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Pennsylvania Icons: Your top 5 treasures

November 3, 2015

Filed under Collections, Exhibit Opening, Exhibits, Pennsylvania Icons, Pennsylvania Treasures

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On Sunday, Nov. 8, The State Museum of Pennsylvania will open to the public Pennsylvania Icons, a landmark exhibit showcasing nearly 400 artifacts, many of which have not been displayed in decades, that tells the story of the commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation.

In the past, only a small percentage of the museum’s 5 million objects have been on display at any given time. However, thanks to a recent initiative known among staff as the “Get-the-Stuff-Out Campaign,” more of the artifacts are now on exhibit. Pennsylvania Icons comes as the result of this effort.

Over the past several weeks, Pennsylvania Treasures has highlighted artifacts that will be featured in Pennsylvania Icons. Here’s a rundown of the five treasures that have proven the most popular with our social media audience:

Hershey’s Kisses Shipping Pail

Hershey Kisses shipping pail

This Hershey’s Kisses pail will be featured in the upcoming Pennsylvania Icons exhibit. The pail, which can support 25 pounds, dates to around 1920.

Many products that have garnered world-wide recognition are manufactured in Pennsylvania. However, few are as recognizable as the Hershey’s Chocolate Co. brand. Milton Hershey’s pioneering company is commemorated with this circa-1920 paperboard Hershey’s Kisses shipping container that came to the State Museum in 1998. Used for shipping and distribution, this container held 25 pounds of Kisses. The company introduced the chocolate candies in 1907 as a way for Hershey to expand its product line. Initially, the cone-shaped chocolates were wrapped by hand, but by 1921, machines both packaged the Kisses and added their signature paper plume, trademarked in 1924.

Gallatin’s Decanter

A glass decanter made by a company partially owned by Albert Gallatin

This pale green glass decanter was probably made by the New Geneva Glass Works, between 1798-1830. The western Pennsylvania company was the first glass making facility west of the Appalachian Mountains.

This New Geneva Glass Works pale green-glass decanter, made between 1798 and 1830, most likely held wine or spirits. The pontil mark on the underside of the bottle, as well as imperfections in the glass, suggests that it was hand-blown. Founded in 1797 by Albert Gallatin and five German glassmakers, The New Geneva Glass Works was the first glass-making facility west of the Appalachian Mountains. By the early 1800s, the factory was producing 4,000 boxes of window glass annually, as well as characteristically pale green glass bottles, bowls and glassware. Gallatin eventually sold his interests in the company. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Gallatin Secretary of the Treasury.

The Portrait of Dorothea Dix

Portrait of Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Dix dedicated her life to improving conditions for those living with mental and physical incapacities.. This portrait became part of the permanent art collection at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in 2008.

Dorothea Dix’s pioneering work to improve the conditions of those with mental and physical incapacities is honored with this oil-on-canvas portrait painted by well-known artist, Samuel B. Waugh, originally from Mercer, Pa. The portrait became part of The State Museum’s permanent art collection in 2008. In Pennsylvania, Dix’s work expanded The Insane Department of the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, which would eventually become Dixmont State Hospital. She was also responsible for founding the first public mental hospital in Pennsylvania, the Harrisburg State Hospital.

The Woolrich Woolen Mills Hunting Suit

The Woolrich hunting suit: : Prized for the its warmth and durability

This three-piece Woolrich Woolen Mills hunting suit was prized for its warmth and durability. Relatives of Carlton States of York donated the suit to The State Museum in 1996.

This three-piece hunting suit, bought in the 1940s and used by Carlton States of York, Pa., was manufactured by the Woolrich Woolen Mills in Clinton County, Pa. – the oldest continually operating woolen mill in the United States. The company began operating in 1830 when English immigrant John Rich built his first mill along Plum Run. He eventually produced woolen fabric, socks, coverlets and yarn that he sold from a mule cart as he traveled between lumber. A descendant of States donated the suit to the museum in 1996.

The Whiskey Rebellion Receipt

This excise tax receipt was drafted during the tumultuous years of the Whiskey Rebellion.

This receipt was drafted during the tumultuous years of the Whiskey Rebellion. The handwritten text reads: “Received the 28th day of November 1794 of Adam Minges by the hands of Mr. Shindle the Sum of Thirty dollars & 73 Cents it being in full for the balance [sic] due on his Stills for Excise.
Doll. 30. 73 Cts. Fred: Hubley Colle’d of my Revenue”

A paper receipt acknowledging Adam Minges’ payment of the Excise Tax on Nov. 28, 1794 recalls the Whiskey Rebellion, a tumultuous time in the early history of the United States. The rebellion and President George Washington’s subsequent response was the first test of the newly-formed United States government’s authority to both levy taxes and pass and enforce nationwide laws. On March 3, 1791, Congress passed the Excise Act, which levied a 25 percent tax on all domestically distilled whiskey and outlined an elaborate system for collecting the tax and imposing fines on those that failed to comply.  Many Pennsylvania farmers opposed the act, a measure proposed by Alexander Hamilton as a means of raising funds to alleviate the burden of debt created by fighting the Revolutionary War.

An opening reception for Pennsylvania Icons will be held 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, at The State Museum. Admission to the museum is free that day.


About Pennsylvania Icons:
Featuring a diverse array of artifacts from the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic sites and museums, Pennsylvania Icons tells the story of our commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation. The exhibit features historic artifacts ranging from a 1654 map of the Philadelphia region to pieces of the Walnut Street bridge in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Icons opens to the public on Sunday, November 8, 2015.


About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.