Out of the Mouth of Babes

I thought I would share two related anecdotes from our recent annual Sheep Shearing Day at Pennsbury Manor. As you know, we are heavily dependent upon the efforts of all our volunteers, especially during these “Big Days.” Lately it seems our ranks have been replenished with some “fresh fish” — young volunteers from home school families. One such volunteer, 8 year-old Georgie McBride, clearly likes dressing up in period clothing, and worked with her Mother Trisha in the Kitchen Garden demonstrating wattle-fence making. Taking a break Georgie stopped by to chat with me as I guarded the door to the Workers’ Cottage. If you were at the event you know I’m not lying: the place was teeming with kids Georgie’s age. Upon occasion she would look about to see what they were doing. In one instance a student let out a scream from behind The House. Georgie reeled around to see what all the commotion was about. When her gaze came back to me she said in an exasperated tone, “Why is it that kids my age like that thing over there – oh, I can’t remember its name! You know– that horsey-getter-upper-onnie-and-offy-thing? Ha!” We both laughed and I said, “Georgie, it’s called a mounting block but from this day forward it will now be known as…”

Earlier that morning I’d been guiding in The House. I always like to point out the three table-top vessels for coffee, tea, and chocolate in the Withdrawing Room. Now imagine the number of kids and chaperones in these groups as we try to herd them though the first floor. By that particular room the groups tend to get crammed into a small space! After I described their significance a boy about 8 to 9 years-old exuberantly replied: “Wow! It’s like I can even smell the coffee.” I burst out laughing and said in return, “Son you’re likely smelling my breath! I drank a lot of coffee before coming on duty this morning.” Oh, it gets better!

I handed that boy’s group over to another guide and went to the front door to pick up a new group. Much to my pleasant surprise there was a much needed lull in the action and I had no group to ferry about! Instead what happened was that our own Diane Reed, standing on the front steps landing turned to me and offered a basket of spearmint candy! Timing’s everything, and too funny, right? As the late Art Linkletter used to say: “Kids say the darndest things.”

~ Written by Jim Cawley, Custodial Guide


Ahoy Matey!

 With the release of yet another Pirate movie, I thought I’d share some of our own William Penn’s experience with the swashbuckling menaces!  In April of 1700, Penn wrote to the Board of Trade explaining some of his troubles: 

Painting of Captain Kidd as imagined by the artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, ca. 1920


There came lately to my Notice this Information, That when Captain Kidd was off our Capes, there went on board him Geo: Thomson, Peter Lewis, Henry Stretcher, William Orr, & Diggory Tenny from the town of Lewis in Sussex (now Delaware) the three first staid on board 24 hours, the two last but an hour, but both Companies brought Goods on Shoar, I hear to the Value of 300l, which they concealed and Sold as they could dispose of them, Some are yet in their Custody: Thomson Lewis and Orr were under suspicion of being old Pirates…here are 5 of them in this Government, but 3 of them have followed a Life of Husbandry, turning Planter, the other have Trades.


Penn goes on to say that the men in question, claiming that they did not know they were dealing with the infamous Captain Kidd, were in jail and cooperating withPenn.  The General Assembly had, in Penn’s absence, repealed some of the laws regarding commerce with Pirates, and the men, who “Our present Law will hardly reach,” were allowed to live inPennsylvania.  Penn writes…


…It is true they are poor and married men, & have Children, but such men must not be endured to live near the Sea-Coasts nor trade, least they become Receptacles and Broakers for Younger Pirates. … Since many of those reputed Pirates had some Years agoe been permitted to live in this & other Provinces, on Condition, that they left them not without leave, and behaved well while they Staid.  I wait the Kings Orders about them.  I have them all under good Bonds of Real and Personal Estate to be accountable and so Suffer them to live with their families, on their Plantations, till I receive further Directions about them.

~ Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

Meet the Interns!

It’s that time of year again…. the school buses are rolling in, the sun is shining (finally!!), and college exams are finished… what does that mean??  You guessed it – the Summer Interns have arrived!!


I’d like to introduce you to the 7 young, friendly faces you’ll be seeing around the site this summer.  While sometimes you’ll see them giving tours, doing laundry, weeding the garden, or prepping program supplies, they will also each be spending some quality time on a special project they’ve been assigned.  Be sure and say hello when you see them… leave the playing ticks to our mischievous gardener Mike!


