From an Intern – My Summer of 2015

I’m Kelly and I’m a summer intern here at Pennsbury Manor. Over the course of my three months here I’ve become a blacksmith’s apprentice, brushed a two thousand pound bull and spent a large portion of my days dressed as a 17th century Quaker women. While some may consider these experiences wild, the craziest part of my internship was my summer research project.

It started off as a normal day; I had spent several hours doing research for my project on the blacksmiths here at Pennsbury. I sat down for lunch and made small talk with one of the other volunteers who preceded to tell me the most outrageous story I had ever heard. Apparently back in 1686, John Smith one of the blacksmith’s indenture at Pennsbury Manor, wanted to leave his indenture two months early, however James Harrison, the steward of Pennsbury would not let him go. Their disagreement escalated into a brawl that ended with Smith wounding Harrison and fleeing Pennsbury. Smith was gone for several days, but returned in the middle of the night with a cannon. He planted that cannon on Bile Island in the middle of the Delaware River and aimed it right at the Manor House, all to seek revenge on James Harrison.

I had been researching for a few days at this point and this was the first I had heard of any cannon, so naturally I had to find the primary source documentation. I thought it would be easy enough to find, it’s not every day that a disgruntled employee threatens his boss with a cannon. If this happened, surely there is some primary source documentation to prove it. What I thought would only take thirty minutes would end up taking several weeks, consuming all my free time at Pennsbury. I started my search at the first logical place, the bound copies of the William Penn papers that are kept in the Museum Library. I looked under every search term I could think of: Harrison, Smith, Cannon, but to my surprise nothing yielded results. I realized Smith’s actions must have resulted in some sort of discipline, so I checked all Quaker Meeting minutes from that date, and once again I found nothing! Having consulted every source I could think of, I was now convinced that I was the victim of some practical joke.

I was venting my frustration to another intern and telling him I wasn’t convinced that this letter was even real. To my surprise, he led me to my next clue. He told me that a reference to that letter could be found in the footnote on an obscure page of a larger guide book. I checked the footnotes and found that there was a letter that referenced cannon, and that this letter was dated September 17, 1686. The reason why I had not found it in the William Penn papers was because his archive was too vast to be contained in four bound volumes; the full archives were available on microfilm. I dusted off the microfilm reader, and after about twenty minutes of trying to figure out how it worked, I began combing through decades worth of letters. Much to my dismay there was no letter dated September 17, 1686. The following week I had some down time in between tours, and decided to try my luck with the microfiche again. All of the slides seemed to blend together, when suddenly something caught my eye. The transcribed copy of the letter I had just finished reading was dated 7 (September) 1686. THE QUACKERS HAD A DIFFERENT CALANDER! If September was considered the 7th month, that means that the 9th month was November. I quickly scrolled over to the records from November of 1686 and I saw the word I had spent about a month looking for: Cannon.

After reading through the letter a few times, I’d concluded that the original story I had been told was a bit exaggerated. There was no physical altercation, James Harrison went to Burlington for a few days and John Smith took his absence as an opportunity to go AWOL. He did come back a few days later with a cannon, but he did not put in on Bile Island, he put it off to the side of the Manor House. Hearing of the cannon, James Harrison returned to Pennsbury and found that John Smith had been staying with a friend, William Bile, the man from whom Bile Island is named. Smith confessed and was sentenced to jail, he completed the final two months of his indenture after his jail time was up.

I consider this search the craziest thing I’ve done during my internship at Pennsbury. I knew when I applied for the internship that I wasn’t signing up for a typical intern job like getting coffee and filing papers. I at least knew to expect the unexpected. When it came to this letter, I had no expectations. I had no idea where my next clue would lead me. I had no idea if this letter was even real until I actually found it. Though frustrating at times, my little cannon adventure was a great introduction to the world of historical research. Every other time I’ve taken on a research project, my primary sources have come from a database. The difficulty was in crafting the information from that document into a broader argument. This time around the difficulty was physically locating my source among the hundreds of documents we have here at Pennsbury Manor. Whether I was searching for the cannon letter, or even telling people about what I consider the most interesting part of internship, this summer has showed me that the wildest tales are found in the most unlikely places.

Kelly White, Intern Summer 2015


There’s a cemetery at Pennsbury Manor?

