The Peales

‘The ingenious Captain Peale” sired a dynasty of painters and started America’s first great museum.

The aide-de-camp strode into the painting room and handed a message to General Washington, who was sitting for his portrait, a miniature for Mrs. Washington. “Ah,” he remarked alter a mere glance, “Burgoyne is defeated.” And then, supremely honoring his young friend the artist, that imperturbable man put aside the dispatch for later study and resumed the pose.Read more »

Franklin’s Last Home

As Anne Keigher, an architect deeply involved with the London house Benjamin Franklin called home for almost 16 years, shows me around it, she points out a supporting pillar in the basement. “This original pier needed new concrete footing poured beneath it, so we were digging down to shore it up,” she says. “That’s when we discovered the bones.”Read more »

“whoso Would Learn Wisdom, Let Him Enter Here!”

So read a welcoming sign over the door of Charles Willson Peale’s great ill-fated museum

In the summer of 1786, an advertisement heralding the appearance of a revolutionary new institution appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet: MR. PEALE , ever desirous to please and entertain the Public, will make a part of his House a Repository for Natural Curiosities—The Public he hopes will thereby be gratified in the sight of many of the Wonderful Works of Nature which are now closeted but seldom seen.Read more »

Unearthing The Mastodon

Peale’s Greatest Triumph

During the spring of 1801 Charles Willson Peale learned of a remarkable discovery—the huge bones of an “animal of uncommon magnitude” had been found in Orange and Ulster counties north of New York City. The great relics were scattered abundantly through the swamps where the local farmers dug white marl for fertilizer but they were rapidly being dispersed among clumsy, amateurish collectors. No one had yet assembled a complete skeleton. Read more »

Ursus Horribilis In Extremis

The Last Stand of King Grizzly

Bears and people have been at war for a long time-possibly longer than two predatory mammals should be, with any hope of mutual survival. In the beginning, the bears won almost every time, though not as often as the great cats did. Together with the great cats, bears provided spice to the human experience. People were obliged to defend themselves, were forced to think . Fires were lit at the mouth of the cave. Weapons were invented. Then the bears began to lose. People pictured them on the walls of caves.Read more »

Roofs Over Rivers

Time is taking its toll of the romantic covered bridge, where once you could exchange gossip, argue politics, or court your lady fair.

For a hundred and fifty years, the covered bridge has been an old American landmark. Today it is becoming increasingly difficult to find even one, but only fifty years ago the traveler encountered countless numbers of them—at cities, villages, and country crossings from Maine to Georgia and west to California.