Announcement: Interns’ Corner Blog

his341 2015 (1)

Students in Dr. Black’s HIS 341 course (fall 2015) processing archival material in the MU archives

Misericordia regularly sends our students out into the community to build their professional experience and serve others.  Since 2016, MU has sent several students to internships in Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Scranton, PA; and Eckley, PA.  Read more about our students’ work in area historic sites, museums, and other related public history endeavors below.

Week 12 LCHS

Throughout this week at the Luzerne County Historical Society, I have cataloged a part of the Welles Collection that has a large assortment of letters Edward Welles wrote to family members, friends, and acquaintances. Most of the letters I came across were written in an elegant style that was difficult for me to read. Thus, I could not understand what Edward Welles wrote to his wife, Stella Welles. However, there were typed letters Edward Welles wrote to acquaintances, friends, and family members. Many of the typed letters I came across pertained to business, property, and so on.

I hope by next week, I will be able to do another task related to interactions with the public, if I complete the task of cataloging the Welles Collection, that is. I find doing tasks, such as researching for the public, particularly interesting because you get to learn more about a topic that you may not have studied in the past. Additionally, doing that specific task excites me because I would get to work in the archives, rather than only cataloging. I do enjoy cataloging artifacts, but I prefer to have a variety of tasks rather than only one. In all, fingers crossed that I will do a small task next week before I end my internship at the Luzerne County Historical Society.

Week 11 LCHS

This week at the Luzerne County Historical Society, I continued cataloging the Welles collection and came across two interesting books. One small book I came across was titled “Twenty-Two Years of Protection” by Henry V. Poor, written in September 1888. In his book, Poor discusses the transitions of America’s financial history from the colonial period to the late 1800s, dividing the transitions into three distinct phases:  ‘The Period of Construction’ (1789-1829), ‘The Period of Attempted Destruction’ (1829-1865), and lastly, ‘The Period of Restoration’ (1865-1887). Throughout the book, Poor discusses each phases of America’s financial history, but focuses on the last phase extensively. I thought the book was appealing because of the title, even though I don’t have much interest in its topic. On the other hand, if any readers are interested in America’s financial history, they should not hesitate to take a look at it.

The other interesting book I came across was titled “The Right and Left Hand Blessings of God: Designed as a Cure for Covetousness” by Rev. Nathaniel West. The book got my attention as I was reading the title and its claim that it can cure one’s greed. Inside the book, there are excerpts of scripture, right hand blessings, and so on. These components highlighted by West were, and possibly are presently, believed to be a way to heal a greedy individual’s spirit. Due to time restrictions, I unfortunately could not look further into the book. However, when I do have the time I would like to read it, because the “right hand blessings” highlighted in the book, such as the ‘Length of Days’ and ‘Riches and House’,  seem interesting to me. Anyhow, as the semester is coming to an end, I am going to continue cataloging the Welles collection until mid-December. Thus, I wonder what I will find next week in the collection!

Week 10 LCHS

This week at the Luzerne County Historical Society I unfortunately did not have a new assignment, so I was back to inventorying the Welles collection. Some things I came across in the collection were interesting, such as paper money that represented 25 cents, 15 cents, etc. The paper money sparked my interest because it was paper money, not coins identical to what we have today. Also, what was unique about the paper money was the different colors and designs on them. One 25 cent bill had a bright orange and yellow colors on it and an elegant design. Another interesting objects I came across were vintage gift tags from the 1800s. Some were with people, men, women and children or them individually, and others had flowers or birds. The flower and bird gift tags were charming and had nice colors.

In the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to interview the individuals from the historical society on their positions and gain more insight into the organization and their specific careers. I had an interview with the librarian and archivist of the Luzerne County Historical Society, who shared information about the process to get to where she is now. She informed me that there were specific tests she had to take. For instance, a test the librarian/archivist had to take was the Civil Service exam. She discussed with me that it is an exam in order to work for the state. Additionally, she advised me that for jobs in this career to check the state website first before anything else. She said that the state website is simpler than other ways to locate a position that I am looking for.

