Invitation to Share

This summer a young friend attended summer camp at Pennsbury Manor, and during the course of the week she formed some opinions about my job as the Museum Educator.  She told me that I have the coolest job in the world because I get to “take care of the animals, give tours, and drive the golf cart.”  Well, maybe my job isn’t quite as simple as that, but it is pretty cool! 

Without question, my favorite part of the job is talking with visitors.  I get to learn where they are from and what brought them to Pennsbury Manor, hear their questions and discussing answers – because history is rarely made of pure facts.  Most of all, I love that moment (especially transparent in children) when an idea catches hold and true learning takes place.

Every day, all sorts of people (including you!) visit our blog.  I often feel like I am missing out because I can’t have the same conversations with you as I do with the people who visit the physical site.  But lately we’ve been having some great discussions with our readers and volunteers.  We’d like to encourage everyone to feel they can participate, with questions, comments, and experiences of your own!

Below each blog article, there is a comment section for anybody to post their responses.  If you are shy (like me) and don’t wish to post a public response, please email us at willpenn17@aol.com.  We’d love to know what your interests are, and what you would like to hear more about!  I’d like to know what questions you have about current or previous posts.  Finally, I’d like to hear about YOU.  Where are you from?  How did you come to love history?  What experience at a historic site or museum truly moved you?

Go ahead, make my day and shoot me an email or comment.  I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

Penn’s Pen: A Government of Freedom

On Sunday we honored William Penn’s early hopes for a land of freedom.  Now we want to highlight the personal freedoms he made into law, just before sailing to his new colony in 1682:

“Persons living in this Province… shall in no ways be molested or prejudiced for their Religious Perswasion or Practice.” (Penn, Laws Agreed Upon in England, 1682)

With a law such as the separation of church and state, Penn allowed all citizens to find God in their own way, attracting many groups seeking religious tolerance.

In the late 1600’s individual freedoms were very seldom seen. Today we take privileges, such as religious freedom, acceptance of diversity, and many legal practices in our government for granted. Could you believe many of these had their beginnings as the radical ideas of William Penn?  In 1681 a Charter was given by King Charles II and granted this ambitious young Quaker a large tract of land we know as Pennsylvania. During his years in England he experienced the wrath of religious persecution and unstable political rule. As Proprietor of this new land, he was able to set forth new laws and establish a government unlike any other of its time.

Another ground-breaking act was addressing individual rights. By establishing laws in accordance with the wills of the colony’s citizens and promising a representative government, Penn allowed for a more ethical form of authority. Other advances included lessening the harsh criminal punishments of English law, holding elections by secret ballots, ensuring an open court with a right to trial, allowing all people to testify on their own behalf, and enforcing the honesty of trial witnesses under penalty of perjury. 

Excerpt image from the Charter of Pennsylvania, 1681. The image in the upper left corner is of King Charles II .

Though William Penn had no direct relation to the American Revolution, his individual beliefs and practices have impacted the manner of the birth of this nation.  Give thanks on this Independence Day for the hard-won freedoms of those who came before!

By Raymond Tarasiewicz, Intern


Penn’s Pen: Caretaker of a New World

In honor of our upcoming Independence Day, we thought it fitting to share some of William Penn’s thoughts.  In the letter excerpt below, Penn had just received the Charter from King Charles II and was now contemplating the immense burden just placed on his 37-year-old shoulders:

“My Friends:

            “I wish you all happiness, here, and hereafter. These are to let you know that it hath pleased God, in his providence, to cast you within my lot and care. It is a business that, although I never undertook before, yet God hath given me an understanding of my duty, and an honest mind to do it uprightly. I hope you will not be troubled at your change and the King’s choice for you are now fixed at the mercy of no governor that comes to make his fortune great; you shall be governed by laws of your own making and live a free, and if you will, a sober and industrious life. I shall not usurp the right of any, or oppress his person. God has furnished me with a better resolution and has given me his grace to keep it…” 

A map of the Americas by Dutch Engraver Johannes de Ram, c. 1685. Notice how anything past the coastal regions of North America are completelyunmapped - they had yet to even understand how the vast promise of their new world.

In 1681, William Penn was granted a Charter to a piece of land in America “nearly the size of England”. Willing and ready to place into action his “holy experiment”, William Penn had a vision for Pennsylvania, a vision that would far exceed even the most liberal man’s expectations. Pennsylvania, so named by King Charles II in honor of Penn’s father, Sir Admiral Penn, the colony’s government’s design truly helped to form the basis of the Constitution we have come to know and abide by today.   The most prominent of ideas that passed on into the freedoms we cherish today are the ability to choose your own faith, freedom of speech, and above all life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Although our Founding Fathers never had the privilege of knowing William Penn himself, having been separated through a hundred years of history, I think it is safe to say that William Penn would have been proud to see how Pennsylvania and the states that were to follow came to form the country we know today.

