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Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation July Highlights















Historic Highlights from the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation
July 2020


On-line Lecture - House Blessing Stones hosted by Cornwall Iron Furnace

A YouTube video of this lecture can be found by clicking here.

“House Blessing Stones: A Pennsylvania Dutch Tradition of Establishment” – This presentation by Patrick Donmoyer and hosted by Cornwell Iron Furnace features a survey of architectural house blessings, in the forms of stone inscriptions and date plaques, with parallels found in written and printed blessings used in the home. A wide range of German-language blessing inscriptions ranging from the Lebanon to Lehigh valleys will be explained, each with an English-language equivalent, as well as their biblical and historical significance. The history of these inscriptions is traced through the building and stone-carving trades, as well as linked to the interrelated traditions of both officially sanctioned church rituals regarding the blessing of buildings, as well as folk applications of domestic ritual used in the home.

The Untold Story of Rudolph M. Hunter

Written by David Hursh click here to read the full article from the Summer 2017 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine featuring Rudolph Melville Hunter, holder of more than 140 patents for electric railway devices and systems. Although Hunter was born in New York City. He attended schools in England, France and Canada and then gained practical experience working as a draftsman and engineer in Cincinnati and Ironton, Ohio, and elsewhere in the Midwest. He resumed his formal education in 1876 at Philadelphia’s Polytechnic College of the State of Pennsylvania, where he studied mechanical engineering. Once in Philadelphia, he stayed. Living in a fanciful Victorian mansion – a “pretty residence of brick,” the Philadelphia Press unimaginatively put it in 1893, with “a pleasant portico and a conservatory at one side.” It was later dubbed “the Castle” by the owner’s grandchildren, for its battlements and soaring turret. But the most intriguing feature of the house lay behind the parapets, all but hidden from the street below. There, running the length of the long, flat roof was a working trolley line.

The Conestoga Wagon

Originated in Lancaster County's Conestoga River valley in the early eighteenth century to carry furs, farm produce, and freight to the Philadelphia market. The rugged wagon soon became synonymous with Pennsylvania transportation, and evolutions of it made the long trek across the Overland and other trails westward in the nineteenth century. The Conestoga wagon's heyday was from the 1820's into the 1850's, before the railroad crossed the Appalachians.

Did you know? Though the term "Conestoga wagon" is sometimes mistakenly used as a synonym for "covered wagon," the name in fact only refers to the specific type of heavy, broad-wheeled covered wagon first manufactured in the Conestoga River region of Pennsylvania's Lancaster County in the mid-18th century.

Invented in PA:

The creator of the Slinky, Richard James, did not set out to invent a toy. In 1943, four years after he earned a mechanical-engineering degree from Pennsylvania State University, James was working to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea. After accidentally knocking some samples off a shelf, he watched in amazement as they gracefully “walked” down instead of falling. For the next two years, James tested metals and proportions before hitting upon a workable model. He asked his wife, Betty to name it. She leafed through a dictionary and picked “slinky,” meaning graceful in movement.

James had a Philadelphia piston-ring firm make about 450 Slinkys, and a big break came in 1945 when Gimbels department store, a giant of the Market Street East retail corridor, agreed to try out the Slinky during the Christmas rush. On the evening of November 27, 1945, James showed shoppers how the Slinky could walk down an incline. His stock of 400, priced at $1 each, sold out in ninety minutes.

By 1960, though, the company was struggling with sagging sales and debt. Richard James shocked his family by announcing that he was going to Bolivia to join the evangelical Wycliffe Bible Translators. He left behind the business, his wife, and six children aged 2 to 18.

Betty James said her husband had donated so much money to the religious group that they were almost bankrupt. But in running the company alone, she forged a path for female CEOs.

Production of the Slinky moved to Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, in the mid-1960s. Betty James added Slinky Junior, plastic versions, and rainbow colors, and she agreed to Slinky Dog’s inclusion in the 1995 Toy Story movie, which brought new sales. In 1998, she sold the company to Poof Products of Plymouth, Michigan, and in 2014 that firm and two others merged to become Alex Brands, headquartered in Fairfield, New Jersey. Betty James died in Philadelphia in 2008 at the age of 90.


Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater for the Kaufmann family as a living structure – one so interposed with nature that the outside literally becomes part of the inside. Edgar Kaufmann, jr. once wrote: “In Fallingwater Wright captured the perfect essence of our desire to live with nature, to dwell in a forested place and be at home in the natural world.”

The Kaufmanns’ unique path as a family, led them to the community of Bear Run, Pennsylvania, and eventually the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, would lay the foundation for Fallingwater—one of the greatest architectural triumphs of the 20th century. Fallingwater is located rural southwestern Pennsylvania, 43 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The house was built partly over a waterfall on Bear Run in the Mill Run section of Stewart Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

In its dependence on the use of concrete, Fallingwater reflected the rustic simplicity of Roosevelt's New Deal housing projects, while its seamless integration with its natural surroundings stressed the importance of resource conservation. During the 1930s, many people became disillusioned with cities, which they perceived as the corrupt commercial and industrial centers that had bankrupted the nation and left millions impoverished. Feeling revulsion towards the polluted and overcrowded man-made environment, they turned towards nature for solace and inspiration.

Fallingwater's cantilevered balconies and layered stone walls echoed the natural outcroppings of the terrain, while the centerpiece of the house itself was the small, swiftly-moving Bear Run stream. Despite its touches of European and especially Asian influence, Fallingwater came to be regarded as quintessentially American, both in the States and throughout the world.

After Fallingwater, Wright and Kaufmann never created another building together. The house in the woods had changed them both; it revived Wright's career, and helped turn Kaufmann into a well-known patron of the arts. After his mother's death in 1952, and his father's in 1955, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. inherited Fallingwater, and took meticulous care of the property until 1963, when he turned it over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Sources: and explore pa history

Did You Know? Fallingwater was Wright’s name for the building, it was never used by the Kaufmanns.

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