Reflections on the Cradle of Liberty

I just discovered a great essay by the renowned historian Gary B. Nash entitled “Cradle of Liberty”  from an interesting online project The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  

Nash is often considered one of the best historical authors of his generation ( not to mention a personal favorite of mine whose work The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America was definitely used in my master’s thesis!).  Considering that legacy, I was really excited to see how much credit he gives our beloved William Penn and his role in creating Philadelphia’s cradle of liberty!

Check out his article and feel free to share your thoughts below!


Penn’s Pen: Dear Emperor of Canada…

In June of 1682, Penn was busily preparing to leave for Pennsylvania.  But already he was writing to the Native Americans and establishing his two main concerns:  peaceful title to land and establishing commerce through the Free Society of Traders.  The Emperor of Canada is probably an Iroquois chief.
You can find the original of this letter in our exhibit:


The Great God that made thee and me and all the World Incline our hearts to love peace and Justice that we may live friendly together as becomes the workmanship of the great God.  The King of England who is a Great Prince hath for divers Reasons Granted to me a large Country in America which however I am willing to Injoy upon friendly termes with thee.  And this I will say that the people who comes with me are a just plain and honest people that neither make war upon others nor fear war from others because they will be just.  I have sett up a Society of Traders in my Province to traffick with thee and thy people for your Commodities that you may be furnished with that which is good at reasonable rates  And that Society hath ordered their President to treat with thee about a future Trade and have joined with me to Send this Messenger to thee with certain Presents from us to testify our Willingness to have a fair Correspondence with thee:  And what this Agent shall do in our names we will agree unto.  I hope thou wilt kindly Receive him and Comply with his desires on our behalf both with Respect to Land and Trade.  The Great God be with thee.  Amen.”


Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

Waking up in the 17th century!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wake up and live like William Penn?  Spend a week eating and dressing like the Penn family, sleeping in the House at Pennsbury Manor? 

Well I can’t really help you there.  BUT apparently there are two hilarious, adventurous Britons who came very close to that dream!  I have recently discovered a very funny show called “The Supersizers,” hosted by restaurant critic Giles Coren and broadcaster Sue Perkins who spend a week dressing, eating, and living in different times throughout British History.  Not only is it absolutely hysterical to watch, but it offers a fascinating look at the food and lifestyle of the time!

One of the episodes looks at Restoration England, a slightly earlier time period (1660s) than what we interpret at Pennsbury (1683-1701).  But it’s still full of really fascinating insights (note the part where they discuss the rising popularity of vegetables!).  Enjoy!

*No copyright infringement intended, used purely for educational purposes*

History + Advertising = Amazing!

Just discovered this hilarious Coca-Cola commercial, courtesy of the popular blog Two Nerdy History Girls :


So adorable!!  I love when I see history portrayed well in the media.  The more history is brought to life for audiences, the more they’ll be interested in finding out the REAL story.  The whimsy and adventurous spirit in this commercial is exactly how I wish everyone felt when confronted with history!  What do you think?

Exploring the Artifacts: Colonial Mapmaking

Colonial Mapmaking

By Danielle Straub

This is, as stated on the artifact, “A MAPP OF YE IMPROVED PENSILVANIA IN AMERICA DIVIDED INTO COUNTIES TOWNSHIPS ANDLOTS. SURVEYED BY THO.HOLMES SOLD BY P.LEA. DEDICATED TO WILLIAM PENNBY INO HARRIS”. This print, shown above, is on display located in the porch of the House, above the fireplace. The map shows Philadelphia and the land along the Delaware River from New Castle to Pennsbury. It is an early 18th century map that is 26 ¼ by 20 ¾ inches in size. It is on white paper done in black printer’s ink and some watercolors.

Some features of the map include the crest of Pennsbury, decorations depicting a full net of fish and a harvest of food with farming tools in the top center, signifying prosperity and the abundance of resources. Key of the map include a scale of distance, compass, and in the top left and right corners there are boxes that say, “REFERS TO SETTLEMENTS OF SEVERAL INHABITANTS IN THE COUNTY OF CHESTER/ BUCKSANDPHILADELPHIA”. Terrain features shown on the map consists of rivers, islands in the Delaware River, trees which symbolize not only forests, but perhaps how dense the forests were by showing trees close to each other and some spread out, and clumps of buildings symbolizing settlements, such as on this map “Newcafle” and “Bridlington”. On the top center of the page is a close up of Philadelphia, which is quite significant in its layout. The Fire of 1666 in London destroyed most of the city. The main problem in London’s design was how close the building was to one another, thus the fire was able to spread more easily. William Penn saw this flaw and he designed Philadelphia to be organized in a grid pattern with plenty of open space between buildings. This map is not only an important resource to us in learning what the landscape looked like back then, but also how map making progressed through time.


Maps with color and decoration such as this one began to appear in the 17th century. Over time, maps got grander in their decoration, showing anything from Roman gods to mythical creatures to historical or biblical events unfolding on land or at sea. Along the boarders were sometimes family crests or university crests to show the power and prestige of the areas that the map showed. Close up boxes of important areas could also be found somewhere on the map. Small pictures of terrain features were also prevalent, showing forests, hills, mountains, wildlife, castles, settlements and bodies of water, to name a few. Map keys for distance measurements and other features were always on maps, just like they are today.

In comparison with old and modern maps, our maps shows at least one characteristic of both. Compared to old maps, our map does not have any references to biblical, historical, or mythological themes. It was done in color, though it has faded over time, and the crest of Pennsbury is featured on it, which is also shown in older maps. In comparison to modern maps, our map differs by having land plots with the owner’s name on it, beautiful symbolic decorations, differences in landscape, and is less accurate geographically. The most common feature that mostly every map has is a key for which anyone could figure out and find their way.