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

This statue of George Washington at Prayer, sculpted by Donald De­Lue, is located in the Medal of Honor Grove on the campus of the Free­doms Foundation at Valley Forge. The bronze figure, which stands nine feel tall and overlooks the site where the Continental Army camped during the winter of 1777-78, was contributed to the Founda­tion by the Masons and Masonic bodies of Pennsylvania. The statue stands near the wooded area where Masonic legend states that John Potts is said to have observed Washington kneeling at prayer in the snow. Although there has been much debate about the factual accuracy of this legend, which first surfaced about the time of the nation’s cen­tennial, it has since grown to become one of the most cherished myths to arise out of the Revolutionary period.

The Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge is a non-profit, non­sectarian and non-political organization which was founded in 1949 to carry out national programs that promote traditional American values and offer a better understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in contemporary society.

 

Relics of Governor’s Troop Given to Museum

It was January 17, 1939 and the new governor of the Com­monwealth, Arthur H. James, had arrived with other honored guests ai the Inaugural Ball in his honor. At the entrance to the ball was an archway formed by the Governor’s Troop, two files of uniformed troopers with pennoned lances. The es­cort for the governor’s party was Capt. Clyde E. Fisher, the Troop’s commanding officer from 1932 to 1940.

While few today will remember the Governor’s Troop, it was a magnificent sight, officers on horseback in red coats with the troopers in blue wearing high leather boots and polished silver helmets. In addition to being designated as Troop I of Pennsylvania’s 104th National Guard Cavalry, it also formed the governor’s bodyguard for ceremonial occa­sions. When the troop was not reactivated as a cavalry unit af­ter World War II, the uniforms were dyed black and used by the State Police in their horsemanship exhibitions known as “musical rides.” Thus, few artifacts remain to mark an im­portant factor in the life of the capital for over fifty years.

Therefore, the William Penn Memorial Museum was pleased to receive word that the uniform and memorabilia of the same Captain Fisher not only existed, but were being of­fered as a gift to the museum by the Fisher family. The red coat and white breeches Captain Fisher wore to escort Governor and Mrs. James, together with a lance tip, two guidons of the Governor’s Troop (swallowtail silk flags) and a drill saber, were included in the artifacts presented.

Clyde E. Fisher enlisted in the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry in June 1916 and served with the unit at the Mexican border. He was later with the 108th Field Artillery, 28th Infantry Divi­sion, in France during World War I. After the “Great War,” he re-enlisted in the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, which was soon reorganized as the 104th Cavalry. Fisher accepted a commis­sion as 2nd Lieutenant in April 1922 and in 1929 was assigned to Troop I (the Governor’s Troop), becoming its commanding officer in 1932. Captain Fisher served in World War II as a lieutenant colonel, and was promoted to full colonel in the Pennsylvania National Guard after the war. Fisher, who was sheriff of Cumberland County, retired from the National Guard in 1963, at which time he was promoted to brigadier general.

Captain Fisher’s Governor’s Troop uniform joins the en­listed uniform of Sergeant Burkholder in the museum’s collec­tion as the only artifacts from the Governor’s Troop thought to exist.

 

Winter Tradition Continues

On Christmas night 1776, George Washington took his small and battered army back across the Delaware and defeat­ed the Hessians at Trenton. Three days later, he crossed again and eventually defeated the British al Princeton. Although the battles involved only small forces from both armies, the ef­fects were far reaching and reinforced Washington’s reputa­tion as a leader and general.

There are three paintings of Washington crossing the Dela­ware by nineteenth-century artists. One was painted by Thom­as Sully in 1819 and another by Thomas Bingham in 1871, but the one done by Emanuel Leutze in 1851 has captured the fancy of Americans and made the crossing one of great public interest.

Done as a joke as much as to duplicate Washington’s feat, St. John Terrell, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Washington, and three friends crossed the Delaware River at Washington Crossing Historic Park in a row boat in 1952. Since then, the reenactment has become an annual event. In 1965 an authentic reproduction of one of the famous Durham boats, the type of boat used in the original crossing, was first used and now four of these boats cross the Delaware each winter.

The reenactment has grown from a simple event to a very elaborate and involved ceremony. About 120 people cross each year and include area residents, some of whom have taken part for years, and reenactment groups from Pennsyl­vania and New Jersey. As many as 8,000 spectators have come out to see the crossing, which is never exactly the same from one year to the next. One year “Washington” crossed on the bridge due to ice, and another year “Indians” attempted to raid the boats. Being in the crossing has become a mailer of pride for many, and people often work for years as “dock boys” before getting their turn to cross.