Cemetery _1There are a lot of great things to see at Pennsbury Manor. There is the Worker’s Cottage, the Kitchen House, and the animals at the stable. There is one attraction that is off the beaten path. To the left of the Manor House down by the river is a cemetery. There are several little tombstones with nothing but the initials of their first and last names and their year of birth and death carved onto them. Unfortunately, William Penn is not among those buried here at Pennsbury, he is buried in England. Two of the people buried here, James Harrison and his son in law Phineas Pemberton, where trusted  friends of William Penn. They had very prominent roles in Penn’s life at Pennsbury Manor. James Harrison and Phineas Pemberton immigrated to North America together in 1682. Pemberton also brought over with him his wife Pheobe and their children Abigail and Joseph. William Penn relied very heavily on James Harrison. Penn granted Harrison five thousand acres of land before Harrison even left England. He used that later on to acquire land in Upper Makefield, Newtown, and Wrightstown. Penn appointed him to Proprietary’s Commissioner of Property and the agent to manage his personal affairs. In 1685, Harrison became one of the three provincial judges. Unfortunately, he did not hold these positions long as he died in 1687. Pemberton was also very important to William Penn. Phineas Pemberton was the Cemetery_2first Clerk of the Bucks County Courts and he held that position until his death. William Penn thought very highly of Pemberton. So much so that after his death Penn wrote, “I will mourn for poor Phineas Pemberton, the ablest, as well as one of the best men in the province.” Phineas and Pheobe had nine children in all and several of them are also buried here at Pennsbury. Phineas would go on to outlive Pheobe, who died in 1696. Phineas lived for another six years dying in 1702. So next time you stop by for a visit to Pennsbury Manor, make sure you take a walk over to the cemetery!


Billy Lovering, Intern 2015

William Penn and The Liberty Bell

Liberty BellAs the 4th of July holiday approaches, we remember The Liberty Bell one of America’s most iconic symbols. It has served as a constant reminder of freedom for centuries. Abolitionists, civil rights advocates, Native Americans, immigrants, and war protesters have all used a Liberty Bell as a symbol for their causes. Originally the bell was simply known as the State House Bell, it wasn’t called the Liberty Bell until the 1830s when the abolitionists began calling it that. The abolitionists used the bell as their symbol because of the words inscribed on it from Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Throughout All the Land unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” The verse is referring to the “Jubilee”, or instructions to the Israelites to return property and free slaves every 50 years.

The Bell resides in Philadelphia at 6th & Market Street. The Liberty Bell is one of many nationally recognized sites in Philadelphia. The Bell was originally placed in the tower of Independence Hall. Independence Hall is of course iconic for being the building where the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place. The Document was declaring American independence from Great Britain. That is the reason why the Bell has become so iconic. It is part of the birthplace of American Independence. Many people don’t know without William Penn this bell may not have ever existed. The bell was cast in 1751 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Charter of Privileges. The Charter granted religious freedoms, procedures for a democratic government, and fair treatment of criminals. Penn’s frame of government was very different from other colonies in North America at the time. It guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Penn had a 15 year absence from Pennsylvania and during that time many different governments were proposed but they all ultimately failed. When he returned in 1699 the assembly came up with a new frame of government. This frame of government became the Charter of Privileges. In the Charter of Privileges the provincial assembly would be the legislative authority. It would be self governing, have the ability to elect its own officers, form its own committees, propose and vote on legislation, and impeach government officials. The government would also be a representative government with members from each county being elected from the province. Penn was afraid of what the masses would do with large amounts of democratic power so he trusted small groups of elites to govern society. This relates back into the Liberty Bell because of Penn’s progressive thinking inspired the bell which made the bell the perfect symbol for all the progressive thinkers in history. It is this kind of forward thinking that inspired the bell to go from the State House bell to the Liberty bell and it may have never existed without William Penn.


Billy Lovering, Intern 2015

Beer for Breakfast?

10454931_809779355707555_3902493442719386944_oWhile this may raise an eyebrow today, in the 1600’s it was not uncommon for people to drink beer with every meal. It is often mentioned that even children would drink beer, and while this is true, the strength of the beer that they drank would not have been on par with what adults were drinking. It wasn’t alcoholic enough for them to become intoxicated, but provided them with necessary calories. In those days, polluted water in England caused such a distrust of water in general that the water in newly-colonized America wasn’t trusted either.