Another individual I had the opportunity to interview is the Executive Director of the Luzerne County Historical Society. She discussed with me her history that led up to her position here and it was quite interesting. She has a bachelor’s degree in history, one master’s degree in history, one doctorate degree in history (both the master’s and doctorate are with specializations), and now is working on her second master’s degree in business. She is well-educated in history and now business which is obviously well-suited for the position she is in. She worked at various small and large historical societies and museums. Thus, she advised me to decide whether I would want to work at a small or large society or museum. Making the decision to work at a small or large location is important because in a small location an individual would have more responsibilities in contrast to a larger one. In all, I am very grateful for both the librarian/archivist and the executive director willingly assisting me in my path towards a career choice.

Week 9 LCHS

This week at the Luzerne County Historical Society, I was assigned something new to do. I was assigned to go through the Luzerne County Historical Society’s Vulcan Iron Works collection. In the collection, I had to locate anything that would be useful for a research request. The specific individual was looking for information pertaining to a gentleman named Theodile Guibar, an inventor from Belgium. Theodile Guibar made many fans and other ventilators that the Vulcan Iron Works used in their locomotives in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The individual was looking for any letters between Theodile Guibar and engineers who worked for Vulcan Iron Works or any other documents mentioning him. Unfortunately, there were no letters between an engineer and Theodile Guibar or documents that mentioned his name. Many of the documents and books in the Luzerne County Historical Society’s collection consisted of sales records, books with records of executive meetings, inspection records, and any information related to the locomotives. Even though I could not assist the individual with any documents that had his name or letters, the archivist/librarian at the Luzerne County Historical Society stated that she would refer him or her to another historical society that has a Vulcan Iron Works collection.

During the few days I researched that collection, I came across some interesting information about the location. The Vulcan Iron Works was founded in 1849 by an individual named Richard Jones. Richard Jones was an engineer whose focus was to build iron machinery for mines. Before he founded the Vulcan Iron Works, Jones was an employee of another company named Riddle, Chambers, & Company. Subsequently, The Riddle, Chambers, & Company went bankrupt because of a depression in the early 1840s. The rising demand of the mining industry in the 1800s made the Vulcan Iron Works a financially successful company. The 1870s primarily was the pinnacle point of the Vulcan Iron Works’ financial success. One way this occurred was by the demand of machinery that made vertical shafts in mines. Thus, Vulcan Iron Works’ hoisting engines, elevator cages, and related items were in great demand.

In all, this assignment reminded me of the Luzerne County Historical Society’s willingness to assist an individual in his or her research project in any way they can. Also, the assignment was another way to utilize previous archival skills I learned from my last internship, which is great. I am excited to find out what new assignments I may acquire next week.

LCHS Week 8

       Similarly to my post last week, I came across another booklet recently concerning mineralogy that I found interesting to read. The booklet is an excerpt of the journal named The American Journal of Science and the article is titled “On Bixbyite, A New Mineral, and Notes on the Associated Topaz”. The article was written by S. I. Penfield and H. W. Foote, regarding Bixbyite and Topaz, minerals that Maynard Bixby discovered. Penfield and Foote discuss the physical features of bixbyite, the hardness of it, and the different mathematics to studying the mineral. Additionally, Penfield and Foote explore the method they used to analyze the mineral. Penfield and Foote laid out the procedure of the chemistry used, such as a thallium-silver nitrate mixture, and the addition of other chemicals, such as chlorine, in order to conclude that the mineral can dissolve; even though the mineral’s hardness is high (6-6.5). Furthermore, Penfield and Foote go on to discuss the other mineral, topaz. During their analysis, Penfield and Foote state that some topaz minerals can be over four centimeters long and can be either transparent, white, or a light wine color. Towards the end of the article, Penfield and Foote continue to discuss the chemistry behind their study of topaz.

I found this booklet to be quite interesting. I found it neat that there is a mineral named after Maynard Bixby. I would estimate that if a mineralogist found a new mineral and had it named after the individual, it would be quite rewarding. I think it would be rewarding to the individual because all of their hard work and determination paid off. However, I was not keen on all of the chemistry behind it, only due to my disinterest in the chemical components of a mineral and the chemical procedures. In all the discovery was a fascinating find and I learned a lot about these two minerals that I have not heard of previously.