Lloyd Frisone (University of the Arts Graduate student, supervised by Tabitha Dardes)

Lloyd will be working on various public relations projects, including updating our Facebook and Twitter feeds and assisting in the development of our new website.



Danielle Lehr (West Chester University undergraduate student, supervised by Mike Johnson)

When not working in the garden, Danielle will be researching and writing a new Garden Highlights Featurette for the Blog and assisting Ruth with her interpretive project


Ruth Lonvick (University of the Arts Graduate student, supervised by Mike Johnson)

Ruth will be researching & developing a way for us to provide browsing visitors with more information about the Kitchen Garden’s plants and their uses.   She will also get hands-on experience actually working in the garden throughout the season.


Joshua Martin (Kutztown University undergraduate student & former junior volunteer, supervised by Hannah Howard)

Josh has such great memories of his time as a junior volunteer, he decided to come back!  Josh will be researching and talking with our youth volunteers to form a new, meanigful, organized volunteer program for our Under-18 recruits!  He will also be helping with volunteer recruitment planning. 


Danielle Straub (University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg undergraduate student & former junior volunteer, supervised by Todd Galle)

Danielle will be researching and writing the Collections Highlights Featurette for the blog.  We hope to develop these featurettes comprehensive collections guidebook for volunteers to use as a reference throughout the House. 


Sarah Enke (Bucks County Community College, supervised by Diane Nadler)

Sarah started as a student employee this Spring, and we are very glad she can continue to help out during the summer season.  Sarah does a bit of everything, from giving tours to keeping our period clothing clean and freshly ironed. 


Jennifer Martin (Shippensburg University & 2010 Intern, supervised by Diane Nadler)

We are so glad Jenn is back to run our Summer Camp Program!  But since it’s already planned and she hates to sit around and do nothing, though, we suspect in her extra timeshe’ll have her hands in a variety of projects this summer.


A Ground-Breaking Program

Volunteer Sue Crook works on her sewing project

Our group of period clothing volunteers had such an AMAZING, productive sewing day this weekend.  I was inspired to commend everyone and point out the value of their hard work.

Pennsbury Manor's collection of ladies' chemises


Some volunteers may have noticed a few new things popping up in the clothing room, especially the men who have never had REAL authentic waistcoats to wear until recently!  But I bet no one really understands how much hard work is happening behind the scenes to make that happen and how important this work actually is.  So I thought I’d share an update on where we are in the wide world of historical interpretation… 

Over the last year, I have been researching circa 1700 clothing styles, construction, techniques, fabric, etc.  This quest has led me on a nation-wide search for other historic clothing programs and find out who else is using the same time period and clothing styles.  It’s not a time period much discussed at historic sites and museums, which means places to buy clothing or patterns is very slim.  It would be so helpful if we could work together in sharing resources, patterns, and tips right??  Well guess how many I found???

Olivia D'Alessio getting dressed for Holly Nights

That’s right.  I have not found a single historic site that interprets the turn of the 18th century AND has a clothing collection they use regularly.   


 That means Pennsbury Manor is THE ONLY PROGRAM IN THE COUNTRY that studies and makes clothing for this critical period in our nation’s development.  Am I the only one who thinks this is astonishing???

We always knew Pennsbury had a very special story to tell, but I never thought it was such a unique and important place within the diaspora of North American museums and historic sites.  A couple programs I’ve found have begun to consider moving beyond just a couple interpreter costumes used on special occasions, but are still in their early stages. 


Interpreters at Hampton Court Palace (image found on Flickr via google image search)


In fact, the only program I have discovered with regular-use, circa-1700 clothing seems to be at England’s Hampton Court Palace, where interpreters are outfited in the style of courtiers to interpret William & Mary’s Apartments.  These garments looks beautiful and were custom-made by a British historical costumer (http://www.thestaymaker.co.uk/index.php), but they seem to only include upper-class styles, certainly far too ornate for most American colonists. 

Interpreter at Hampton Court Palace (image found at http://www.annandave.org/Male%20guard.JPG)


I really hope I am proven wrong and find another program that focuses on this amazing period in America’s story.  But at this moment, Pennsbury remains an even more treasured corner of this country’s historic sites and will continue to break ground in its standards of interpretive excellence.  The clothing volunteers are hitting their stride and have some wonderful garments in the works – I look forward to sharing with everyone our progress and giving you the best possible tools for interpretation. 


Charlie Thomforde interprets cider-making for school children


Written by Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator