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03/22/2016

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Approves 23 New State Historical Markers

Harrisburg, PA – Two former Pennsylvania Governors, William W. Scranton and John S. Fine; Nobel Prize winner Baruch S. Blumberg; Jackie Ormes, the first African American woman cartoonist; and Pennsylvania’s Century Farm Program are among the 23 new state historical markers recently approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

 
The markers, selected from 61 applications, will be added to the nearly 2,300 familiar blue-with-gold-lettering signs that appear along roads and streets throughout Pennsylvania.
 
Since 1946 PHMC’s historical markers have chronicled the people, places and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries. The signs feature subjects such as Native Americans and settlers, government and politics, athletes, entertainers, artists, struggles for freedom and equality, factories and businesses and a multitude of other noteworthy topics.
 
Nominations for historical markers may be submitted by any person or organization. A panel of independent experts from throughout the state evaluates the nominations, which are approved by the agency’s commissioners.
 
More information on the Historical Marker Program, including application information, is available online at www.PAHistoricalMarkers.com.
 
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
 
Media Contact: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639
 
Editor’s Note: The following is a list of the newly approved state historical markers with the name of the marker, location and a brief description:
 
Barbara Gittings, Philadelphia
Early LGBT leader who was instrumental in having homosexuality removed from its classification as a mental illness and promoting the inclusion of gay publications in libraries across the nation.
 
Baruch S. Blumberg, Philadelphia
Nobel Prize recipient in 1976 for identifying the hepatitis B virus and developing its diagnostic test and vaccine.
 
Century Farm Program, Towanda, Bradford County
Statewide program administered by the Dept. of Agriculture to recognize Pennsylvania farmers whose property has been in the same family for 100 years or more. Started in PA by the Bradford County Historical Soc. in 1949, it was adopted statewide in 1976.
 
Chief Cornplanter, Oil City, Venango County
Native American leader in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Cornplanter was a key negotiator with the PA government and was granted several tracts of land for Seneca settlement in northwestern PA.
 
Davies and Thomas Company, Catasauqua, Lehigh County
Originally organized as an iron foundry, the company began manufacturing iron plates for lining tunnels in the early 1900s.  It achieved widespread success providing the durable lining for famous NY City tunnels:  Holland, Lincoln, Queens Midtown, and for other major tunnel lining projects.  A segment of a Davies & Thomas PA Railroad tunnel was on display at the St. Louis Worlds’ Fair.
 
The Dixie Hummingbirds, Philadelphia
Nationally recognized soul gospel music group, they were on the cutting edge of the genre for 30 years.  Their cover of Paul Simon’s hit Loves Me Like a Rock, the original of which they recorded with him, won a Grammy Award in 1973.  The band was featured in the NY Times and TIME magazine and they have influenced artists such as: the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown. The band was a recipient of a PA Governor’s Award for the Arts in 2006.
 
Dr. Alice C. Evans, LeRaysville, Bradford County
Bacteriologist that discovered the correlation between the consumption of raw milk and brucellosis or “undulant” fever and published her report in 1918.  She worked for the USDA promoting the pasteurization of milk to prevent the disease and instrumental in the development of pasteurization laws passed in the 1920s.
 
Dr. Anna Elizabeth Broomall, Chester, Delaware County
Early woman OB/GYN. Her achievements include the expansion and improvement of nurse training, organizing one of the nation’s first prenatal clinics and perfecting and promoting numerous birth-related procedures including episiotomies and Caesarian sections that led to a reduction in mortality and serious injuries.
 
Father John Christian Frederick Heyer, Friedens, Somerset County
Heyer was a Lutheran pastor and first American Lutheran missionary to India.  Heyer was instrumental in the founding of the Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, the first of its kind in the US, and established several Lutheran parishes in western PA.
 
First Puddling Ironmaking Furnace in America, Menallen Twp., Fayette County
The process pioneered in the US at this furnace in 1817 revolutionized the iron industry and greatly advanced the industrial revolution.  The process also led to the formation of the nation’s first workers’ union in the metals industry, the Sons of Vulcan, the precursor of the United Steelworkers.
 