The event is sponsored jointly by the Washington Crossing Park Commission, the Washington Crossing Foundation, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Bucks County Tourist Commission. The next reenactment is scheduled for December 25, 1983. For more information con­tact Daniel B Reibel, Administrator, Washington Crossing Park Commission, Washington Crossing 18977.

 

Historical Archaeology Exhibit to Open

Visitors to the William Penn Memorial Museum will soon be introduced to historical archaeology in Pennsylvania through an exhibit consisting of written documents, photo­graphs, architectural drawings and artifacts. These reflect the once-common lifeways of early Pennsylvanians, for historical archaeology, as a field of study, attempts to document the ways of life of past societies for which recorded histories exist. The beginning of the historic period, however, is not uniform for all societies. In America, for example, that period began with the arrival of the first Europeans, or the seven­teenth century in Pennsylvania.

The archaeologist, however, does not rely solely on written records for information. The opportunity to roll up shirt sleeves and get involved in field work often presents itself, es­pecially when a building or other historic site is discovered. This often requires the piecing together of scant structural evi­dence and everyday objects in order to facilitate the construc­tion of an historically accurate account. It is through this process that the greatest potential scientific contribution is provided – the understanding and accurate assessment of the lifestyles of the former occupants of these locations.

A three-part exhibit, “Historical Archaeology” will ex­amine Domestic, Military and Industrial Sites in an effort to touch on all facets of daily routines. Each exhibit section will cover sites of historical importance and utilize imaginatively designed displays to showcase various documents, photos, drawings and artifacts.

Domestic Sites features Pennsbury Manor, the home of William Penn. The building, in ruins by 1775, was restored as a result of careful archaeological investigations and research into documents which detailed its original appearance. The display includes ceramics, bottles, cooking gear and an inven­tory of kitchen goods from the estate dated 1687. On display, in addition to Pennsbury Manor items, is material relating to archaeological studies of one of Philadelphia’s oldest neigh­borhoods, North Market Street, and of French Azilum (Brad­ford County), established for French aristocrats fleeing the “threatening” atmosphere of the French Revolution.

Enlarged photographs will cover the entire back wall of the alcove gallery and provide the proper setting for the Military Sites section. Such sites have always helped researchers better understand the events surrounding social, political and eco­nomic change. Investigation of three locations – Camp Secu­rity (York County), Fort Loudon (Franklin County) and Val­ley Forge (Montgomery County) – provide a wealth of information on military life in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen­turies. The types of materials used, the objects of military in­terest, the camp design, the conditions under which soldiers lived and their possessions have all been reconstructed through methodical research.

The final segment, industrial Sites, represents a recent rise in the popularity and importance of the application of ar­chaeological techniques to the study of former work places. Industrial remains often provide the only complete testimony to modern man’s seemingly endless efforts to harness and make use of the earth’s resources. These siLes also suggest the effects technology has had on man’s lifestyles and values. The Eagle Iron Works (Centre County) was the site, in 1971, of research geared toward collecting information to aid in its restoration and toward interpreting the changing technology so characteristic of nineteenth-century iron production. These excavations produced direct evidence of experimentation with new technological developments. Another industrial site which was preserved as the result of historical archaeology is the Gruber Wagon Works. Although work on this site did not involve excavation, it did require careful recording, through drawings and photographs, of existing industrial complexes.

The exhibit, to open in 1984, will be housed in the second­-floor alcove of the museum, located on Third and North Streets in Harrisburg. For more information, write to the PHMC, Box 1026, Harrisburg 17120, or call (717) 783-2887.

 

American-German Bibliography Project Begun

In order to complete a definitive bibliography of German­-American printing, the Library Company of Philadelphia is hosting a project organized by the State and University Li­brary at Gottingen, West Germany. The Gottingen bibliogra­phy will replace Oswald Seidensticker’s The First Century of German Printing in America, 1728-1830, published in 1893, and follow the format used in the current Eighteenth-Century Short-title Catalogue (ESTC) project. When finished, The First Century of German Language Printing in the United States of North America will catalog every item printed in the German language in America before 1830.

The Library Company was chosen by Herr Werner Tann­hof of the Gottingen Library most probably because it holds the largest collection of Pennsylvania-German imprints in the United States. With funding by the Deutsche Forschungsge­meinschaft (German Research Association), an organization similar to the National Endowment for the Humanities, Herr Tannhof will also be visiting other major East Coast repositories of German-American imprints, including the American Antiquarian Society, the Library of Congress and smaller spe­cial libraries in the Pennsylvania-Dutch region.

The Gottingen project coincides with the anniversary of the founding of Germantown in 1683. Many of the German­American imprints in the holdings of the Library Company and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania are currently being featured in the joint “Germantown and the Germans” exhibit which opened in October and will run through January 31 [1984].

A rare book and research library, The Library Company of Philadelphia is open to the public free of charge, Monday through Friday, 9 A.M. to 4:45 P.M. For further informa­tion, call Jean Benoit at (215) 546-3181.

 

Preservation Fund Brochure Ready for Distribution

The Preservation Fund of Pennsylvania, Inc., a private, non-profit revolving fund for historic preservation, recently announced the release of its new brochure, thousands of which have already been mailed to historical societies and community preservation groups throughout the state. The brochures are intended to create an increased awareness of the Fund and encourage Pennsylvanians to become involved in the preservation effort.

Incorporated in 1982 with the support of Governor Thorn­burgh, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the General Assembly, the Fund acquires endangered his­toric, archaeological and maritime properties and sells them to buyers who are willing to properly restore and maintain the sites. This system of buying and selling stimulates substantial private investment while keeping operating costs to a mini­mum.

The Fund’s brochure provides general and background in­formation, details how the public can become involved and outlines the criteria used for selecting properties. Those inter­ested in the protection of Pennsylvania’s historically impor­tant architecture can receive a free brochure and additional in­formation by writing to the Preservation Fund of Pennsylva­nia – Brochure, 2470 Kissel Hill Road, Lancaster 17601, or by calling (717) 569-2243.

 

Blakeslee Cup Added to PHMC Political Collections

The silver presentation cup given to James Blakeslee by the Pennsylvania delegation to the 1912 Democratic national con­vention represents an important recent addition to the politi­cal collections of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Mr. Blakeslee and the Pennsylvania delegation were instrumental in securing Woodrow Wilson’s nomination for the presidency. The cup is a measure of their pride in this accomplishment. Four years later, another Pennsylvanian, Vance McCormick of Harrisburg, served as Wilson’s cam­paign chairman.

James I. Blakeslee’s first public position was as a lieutenant in Company E, 8th Regiment, National Guard of Pennsylva­nia during the Spanish-American War. When the war ended, Blakeslee developed the Lehighton Electric Light and Power Company, and contributed to many of the municipal im­provements in the Lehighton area. The Blakeslee family, prominent in the Lehigh Valley for several generations, also helped to organize the railroad which bore the name of the valley. Alonzo P. Blakeslee, James Blakeslee’s father, was a superintendent of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

From this community activity, James Blakeslee turned to politics, and in 1907 was elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly from Carbon County. He subsequently held a num­ber of appointive posts in Pennsylvania government and par­ticipated in the reorganization of the Democratic party under Vance McCormick in 1911. This reorganization gave Pennsyl­vania a strong and influential position at the national conven­tion the following year.

In recognition of James Blakeslee’s important political service and business accomplishments, President Wilson ap­pointed him as fourth assistant postmaster general. While the title seems strange to modern ears, the position involved Blakeslee in modernizing the rural postal delivery system, which he did by using motorized trucks, a new idea at the time. Blakeslee is also credited with establishing some 10,000 rural delivery routes, for which many war surplus trucks were put into service after the close of World War I. A newspaper article on Blakeslee’s retirement at the close of the Wilson ad­ministration claimed that rural mail had been extended to six and one-half million persons who were previously without adequate service.

These improvements mark Blakeslee as a “Progressive,” a term applied in the early part of the century to persons who wished to improve public life and services. However, the desire to retreat from public improvement projects and return to what was called “normalcy” characterized the administra­tions of Wilson’s immediate successors. There was no place for “Progressive” businessmen like Blakeslee in the new scheme of things and he left his post with the advent of the Harding administration. Blakeslee returned to his business in­terests in Lehighton in 1920, and remained there until his death six years later.

 

The Liberty Bell Shrine in Allentown

In September 1777, George Washington, commanding the army of a nation only one year old, was forced to withdraw his battle-weary and tattered troops from Philadelphia to Val­ley Forge. The Americans, facing a superior British force, were left no choice but to yield their capital to the enemy. With the city would go its resources, among which were the city’s church bells. In order to increase their supply of ammu­nition, the British would undoubtedly have melted down the bells for musket and cannon balls. The enemy would have taken particular pleasure in doing so with the Liberty Bell, for the impact of using the young nation’s most famous symbol of freedom for the manufacture of ammunition to be used against its own army would surely have been devastating.