Week 7 LCHS

It is almost the end of October and I have continued cataloging artifacts from the Welles Collection at the museum. Notably, I came across a small booklet that I feel anyone, especially mineralogists, would find interesting. The short, small booklet written by Maynard Bixby, one of Edward Welles’ cousins, contains information about certain minerals located in Utah and various localities. Maynard Bixby was born in Wyalusing, PA in 1853. His parents were George Bixby and Jane Welles; he was the eldest out of three children. He graduated from Lafayette College in 1876 and moved to Wilkes-Barre with his wife. Shortly after, Maynard became a bookkeeper and studied law. After some time being a bookkeeper, Maynard traveled around the US and worked in some mines. During that time, he was exposed to the vast number of minerals in different mines and locations.

Thus, in Maynard Bixby’s small booklet, he mentions one mineral named Topaz. He discovered topaz in Juab County, around the Thomas Mountain locality (nine miles north from the Detroit District). In the booklet, it describes the physical description of the mineral, as well as discussing the proper way to extract the mineral from the hillside and small gorges filled with sand. Furthermore, there were two minerals in the booklet that I found interesting, Tiemannite and Onofrite, located in the locality of Marysvale, in Piute County, Utah. Maynard Bixby wrote that Tiemannite could only be formed in Marysvale. This is not true, however, because there are records of Tiemannite located in Mexico. Nonetheless, Bixby did not state the reason to its location only in Marysvale. It is possible that the reason is because of the environment and or the components of the mineral. Two components of Tiemannite are mercury and selenide, HgSe. According to Bixby, he approximated that the largest recorded Tiemannite was one fourth of an inch. The other mineral, Onofrite, is described by Bixby as a mineral that is no longer available in Marysvale and is of no value.

I did some research on Onofrite and the mineral is quite unique. Onofrite is a mix of three chemicals: mercury, sulfur, and selenium. These three minerals form a slight metallic mineral with clusters of maroon and burgundy. Onofrite is a variation of the mineral, Metacinnabar, a HgS mineral that is malleable. Bixby stated in his booklet that the mineral can not be found in the Marysvale locality. However, I discovered that the mineral is located around the area. Overall, I am glad I came across this artifact in the collection because I had the opportunity to learn about exceptional minerals in the US.

The image can be found in Google images.

Week 6 LCHS

I am still cataloging the Welles collection here at the Luzerne County Historical Society. This week, I came upon interesting information concerning to the Hollenback family, particularly Matthias Hollenback. Matthias Hollenback, born in 1752 and died in 1829, was the great-uncle of Stella (Hollenback) Welles. There is a document in the collection, written by one of Hollenback’s nieces or nephews, about the life of Matthias Hollenback. The document discusses about Hollenback’s time in the army, his settlement in Wilkes-Barre and his experience of the Wyoming Massacre. Hollenback came to the Wyoming Valley from Lebanon county in 1769, when he was a teenager. He became a merchant shortly after and settled in Wilkes-Barre around the public square. There Hollenback built his store that sold necessities, such as groceries and a home above it. The building was burned down shortly after the Wyoming Massacre. Afterwards, Hollenback would travel out of Pennsylvania and settle in other places. However, after a short time he missed the Wyoming Valley and returned.

Throughout most of his life, Matthias Hollenback had many encounters with Native Americans, some of the accounts unpleasant and others not. For instance, Hollenback discussed the events after the Wyoming Massacre and notes that while he was fleeing the battle, the Indians located him in the river and tried to kill him. Additionally, Hollenback came across Indians who robbed many individuals in the Wyoming Valley and attempted to stop them. On the other hand, Hollenback spoke of an instance at Seneca Lake, New York, where an experience with the Indians ended positively. Hollenback went to New York to establish a small number of stores near Seneca Lake and trade with the Indians. One day Hollenback and a group of other men went to Seneca Lake to make a trade for goods, however the Indians assumed that they planned to steal their land. Thus, the Indians took them prisoner and inspected their saddles. Hollenback stated that the Indians would have killed them if one of them had a compass. I thought this was interesting because I do not understand why the Indians would kill them for a compass. Nevertheless, Hollenback and the other men were let go after he explained to the Indian chief their peaceful intentions, which led to a fur-trade agreement. I am glad I came across this document because of its interesting account on the Wyoming Massacre and the quarrel with the Indians.

