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.
The collections of the Misericordia Archives are a microcosm of women’s lives in the twentieth century United States. This service-learning project in the fall of 2017 enabled students to situate the rich history of campus life within broader events taking place in the United States. The entries below comprise students’ reflections on this experience.
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.
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.
This past week at the Luzerne County Historical Society, I worked on inventorying some more objects from the Welles Collection. I came across many nice photographs of individuals who had relations to the Welles or photographs of the Welles. Also, I found something interesting about the way individuals addressed Edward Welles in a letter. The individual who wrote a letter to Edward Welles started with “Bro,…”. I found this interesting because I did not think that individuals at that time used informal language when writing to someone. The Welles family always wrote formally to family members, as well as to acquaintances. The notion of individuals writing only formally at that time is why the informal language in that letter surprised me.
Another interesting object I came across during the week was a small booklet titled “Sayings of Edward Welles Jr.” This booklet held a small collection of things or sayings that Edward Welles Jr. did or said. For instance, there was an instance where Edward Welles Jr.’s grandfather visited them. When the grandfather was leaving, Edward Welles Jr. did not want him to leave, so he tried to take his grandfather’s satchel. Once he attempted to take his grandfather’s satchel, Edward Welles Jr. said “Don’t go Grandpa, I got to stay here, you stay here.” When I read this, I thought what Edward Welles Jr. did and said to his Grandfather was cute. I am not surprised that Edward Welles Jr. did this to his grandfather because I have seen letters he would write to his grandfather at a very young age that he missed him.
During my time inventorying some of the collection, I came across the Wilkes-Barre record of Stella Welles’ death in 1947. The document lays out many activities where Stella Welles was a participant. For instance, she was a part of the YMCA board. I thought it is interesting that she was a board member of the YMCA because of the name Young Men’s Christian Association. I just assumed that the board consisted only of men during the late 1800s to early 1900s. This is good to know that women could be a part of the YMCA at that time. Anyhow, I enjoyed my week at the Luzerne County Historical Society and I excited to find more intriguing objects from the Welles collection.
This past week at the Luzerne County Historical Society I continued working on the inventory of the Welles collection donation. Through one of the boxes I came across this week, I found some interesting material related to a flood along the Susquehanna River. The flood occurred in May of 1909 where many locations along the river, including Wilkes-Barre, were flooded. The flood was recorded as minor, but there was a significant amount of damage in the city. Additionally, the death toll of this flood was 11. The Welles Collection held one newspaper article and two small books on the topic, as well as a record of Virginia A. Welles’ experience of the event. It was difficult to uncover her experiences of the event, however, because of the evanescent ink. The two small books pertaining to the event held many photographs of definitive locations in Wilkes-Barre that were flooded and showcased many damaged objects. Additionally, the photographs show the individuals who were helping rescue others. Finding these objects in the Welles collection reminds me of the Hurricanes that have recently hit the Caribbean Islands, Hurricane Harvey striking Texas and Oklahoma, and Hurricane Irma’s wrath on Florida. My heart goes out to every one affected by the storms who have lost personal belongs, their homes, and or loved ones. I wish the best for them moving forwards having to start at scratch and or any other personal matter.
During my time inventorying the Welles Collection, I came across some objects pertaining to the Battle of Wyoming, also known as the Wyoming Massacre. In the collection, there is a small pamphlet announcing the first commemoration of the Wyoming Massacre. The commemoration of the horrible event in Pennsylvania’s history was through a reenactment of the third day of July, 1778. On that fateful day, approximately 360 people, consisting of men, women, and children, lost their lives. Others that escaped the attack eluded it only to die later on, either from starvation, wounds, or exposure to the environment. Likewise, I came across a book about the event as well. In the book, there is a plethora of interesting information pertaining to the event and a map of the areas American settlers stayed at in present day Wilkes-Barre, Forty Fort, etc.
I am looking forward to continue working on the inventory of the Welles Collection because I’ve found several objects that hold interesting information about Pennsylvania’s history. Not only am I interested in learning more about Pennsylvania’s history through this project, I am excited to find out any information pertaining to the Welles family. At this time, I have not come across anything that has caught my eye, but I hope something will next week.
It is my first week here at the Luzerne Historical Society. This week the archivist/librarian took me on a tour around the Luzerne Historical Society’s archive/library building. She showed be the numerous areas where there are many shelves of archival material, including objects that either have not been inventoried yet or have but are too large for archival boxes. After that tour, I went over to the society’s museum and one of the full time employees took me on a tour. On the tour, there were numerous areas of objects, such as clothing from numerous decades, antique military helmets, etc. One interesting object I found on the tour was a container that held a hat from the 1920s. The employee informed me that this specific hat had traveled around the world in the 1920s. I thought that was pretty amazing.
During this week, I had the opportunity to help the Luzerne Historical Society put up an exhibit on the Agnus flood of 1972. I helped another employee place some of the framed pictures on the walls. The unveiling of the exhibit to the public was this past Friday, so I came to the event to help them out. It was interesting seeing people from the public come and listening to their memories of the flood. Additionally, the unveiling of the exhibit was featured on Fox News and some of the employees from the Luzerne Historical Society were interviewed. If you are interested in watching that, you can find the video on Fox’s website.
Lastly, my first project is composing an inventory of the Welles collection. The Welles Collection is an assortment of object such as photographs, deeds and other documents, etc. The Welles were a large, wealthy family who resided in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Many of the objects I have come across so far belonged to Edward Welles Sr. who was active in many parts of Wilkes-Barre. For instance, he was the director of the Second National Bank for eight years and then made director of People’s National Bank. Edward Welles Sr. was a part of other companies such as the Hollenback Coal Company as well. I will be working on this project for quite some time during this internship and I am excited to discover more interesting facts about this family.
