Pennsylvania

IN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA, CARS CAN STILL FILL UP AT A FOUNT THAT NURTURED THE AUTOMOTIVE AGE IN ITS INFANCY

Reighard’s Gas and Oil, which stands at 3205 Sixth Avenue in Altoona, Pennsylvania, looks pretty much like a thousand—or twenty thousand—other service stations across the country. Read more >>

In a nation of inventors it has always been the single most invented thing. At this very moment hundreds of Americans are busy obeying Emerson’s famous dictum—even though the machine he exhorted them to build has existed in near-transcendental perfection for almost a century.

IT IS RALPH WALDO EMERSON whom we most commonly accuse of having coined the saying: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” But in his Journal , 1855, we find this entry on “ Read more >>

A canoe trip along a river not far from industrial America reveals that the footprints of human history have been all but covered over by what looks like a primeval paradise

We slid the canoe into the river just above Skinner’s Falls, which is not really a falls but a rift, the word locals use for rapids. Read more >>

Long-lost views of sunny, easy days at a wealthy lake resort foreshadow a terrible tragedy

Two weeks after completing a film, in 1989, on the Johnstown Flood, I received word from a woman in New London, New Hampshire, that she had some photographs I might like to see. Read more >>

The Colonial Revival was born in a time of late-nineteenth-century ferment, and from then on the style resurfaced every time Americans needed reassurance

What would you do if you owned a Rembrandt that had been painted over by Picasso? Read more >>

Ninety years ago a highborn zealot named Gifford Pinchot knew more about woodlands than any man in America. What he did about them changed the country we live in and helped define environmentalism.

Like most public officials, Gov. Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania could not answer all his mail personally. Much of it had to be left to aides, but not all of these realized the character of their boss. Read more >>

Fifty years ago the builders of the Pennsylvania Turnpike completed America’s first superhighway—and helped determine the shape of travel to come

Most American motorists take for granted the concrete and asphalt web of interstate highways that has penetrated so deeply into the nation’s economy and thinking. Read more >>

When Pierre S. du Pont bought the deteriorated Longwood Gardens in 1906, he thought that owning property was a sign of mental derangement. Still, he worked hard to create a stupendous fantasy garden, a place, he said, “where I can entertain my friends.”

As I walked down a side path at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on a bright, sunny day in June, two quite distinct sights converged just in front of me. Read more >>

The storm broke over their small town and changed their lives forever

Beside [our] little front porch … lay two dead Union soldiers. Read more >>

Wherever you travel in this country, you have a good chance of bringing a piece of the past home with you

I drove twenty thousand miles and got just one real bargain. That was up the Hudson River on a boisterous, wind-scrubbed October day fifteen years ago. Read more >>

Only one man would have had the wit, the audacity, and the self-confidence to make the case

At the end of 1775, when fighting had already begun between the Americans and the British, an essay about the character of rattlesnakes appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal signed by “An American Guesser.” The Guesser, obviously a patriot and a w Read more >>

A fond, canny, and surprising tour of the town where the Constitution was born

Two hundred years ago Philadelphia was the natural place for the constitution-makers. There was nothing unexpected about that. Philadelphia had one hundred years behind her that were as respectable as they were impressive. Read more >>

A recently discovered collection of glass-plate negatives offers a remarkable look at our grandparents

From Germany and Switzerland, farmer-potters transplanted their skills to Pennsylvania and produced a distinctive ceramic found nowhere else in America

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Gargantuan, gross, and cynical, the patrician boss Boies Penrose descended from aristocracy to dominate Pennsylvania Republican politics for thirty years

The history of politics is a history of words. “Boss” is as American as “Santa Claus,” both words being Dutch in origin. Read more >>
Ernest Hemingway and His World by Anthony Burgess Charles Scribner’s Sons, 144 pages, photographs, $10.95 Read more >>

Refugees from the French Revolution, many of them of noble birth, built a unique community in the backwoods of Pennsylvania—and hoped their queen would join them

On October 7, 1798, the streets of Philadelphia were ominously deserted. A yellow-fever epidemic was at its height. Anyone who could had fled the city, and few would enter it voluntarily. Read more >>

Horace Engle’s An amateur photographer surreptitiously captured the mood of unsuspecting neighbors—with affecting results

“I photograph for my own pleasure and culture.” Thus Horace Engle—agriculturist, mineralogist, electrical “experimenter”—summed up what was an avid hobby for most of his eighty-eight years. Engle took his most unusual photos when in his late twenties in 1888-89. Read more >>
William Maclay, elected by the Pennsylvania Legislature to the Senate of the United States, left his farm near Harrisburg early in March, 1789, and journeyed to New York to attend the first session of the First Congress. Read more >>

“De railroad bridges’s A sad song in de air…”

In 1801 James Finley, a justice of the peace in Pennsylvania, connected towers on both sides of a creek with cables, hung a platform between them, and thereby invented the modern suspension bridge. Read more >>

“I do not admit that a woman can draw like that,” said Degas when he saw one of her pictures

At eight o’clock on the evening of June 14, 1926, a very old woman—blind and suffering from advanced diabetes—died in her chateau on the edge of the tiny village of Mesnil-Theribus, some thirty miles northwest of Paris. Read more >>
In his own time there raged about Andrew Carnegie, as about any man who pushes his head above the crowd, many a controversy. Read more >>

When the anthracite miners downed tools in 1902, economic feudalism went on trial

How gullible Edwin L. Drake, an ailing ex-railroad conductor, brought about America’s first and gaudiest oil boom