Week 5 LCHS

I am half way through the Welles Collection at the Luzerne County Historical Society. I have seen many interesting personal objects the Welles owned and many documents pertaining to each individual thus far. This week I came across an interesting document that was Edward Welles’ passport. The passport was only a folded up document that listed Edward Welles’ height, eye color, etc. and requesting that any location Edward Welles travels to provides him with safe passage. The document is interesting to me because it is extremely different than a passport today. A passport today is a small booklet containing an image of the individual, their date of birth, nationality, and sex, as well as other important information pertaining to the passport. Furthermore, the passport has American symbols on it such as the bald eagle and American flag, and the start of the Declaration of Independence. Edward Welles’ passport did not have an image of the American flag; there was only an image of a Roman woman in classical attire leaning on a pillar and a stone wall with a shield leaning on it.  I understand that Edward Welles passport would have details of his physical features because of the lack of photography. However, I think it is interesting to compare Edward Welles’ passport to a fairly recent one in order to identify similarities and differences.

Since I finished inventorying the boxes that held objects and documents of the Welles, I started inventorying objects and documents in the first filling cabinet. I have come across interesting information about the Alexander family. The Alexander family were friends with the Welles, and have an interesting family history. The Alexander family came originally from a noble family in England, starting with an individual named Andrew, the son of Archibald Alexander of Ballybigley. Andrew of Ballybigley purchased the estate of Crew from a parish in Ireland and raised a large family. Andrew’s son, Thomas, emigrated to America, where his family would be a part of many events in early America. For instance, Andrew’s descendants took part in the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Additionally, Emily Alexander, one individual from the Alexander family, was related to Captain William Burritt. Captain William Burritt worked alongside George Washington and a member of the Order of the Cincinnati. In conclusion, I am looking forward to learning more about the Welles and their collection of objects from other prominent families in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Week 4 LCHS

This week, I continued filling out the inventory for the Welles Collection at the Luzerne County Historical Society. During that time, I came upon some interesting information about Edward and Stella (Hollenback) Welles’ son, Edward Welles Jr., Edward Welles’ cousin Alexander Baird, and an achievement of Edward Welles. I came across information on Edward Welles Jr. in a document discussing the struggle with his health. Edward Welles Jr. suffered from digestive problems that doctors believed could have been prevented. Throughout Edward Welles Jr.’s first year to adolescence he would refuse to eat healthy and only eat non-nutritive foods. As a result, Edward Welles Jr.  suffered from harsh stomach aches and malnutrition. Edward Welles Jr.’s decisions were influenced by the decisions of his family. His father and his brothers also suffered from stomach disorders that many individuals today recognize as the result of an irregular diet. Most foods the Welles family consumed were made with pork fat, foods with high amounts of starch, and fried foods. However, not all of Edward Welles Jr.’s health problems were due to poor diet decisions; he also suffered from eczema. He suffered with eczema throughout his life because he inherited it from his father.

Another interesting artifact I came across was a group of letters written by Edward Welles’ cousin, Alexander Baird, during the Civil War and a document validating his service in the Confederate army. There is a small folder containing several pages of letters Alexander Baird wrote to his mother during his time at different camps and after battles. For instance, there is a letter Alexander Baird wrote after the aftermath of the Battle of Fredericksburg. Baird states that at least 5000 Union soldiers were captured during the battle and praises General Robert E. Lee for his ability to foil the Union army’s plan of attack. Lastly,  I came across a small pamphlet concerning Edward Welles’ retirement. The pamphlet was created by directors and other officials at the People’s Bank located in Wilkes-Barre, and states that they acknowledge Edward Welles’ retirement, congratulate him, and wish him the best. Next week I will continue to process this collection and hope to discover more interesting things about the Welles.

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