Confessions of a Costumier: Men’s Dressing Guide!

Our Ladies’ Dressing Guide post back in September has been the most viewed featurette on this blog -wow!!  I am really excited to finally be able to offer a follow-up for the guys… our clothing collection for the male interpreters is starting to grow, and I encourage our volunteers start using some of the new pieces this spring!  Keep in mind that people’s jobs and station in life would change how they dressed (see our post on Clothing Diversity), but this will give a good idea of a basic outfit.  

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Penn’s Pen: Getting Arrested, Quaker-Style

In November of 1667, William Penn, a freshly converted Quaker,  was arrested with 18 other Quakers in County Cork, Ireland.  Christopher Rye, the mayor of Cork, was well-known for his persecution of Quakers.  In a letter to The Earl of Orrery, one of the lords justice of Ireland,   Penn requests that Rye not be encouraged in his persecution. 

What is remarkable is that the 23-year old Quaker was already forming and articulating the beliefs that became such an important part of his Holy Experiment:

Religion which is at once my crime and my innocency makes me a prisoner to a mayors malice, but my own freeman, for being in the assembly of the people called Quakers there came several constables, backed with soldiers, rudely and arbitrarily requiring every man’s appearance before the mayor, and amongst many others violently haled me with them.  Upon my coming before him he charged me for being present at a riotous and tumultuary assembly…

Penn describes the scene and questions the applicability of the law upon which the Mayor made his arrests.  He then appeals to Lord Orrery:

But I presume my Lord the acquaintance you have had with other countries must needs have furnished you with this infallible observation that diversity of faith, and worships contribute not to the disturbance of any place where moral uniformity is barely requisite to preserve the peace… and conclude no way so effectual to improve advantage this country as to dispense with freedom in things relating to conscience.

An astonished Earl Orrery responded that he had already heard about the matter from Rye himself.  Orrery wrote, “I confess I was surprised and sorry to see you thus associated ” with Quakers.   Orrery forwarded the mayor’s letter to Penn’s father the Admiral(who had at least twice previously demanded that Penn return to England immediately), and cautions Penn that “you cannot expect that I will hinder the Magistrates from doing their duty.  I hope you will follow this friendly advice…”

Looks like young adults defying their parents is nothing new…!


Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

Our Newest Resident: Meet Romeo!

Pennsbury is pleased to welcome a new addition to our “Living Collections”: meet Romeo!

Romeo is a 26 year old white Arabian horse who moved in on Friday, January 6. He comes to us after a long and uncertain road.  He worked as a school horse teaching children to ride, which explains he calmness and sweet nature.  He spent some time at Special Equestrians in Warrington, then retired about a year ago.  


His next owner was, unfortunately, not responsible in their care for Romeo.  In October the staff at Special Equestrians learned that he was to be sent to slaughter.  One hero in particular, Kaitlin, rushed over and literally took him off the truck and loaded him into her own trailer for a return to Special Equestrians.  Kaitlin found that Romeo had lost 300-400 lbs. and that his ribs were showing.  Furthermore, he had rain rot (from not being sheltered properly) and an (thankfully easily treatable) fungal infection that was out of control.  Kaitlin nursed him back to health, and special equestrians offered use of a stall.  But they could only offer the stall until the beginning of January.  Romeo’s future was more uncertain than ever.


A Pennsbury volunteer who also spends time with Special Equestrians told us about Romeo.  With time running out, we went over to meet Romeo and found a delightful, calm, and people-oriented gentleman.  Some generous donors offered to help pay for his upkeep, Romeo’s health was cleared, volunteers worked overtime to ready his new stall, and everything came together for the big move.  At first, as Romeo walked off the truck, Maraaca (our current horse), took off in fear.  But she soon remembered her manners and the two horses were instant friends.  We’ve never seen such a smooth introduction!


Romeo was selected not only for his temperament, but for his looks as well.  Arabians are small horses, and our research indicates that many of the horses in early Pennsylvania were under-sized.  Romeo is also white and a gelding (castrated male).  Records show that William Penn had 2 white mares and a white gelding at Pennsbury Manor. 