According to Penn’s own letters, there was a Brew House here at Pennsbury Manor, and he wrote that they made beer, cider, and perry (a pear cider), all with an alcohol content. While we don’t know how much they brewed here, it probably was a fair amount and was mostly for the workers. Penn also bought beer from brewers in Philadelphia, which would have been for his table and to serve to guests.

Today, the recreated Pennsbury Manor, has a Brew Room inside the Kitchen House where we demonstrate the 1IMG_40367th century beer brewing process. Each month April through October we offer a beer brewing demonstration and focus on a different type of beer. Come out and hopswatch as they discuss what they have brewin’. Make sure you wander into the Kitchen Garden to see our own hops plants growing along the Hops Wall. Check out the Calendar of Events for details.

On June 20th from 4 – 8 pm we will be holding our 3rd Annual Brews & Bites. Come out and Tap Into History and spend the day along the river at the 43-acre country estate. Enjoy beer, food, music, a 17th century beer brewing demonstration, and meet our own William Penn. For details please visit our website.

“So Mom Do You Like Him?”: Colonial Quaker Marriage

Ahhh February – the month of love and romance.  Many aspects of human relationships and marriage are timeless, but there are a lot of differences between modern couples and those who founded Pennsylvania!

"Satire on marriage," Anonymous, 1700
“Satire on marriage,” Anonymous, 1700

While there are some modern-day couples who might face some obstacles in gaining acceptance from their families, it’s nothing like what they would have encounter as a 17th-century Quaker.  Quaker couples had to undergo a series of moral tests and the scrutiny of the Quaker society prior to their marriage. Not only did Quakers need consent for marriage from both sets of parents, they sought the permission of the whole Quaker community as well.

Quaker customs encouraged marriage within their own population and often disowned or banished those who decided to marry outside of the faith. The culture of the colonial Quaker society aimed to maintain a tight knit spiritual community, so they encouraged Quaker matches in the hopes of growing that community.  This meant they needed to have a large population of diverse families, since they also prohibited marriages between blood relations.  This included cousins up to the fourth degree removed.

They also forbid widowed Quakers from marrying their spouses’ relatives. The relatives of their deceased spouse were considered to be an extension of their family and violated the colonial marriage customs.  These restrictions were a larger issue than they might be today, since in the 17th Century, death rates were high and individuals often had multiple marriages during their lifetime.

When a Quaker couple like William Penn and Hannah Callowhill first proposed marriage, they began by seeking the approval of their parents (even if they were mature adults). Their written consent was needed if a couple was to proceed with the marriage. After receiving a blessing from both sets of parents, the couple presented their proposal to the entire community at the Quakers’ monthly religious meetings.


By Melanie Hankins, Intern

Further Reading

Barry Levy, Quaker and the American Family, 1988.

Women’s Meetings Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly Minutes, Bucks County 1683-1705.

J. William Frost, The Quaker Family: a Portrait of the Society of Friend.

Historic House Cleaning

Spring Cleaning at Pennsbury Manor!

Every February, the staff here at Pennsbury Manor descends upon the Manor House with mops, buckets, brushes, vacuum cleaners, wax, and gloves. The once a year “spring cleaning” helps prepare the house for the many visitors that will come to Pennsbury Manor for a guided tour of William Penn’s 17th Century country home. Even though the house is dusted and vacuumed regularly, this gives us a chance to give it a once of year “thorough cleaning”.  It will take staff 151 hours and four days to clean all three floors of this Georgian style reconstruction of William Penn’s original home built in 1682.

Unlike a regular “spring house cleaning,” we are moving and cleaning objects that are over 300 years old. Special instructions on care are given to ensure that we do not damage or harm the objects in our collection. Gloves are used for handling textiles and wood, so as not to leave oils behind and gloves are taken off for glass and ceramics, so as not to have them slip and fall out of your hands. No butter fingers allowed here!

It is an impressive effort on the part of the staff to dust, vacuum, wax, mop, rinse, and repeat in each room of the house. The four bedchambers on the second floor take two people 3 hours and 27 minutes to clean. To vacuum all of the textiles on the first floor it takes two people a total of 2 hours. To clean all of the windows and Plexiglas covers it will take two people 10 hours. Phew!

