Rediscovering American History in My Backyard

Upcoming events at local historical sites have rekindled my interest in colonial American history.  The last time I had an opportunity to study American history in-depth was probably during high school.  I’ve decided that it’s time to rediscover Pennsylvania places, people and events that changed the fate of this country by visiting Fort Ligonier and a new Ben Franklin exhibit at Pittsburgh’s Senator John Heinz History Center, both opening this month.

My feature on Fort Ligonier’s upcoming events appeared in the Latrobe Bulletin this past weekend (“Fort Ligonier celebrates historical leaders during busiest season”).  This season, the organization plans to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the coronation of King George III, who is considered “America’s last king.”   The Fort will also celebrate another famous George with a visit from George Washington, as portrayed by renowned historical actor Dean MalissaThe Washington Collection at the Fort’s museum includes a pair of Saddle Pistols (a gift from the Marquis de La Fayette during the American Revolution), an 11-page autobiographical document describing Washington’s experiences in Southwestern Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War and an original nineteenth century painting by Rembrandt Peale depicting the young colonel in his military uniform.  In addition, Fort Ligonier will open their new exhibit on the Seven Years’ War and will continue their popular battle reenactments throughout the season, culminating with the annual Fort Ligonier Days this fall.

I’m really looking forward to checking out Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World, which opens at the Senator John Heinz History Center on Saturday, April 16th.

Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

This  new exhibit highlights Ben Franklin‘s achievements as a Founding Father, statesman, inventor and humorist.  Along with Franklin’s personal effects and inventions, the exhibition will also feature a section related to his  experiences in Southwestern PA during the French and Indian War.  It sounds like it will be an extensive and eye-opening exhibition.   I highly recommend purchasing a membership to the history center – For me, it’s invaluable to be able to check out new exhibits when they open, take advantage of invitations to special events and use the library and archives on my lunch hour.


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