Daniel Rolph

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January marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, one of the most important documents in American history. Popular history often portrays Abraham Lincoln as the "Great Emancipator,” as most recently seen in the Stephen Spielberg film Lincoln. As a film review in the City Journal states, actor Daniel Day-Lewis “gives us Lincoln as we wish to see him.” The notion that Lincoln was an abolitionist who always wished to free African Americans from bondage is “fictory” rather than “history.”


As is demonstrated with the popularity of the present movie The Hobbit and its literary and cinematic successor The Lord of the Rings series, as written by J.R.R. Tolkien, the western world is obsessed once again with dwarves and elves. Tolkien was a distinguished linguistic professor and specialist of Anglo-Saxon and Nordic literature. It is not surprising that the names borne by the dwarves in The Hobbit derive from Scandinavian mythology.


Early 19th-century newspapers and periodicals are filled with numerous accounts of the discovery of the fossilized bones of extinct mega-fauna, such as those of the mastodons and mammoths that once roamed the prairies and forests of prehistoric America. Dinosaurs in the United States are usually associated with the western states such as Utah, Montana, and Wyoming, where large fossilized deposits have been excavated. It may be surprising that one of the most significant discoveries in paleontology happened on the east coast in New Jersey.


Life often exhibits some inexplicable twists and turns not planned or expected. Perhaps none are so self-evident than the experiences of those who’ve served in the military. There are numerous accounts of individuals who survived horrendous battles while suffering through insurmountable odds, with death staring them in the face, only to have perished or died in peacetime in unexpected and often violent ways. Revolutionary War veterans are simply one example of such bizarre encounters with life and death as revealed by the following examples.

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For six weeks in the fall of 1777, the British fired upon Fort Mifflin along the Delaware River in an attempt to drive out American troops. This was one of the largest bombardments of the war and a pivotal moment in the American Revolution.

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On April 28, 1842, the Perry County (PA) Democrat remarked that “if the ghosts of starved-to-death animals were permitted to haunt the men who have so cruely [sic] used them, we have some men in our mind’s eye who would have little quiet sleep about these days.”


This Halloween the Historical Society of Pennsylvania brings you the story of a haunted mansion and its supernatural occupants. This tale begins in the early 1800s in a mansion in Montgomery County in the town of Cynwyd.


The discussion of African Americans who served in the armed forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War has become a source of controversy among historians. The records show that both free and enslaved African Americans served on behalf of the Southern states. The first "ex-slave pension movement" appears to have been suggested by a former captain in the Confederate Army, Alabama native Walter R. Vaughan. A former mayor of Council Bluffs, Iowa, he "argued that the federal government owed a debt to the former slaves."1

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September 17 marked the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Francis Hopkinson, a native of Philadelphia, had previously signed the Declaration of Independence and was very active in the debates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.


During the American Civil War, political ideologies differed on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. There were Northern Copperheads who supported the Confederacy and thousands of Southerners who fought for the Federal forces. African Americans also were often divided in their sympathies or loyalties during the Civil War. Many sources attest that African Americans, both enslaved and free, either by force or by choice, served within scattered Confederate units as armed soldiers.