Archival Adventures in Small Repositories
Pottsgrove Manor and the Kevin Bacon Game
Here's a "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" challenge: Construct a chain of association from Pottsgrove Manor, the home of Pottstown founder John Potts, to actor Kevin Bacon, with six links or fewer. Go!
"Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," for those who do not know, is a network theory game that posits any Hollywood personality can be linked to actor Kevin Bacon within six steps. While visiting many small historical societies for the Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories, my co-worker Michael and I love to play this game. We usually play a variation with historical celebrities instead of Kevin Bacon, however. "Six Degrees of Samuel W. Pennypacker" is really easy, and "Six Degress of Benjamin Franklin" works well also. It's fun to see connections between the various places we visit.
Recently we visited Pottsgrove Manor, built in 1752 for John Potts, ironmaster and founder of Pottstown. While surveying their archival materials, a name jumped out at me from a Potts family genealogy manuscript: Ruth Anna (Rutter) Lindley. The name was familiar from my very first job in an archives, when I worked at the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. Ruth Anna Rutter Lindley and her husband Jacob were somewhat well-known ministers in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and Ruth Anna wrote a religious memoir that was published. (You can read it online at the Internet Archive). I might have forgotten all about her, except last year I helped to process the Belfield Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. There, hidden away in the mountainous collection of Wister-Starr-Blain family papers, I was surprised and delighted to stumble across a pile of correspondence between Ruth Anna and her husband! For those who are keeping count, that means she has links to at least THREE places so far--she's a regular Kevin Bacon of Philadelphia-area historical societies!
So, back to our game. Here's what I came up with:
- POTTSGROVE MANOR, home of
- John Potts, founder of Pottstown, and father of
- Martha Potts, who married Thomas Rutter, and was the mother of
- Ruth Anna Rutter, who married Jacob Lindley, and joined
- The Religious Society of Friends, to which faith
- KEVIN BACON's ancestors also professed.
Ta da! Okay, maybe I cheated a bit with the Quaker short-cut, but you see my point: everyone is connected. We're uncovering many connections through the HCI-PSAR project, and you can mine our findings for even more links, associations, super-nodes, and "Kevin Bacon"s of the past!
About the Author
Visit Pottsgrove Manor's website at http://historicsites.montcopa.org/historicsites/cwp/view.asp?a=3&q=24487. Email PottsgroveManor@montcopa.org or call (610) 326-4014 for more information. To keep up with updates, "Like" them on Facebook.