Pleistocene Preserved: The Lost Bone Cave of Port Kennedy

On October 29, 1895, more than 90 members attended a meeting at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Following the routine business of the publication committee’s report and the announcement of one member’s death, Henry Chapman Mercer (1856–1930) rose to speak about the ongoing exploration of a geological feature known as Irwin’s Cave in Montgomery County. The Philadelphia Inquirer...
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Monster Bones: Charles Willson Peale and the Mysterious Nondescript Animal

On October 14, 1800, a New York City newspaper called Mercantile Advertiser published a rather lengthy news/opinion piece on some large and very curious bones that had been unearthed on a farm belonging to John Masten, located about 14 miles from the New York state village of Newburgh. The unidentified author observed that “these huge bones irresistibly force upon us by the power of associating...
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Letitia’s Grave Secret

The tombstone of Wil­liam Penn’s daughter bears the name Letitia Penn – not her mar­ried name, Letitia Aubrey. One historian, given to conjecture, wondered, “Had she wished it so, remembering her hus­band’s bitter quarrels with her father, and the many other unhappinesses her husband had brought her?” What this woman “wished” on her tombstone no one...
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Valley Forge: Commemorating the Centennial of a National Symbol

It is June 17, 1893. Ten men are meeting at the venerable Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Gov. Robert E. Pattison has recently signed a law entitled “An Act Provid­ing for the acquisition by the State of certain ground at Valley Forge for a public park, and making an appropriation therefor.” He has carefully selected these individuals and commissioned them with...
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Through a Looking Glass: Colonial and Colonial Revival Hope Lodge

An avenue of overarching trees leads from the road to the house which stands on a slight rise. A little to the west is St. Thomas’s Hill, thrice held by soldiers during the Revolutionary struggle. In front, to the north across the pike, the Wissahickon winds through peaceful meadows and beyond rises the long slope of wood-crowned Militia Hill – every rood of land full of historic...
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“Your Future Depends on Yourself”: Asa Packer as the Self-Made Man

Nineteenth-century literature abounds with stories of men who rose from humble circumstances to great wealth by virtue of their own diligence, perseverance, and courage. Several of the most famous such works, novels written by Horatio Alger Jr. (1832-1899), became best-sellers because the American public relished his stories about plucky boys achieving their goals against all odds. In his first...
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The Moon Men of Agriculture

On November 7, 1849, a brief notice appeared in the Germantown Telegraph notifying Philadelphia gentle­men that a club for farmers was about to be organized. Individuals interested in becoming members were informed where and when they could attend this organizational meeting. This single paragraph in a small, local newspaper seems hardly worthy of note, except that this group, the Farmers’...
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