To avoid that possibility, the nation’s Executive Council first made public an announcement stating that the most precious of the bells had been sunk in the Delaware River when, in fact, the decision had actually been made to insure their safekeeping by sending them to the village of Northamp­ton Town, known today as Allentown, some fifty miles to the north. The bells were transported on a train of 700 wagons carrying military supplies to Bethlehem; on one of the wagons, was a particularly well-camouflaged Liberty Bell. Once the train arrived in Bethlehem, the bells were transferred to Allentown, hidden under the floor of old Zion Reformed Church and kept there until the following June. Shortly there­after, the bells were restored to their rightful places.

To commemorate the trek of the Liberty Bell from Phila­delphia to Allentown, a shrine was constructed on the spot where it had been hidden over 200 years ago. Dedicated on May 30, 1962, the Liberty Bell Shrine houses a full-size, offi­cial Liberty Bell replica, which was presented by the Com­monwealth of Pennsylvania to Allentown in 1959. The shrine also houses a 46-foot oil painting depicting the important events which took place in this area of Pennsylvania during the Revolution. The mural, the work of artist Wilmer Behler of Bethlehem, is accompanied by a synchronized spotlight and tape narration that parallels the story illustrated on the canvas. Other displays feature paintings, colonial artifacts and relics that give visitors a sense of the past as well as an awareness of the struggle which insured their freedom.

The shrine is located in the Zion United Church of Christ, Hamilton Mall at Church Street, Allentown. There is no charge for admission. For more details, call (215) 435-4232.

 

State Police Film Now Housed in State Archives

A thirty-minute silent film produced nearly sixty years ago for the Pennsylvania State Police was recently donated to the State Archives by a Harrisburg veteran of the department. Pennsylvania State Police was created in 1926, one of several films produced for the Commonwealth in the late 1920s, to in­troduce the public to the department and to serve as an orien­tation film for new recruits. In addition to being a document of the activities of the first organization of its kind in the country, it is currently the oldest movie in the State Archives collection.

Motion pictures of this type are extremely rare because they were printed on nitrate-based film, which eventually self-de­structs. The images gradually deteriorate and the film pro­duces dangerous and oftentimes combustible gases. The State Police, recognizing the film’s value, provided a matching grant which facilitated its transfer from the original, volatile 35mm to 16mm safety-based film.

Pennsylvania Stale Police opens with a brief history of the department since its inception in 1905 and then focuses on the career of a young cadet. “Trooper Haley” is shown going through various examinations and rigorous training exercises, including learning to ride a horse, firing side-arms, boxing and perfecting other forms of self-defense. The footage con­tinues by reviewing typical episodes in which troopers were in­volved, such as finding a lost child and inspecting dilapidated buildings as fire hazards. The picture closes with coverage of an armed robbery of a bank in Abbottstown, near Gettys­burg, and the subsequent chase during which Trooper Haley is murdered.

Initially, PHMC archivists and historians thought that Trooper Haley was a composite character, developed solely for the film. After detailed research, however, it was discov­ered that the character was not fictional. A trooper named Francis L. Haley was, in fact, murdered by Philip A. Hart­man following a bank robbery in Abbottstown in 1925. Hart­man was executed later that year.

A collection of State Police memorabilia is currently being assembled at the William Penn Memorial Museum and numerous items, including pieces of uniforms (especially cork helmets), as well as photographs, weaponry and equipment, are being sought. Persons interested in donating any related items to the PHMC’s permanent collections should write to the Registrar, PHMC, Box 1026, Harrisburg 17120. In addi­tion, the Archives is interested in the acquisition of additional early films for its collections and may be contacted by phone at (717) 787-6471 or at the above address.

 

Museum Orientation Film Available on Request

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission re­cently designed a fourteen-minute orientation film for the William Penn Memorial Museum. A production of Ken­nedy/Lee Inc., York, it has been distributed to chambers of commerce, school groups, historical societies and was part of the 300th Birthday Mobile Museum exhibit which has traveled to each county in the Commonwealth.

