The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recently approved 21 new historical markers. Approval Criteria require that marker subjects must have statewide and/or national rather than local or regional historical significance. After the jump is a quick look at this year’s approved markers.
The majority of approvals were from the City of Philadelphia (10). Philadelphia has more than 250 existing markers, nearly double that of Allegheny County’s 150, the second most marked county in Pennsylvania. This is not a surprise as Philadelphia has such a rich history and is such a large city. The Marker Program encourages broad distribution, but often receives nominations with local significance from more rural or less populated areas.
Some well-known subjects that received approval in Philadelphia County this year are: Elfreth’s Alley, a quaint vernacular neighborhood that is a popular tourist attraction and designated a National Historic Landmark; Commodore John Barry, heroic naval commander during the American Revolution, considered one of the Fathers of the American Navy; and Leopold Stokowski, legendary conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, featured in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia. Equally significant but lesser-known subjects in Philadelphia include Eddie Gottlieb, who was instrumental in the formation of the National Basketball Association. Gottlieb was mentioned on last year’s SPHAAs Basketball Team marker as he coached this dominant early team. Three Philadelphia churches will also be receiving markers: Muhammed’s Mosque of Islam #12, established in 1957, was the first Nation of Islam temple in Pennsylvania; Old St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, the earliest permanent Catholic parish in Pennsylvania (est. 1733) and “mother church” to many in the mid-Atlantic region; and Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church, one of the initial churches that formed the African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination in the early 1820s.
Two nominations for markers in Pittsburgh were approved. One will deal with the subject of radium production. The Standard Chemical Company was the first American company to produce this element, important in cancer treatment, commercially. It also provided a tour to Madame Curie, who discovered radium, and presented her with a small sample during her US visit. The other Pittsburgh marker will be for St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church. Although, sadly, the church has been demolished, the marker will recognize the location of the first Croatian Catholic church in the western hemisphere.
Here are a few other examples of markers approved in other counties across the Commonwealth. Bryden Horse Shoe Works in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, was one of the largest manufacturers of horse shoes in the world in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Enos Benner, a Pennsylvania German printer and publisher in Marlborough Township, Montgomery County, circulated an influential weekly newspaper in the mid-19th century that was widely read by German-speaking Americans. The entire collection spanning 30 years is preserved in its entirety.
The creator of the hugely popular children’s television program, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Fred McFeely Rogers will be honored with a marker in his hometown of Latrobe, Westmoreland County. The original site of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation will receive a marker in Brockway, Jefferson County. It was the first training center for Game Protectors and Wildlife Conservation Officers in the nation. The lifesaving “borehole technique” used to rescue miners in recent disasters at Quecreek Mine and San Hose mine in Chili was pioneered during the Sheppton Mine Disaster and Rescue in Schuylkill County in 1963. This disaster also led to changes in mine regulations and impacted Pennsylvania and US legislation.
PHMC works with the local sponsors of historical markers to arrange dedication ceremonies for all new markers. Be sure to check our website for a calendar of upcoming dedication events throughout the Commonwealth.