 “It is a clear and just thing, and my God that has given it me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation. I shall have a tender care to the government that it be well laid at first.” (Wm. Penn to Robert Turner, March 1681)

By Mary Barbagallo, Intern


Further Reading:

Penn by Elizabeth Janet Gray, 1986, Graphics Standards, West Chester, Pa

Penn’s Pen: Even William Has a Romantic Side!

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we want to offer some touching words of love from William to his first and second wives. 

William and his first wife Gulielma show every sign of having a loving relationship, a true partnership.  Before sailing off to his new colony in August 1682, Penn wrote a letter to his wife and children.  In the 17th Century, a sea voyage was a dangerous and sometimes deadly adventure.  So this letter would have offered comforting words of love and advice should he not return…

My dear Wife and Children.

    My love, that sea nor land, nor death itself can extinguish or lessen toward you, most endearly visits you with eternal embraces, and will abide with you for ever: and may the god of my life watch over you, and bless you good in this world and for ever.  Some things are upon my spirit to leave with you, in your respective capacities; as I am to one a husband and to the rest a father, if I should never see you more in this world.

    My dear Wife, remember thou wast the love of my youth, and much the joy of my life the most belov’d as well as most worthy of all my earthly Comforts.  And the reason of that love was more thy inward, than thy outward excellencies (wch yet were many)……

    And now my dear Children, that are the gifts and mercies of the god of your tender father, hear my counsel, and lay it up in your hearts.  Love it more than treasure, and follow it, and you shall be bless’d here and happy in the hearafter……

Two years after his beloved Gulielma passed away, Penn began courting another young woman named Hannah Callowhill.  To see excerpts from their correspondence, visit this link posted to our official website: https://www.pennsburymanor.org/Love%20Letters%20from%20William%20Penn.pdf 

Have a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator & Project Assistant

Penn’s Pen: Getting Arrested, Quaker-Style

In November of 1667, William Penn, a freshly converted Quaker,  was arrested with18 other Quakers in County Cork, Ireland. Christopher Rye, the Mayor of Cork, was well-known for his persecution of Quakers.  In a letter to The Earl of Orrery, one of the lords justice of Ireland, Penn requests that Rye not be encouraged in his persecution. 

What is remarkable is that the 23-year old Quaker was already forming and articulating the beliefs that became such an important part of his Holy Experiment:

Religion which is at once my crime and my innocency makes me a prisoner to a mayors malice, but my own freeman, for being in the assembly of the people called Quakers there came several constables, backed with soldiers, rudely and arbitrarily requiring every man’s appearance before the mayor, and amongst many others violently haled me with them.  Upon my coming before him he charged me for being present at a riotous and tumultuary assembly…

Penn describes the scene and questions the applicability of the law upon which the Mayor made his arrests.  He then appeals to Lord Orrery:

But I presume my Lord the acquaintance you have had with other countries must needs have furnished you with this infallible observation that diversity of faith, and worships contribute not to the disturbance of any place where moral uniformity is barely requisite to preserve the peace… and conclude no way so effectual to improve advantage this country as to dispense with freedom in things relating to conscience.

An astonished Earl Orrery responded that he had already heard about the matter from Rye himself.  Orrery wrote, “I confess I was surprised and sorry to see you thus associated ” with Quakers.  Orrery forwarded the Mayor’s letter to Penn’s father the Admiral (who had at least twice previously demanded that Penn return to England immediately), and cautions Penn that “you cannot expect that I will hinder the Magistrates from doing their duty.  I hope you will follow this friendly advice…”

Looks like young adults defying their parents is nothing new!


Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

A New Year

I hope everyone has enjoyed a safe and happy holiday season!  I love the end of the year, it offers everyone a chance to reflect on the past 12 months and start the next year with a fresh perspective!  William Penn’s dream for his new colony was all about living a fulfilled and worthwhile life, and it’s never too late to make a difference.

We have featured some amazing articles this past year on so many different issues and people, and gathered a wonderful following for the blog!  I’d like to send out a big THANK-YOU to the staff and interns who have contributed articles this past year.  I think we have created a very special resource for our volunteers and anyone with an interest in 17th-century history!!

But this is not meant to be a one-way street – we invite your comments, questions, and discussion!  Also if there are any topics you find fascinating and would like to learn more about, please feel free to comment on this post and we’ll try to address it in the coming months!

I wish all Pennsbury’s wonderful volunteers a very happy New Year!

Written by Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator

Penn’s Pen: Poetry…From Prison

England’s persecution of the Quakers meant that William Penn spent a good deal of time in prison.  He wrote a lot of pamphlets defending his beliefs, but also expressed his fervor in poetry.  While in Newgate Prison in 1671, Penn wrote and sent this poem to Gulielma Springett.  Despite the wording of this poem, Quakers were subjected to serious financial penalties, not the physical torture of the rack!