It is my final week here at the Anthracite Heritage Museum. I have learned a large number of useful skills that I think would benefit any career I choose to pursue after my college career; including archival and curatorial work. In my opinion, the most beneficial learning objective achieved from this internship are the learning skills for curatorial work and experiencing the specific areas of a curator’s job. For instance, not long ago I learned how curators attempt to clean artifacts that had mold on them and or were dusty, along with determining whether a frame was durable enough to still preserve the artifact. Also, I learned the difficult task of mounting photographs and the patience and delicacy required for cutting excess mounting board from the photograph. Furthermore, I learned the basic skill that a curator possesses, which is the process of cataloging artifacts from donations or otherwise bought. I learned that a curator records the unique design on the artifact, all of the engravings and or inscriptions on the artifact, and so on.
My time at the museum was great and I am grateful to have worked alongside the volunteers and staff. They are all wonderful and nice individuals with great personalities. During the majority of my time there, I was working with the curator. I am appreciative of his willingness to assist me in my decision of whether I want to be in the museum field and either becoming an archivist or curator. He is fantastic and took the role of a mentor exceedingly well. Regarding my decision about becoming an archivist, my mind is still set on perusing that career. However, if I would rather not become an archivist, I would choose to become a curator. Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Anthracite Heritage Museum and I do not regret interning there. Hopefully in the near future, I would like to go back and volunteer at the museum, maybe next summer.
This week at the Anthracite Heritage Museum there was some exciting things that occurred. One exciting thing that occurred was putting up the exhibit at Scranton Historical Museum that held photographs of breakers, miners, and immigrants that are important elements of this area’s history. In addition, there are labels placed beside the picture that highlights the information that pertains to the photographs. I am really excited and proud about this exhibit. I am proud of it because I mounted all of those photos and helped the curator out with picking out the labels and mounting them. That is the first exhibit I have ever helped on and it came out great.
Another exciting thing I did this week was assist the curator in cleaning photograph frames of photographs of the Sauquoit Silk buildings. The process is interesting, but requires a lot of patience. The parts of the process are to use a vacuum under a low suction setting and dab the frame lightly with the vacuum. After I cleaned off the frame of one of the donated artifacts, I had to take a photo of it. I had to take a photo of the artifact in order for the curator to send it to the collections committee. The collections committee would look at the artifact, in order to decide whether the artifact is worth keeping in their specific collection or not. If the collection committee did not accept the artifact, the curator would locate a museum or another facility that could take the artifact and preserve it in their collection. Nevertheless, the artifact I photographed would definitely be accepted because of Sauquoit building’s history in Scranton.
Also, this past week I helped the volunteers at the museum with Library Day. This event is where members of a local library group come to the Anthracite Heritage Museum to take a tour and participate in crafts. This year there was an activity where one could create a pair of mule ears. I assisted another volunteer in the craft section. There was not a large turnout to the event, but the children who came and participated in it had a lot of fun; showcasing their artistic side. Anyhow, next week will be my last week at the museum, so I am eager to see what the final week has in store for me!
Another week has gone by here at the Anthracite Heritage Museum. An interesting part of my week at the museum was researching about the Sauquoit Silk Manufacturing Corporation. I conducted research on the Silk Manufacturing Building because of a donation given to the Museum of pictures of the Building along with other Sauquoit Buildings in Pennsylvania, a picture of the layout of one of the buildings, and a brass sign that displays the name of the company. The curator had me look into the history of the silk mill because it helps provide a reason to why the donated artifacts are important to the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s collection (of which the AHM is part). After my research in the museum’s archives and studying the donations, I have discovered that one of Sauquoit Silk Manufacturing Corporation’s buildings was in Scranton and located on 302 Fig Street. The other two buildings in Pennsylvania were located in West Bethlehem and Philadelphia. Additionally, the Sauquoit Silk Manufacturing Building in Scranton was built in 1876, which was the first silk mill factory in Scranton. Since the curator asked that I research mainly about the company’s corporate history, I discovered a few interesting facts. For instance, I found that the president of the company in the 1900s was Alex D. Stelle and before him Lewis R. Stelle, a relative of Alex D. Stelle, was president.
Also, during my research I came across other interesting facts about the company. I found that in the late 1800s to the turn of the 20th century Sauquoit Silk Manufacturing Corporation employed around 600 women; whose age spanned from 12 years old to 25. The wages the women would receive would be between 15 to 25 dollars per month. As the company expanded to having buildings in other locations in Pennsylvania and adding more sections to the building in Scranton, the number of employed women ran up to over 1000 women. Additionally, Sauquoit’s building in Scranton was the largest in the State, having 15 different sections total.
Another interesting part of my week at Anthracite Heritage Museum was helping the museum with ways to connect with the public. As part of the management area of a museum, the management individuals are concerned with getting closer to achieving the mission of the museum they work at. Thus, my boss gave me a job that is part of this process, which was to create a SurveyMonkey account for the museum and research other possible social media outlets the museum could use. After I did my research, I came up with a few ideas on possible social media outlets the museum could use. An idea I thought of is to make Facebook live videos of an event that occurs at the museum or an employee going around the exhibit when there are tours taking place. When I discuss this with my boss, maybe Facebook live videos will occur at the museum in the future. We shall see…