Keep Your Wig On!

We just got out new “William Penn” wig today, and we’re wiggin’ out!!

Pennsbury Society board member Sue Crook is having a “Hairspray” moment – William Penn’s going to have to work hard to pull this look off better than her!

Many thanks to Colonial Williamsburg’s Wig Shop, who constructed this wig along with another on display here at Pennsbury Manor.  I know it’s not their typical time period, so we appreciate them taking on the challenge of late 17th-century styles! 

Curator Todd Galle models our first “William Penn” wig, put on display in the Manor House in November 2011. We are excited to premiere the “Penn Wig 2.0” at Holly Nights next week!

Our official “William Penn” was in desperate need of a properly style ‘do, so I know he’s excited to try this on for size.  The new wig will settle in nicely as it travels all over the community visiting classrooms, bouncing down parade routes, and welcoming visitors at Pennsbury Manor.

Come to next week’s Holly Nights and see William Penn vanquish the infamous pirate Captain Kidd in our traditional Mummer’s Play!  Visit Pennsbury’s website for event details and a coupon! 


By Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator and Costumier

A Posting on Possets!

Our fellow museum bloggers over at Winterthur just posted a great article on the popular Posset Pot, a commonly-shared drinking vessel which had its own unique beverage concoction.

A couple years ago, one of our interns posted a Collections Featurette on one of the posset pots in the Manor House, so I was excited to see more examples from the Winterthur collection, which is located just outside Wilmington, Delaware.  Some look very similar to ours, but there some feature amazingly detailed and ornate decoration on the sides and lid.  They also posted a recipe for the posset, which might be worth a try!  Visit their blog post at the link below to learn more about this fashionable 17th-century tradition:

Invitation to Share

This summer a young friend attended summer camp at Pennsbury Manor, and during the course of the week she formed some opinions about my job as the Museum Educator.  She told me that I have the coolest job in the world because I get to “take care of the animals, give tours, and drive the golf cart.”  Well, maybe my job isn’t quite as simple as that, but it is pretty cool! 

Without question, my favorite part of the job is talking with visitors.  I get to learn where they are from and what brought them to Pennsbury Manor, hear their questions and discussing answers – because history is rarely made of pure facts.  Most of all, I love that moment (especially transparent in children) when an idea catches hold and true learning takes place.

Every day, all sorts of people (including you!) visit our blog.  I often feel like I am missing out because I can’t have the same conversations with you as I do with the people who visit the physical site.  But lately we’ve been having some great discussions with our readers and volunteers.  We’d like to encourage everyone to feel they can participate, with questions, comments, and experiences of your own!

Below each blog article, there is a comment section for anybody to post their responses.  If you are shy (like me) and don’t wish to post a public response, please email us at  We’d love to know what your interests are, and what you would like to hear more about!  I’d like to know what questions you have about current or previous posts.  Finally, I’d like to hear about YOU.  Where are you from?  How did you come to love history?  What experience at a historic site or museum truly moved you?

Go ahead, make my day and shoot me an email or comment.  I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Mary Ellyn Kunz

Museum Educator

Exploring the Artifacts: Just a Matter of Time


Popular from 1600 to 1650, the Lantern Clock that is located in the Governor’s Parlor of the Manor House is just one example of many that were produced during that period of time. The design, English in origin, is characteristically known for its square, lantern shape, single hand face and ornate engravings. Lantern clocks were hung on the wall and were broader than the Gothic wall clocks that were previously popular.


Almost entirely constructed from brass and driven by weights, Lantern clocks were modern for their time and fulfilled all the important requirements of a clock, such as keeping a time standard, having a driving force, and having a counting and indicating system.

The lantern clocks would later be replaced by the Longcase Clock (seen right and below), which became popular in the 18th century.  This later design would show off a woodworker’s skills by encasing the mechanical functions with intricately-designed panels.   

  Continue reading

Exploring the Artifacts: Take Your Mattress and Stuff It!

Those of you that have walked the grounds of Pennsbury may have seen a building called The Worker’s Cottage.  This reconstructed outbuilding’s original purpose or even existence is unknown, but we use it to talk about the laboring class’s lifestyle in early colonial Pennsylvania.  Most people did not live as luxuriously as William Penn’s family.  Most homeowners, or people who worked as an apprentice or slave for a homeowner, lived in a 1-2 room house similar to this. 

Today we are exploring one of the biggest features in this cottage:  The Bed!  This is technically not an artifact, but a reproduction, an exact replica of a historic object.  Reproductions are used in many historic sites to fill the gaps in our artifact collections.  The originals may be hard to find or too delicate to handle with visitors, so reproductions are a nice substitute that interpreters and visitors can interact with!

Raised beds would have been a luxury for many families, reserved for the master and mistress of the house.  Children, servants, and slaves would have slept on mattresses on the floor.  Our bed is a reproduction that we use to interact with visitors.  But the old roping and mattress were looking extremely worn out from all the fun we’ve been having.  So it was time for a make-over! 

We started with the roped frame, creating an interlocking bottom similar to basket weaving.  The tool pictured here is called a Key, and is used to pull the ropes tight. Stretching the ropes as tight as possible, then tying them off would keep a firm foundation for the mattress.  Still, ropes stretch with use, and would need occasional tightening to ensure the occupants don’t fall through in the middle of the night!

Once the bed is tightly roped, it’s time to add a mattress.  Whenever possible, colonists would use feather down to stuff their bed.  But those without the money or means could always use straw.  A sturdy, tightly woven linen ticking (cotton would become more accessible and affordable later in the 18th century) made a great casing for the straw and prevented any irritating stalks from poking through.  Just like today’s pillows, they were sewn on three sides, flipped inside-out and stuffed fully, then sewn closed.  Over time the straw would break down, so the mattress could be reopened and emptied, then stuffed with new straw. 

  To see an example of how to stuff a 17th-century mattress, check out this clip of the BBC series Tales of the Green Valley, which documents a year in the life of a 17th-century farm: .  This is an amazing series which I wish was available to purchase in the US.  However, all the episodes are available on YouTube and I highly encourage you to watch – once I started, I couldn’t stop.

In addition to the mattress, well-stuffed pillows and bed covers are also important.  Many people preferred sleeping propped-up, which explains why some beds may seem short to modern eyes (there was not a big difference in height, contrary to popular myth).  Depending on the weather, you might have many layers of sheets and blankets piled on top.  We have one light blanket of a wonderfully scratchy blue wool, but others could certainly be added.

We are so pleased with the way our 17th-century bed turned out – please check out the finished product below!  Continue reading

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

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

2011 Student Projects

We would like to offer our sincerest thanks to the army of interns that have offered their time and talents to Pennsbury over the last 8 months.  Often volunteers don’t realize how much behind-the-scenes work happens at Pennsbury, and these 8 students have been invaluable in working on projects in all sorts of areas, in addition to giving tours and helping with special events!  Read on to hear about their adventures…


Maggie Lee – A rising senior at the University of Delaware, Maggie spent her winter break last January working on ideas for revamping our walking tour and adding seasonal interpretive information.  We look forward to using her research in our new comprehensive visitor brochure, coming this fall. 


Kelly Cole – Kelly spent her spring semester internship as a graduate student from the University of the Arts working with Diane Nadler and our new exhibit.  Using her museum education skills, she developed a series of teacher activities for schools to incorporate into their field trips.  These activities will be featured in a teacher resource section on our newly redesigned website this fall. 


Ruth Lonvick – Another student from the University of the Arts, Ruth decided to incorporate her thesis work on gardens and educational programs into her summer internship with Mike Johnson.  In addition to helping with summer planting and garden maintenance, she researched and developed a wonderful interpretive signage system for the Kitchen Garden which we plan to implement this fall. 


Danielle Lehr – Danielle, an undergraduate student at West Chester University, was also in the gardens helping Mike and Ruth with planting, weeding, and lots of mowing!  She also assisted with Ruth’s plant research and started a new blog featurette, “The Country Life,” which can be read at this link:


Lloyd Frisone – As our third graduate student from the University of the Arts, Lloyd wanted to use his museum communications training and assist Tabitha Dardes with Pennsbury’s public relations projects.  This included putting together a schedule of daily Facebook and Twitter posts with event updates, fun history facts, and a weekly promotional lottery.  He also developed a press kit for Pennsbury, worked on the 2011 brochure, developing some ideas for our new brochure design, and writing a press release for our exhibit award. 


Danielle Straub – Danni spent her summer off from the undergraduate program at the University of Pittsburgh learning about the secret world of Collections Care!  Her curatorial work with Todd Galle included writing acquisition recommendations, adding object photography to the files, developing exhibit scripting, and researching artifacts.  Some of her work on our maps was featured in the Volunteer Blog featurette “Exploring the Artifacts” – click the link to catch up on her work:


Joshua Martin – As Hannah Howard’s summer intern, Josh (an undergraduate student from Kutztown University) was asked to research and develop some ideas for revamping and growing the Youth Volunteering Program at Pennsbury.  In addition to helping with the summer camps and volunteer picnic, Josh learned about current program strengths and weaknesses, visited other sites to learn about innovative techniques, and compiled background research.  His final report and recommendations offer some exciting possibilities that we will work to implement next spring and summer with Josh’s continuing involvement. 

Jennifer Martin – Apparently we didn’t scare her away during her first summer at Pennsbury, because Shippensburg University student Jenn was back again this year!  In addition to several small projects around the Visitor Center, Jenn once again took charge of our Summer Camps and they were a smashing success, almost double the campers from 2010.  Along with a continuing word-of-mouth campaign from the happy parents, we hope to really promote our 2012 camps and give Jenn even MORE campers to wrangle!

Exploring the Artifacts: English Maps

Continuing our exploration of 17th-century maps (see my last featurette here), we look at yet another map in the Manor House:

Map of Buckinghamshire

 by Danielle Straub

In the Manor House’s Withdrawing Room, there is a map on the far wall across from the rope. This map is small and hard to see from across the room, but up close one can see vibrant colors and beautiful ornamentation. I wanted to point this map out because not only is it beautiful, but also because it is an interesting specimen of maps from the 1600’s.  Be sure and click on the images to open a larger view.

I mentioned in the last Featurette characteristics of older maps, if some may recall, which I will be using again in this article. Our map is of Buckinghamshire in England, from 1610. Since this map is 100 years older than our Pennsylvania map (also seen in the last Featurette, follow link above to view), we can see more decoration and the use of mythical creatures.

To begin, in the center of the map is the main map of Buckinghamshire. Noted on the map are man-made features such as towns, cites, and bridges. The towns and cites are marked by a symbol of small buildings with a red dot of watercolor over it. Our mapmaker seemed to use red and yellow watercolors more than the others! These colors are splashed across the crests, fleur de lis, and well-inked lions. Getting back to the central map, the natural features that we placed on the map include hills, mountains, trees, and rivers. The shape of the hills and mountains appear to be anywhere from a bump to a rounded peak, while rivers are a consistent bold line. The trees stand alone at places or are placed in clusters as well on the map.

At the top corners are inset boxes. The box on the left is of Buckinghamshire and on the right is Redding. These insets are like mini maps to important cities and include their own compass, distance scale, crest, and key. They show the roads, river, groups of buildings, fields, and is decorated with oversized farmers and their animals. The key is for the street names which each have a corresponding letter or number on the map. The inset of Redding also labels the South Giles Church and the school in Redding.

Lastly, in the bottom corners are arches. These arches have titles held up above them by two cupids. In the arch on the left is the King’s crest and below are crossed lances and flags with a crown. Across the lances is a banner which reads “UNION”. In the arch on the right are four crests with the title of “The Armes of thofe Honorable Families which have born ye Titles of Buckingha(m)”. The family crests include those of “Walter Gifford Earle, Richard Stanbowe E., Thomas of Wodftoke E., and Humfr. Stafforde Duke”. This map is beautiful and was a symbol of pride for these families to be from Buckinghamshire. If you ever get a chance to see it close up, please go view and enjoy it.



**A big THANK YOU to Danielle Straub for her work on these summer featurettes and helping our curator Todd with his work in Pennsbury’s archives!**

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.