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.
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.
In the summer and fall 2018, I partnered with the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, PA, to co-curate an exhibit on mining photography. My co-curators (AHM Director Bode Morin, and AHM Curator John Fielding) and I wanted to capture the ways in which photography has served to document, memorialize, and preserve Anthracite mining and mining culture, from the beginnings of the Anthracite industry in Northeast PA in the nineteenth century through today.
The resulting exhibit, Anthracite Photographers: Photographers of Anthracite, brought together the work of nine photographers who documented the Anthracite Region, including Lewis Hine, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Bernd and Hilla Becher, George M. Bretz, Watson Brunnell, William Herman Rau, George Harvan, John Horgan Jr., Scott Herring, local press photographs, and the photographers of the Federal Government’s HABS-HAER project. We examined the collective contributions of these artists and practitioners, and the ways in which their work catalyzed social action, served industrial purposes, and memorialized NEPA’s post-industrial landscape. The exhibit opened December 1, 2018, and featured a companion exhibition catalog. The exhibit is scheduled to be on-view at the Anthracite Heritage Museum through 2021.
–Jennifer M. Black, Assistant Professor of History, Misericordia University
Misericordia University History major Sarah Sporko provided crucial support throughout the duration of the project, with funding from Misericordia’s SURF program for the summer months. Sarah’s blog, reproduced below, chronicles the project’s completion through her internship in the fall of 2018. For more information on Misericordia University’s public history opportunities, visit misericordia.edu/history.
The last few weeks have been crazy with school and the internship. One would think because the internship was online already nothing would change but it did and it was a lot to deal with. I was given a few small projects, and one big one.
The biggest project I worked on was the most time consuming and was continuous through the whole semester starting when Maria Adebola went on maternity leave. For this project, I had to attend a seminar on how to use Social Studio. Everyday I had to log on to Social Studio and review all comments on the VHA Twitter and Facebook pages, and by review I mean read them all, select a category to tag them in, and either assign them to be replied to or close them out. I had to go on several times a day Monday through Friday and I realized that it consumed a big chunk of time. I discussed with Robin and Debi to go on three times a day while school was in session. When everyone went on quarantine the comments nearly doubled with everything that was happening, so I had to go on more and more to get it all done. They were more than understanding if I couldn’t be on at a certain time but I always got all the comments done by the end of the day and made sure the ones that needed to commented back were assigned as soon as possible.
Overall this internship was a wonderful experience and I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to work with the VHA team. I am excited that they offered me a volunteer position with more access to their systems until I finish school. I am excited to hopefully continue my role with in the organization and hope that it leads to a full time employment opportunity once I am finished with school.
For the thirteenth and final week of my internship, I finally managed to finish the names from the list sent to me. During this week I covered the years from 1869 to 1872. I thought that 1872 was important because this was the year before he died. My assumption is that Maxwell died really early in 1873, so that would explains its exclusion from the list. There really was not much to discuss from any of the findings. No new names or names of stores. Maxwell died in 1873, so it is likely he was not working as hard for the last five years of his life. That said I have no clear idea when he retired since there were very little names on the list during the 1870s. It was fitting that I managed to complete it in my final week. After I finished the list I told both Amanda and Dr. Black that I was finished. I sent the list to Amanda and then had to work on a reflection paper for Dr. Black. It only had to be one page long so it did not take too much time for me to complete. I also made sure to send out a thank you email to Amanda for allowing me to have an internship and to work away from Luzerne County. I loved looking through documents that were well over a hundred years old and trying to piece out information about a man who has been dead. Despite the setbacks from the pandemic, I still enjoyed my internship at the Luzerne County Historical Society. I would also like to thank Dr. Black again for helping me get this internship in the first place and further assisting me. As well as, Mr. Donahue too for telling me what to do for my internship when I knew it was time to start.
For week 12, I typed up the names from 1860-1868. As mentioned in last week’s post, I was rather miffed that I could not look through the files during the Civil War. I have no way of knowing what Maxwell did during the Civil War, but it seems that he might have been rather busy. Not busy in the sense of fighting since this is also close to the end of his life, but more in terms of work. The files from 1860-1865 have a lot more names on them. I have no idea if these are from the family members of those killed during the war trying to ask for insurance, as well as his friends discussing the war. As well as the political occurrences like the Emancipation Proclamation. I am a little upset that I may never be able to look through any of these documents, but I am at peace with this. The years after the war had less content in comparison. Granted that’s not to say that there were very few, 1868 had a pretty large sample. 1868 might have been the last time Maxwell ever worked full time since the following years have even fewer names. Then again it could be since it was three years after the war ended, so perhaps business started to pick up again considering the fewer amount of content implied on the document. There were no notable new names that I could see, just the same coal and mining companies as before. Not to mention, the same banks and insurance companies as before. I figured that the insurance companies would have a couple of documents during each year of the Civil War addressed to Maxwell. At the time of this writing, I have finished the entire list and the following week’s post will be about my reflection paper.