Fleetwood Metal Body Company, Fleetwood, Berks County
One of the foremost custom car body manufacturers in the nation, Fleetwood started in PA in 1909 and remained here for 20 years before becoming a subsidiary of General Motors.  The chassis produced by the company were installed on many of the finest American cars, including the self-named Cadillac Fleetwood.
 
Harvey Pollack, Philadelphia
Basketball statistician for the NBA, Pollack developed a system of record-keeping adopted across the league.  He coined the terms “slam-dunk,” “rebound,” “blocked-shots” and others that are now household words.  Pollack revolutionized the way players were assessed that impacted recruiting, coaching, trading, and strategic play.
 
Hotel Brotherhood USA, Philadelphia
One of the earliest African American labor unions, hotel workers established it in 1883 in Philadelphia.  The organization began protesting pay inequities as compared to white workers.  It also set up a benevolent aid fund for members.  It spawned chapters in many major US cities.
 
Insurance Company of North America (INA), Philadelphia
The first incorporated stock insurance company in the nation, INA was established in 1792 as a marine insurer.  In 1794 it became the first company to insure the contents of a building from fire.  The company pioneered the Homeowners Insurance Policy in 1950, one of the most successful and imitated of all insurance products.
 
Jackie Ormes, New Eagle, Washington County
The first African American woman cartoonist, Ormes produced a nationally syndicated column in the 1930s for the Pittsburgh Courier, featuring her Torchy Brown character.  Although black, the character possessed a sophistication rarely seen in depictions of African Americans at the time.  She went on to create similar comic strips that went against stereotype.
 
John S. Fine, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County
Governor of PA from 1951 to 1955.  His administration instituted the first permanent sales tax in PA, ended segregation of the National Guard, and opened the State Police to African Americans.
 
Jonathan Letterman, Canonsburg, Washington County
Civil War doctor considered the Father of Battlefield Medicine.  Letterman designed a prototype medical supply wagon, devised a system of triage stations and mobile field hospitals, and instituted an efficient management system for supply distribution and patient evacuation.  Many of his principles are still used in modern warfare.   
 
Penn's Landing: Arrival Point of First Africans, Philadelphia
The first slave ship arrived at the Philadelphia port in 1684, carrying African slaves to William Penn’s newly established colony.  In the early years of PA, the Quakers in power did little to discourage slavery.  Many owned their own slaves and did not prevent the importation of slaves to the colony.  Although PA is considered a leader in the abolitionist movement, slavery was an accepted institution in the state’s early history.
 
Pepper Hill Fire of 1938, Sinnemahoning, Cameron County
An untrained Civilian Conservation Corps unit was sent to fight a forest fire that turned to tragedy.  The unit was comprised of boys in their late teens; seven of them and a supervisor were killed by the fire.  This incident is used as a case study in training today and principles of wild land firefighting were developed as a result.
 
Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Philadelphia
Established in 1974, the institution houses the families of hospitalized children for free.  In a cooperative effort between Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Eagles and McDonalds, a nationwide campaign was launched to raise money for and build the first Ronald McDonald House. There are now over 350 houses at most major hospitals throughout the US and in 38 countries. 
 
Ruth McGinnis, Honesdale, Wayne County
Billiards phenom who was the Women’s Pocket Billiard Champion of the World from 1932-1940.  McGinnis toured the US with Willie Mosconi and defeated some of the best pool players in the nation, mostly men.  In a widely publicized exhibition match she soundly defeated the great woman athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
 
Stephanie Louise Kwolek, Southwestern PA location TBD
A polymer scientist who invented Kevlar.  Kwolek worked as a chemist for Dupont for 40 years.  In 1975 Dupont made Kevlar bullet-proof vests available to law enforcement agencies.  This protective gear has become critical to the safety of law enforcement personnel world-wide.
 
William W. Scranton, Scranton, Lackawanna County
Governor of PA from 1963 to 1967.  He focused on public works, the Peace Corps and other economic aid, and fiscal responsibility.  He went on to be an advisor to presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, and Ford, an ambassador, and a UN representative.

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