What I love about Montgomery County


The Montgomery County Bar Association is holding a juried art contest and exhibition for Montgomery County’s creative seniors.  The theme is “What I love about Montgomery County,” and the contest is open to anyone over 55.  The exhibit will last one month and will open with an awards reception on May 7th.  The grand prize is $1000!  The drop off date is Wednesday, April 30th at the Montgomery County Community College Fine Arts Center.

For more information check out the website: CourtingArt.com


Everything you wanted to know about World War I but were afraid to ask

Edit Norristown draftees

One hundred years ago this summer, the First World War broke out in Europe.  The war was fought all around the world, and by the time it ended over 16 million people were dead.  It was the first modern war and saw the first widespread use of submarines, chemical weapons, and aircraft.  It changed the map of Europe, destroying four empires, creating nearly a dozen new countries and the first Communist state.  Yet, most Americans are unfamiliar with World War I.  Its battles are not household names and its causes are murky.

Zepplin002Edit Draftees at Zieglersvilleairplane 004

This April the Historical Society of Montgomery County is offering a four-part seminar on World War I to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the war. While the stalemate on the Western Front is perhaps the most well-known aspect of the war, this course will also examine the more dynamic Eastern Front, the famous Arab Revolt, and the war at sea.  It will also cover the home front and the Versailles Peace Conference.  So, if you ever wanted to know more about the “War to end all wars”this is your chance.  The course is $40 per person and begins on Tuesday, April 15th and continues for following three Tuesdays.  Please call the Historical Society if you have any questions or to sign up.

In case you didn’t get enough



This illustration of snowflakes comes from an 1859 Physical Geography textbook.  The book explains “Captain Scoresby has figured ninety-six different varieties, which he discovered during his Arctic voyages, and which he distributed into classes of lamellar, spicular, and pyramidal crystals.”

This particular geography book belonged to Jemima Kirk of Norristown.  It came to the Historical Society through local artist Lois Rapp, who donated many items to us over many years.  Jemima Kirk might have been an artist, too, if she drew this sketch found at the beginning of the book.



A less sophisticated drawing shows what might be a geography teacher:



The Historical Society of Montgomery County has a collection of over 100 nineteenth-century textbooks.  Besides telling us about how various subjects were taught generations ago, they also tell us a little about the students who used them, like Jemima.


Ben-Hur on stage


As soon as Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was published in 1880, the public clamored for a stage version.  Author, Lew Wallace refused for many years, because he thought it would be blasphemous for an actor to portray Christ on stage.  He was eventually convinced to allow a spotlight to shine on the stage to represent Christ, and in 1899 the first stage production appeared on Broadway.  The play’s producers, Marcus Klaw and A.L. Erlanger were part of the “Theatrical Syndicate” that controlled many of the theaters throughout the country.

The novel was adapted for the stage by William Young with music by Edgar Stillman Kelley.  The production was known for its amazing special effects including a shipwreck and, of course, a chariot race with real horses.  It also changed sets with remarkable speed for the time.  In the 19th century, set changes could take several minutes, but Ben-Hur could change from the galley of a Roman ship seen here:


to the survivors in the Mediterranean Sea shown here in just a few seconds.


The Historical Society’s record of the play comes from a souvenir book featuring music, text, and photographs from the Broadway production.  The book doesn’t indicate when or where it was purchased.  Do you know anything about a production in Montgomery County?  Please leave a comment.