Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

March Marker Mania 2020

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Soon there will be some new markers out there for you to brake for!

Earlier this month, PHMC approved twenty-four new historical markers for an amazing range of subjects that highlight even more interesting Pennsylvania facts and figures.

Proactive Marker Program

Many of this year’s round of Pennsylvania Historical Markers are associated with PA SHPO’s proactive marker program.

Last year, PHMC started an initiative of accessibility and inclusion to encourage nominations in underrepresented counties and for underrepresented subject areas. 

Nominations for approved subjects in the following counties may receive financial support from PHMC: Armstrong, Cameron, Carbon, Clarion, Clinton, Columbia, Elk, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Jefferson, Juniata, Mifflin, Montour, Potter, Sullivan, Susquehanna, and Wyoming Counties. 

In addition, support may be available for subjects related to Archaeology, Women’s history, Latino history, and Asian-American history, as well as African American and LGBTQ history in counties other than Philadelphia.

Here is a sampling of the historical markers supported by the PA SHPO through the proactive marker program.

Gloria Casarez (Philadelphia)

A Latinx champion for civil rights and LGBTQ activism, Casarez served as Philadelphia’s first director of Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) affairs. Her efforts established Philadelphia as the leader of LBGTQ rights protections in the nation. Her contributions span HIV/AIDS initiatives and transgender health programs and affordable housing. She will be the first PHMC marker for a Hispanic American.

Casarez was nominated for a historical marker by John Anderies, Archives Director for the John J. Wilcox Archives at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia.

Fighter’s Heaven (Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County)

A training camp established by Muhammad Ali in 1972 in rural Schuylkill County.  Here, he trained for some the biggest fights of his career, notably Rumble in the Jungle and Thrilla in Manila.  Future heavyweight champions Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon, and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad began their careers sparring here with Ali.  He hosted many celebrities at Fighter’s Heaven, e.g. Andy Warhol, Diana Ross, and Tom Jones.  He gave his famous interview with Dick Cavett at the camp. He enjoyed peacefulness and fresh air at the retreat.

Ali at Fighter’s Heaven talking to a crowd of visitors in the 1970s.

Fighter’s Heaven is also a 2019 PA SHPO Community Initiative Award winner. PA SHPO-er Emma Diehl prepared this marker nomination.

Frances Dorrance (Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County)

One of Pennsylvania’s most influential archaeologists, Dorrance laid a foundation for the modern understanding of the archaeological heritage of the Commonwealth.  She founded the Society for PA Archaeologists. In the 1920s, she initiated what would become the PA Archaeological Site Survey which currently contains records for over 25,700 sites.

Frances Dorrance at her desk in Hoyt Library in Kingston, PA. Image courtesy of the Pennsylvania Archaeologist 1955 Vol 25. No. 1.

This nomination was prepared by the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology. You can read more about Dorrance here and about the PASS program here.

Parker’s Landing Petroglyphs (Parker, Clarion County)

Native American engravings on rocks in the Allegheny River Watershed, which are only visible during the summer dry months.  Archaeological investigations have confirmed that the creators of these engravings were prehistoric inhabitants of the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau.  This is one of the most significant petroglyph sites in Pennsylvania.

One of the Parker’s Landing Petroglyphs. Photo from CRGIS record.

The marker nomination was prepared by Ken Burkett, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Historical Society and member of SPA. You can read more about these petroglyphs in this CRGIS record.

Sylvania Electric Products (Emporium, Cameron County)

Company formed in 1924 to make radio tubes for the new vacuum tube radio receiver industry. Radio tubes were essential for field communications, radars, submarine detectors, weather balloons, etc. during WWII. 

1947 advertisement for Sylvania Electric. Image from https://www.oscilloscopemuseum.com/oscilloscope-sylvania-132-s2500.html.

Sylvania also got a contract to produce proximity fuses strong enough to withstand being fired from a cannon, eventually supplying 400 million to the war effort.  Women made up the majority of the workforce as their smaller hands allowed them to perform the detailed work required.  Sylvania received the Army/Navy Award for Excellence in the production of war materials.

The marker nomination was prepared by the Cameron County Historical Society. You can read more about the company’s history here.

In addition to the proactive markers, other accepted markers cover a range of topics.

Historical Markers related to African American History

A number of the approved markers also relate to African American history. They are:

  • Berwyn School Fight, Berwyn, Chester County
  • Black Student Walkouts, Philadelphia
  • Charles “Chuck” Cooper (1926-1984), Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
  • Escape of Ona Judge, Philadelphia
  • Nile Swim Club, Yeadon, Delaware County

Historical Markers and Women’s History

Two of the approved historical markers this year reflect women’s history:

  • Pauline Hanauer Rosenberg (1863-1940), Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
  • Plastic Club, Philadelphia 

Historical Markers related to Arts, Sports, and Entertainment

These markers subject reflect some of Pennsylvania’s personalities and places associated with arts and entertainment:

  • George A. Romero (1940-2017), Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
  • Holbert Racing, Warrington Twp., Bucks County
  • Palestra, Philadelphia
  • William Lightfoot Price (1861-1916), Rose Valley, Delaware County

Other Approved Historical Markers

These markers are associated with a range of subjects such as healthcare, 18th century trade, religious freedom, the Civilian Conservation Corps, archaeology, the Liberty Bell an important LGBTQ publication. They are:

  • Elwyn Institute, Media, Delaware County
  • George Croghan (1718-1782), Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County
  • Hysong v. Gallitzin School District, Gallitzin, Cambria County
  • Laurel Hill State Park, Somerset, Somerset County
  • Lemoyne Archaeological Site, Lemoyne, Cumberland County
  • Liberty Bell, Allentown, Lehigh County
  • Philadelphia Gay News, Philadelphia
  • Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, Westmoreland County

For a full list of approved markers with a brief description of each, please see this press release.

PHMC’s Historical Marker Program

The Marker Program encourages broad distribution, so individuals and organizations from all 67 counties are encouraged to research their history and develop nominations for people, places, events, and innovations in their own area. 

Approval Criteria require that marker subjects must have statewide and/or national rather than local or regional historical significance as well as having substantial association with Pennsylvania

For additional information on the PHMC Historical Marker Program, please visit pahistoricalmarkers.com.

You may also be interested in a recently established blog by a marker enthusiast called Marker Quest at pamarkers.blogspot.com.  Laura Klotz visits markers around the Commonwealth every two weeks and provides interesting anecdotes as well as additional research related to the marker subjects.

Author: Karen Galle

Karen Galle is the Historical Marker Program Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). On staff at the PHMC since 1995, she was born and currently resides in Cumberland County.

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