Your Goals and Prisons we defie,

By bonds we’l keep our Libertie.

Nor shall your Racks, or Torments make

Us, e’re our Meetings to forsake.


Nor all your Cruelties afright

Our Hearts, that own & love the Light.

No, death can never make us bend,

Nor make our Conscience condescend.


For that Seed’s risen, wch will bow,

And lay your lofty Mountains low,

Your Hills shall fly away before

The Majesty that we adore.


And Heaven will display it self

Before your Eyes to our Releif,

And you that persecute shall know

A deadly Arrow from his Bow.


And vengeance, for a Recompense

He’l render you, in our Defence,

And overturn for evermore

False Prophet, dragon & the Whore.


By Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

Penn’s Pen: Stay in School

As children get ready to return to school, let’s take a look at Penn’s vision for schooling his own children.  This is from a letter to his wife Gulielma written as he prepared to leave for America 1682.  He is setting everything in order, just in case “I should never see you more in this world”:

 For their learning, be liberal.  Spare no cost, for by such parsimony all is lost that is saved; but let it be useful knowledge, such as consistent with truth and godliness, not cherishing a vain conversation or idle mind, but ingenuity mixed with industry is good for the body and mind too.  I recommend the useful parts of mathematics, as building houses or ships, measuring, surveying, dialing*, navigation, etc.; but agriculture is especially in my eye.  Let my children by husbandmen and housewives.  It is industrious, healthy, honest and of good example…It is commendable in the princes of Germany, and [the] nobles of that empire, that they have all their children instructed in some useful occupation.  Rather keep an ingenious person in the house to teach them than send them to schools, too many evil impressions being commonly received there.  Be sure to observe their genius and don’t cross it as to learning.  Let them not dwell too long on one thing, but let their change be agreeable, and all their diversions have some little bodily labor in them.

 *surveying under ground, as in a mine


Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

Penn’s Pen: Dear Emperor of Canada…

In June of 1682, Penn was busily preparing to leave for Pennsylvania.  But already he was writing to the Native Americans and establishing his two main concerns:  peaceful title to land and establishing commerce through the Free Society of Traders.  The Emperor of Canada is probably an Iroquois chief.
You can find the original of this letter in our exhibit:


The Great God that made thee and me and all the World Incline our hearts to love peace and Justice that we may live friendly together as becomes the workmanship of the great God.  The King of England who is a Great Prince hath for divers Reasons Granted to me a large Country in America which however I am willing to Injoy upon friendly termes with thee.  And this I will say that the people who comes with me are a just plain and honest people that neither make war upon others nor fear war from others because they will be just.  I have sett up a Society of Traders in my Province to traffick with thee and thy people for your Commodities that you may be furnished with that which is good at reasonable rates  And that Society hath ordered their President to treat with thee about a future Trade and have joined with me to Send this Messenger to thee with certain Presents from us to testify our Willingness to have a fair Correspondence with thee:  And what this Agent shall do in our names we will agree unto.  I hope thou wilt kindly Receive him and Comply with his desires on our behalf both with Respect to Land and Trade.  The Great God be with thee.  Amen.” 

Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

Ahoy Matey!

With the release of yet another Pirate movie, I thought I’d share some of our own William Penn’s experience with the swashbuckling menaces!  In April of 1700, Penn wrote to the Board of Trade explaining some of his troubles: 
Painting of Captain Kidd as imagined by the artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, ca. 1920

There came lately to my Notice this Information, That when Captain Kidd was off our Capes, there went on board him Geo: Thomson, Peter Lewis, Henry Stretcher, William Orr, & Diggory Tenny from the town of Lewis in Sussex (now Delaware) the three first staid on board 24 hours, the two last but an hour, but both Companies brought Goods on Shoar, I hear to the Value of 300l, which they concealed and Sold as they could dispose of them, Some are yet in their Custody: Thomson Lewis and Orr were under suspicion of being old Pirates…here are 5 of them in this Government, but 3 of them have followed a Life of Husbandry, turning Planter, the other have Trades.

Penn goes on to say that the men in question, claiming that they did not know they were dealing with the infamous Captain Kidd, were in jail and cooperating with Penn. The General Assembly had, in Penn’s absence, repealed some of the laws regarding commerce with Pirates, and the men, who “Our present Law will hardly reach,” were allowed to live inPennsylvania.  Penn writes…

…It is true they are poor and married men, & have Children, but such men must not be endured to live near the Sea-Coasts nor trade, least they become Receptacles and Broakers for Younger Pirates. … Since many of those reputed Pirates had some Years agoe been permitted to live in this & other Provinces, on Condition, that they left them not without leave, and behaved well while they Staid.  I wait the Kings Orders about them.  I have them all under good Bonds of Real and Personal Estate to be accountable and so Suffer them to live with their families, on their Plantations, till I receive further Directions about them.

~ Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

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