “I can’t say I had much fun,” they can also now confirm the wide and wonderful range of the museum collections which record Pennsylvania’s material heritage.