Daniel Rolph

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The American Frontier has made a considerable contribution to our Nation’s history and literature, from Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” to the quasi-historical novels of James Fennimore Cooper, Walter Edmonds, and Conrad Richter. The frontier experience also aided in creating the American character: one of rugged-individualism and self-reliance.


Out of over 500,000 graphic images, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania is rich in various holiday illustrations, lithographs, watercolors, and photographs. A sampling of which is presented here in this holiday edition of History Hits.

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For centuries, soldiers serving in various battles have believed and stated to their comrades-in-arms that they were about to die, or would within the near future. Hundreds of such accounts exist for the Civil War era of United States history.  For the most part, such statements are common to men in battle, but enough well-documented and detailed narratives exist to convince any skeptic that such beliefs are not always figments of imagination or products of irrational fears.


While the end of October usually brings to mind images of ghosts, goblins, and trick-or-treaters, it’s fitting to remember that it also brought about the conclusion of a momentous event over 200 years ago. From September 5 through October 26, 1774, the First Continental Congress was held here in Philadelphia.


Prior to the Revolutionary War, thousands of indentured servants and convicts were transported (often against their own will) by Great Britain to either mainland America or to the British colonies in the West Indies. Though the majority of those who survived the voyage, disease, and physical abuse by their masters eventually became responsible citizens, a significant number failed to be reformed of their past criminal behavior. Perhaps surprisingly, many of these repeat offenders were women.


During the last State of the Union address, President Obama stated, “the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” Climate change may be a fact, but the debate has centered upon what has caused it to occur: the machinations of man and carbon emissions, or natural processes.


The late biologist and prolific writer, Ivan T. Sanderson (whose papers are housed at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia), was a truly eclectic Renaissance man. Sanderson coined the term “OOPARTS” (Out-of-Place-Artifacts) for the various anomalous objects – human , animal, artificial – which  have been found throughout the Earth’s strata or in geological formations where they should not be located, according to conventional scientific theory.


Various newspapers published within Philadelphia and elsewhere carried the account of one of the most famous battles of World War I, which transpired on August 23, 1914, in Belgium's Hainaut Province. The Battle of Mons was the first battle fought by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) against fellow Europeans since 1855. Modern weaponry - from machine guns to howitzers - were utilized, as well as traditional infantry, but also the use of centuries old cavalry-based forces, involving thousands of horses in comat.

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“The Great War” is generally regarded to have begun with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914.  However, the United States remained neutral for almost three years, entering the conflict on April 6, 1917.  By April 1918, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, at its current location on 13th & Locust Streets in Philadelphia, began to host events once a week within its “Hall of the Society.” These social gatherings were intended to provide entertainment for the “soldiers, sailors and marines, stationed in the city and district camp


The famous surrender during the American Civil War of the Army of Northern Virginia as commanded by General Robert E. Lee, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9th, 1865, to the forces of General Ulysses S. Grant, Army of the Potomac, are well-known and have been highly publicized for many years. Yet most are unaware of Pennsylvania’s connection to the event.

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