During the eleventh week of my internship, I completed 1852 and stopped after completing 1859. One of the names that appeared frequently was St. Stephens Church. This got my attention because I remembered how the historical society was only next door to a church, so I did a quick google search and found out that they were the same. I am unsure if Maxwell was in frequent correspondence with the church was more for business and/or his own personal beliefs. Although I did find out that Maxwell was a lifetime member of a group called the American Christian Union, so it is likely he was rather religious. That said it was interesting and it reminded me of Wilkes-Barre. Another unfortunate problem from the pandemic was that after learning that the historical society opened in 1858 I could not look through any articles that discuss this. I could not find the name of Nathan Dennison, one of the founders, in the 1858 section. Another topic that I found interesting was that in 1857, Maxwell had been in correspondence with a group known as the Scranton Republicans. At first, I thought it meant that Maxwell might have been a Republican. However, after doing some research, I learned that it had nothing to do with the GOP, but was actually a newspaper. I have been unable to find any information regarding what party the paper generally supported during its publication, but I have found another important piece of information. During the late 1850s, the town of Scranton was growing into a full-blown industrial city. Due to this, I have learned the Republican was most likely a newspaper that revolved around businesses, not unlike Business Insider today. On a more personal note, I am rather disappointed that I will be unable to read the documents because of the buildup to the American Civil War. Something that will also play a part in next week’s journal.
For the tenth week of my internship, I continued to copy names down from the list onto the word document created by myself. Last week, I managed to complete 1846 and stopped towards the end of 1852. Throughout the list were insurance companies with the most common of these being the Franklin Fire Insurance Company. I have noticed it throughout week 10 and the preceding weeks, my assumption as to why it is so common would probably be that Maxwell was an associate. From what I can gather about the company is that was opened in Philadelphia in 1829 and eventually shut down in 1873. As to why it shut down, I am uncertain, but coincidentally the company closed down the same year Maxwell died. It is possible that Maxwell might have been a very valuable member or associate, but due to my lack of resources, this is an assumption. Another notable name that got my attention was a group called the Proprietors of Plymouth from 1849. This garnered my attention because of the name Plymouth, which brought to mind the colony founded by the Puritans. However, this was more than 200 years after the town was fully founded in 1620. A proprietor is someone who owns a business, so it would appear that Maxwell had some associates in Massachusetts. It was interesting to see that Maxwell had potential business associates in a historical town. It would also appear that Maxwell had been regularly associated with the Wyoming Bank. By Wyoming, these letters would refer to Wyoming Valley, which is not far from Misericordia. Throughout my time at Misericordia, I have gone to Wyoming Valley to purchase items. However, it would seem that the Wyoming Valley Bank is no longer around, but I have been unable to find any information on a Wyoming Valley Bank. Finally, one name that got my attention was the Staffordshire Coal & Iron Company in the year 1850. This mostly relates to the history of coal mining and steel manufacturing in Pennsylvania.
During my ninth week, I worked in intervals throughout the week. I managed to get ten hours done and managed to get through the years of 1844 and 1845 before stopping partway through 1846. Again due to the recent issues that plague us all, I am unable to go into detail about what document interested me the most. Instead, I have to find a couple of names on the sheet and theorize what it means. One recurring name was the Pine Forest Company, which grabbed my attention. I could not find any information about it, but considering Maxwell’s history of property dealership, I am inclined to believe that the company was responsible for the construction of homes. Pine Forest was either that or at the very least just supplied the wood needed for these homes. Another company that caught my attention was the Baltimore Coal Co. Considering Luzerne County’s history of coal mining and the fact Maxwell wrote a book about the subject fourteen years later it was nice to see a reminder of it. There were also the names of various banks such as the Wyoming Bank and the Philadelphia Bank. Considering Wyoming did not become a state until 1890 at least eighteen years after Maxwell died, it highly is likely this bank was referring to the Wyoming Valley not far from Misericordia. Regarding Philadelphia, it was interesting to know that Maxwell had correspondence with one of the most famous cities in American history. Finally, there was a letter from someone or someplace called Larkins of London. I was unable to find any information on whether or not this was a person or was some sort of business back during the 1840s. If it is referring to a person than it is interesting to see that Maxwell had been in contact with someone from London. I am rather disappointed that I was unable to read the document physically because it would be fascinating.
For the eighth week of my internship, after Dr. Black told me to try and work a little more than ten hours for a week or two, I decided to do just that. I managed to get twelve hours done that week. My strategy was to work in intervals throughout the day, usually, I’d work for an hour and then try to do another hour sometime later in the day. Like last time, due to certain conditions, I have been unable to fully understand what most of the documents are, but there are words on the list that I thought would be helpful. One document that apparently is in the folder for 1842, is a petition regarding a memorial. Despite not knowing the full context of the memorial this grabbed my interest because Maxwell does become a member of the historical society. So seeing a petition regarding something that he may have started or received does intrigue me. Regarding news from Luzerne County, yesterday, Amanda told me she has tried to find me documents relating to Maxwell. One of the documents she planned to send me was an obituary, however, at the time of Maxwell’s supposed death in 1873, there was a newspaper strike. So it is rather likely Maxwell never got an obituary due to this strike. I also did find some information about Maxwell from the “History of Luzerne County Book” he was apparently admitted into the society in 1831. I also found some general historical information that relates to Maxwell about how he and some trustees helped secure state appropriations after the Civil War. I also learned that Maxwell had a daughter who eventually got married. However, I could not find the daughter’s name, nor could I find a birth and death date for her. I also could not find the name of her husband.