What Is a Museum?, which has already been viewed by well over 20,000 people, describes the special departments and col­lections of the museum and those people responsible for their care. In addition to reminding the viewer about Pennsylva­nia’s history, it touches on art, geology, archaeology, natural science and technology, but, perhaps most important of all, it explains how to enjoy a museum. It gives an in-depth view into the concept, creation and physical labor involved in maintaining the William Penn. The film encourages the visi­tor to grow, to enjoy the facility and realize the inner work­ings of the museum and its staff. Even though the William Penn Memorial Museum may not be in your specific geo­graphic district, the film will help introduce visitors to the in­ner workings of any museum.

For more information about What Is a Museum?, call (717) 787-2723 or write the Bureau of Museums, PHMC, Box 1026, Harrisburg 17120.

 

Urban Archaeology in Pittsburgh

Last May engineers began excavating in Pittsburgh’s Mar­ket Square to make way for six new buildings to be erected by PPG. However, as Phase II of Pittsburgh’s “Renaissance” project commenced, it became apparent that the site would turn out to be of significant archaeological importance. Due largely to the efforts of a dedicated team of archaeologists from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Section of Man, many of the items unearthed for the first time revealed aspects of Pittsburgh’s earliest beginnings and subsequent growth as one of the nation’s most important industrial and commercial centers.

The project, which was done in cooperation with Market View, Inc. (a PPG subsidiary), provided a rare opportunity to use the future to look back into the past. One stratified foundation unit discovered was of such quality, character and datability (from 1750 to 1845) that it was hailed as an un­precedented historic archaeological find in the Upper Ohio Valley. The recovery of artifacts from the Market Square site, coupled with almost 200 years of Pittsburgh history, repre­sents the largest and most important research project under­taken in the area.

The archaeologists working the site recovered over 1,000 complete or nearly complete bottles, which will undoubtedly shed light on changes in manufacturing techniques and styles. The PPG wells and cisterns contained not only glass bottles, however, but an assortment of ceramic and metal objects, as well as the normally perishable remains of cloth and leather, artists’ brushes, cans of paint pigment, a small handgun, a harmonica and a watch. Even such delicate objects as egg­shells, seeds, fruit pits, animal bones and fish scales were sal­vaged. In all, 544 complete, unbroken items were returned to the museum.

The impact of the project has extended far beyond this ex­cavation site. The PPG publicity department has requested a small display of artifacts for the lobby area in its corporate headquarters; news of the find has also sparked a request from the Allegheny County Courthouse Gallery/Forum, which wishes to exhibit artifacts and information about the site. In addition, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is planning an exhibition based on these archaeological findings about the history of the Market Square area.

Most significantly perhaps, this project seems to have paved the way for a better relationship between contractors and archaeologists. The museum’s Section of Man recently re­ceived a request from a North Side engineering firm to send an estimate of costs for monitoring an upcoming project. Due to the groundswell of enthusiasm generated by the PPG proj­ect, the engineers are planning to budget funds for archae­ology into the construction bidding process. Evidently, thanks to the overwhelming success of the PPG project, more and more people are at last realizing what the archaeologists knew all along: all that’s gold does not glitter.

 

Heritage to be Redesigned With the Spring Issue

This issue of Pennsylvania Heritage is the last which will appear in this format. When subscribers receive their up­coming spring issues, they will be greeted by a redesigned magazine.

Due to increasing support from our readers, the PHMC has decided to expand the publication. Not only will the quarterly be lengthened to 48 pages, but the scope of coverage will be broadened even further to include a wider range of topics re­lating to the Commonwealth’s rich culture and historic legacy. This will be done, however, without sacrificing what readers have already come to expect – county histories, oral history and historic preservation features, National Register listings, Bookshelf, historical society notices, news from the Commission and other historical institutions, Heritage High­lights and more. Greater numbers of articles on archaeology, industry and technology, biographies, ethnic history, folk­lore, sites and properties, living history, fine and decorative arts, exhibits, manuscripts, and natural history and science will also find their way into print.

Inside, we will continue to publish quality material, but with a new look. The format will be larger and the layout will be revised to include color photography. The spring issue will reveal the next evolutionary step of the magazine, from the masthead to the quality of the paper.

By now, Heritage subscribers have already been contacted regarding many of these changes and the opportunity to intro­duce the magazine to new readers at a reduced rate. Beyond that offer, we outlined an exciting new PHMC program – the Friends (see Executive Director’s Message in the winter 1984 issue). By joining this newly formed organization, members will continue to receive Heritage, but also enjoy a yearly free pass to PHMC sites, dis­counts on publications and much more.

We are awaiting the release of the new Pennsylvania Heri­tage and look forward to the development of the Friends with eager anticipation; we look forward to your reactions and to your continued support. (The Editor)