The wear and tear of almost 30,000 feet takes a toll on our wood floors. To keep them looking good we will have to use ten 1-lb cans of butchers wax to hand wax all of the public areas and then buff the floors until the shine. Wow what a difference a newly waxed floor makes!

There isn’t any pledge found in our cleaning supplies. All wood is dusted with a clean, dry cloth baby diaper. We use around 60 diapers to clean the house. We then wash them and pack away for the next year. We try to be green! Textiles are a bit tricky. One must use a screen when vacuuming, to protect the fibers. Much care has to be taken while vacuuming these. Speaking of vacuums, it takes four vacuum cleaners and 16 vacuum bags to catch all the dirt and dust. Must be all of those feet bringing in lots of dirt!

It is an exhausting, but fun four days together getting dirty to get the house clean. Now we sit back and wait to show off the newly cleaned house to all of our visitors. Stop out to see us, we’ll be waiting!

By Tabitha Dardes, Director of PR & Marketing

Life in the Governor’s House: A Quaker Love Triangle!

Two young Quaker women conversing in Pennsbury's front court garden. Marriage was an important decision, one that would require serious discussion with friends and family.

Ann Shippen’s Story (Part II)

In an earlier post we shared the story of Ann Shippen, who at age 17 was living with the Penn family at Pennsbury Manor.  Ann was being courted by two men, James Logan and Thomas Story, both loyal confidantes of William Penn and fellow Quakers.  Ann’s father, Edward Shippen, voiced his opinion regarding the courtship and favored Thomas Story over James Logan. He thought Logan, who was 10 years older than Ann, to be too young, too naïve, and not successful enough to support his daughter. He preferred Thomas Story because he was more mature (20 years older than Ann), and as a Quaker minister and a member of the Provincial Council, was more established.

Despite the discouragement of Edward Shippen, Logan continued to court Ann at the same time as Story. Their competition for Ann’s hand in marriage became so well known in Philadelphia that William Penn wrote of his concern in this 1704 letter to James Logan –

“I am anxiously grieved for thy unhappy love for thy sake and my own, for T.S., [Thomas Story] and thy discord has been no service here any more than there.”

After several years of courtship from both James Logan and Thomas Story, Ann was finally convinced of Thomas Story’s love for her.  Story confessed his love to her by saying that he had “ the patience beyond what was common,” and that he would, “reasonably try all or stretch upon the rack, which had no common heart, nor soul could be able to endure.” Ann overlooked the 20-year age difference, listened to her father, and finally accepted Thomas’s proposal.

The couple married in July, 1706 and lived in Philadelphia. Sadly, their marriage was short-lived.  Ann died in 1710. There were no children. Thomas, who died in 1742, never remarried.

Melanie Hankins, Intern

Further Reading

John W. Jordan, Colonial and Revolutionary Families of America, 1978.

Albert Cook Myers, Hannah Logan’s Courtship: A True Narrative, 1904.

Craig W. Hortle, Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary Volume Two 1710-1756, 1993.

Life in the Governor’s House: Ann Shippen’s Story (Part I)

Pennsbury Manor's Manor House

 Ann Shippen was the 17 year-old daughter of Edward Shippen, a prominent Philadelphia Quaker. She became acquainted with the Penn family when they stayed at her father’s home in Philadelphia. When William and Hannah Penn moved into their new country home along the Delaware River in the spring of 1700, Ann joined the household at Pennsbury Manor.

It was common in Quaker families to have their daughters live with another Quaker family to further their education. Here at Pennsbury, Ann learned from Hannah Penn how to manage the many responsibilities of a household, and became friends with Penn’s daughter Letitia, and Abigail Pemberton, the daughter of Phineas Pemberton, who was also living at Pennsbury for the same reason. The girls helped Hannah with household tasks and other responsibilities to keep Pennsbury running smoothly. Hannah had also just given birth to her first child, so the extra help from Ann and the other girls was certainly helpful.

Ann attracted several suitors while at Pennsbury Manor. James Logan and Thomas Story were both interested in courting Ann.  James Logan was William Penn’s secretary, and would later serve as the manager of Penn’s business affairs in the Pennsylvania colony.  Logan eventually became one of the most influential and wealthy Quakers in the colony, but at that time he was not so well-established. On the other hand, Thomas Story was already a prominent member of the community, a Quaker minister, and a member of the Provincial Council.

