Over the past few weeks, we’ve begun processing a large collection of photographs donated to the Historical Society by the Review Archive (http://www.reviewarchives.org/).  The Review was a newspaper based in Roxborough, but it seems to have covered many events in Conshohocken and the surrounding area. One of the more curious pictures we’ve found is this one:


The back provides us little information:


“Girls” is no doubt the caption for the photo.  The “4 x 4 1/2” could be the size of photo in the paper.  “CO/PW” might stand for “Conshohocken/Plymouth-Whitemarsh.”  But that leaves us none the wiser as to who these boys are or what they’re doing.  Is it a celebration?  A fund-raiser?  Did they lose a bet?  Do any of you remember an event like this?

We hope to bring you some more photographs from The Review in the coming months.

A letter from the White House


Stationary from the Executive Mansion (it was still about a decade away from being called the “White Hosue”).

I just never what I’m going find when I open a folder at the Historical Society.  Yesterday, I was still working my way through personal correspondence files, when I saw a letter on stationary that read, “Executive Mansion, Washington.”  A quick examination showed the signature of Caroline Scott Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison.


Caroline Scott Harrison was very interested in history and preservation.  Her husband was inaugurated in 1889, the centennial of Washington’s inauguration, which heightened interest in the early history of the county.  In 1890, Mrs. Harrison was one of the founders of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and served at the first President General.

Reflecting her interest in the American Revolution, the letter concerns the purchase of Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge.  The letter was donated to the Historical Society in 1930 by Ellis R. Roberts.  He had apparently offered to contribute funds for the purchase, but in the letter the First Lady explains that the Sons of America had already purchased part of the land.

Caroline Scott Harrison’s official First Lady portrait.

The letter written in October, 1891, and soon after it was written, Mrs. Harrison became ill with tuberculosis.  She eventually passed away from the disease in October, 1892.  Valley Forge became Pennsylvania’s first state park in 1893, and in 1976 that state of Pennsylvania gave it to the National Parks Service.

Pa Museums Statewide Conference


Your intrepid blogger and archivist with General Hartranft’s equestrian statue.



If you visited the Historical Society on Monday or Tuesday this week, we might have seemed a little short staffed.  Susan and I were on a road trip to Harrisburg for PA Museum’s annual conference.  We attended some great talks about educational programming, applying for grants, and how to work beer into our events!  We also got to the see State Museum and the John Harris – Simon Cameron Mansion.

I’m sure you’ll be seeing the results of some of the sessions we attended soon.  In the meantime, join us on Sunday at 2:30 for our program on Mary Todd Lincoln.  It will be at our headquarters at 1654 DeKalb St. in Norristown.


Our curator, Susan, with Gen. Hartranft.


Maple Grove School House

Yesterday, we received this wonderful photograph from Historical Society members Mr. and Mrs. Ross Gordon Gerhart III.



The Gerharts provided the identification from Anna Madeline Cupid-Schneider Cooper, late of Ambler, and a former student at the school  The school was built in then Gwynedd Township (today Lower Gwynedd) in 1877 and closed around 1925.  There’s very little in our collection on Maple Grove School.  Our main secondary source on Gwynedd (Historical Collections Relating to Gwynedd by Charles Jenkins) covers only much earlier schools in the area.  According to Eastern Montgomery County Revisited by Andrew Mark Herman the building is still standing.

So we’re looking to our readers!  Do you know anything about Maple Grove School House?  Do you recognize anyone in the children?  Please share this post with as many people you can!


The Uniform of a Firefighter

Montgomery Hose Company parade hat, mid-19th century

Montgomery Hose Company parade hat, mid-19th century

At first glance, the hats pictured in this post do not conjure up thoughts of firefighting. But sure enough, they represent an important and interesting part of the history of firefighting in our nation and, in particular, our local area.

Humane parade hat, mid-19th century

Humane Fire Company parade hat, mid-19th century

These are called parade hats, but being worn in a parade was not their original purpose.  The start of these hats dates back to 1788, when a fireman’s convention held in Philadelphia recommended that firemen wear a uniform to identify themselves in a crowd.  From this decree, different fire companies in the area adopted different distinguishing marks.  Some wore company-specific hats, and others tied company badges around their own hats.  For many years this was all that was used to identify members of the fire companies, until later in the 19th century when capes and coats became standard.

Norristown Hose Company parade hat, mid-19th century

Norristown Hose Company parade hat, mid-19th century

In the mid-19th century, designs became more decorative, and their purpose shifted. This was a time when fire companies marched in parades celebrating special occasions or dedications. A firefighter could use his parade hat as a personal banner, representing things that were important to him, like political or religious views. Many hats also have the owner’s initials on the top, and some information about the fire company, like its name and founding date.

Founding date on back of Humane parade hat

Founding date on back of Humane Fire Company parade hat

Initials on top of Montgomery Hose Company parade hat

Initials on top of Montgomery Hose Company parade hat

Patriotic themes were extremely popular, as well as classical imagery (think Lady Liberty). Two of the examples pictured are decorated with eagles, our nation’s symbol, and an image frequently seen on these parade hats. Other popular symbols are national leaders like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

Humane parade hat, mid-19th century showing an eagle

Humane Fire Company parade hat, mid-19th century, showing an eagle