It is a truly remarkable accomplishment that so many people came together to save a horse, keep Pennsbury’s popular animal program running, and ultimately help our visitors understand the strong link between early settlers and horses.   Please stop by this spring (we re-open in March) to meet Romeo and the other residents of Pennsbury’s stables!


Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator & Animal Lover

Exploring the Artifacts: Giles Penn’s Portrait

I love portraits of people.  I can’t help but wonder about the lives behind the faces.  When I was new at Pennsbury, I was told that the portrait in the Common Parlor was of Penn’s grandfather, Giles Penn.  I accepted that fact at face value (pun intended).  But over time I began to question how we know it is Giles Penn, and further, what did the man do to warrant having his portrait painted?

This portrait surfaced in England in 1936.  The owner obtained the painting from the Pennington Family.  There is a type-written tag on the back of the portrait that identifies the subject as Admiral Penn.  However, the man looks nothing like the other portraits of Admiral Penn.  Furthermore, the style of clothing in the portrait and the date of 1625 makes this too early for Admiral Penn who was probably born in 1621.  

A long tradition suggests that the painting depicts Giles Penn, father of Admiral Penn and grandfather to our own William Penn.    That makes more sense, except that Giles would be approximately 24 years old at the time of this painting, and the sitter looks older than that.  So maybe the portrait is of Giles, and maybe it isn’t.

So for fun, let’s pretend that it’s definitely Giles.  Sitting for a portrait was not a common experience, so clearly he was “somebody.”   

Sanish Men-of-War Engaging Barbary Corsairs, circa 1615

Giles was born in 1601.  He became a seaman involved in the highly lucrative and dangerous trade along the Barbary Coast in North Africa.   Attacks from pirates became increasingly bold as the 17th Century progressed.  By the 1620s, Barbary Pirates were not only attacking ships but raiding settlements along the European coast as far as Iceland.  Captives from these raids were sold as slaves in Africa, and tens of thousands Europeans were held.  (St. Vincent de Paul and Miguel de Cervantes were among the small number of captives who managed to achieve freedom).  Despite the risks, young William went to sea with his father starting at age 10-12. 

In 1636, Giles Penn was commissioned by King  Charles I to command an attack on Salé in modern day Morocco, where it was believed a thousand Englishmen were held.  The attack and blockade was very successful as 339 captives were released.  Giles was rewarded with the consulship of Salé where he arrived in 1637 with his 16 year-old son, William.   William did not stay in Morocco, however, as we all know.   In 1638 William became the captain of his own ship at age 17. 

Giles Penn died c. 1664, probably in Morocco.


Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

And you think your job is hard? Try colonial farming!

I’d like to share a fascinating video our site director, Doug, just emailed my way.  Here at Pennsbury Manor, we talk a lot about life on a late 17th-century farming estate.  We offer a wide variety of demonstrations and do plant and harvest an authentic kitchen garden every year, but don’t have the staff or visitation to offer a full-scale agricultural recreation.  Which is why I find this video series so fascinating!!  Click the link to watch the first episode of this 12-episode series where historians work on a real Welsh 17th-century farm for a year: 

Techniques may have evolved slightly by 1683 when William Penn settled at Pennsbury Manor, but not much if at all.  The work recreated on this circa 1620 farm is a great way to imagine how early Pennsylvania colonists were surviving!

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

Written by Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator

A New Year

I hope everyone has enjoyed a safe and happy holiday season!  I love the end of the year, it offers everyone a chance to reflect on the past 12 months and start the next year with a fresh perspective!   William Penn’s dream for his new colony was all about living a fulfilled and worthwhile life, and it’s never too late to make a difference.

We have featured some amazing articles this past year on so many different issues and people, and gathered a wonderful following for the blog!  I’d like to send out a big THANK-YOU to the staff and interns who have contributed articles this past year.  I think we have created a very special resource for our volunteers and anyone with an interest in 17th-century history!!

But this is not meant to be a one-way street – we invite your comments, questions, and discussion!  Also if there are any topics you find fascinating and would like to learn more about, please feel free to comment on this post and we’ll try to address it in the coming months!

I wish all Pennsbury’s wonderful volunteers a very happy New Year!

Written by Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator