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


Penn’s Pen: A Government of Freedom

On Sunday we honored William Penn’s early hopes for a land of freedom.  Now we want to highlight the personal freedoms he made into law, just before sailing to his new colony in 1682:

“Persons living in this Province… shall in no ways be molested or prejudiced for their Religious Perswasion or Practice.” (Penn, Laws Agreed Upon in England, 1682)

With a law such as the separation of church and state, Penn allowed all citizens to find God in their own way, attracting many groups seeking religious tolerance.

In the late 1600’s individual freedoms were very seldom seen. Today we take privileges such as religious freedom, acceptance of diversity, and many legal practices in our government for granted. Could you believe many of these had their beginnings as the radical ideas of William Penn?  In 1681 a Charter was given by King Charles II and granted this ambitious young Quaker a large tract of land we know as Pennsylvania. During his years in England he experienced the wrath of religious persecution and unstable political rule. As Proprietor of this new land, he was able to set forth new laws and establish a government unlike any other of its time.

Another ground-breaking act was addressing individual rights. By establishing laws in accordance with the wills of the colony’s citizens and promising a representative government, Penn allowed for a more ethical form of authority. Other advances included lessening the harsh criminal punishments of English law, holding elections by secret ballots, ensuring an open court with a right to trial, allowing all people to testify on their own behalf, and enforcing the honesty of trial witnesses under penalty of perjury. 

Excerpt image from the Charter of Pennsylvania, 1681. The image in the upper left corner is of King Charles II .

Though William Penn had no direct relation to the American Revolution, his individual beliefs and practices have impacted the manner of the birth of this nation.  Give thanks on this Independence Day for the hard-won freedoms of those who came before!

By Raymond Tarasiewicz, Intern

Edited by Hannah Howard

Freedom in William Penn’s time excluded the enslaved Africans being shipped to the Americas.  Come next Sunday, July 8th to experience our Living History Theatre and learn about Jack and Parthenia, two slaves who worked at Pennsbury Manor.

Penn’s Pen: Caretaker of a New World

In honor of our upcoming Independence Day, we thought it fitting to share some of William Penn’s thoughts.  In the letter excerpt below, Penn had just received the charter from King Charles II and was now contemplating the immense burden just placed on his 37-year-old shoulders:

“My Friends:

            “I wish you all happiness, here, and hereafter. These are to let you know that it hath pleased God, in his providence, to cast you within my lot and care. It is a business that, although I never undertook before, yet God hath given me an understanding of my duty, and an honest mind to do it uprightly. I hope you will not be troubled at your change and the King’s choice for you are now fixed at the mercy of no governor that comes to make his fortune great; you shall be governed by laws of your own making and live a free, and if you will, a sober and industrious life. I shall not usurp the right of any, or oppress his person. God has furnished me with a better resolution and has given me his grace to keep it…” 

A map of the Americas by Dutch Engraver Johannes de Ram, c. 1685. Notice how anything past the coastal regions of North America are completelyunmapped –  they had yet to even understand how the vast promise of their new world

In 1681, William Penn was granted a charter to a piece of land in America “nearly the size of England”. Willing and ready to place into action his “holy experiment”, William Penn had a vision for Pennsylvania, a vision that would far exceed even the most liberal man’s expectations. Pennsylvania, so named by King Charles II in honor of Penn’s father, Sir Admiral Penn, the colony’s government’s design truly helped to form the basis of the Constitution we have come to know and abide by today.   The most prominent of ideas that passed on into the freedoms we cherish today are the ability to choose your own faith, freedom of speech, and above all life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Although our Founding Fathers never had the privilege of knowing William Penn himself, having been separated through a hundred years of history, I think it is safe to say that William Penn would have been proud to see how Pennsylvania and the states that were to follow came to form the country we know today.

 “It is a clear and just thing, and my God that has given it me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation. I shall have a tender care to the government that it be well laid at first.” (Wm. Penn to Robert Turner, March 1681)

By Mary Barbagallo, Intern

Edited by Hannah Howard

We will be open on Independence Day, Wednesday, July 4, 2012. Come and celebrate 236 years of Freedom with a tour of Pennsbury Manor!


Further Reading:

Penn by Elizabeth Janet Gray, 1986, Graphics Standards, West Chester, Pa

Penn’s Pen: Even William Has a Romantic Side!

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we want to offer some touching words of love from William to his first and second wives. 

William and his first wife Gulielma show every sign of having a loving relationship, a true partnership.  Before sailing off to his new colony in August 1682, Penn wrote a letter to his wife and children.  In the 17th century, a sea voyage was a dangerous and sometimes deadly adventure.  So this letter would have offered comforting words of love and advice should he not return…

My dear Wife and Children.

    My love, that sea nor land, nor death itself can extinguish or lessen toward you, most endearly visits you with eternal embraces, and will abide with you for ever: and may the god of my life watch over you, and bless you good in this world and for ever.  Some things are upon my spirit to leave with you, in your respective capacities; as I am to one a husband and to the rest a father, if I should never see you more in this world.

    My dear Wife, remember thou wast the love of my youth, and much the joy of my life the most belov’d as well as most worthy of all my earthly Comforts.  And the reason of that love was more thy inward, than thy outward excellencies (wch yet were many)……

    And now my dear Children, that are the gifts and mercies of the god of your tender father, hear my counsel, and lay it up in your hearts.  Love it more than treasure, and follow it, and you shall be bless’d here and happy in the hearafter……

Two years after his beloved Gulielma passed away, Penn began courting another young woman named Hannah Callowhill.  To see excerpts from their correspondence, visit this link posted to our official website: 

Have a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator & Project Assistant

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

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

Penn’s Pen: Poetry…From Prison

England’s persecution of the Quakers meant that William Penn spent a good deal of time in prison.  He wrote a lot of pamphlets defending his beliefs, but also expressed his fervor in poetry.  While in Newgate Prison in 1671, Penn wrote and sent this poem to Gulielma Springett.  Despite the wording of this poem, Quakers were subjected to serious financial penalties, not the physical torture of the rack!

Your Goals and Prisons we defie,

By bonds we’l keep our Libertie.

Nor shall your Racks, or Torments make

Us, e’re our Meetings to forsake.


Nor all your Cruelties afright

Our Hearts, that own & love the Light.

No, death can never make us bend,

Nor make our Conscience condescend.


For that Seed’s risen, wch will bow,

And lay your lofty Mountains low,

Your Hills shall fly away before

The Majesty that we adore.


And Heaven will display it self

Before your Eyes to our Releif,

And you that persecute shall know

A deadly Arrow from his Bow.


And vengeance, for a Recompense

He’l render you, in our Defence,

And overturn for evermore

False Prophet, dragon & the Whore.


By Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator