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Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Approves 18 New State Historical Markers


Harrisburg, PA – African American Civil Rights leader Dr. Leon H. Sullivan; the Huber Coal Breaker, which used pioneering processing and waste disposal methods; the Repasz Band, one of the oldest continuously operating community bands in the nation; and noted soprano, Inez Mecusker, who toured with John Phillip Sousa are among the subjects of the 18 new state historical markers approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

The new markers, selected from 54 applications, will be added to the nearly 2,300 familiar blue-with-gold-lettering signs 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 noteworthy topics.
Nominations for historical markers may be submitted by any individual or organization and are evaluated by a panel of independent experts from throughout the state and approved by the agency’s commissioners.
More information on the Historical Marker Program, including application information, is available online at
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:
Dr. James Curtis Hepburn, Northumberland Co.
A medical doctor and missionary to Japan, Hepburn introduced western medicine to Japan and opened an academy that continues as a major university.  He published an English/Japanese dictionary and developed a system of transcribing Japanese characters into the Latin alphabet called "Hepburn Romanization" still in use today.
Dr. Leon H. Sullivan, Philadelphia
African American Civil Rights leader, Sullivan promoted anti-discrimination and advocated many charitable and self-improvement programs for blacks in this country.  He advised a number of U.S. presidents. He also was actively involved in the movement to end Apartheid in South Africa. 
Fairview Park, Westmoreland Co.
This property, purchased in 1945, became the first amusement park in Pennsylvania to be owned and operated by African Americans.  The park offered African Americans recreational opportunities denied them at amusement parks from which they were excluded.
The Hester Vaughn Trial, Philadelphia
In 1868 a poor woman was accused of killing her infant, and was convicted at trial and sentenced to be hanged.  The fledgling Women's Rights Movement led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton took up her cause and launched a media campaign claiming Vaughn had been denied a fair trial by a jury of her peers.  Gov. John Geary pardoned Vaughn the following year.
Huber Coal Breaker, Luzerne Co.
Constructed in the 1930s by the Glen Alden Coal Company, this breaker processed nearly 7,000 tons of coal daily through the 1970s.  To distinguish its product, the company sprayed color on its anthracite, creating “blue coal.” It was one of the first to utilize Menzies cones to separate coal and was the first to use aerial disposal of waste by-products.
Inez Mecusker, Erie Co.
Noted soprano in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Inez Mecusker was billed as the American Cantatrice, she appeared in Vaudeville, Broadway, and operas. She toured with nationally-known bands, most notably, John Philip Sousa's.
James Bell's Tavern / Anti-Federalist Movement, Cumberland Co.
This colonial tavern served as a meeting place for Anti-federalists during the development of the U.S. Constitution. At the time, Cumberland County was the frontier of Pennsylvania.  Residents who believed in limited government and securing civil rights, protested eastern commercial, conservative domination. The tavern can be seen as the birthplace of the Bill of Rights and the Democratic Party.
Jefferson Street Ballparks, Philadelphia
Baseball fields where both the first National League game and the first inter-racial game were played.  They operated from 1864 to 1891 during a time when baseball evolved from an amateur leisure event to a competitive professional sport and “America’s pastime”.
The Jewish Hospital, Philadelphia
The Jewish population in Philadelphia expanded sharply in the mid-19th century. Jews that became sick or injured had to go to hospitals that did not accommodate their religious traditions.  This hospital was opened in 1866, the third Jewish hospital in the nation. Although open to all, it provided kosher food and access to rabbis for the dying, and respected death and burial traditions of the Jewish faith.
John S. Trower, Philadelphia
By the time of his death in 1911, John S. Trower had become one of the wealthiest African Americans in the United States.  Primarily a caterer and restauranteur, Trower invested his profits in real estate, established a trade school for African Americans and donated generously to religious and charitable causes.  He was noted in Booker T. Washington's The Negro Business (1907).
Marc Blitzstein, Philadelphia
One of the most influential American composers and lyricists of the 20th century, Blitzstein was a contemporary of Aaron Copeland and Virgil Thomson and a mentor to Leonard Bernstein.  His controversial 1937 musical Rock the Cradle made musical history when it was shut down by the government due to its pro-union themes.  His translation of The Threepenny Opera has been performed worldwide.
Mary Engle Pennington, Philadelphia
She received her PhD in chemistry in 1895 and went on to become a leader in research and implementation of food preservation measures.  She investigated and improved commercial refrigeration and transportation of perishable food, very important during WWI for providing food to soldiers.  She is credited with inventing the egg carton to safeguard eggs from breakage.
The black liberation group MOVE, founded in 1972 by John Africa, engaged in a conflict with law enforcement in 1978.  When police tried to evict group members from the house they occupied, a firefight erupted killing a police officer and injuring several on both sides.  Tragedy occurred in 1985 when the City of Philadelphia, aided by the state police and the FBI, raided and bombed a subsequent residence when the group refused to vacate. These extreme measures resulted in an out-of-control fire that destroyed 61 homes and left about 250 homeless.  Ultimately, six adults and five children were killed.
PA Canal (Western Division), Armstrong Co.
Part of the PA Mainline Canal from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh which reduced the travel time between the two cities from three weeks to 4 1/2 days.  Dam #1 at Leechburg supplied the remaining 37 miles to Pittsburgh with water and provided slack water for 7 miles above the dam. 
The Repasz Band
Founded in 1831, the band claims to be the oldest continuously operating community band in the U.S.  The band played at the surrender of Lee at Appomattox and for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  It was also present at two inaugurations, for Presidents T. Roosevelt and Taft.  The Repasz Band March, composed in 1897, has been performed nationwide.
Samuel V. Merrick, Philadelphia
Prominent 19th century manufacturer and businessman, he established the Southwark Iron Foundry which became one of the largest and most advanced of its time. It built engines for important Civil War naval vessels. Merrick co-founded the Franklin Institute and was first president of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Simon Girty, Allegheny Co.
As a child, Girty and his brothers were taken captive in a French and Indian raid and adopted by Seneca families. Girty lived with the Seneca for seven years and became fully assimilated, learning their language and culture.  He was repatriated to his birth family in 1764 but retained loyalty for the Seneca.  During the American Revolution, he became an interpreter and chief military representative of the British among the tribes in PA, OH, KY, WV, IN, and MI.  A controversial figure, he fought against the US in the War of 1812 and spent his later years in Canada.      
Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, Philadelphia
Established in 1899, the Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse claims to be one of the first dedicated play spaces for children in the nation.  Richard and Sarah Smith were inspired by the American Playground Movement which began in the mid-1880s.  The site is unique in that it has always operated as a private institution on public land, and has been racially and economically integrated - free and open to all.

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