Picart, "Two figures for a fete galante," 1708
Picart, "Two figures for a fete galante," 1708

Although these men were friends and colleagues for many years, their interest in Ann strained their relationship to the point where the men publicly debated the courtship.  Story charged Logan with offensive behavior through spoken and written word that was against Quaker discipline. Logan claimed Story could not carry a conversation with him in a civilized manner. Young Ann was caught in the middle. Who would she select as her future husband!

By Melanie Hankins, Intern



Further Reading

John W. Jordan, Colonial and Revolutionary Families of America, 1978.

Albert Cook Myers, Hannah Logan’s Courtship: A True Narrative, 1904.

Craig W. Hortle, Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary Volume Two 1710-1756, 1993.

Peaceful Game-Changers

“Our principle is… to seek peace.”

George Fox, Founder of the Quakers, 1661 

mlkToday we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., who advocated for national equality and freedom at the expense of his own safety.  His commitment to peaceful change and the well-being of all people puts him in the highest company of our nation’s most honorable leaders and game-changers.  In honor of his memory, we’d like to reflect on the peaceful principles that influenced colonial Pennsylvania and the young nation it would help create. 

Born from a country ravaged by civil war and religious combat, the Quaker movement dedicated their time and resources to advocating a message of peace and acceptance.   One of their most articulate and effective members was actually a former soldier.  William Penn, after being sucked into war in Ireland, found the Quaker movement and determined that his life’s work should be the establishment of peace.  This evolved into his dream of a new colony, founded on Quaker principles of tolerance, religious freedom, and diversity.  This involved populating his land with people who held the same principles and creating a government to protect them.  Pennsylvania was the only colony who did not maintain a militia, who tried for years to refuse sending soldiers to fight in England’s wars, and established friendships with the native inhabitants of the land. 


In this, Penn was extremely lucky.  The Lenape Indians who resided here were known in the native communities as peacemakers.  In wars between tribes, it was the Lenape who would often step up and broker a peace agreement.  So when Penn arrived to make friends and trade fairly for the land, the Lenape were willing to become friends.  The land westward, previously occupied by the Susquahannocks, had been vacated, so the Delaware Valley Indians were willing to relocate. 

Even though his passion was Pennsylvania, Penn never stopped believing in the possibility of peace throughout the Old World.  In 1693, he wrote “An essay towards the present and future peace of Europe” advocated for an end to the political violence.  Penn was not always successful in what he advocated, but peace and tolerance continued to be a dominant trait in his government and in the Quaker people’s beliefs. 

We honor the countless individuals, known and unknown, who struggled and sacrificed alongside William Penn and Martin Luther King Jr. to create a better world for the generations to come!


Hannah Howard, Volunteer & Special Project Coordinator

Our amazing (rain-free) Holly Nights Spectacular!

We had such a wonderful time with our visitors on Holly Nights this year!!  The rain gave us a 5-hour window to enjoy our Friday night, and we were so excited to see so many visitors come out.  This has been a long-standing tradition at Pennsbury Manor for at least 30 years, and both evenings turned out to be beautiful and full of holiday spirit.

We wanted to share some awesome photos of this year’s event:

 decorations Putting up the decorations!

DSC_0065 Volunteers help offer demonstrations every year, including this fan-favorite – Pomander Balls are made by sticking oranges
with cloves and rolling them in a mixture of cinnamin, nutmeg, and other spices

cooking over an open hearth

 Cooking over the open-hearth for visitors – looks delicious!


 Candlelight makes the 17th-century manor house come alive.

 william penn

William Penn defeats the notorious pirate Captain Kidd in our classic 17th-century Mummer’s Play!


Our awesome blacksmiths working in the warmest spot on site – lucky guys, but try doing this on a hot August afternoon!

the site with luminaries

Thank you so much to everyone who came out for Holly Nights!  We had between 80 and 120 volunteers participating each night
(not including all our amazing performers!), so we owe all our success to their dedication and joyful holiday spirit.

Have a wonderful holiday season and we look forward to blogging with you in the New Year!


By Hannah Howard

Photographs courtesy of Tabitha Dardes, PR, and Joseph Long, volunteer

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