Welcome to the Chester County Historical Society. My name is Rob Lukens and I have been the President of CCHS since 2011. I am a native of southeastern Pennsylvania. My family has been in the Philadelphia area since my ancestor Jan Lucken emigrated from Krefeld, Germany to found Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1683 with thirteen other families.
I have a deep fascination with the astounding history of this area. This passion started when I was a child conducting makeshift archeological digs in my neighbor's yard and sneaking into abandoned 19th century carriage houses. That passion was forged in 1993 when I began my museum career as a volunteer working with CCHS's collections. From there, I have interned and worked at CCHS in various capacities, researched my dissertation in its stellar collections, and even while working at other institutions, guest curated an exhibition here.CCHS State of the Organization Address presented by Rob Lukens on October 16, 2014.
The bottom line is - I love this place and know you will too (if you don't yet!). Here, you can check out some of the stories - from the lively and moving to the bizarre and inspiring - of Chester County through articles I've written. You can also learn about the County's rich heritage through my radio show, "Passing Time" on WCHE 1520 a.m.
Since July 2012, I have hosted my own radio show on WCHE 1520 a.m. (the Talk of Chester County) called "Passing Time." My half-hour long show explores the rich history of Chester County through informal discussions with notable guests that include historians, authors, museum and historic professionals, and many others that contribute to our understanding of the past. Episodes will be uploaded here as they become available: Click the links below to listen to previous recordings of "Passing Time".
1816: The Year Without a Summer
True – the winter of 2013-2014 was absolutely miserable. But imagine if, here in the month of April, snows still fell and frosts persisted through the summer.
On Saturday, March 8, 2014, the Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) hosted hundreds of students from Chester and Delaware Counties during its annual Regional National History Day (NHD) competition. Coincidentally, the event fell on International Women's Day and occurred in Women's History Month, spotlighting the dozens of students who presented projects on women's history topics.
In September 1925, an unassuming young seventeen-year-old packed his bags for college, hopped in his parents’ car, and took a ride from his native Maryland to Lincoln University in southern Chester County. Twenty-nine years later, this man helped topple the "separate but equal" legal foundation of racial discrimination and late
The past is full of mysteries. There is one that's been stuck in the back of my mind for years.
If you walk into CCHS’s current feature exhibition, Profiles: Chester County Clothing of the 1800s, you will immediately be struck by an explosion of colors, shapes and sizes. Hidden among the fancy dresses and coats is an unassuming dress that one might miss at first glance.
Wherever I've gone, architect Thomas U. Walter, the “Dean of American Architects,” was there too.
If you look in the history books to read about Santa Claus, you'll discover a tale that is millennia old and involved countless people in the making. Harkening from fourth-century Turkey, a monk named St. Nicholas became legendary for his kindness.
When most people think of Chester County's history, they think of rolling fields, the Underground Railroad, and the American Revolution. But Chester County is not just farms and cannonballs. Its heritage includes a vast technological revolution that influenced the modern world.
Washington never slept here, but his furniture maker did.
As we approach the Fourth of July, between the fireworks, barbecues, and parades, stop for a moment to remember Hazel Johnson-Brown. On June 14th, 33 years ago on Flag Day in 1979, she became the first black woman general in the entire history of the U.S. military. Brown, who passed away in 2011, was born and raised right here in Chester County.
As we celebrate Black History Month, a number of well-known Civil Rights figures typically come to mind - Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and many others. Although they deserve their acclaim, February 2012 is the perfect time to reflect on Bayard Rustin, Chester County's own Civil Rights hero, during the centennial of his birth.
The naming of institutions after individuals is a powerful thing. It ensures that we don't forget the great people of the past. In the case of the northern Chester County's Owen J. Roberts School District and associated schools, it worked. The former West Vincent Township resident and Supreme Court Justice's name is revered in perpetuity.
If you lived in Chester County 235 years ago, you might have witnessed key moments of the American Revolution. Huge swaths of the county saw troop movements, encampments, and even battles through September 1777 and beyond.
Visionaries Created the Chester County Archives
Nearly 150 years ago, Chester Countian Uriah Hunt Painter was exactly where he wanted to be –in the middle of one of the biggest battles in American history, the Battle of Gettysburg.
When it comes to the materials of our past, one Chester County publishing company has had it figured out for decades. From furniture and textiles to toys and Christmas ornaments, for nearly forty years, Schiffer Publishing has produced thousands of books that teach us our history through objects.
It is the time of year where toys, books, and games have just taken center stage. Characters like Elmo, Barbie, and the Teenage Mutant Turtles have graced our circulars, television sets, and store shelves since...well, September!
The year was 1820 and the nation was grappling with the issue of slavery like never before. The admittance of new states forced the issue before Congress, which sought to balance power between free and slave states.
Imagine the year is 1825. You are a 31-year-old mother, pregnant with your sixth child. You've already lost two children in infancy. Your husband has struggled for a dozen years to build an iron-making business in the rolling backcountry of Chester County on the banks of Brandywine Creek. Suddenly he dies, leaving you alone.
Graceanna Lewis was born in 1821 into a remarkable Quaker family in West Vincent Township. Her father was a well known abolitionist. Her mother was a talented teacher.
If you needed underwear in 1957, you may have hopped on a trolley, train, or jumped in your car to go to J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, or Sears Roebuck. Chances are, if you were a man, you would have purchased underwear made right here in Chester County - Spring City to be more exact - at the Spring City Knitting Company on the banks of the Schuylkill River.
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FOR NEARLY 25 YEARS, the Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) has hosted an innovative program that has positively changed thousands of young lives—National History Day.
In the 1820s, a chemist by the name of Isaac Tyson Jr. made a serendipitous discovery that would change the course of industrial history. At a busy market in Baltimore, Tyson watched a man drive a cart holding a barrel that was propped on some peculiar rocks. Tyson, who already operated a modest chromite mine near Baltimore, recognized the material as chromite.
When Margaret and Thomas C. Willcox purchased their Birchrunville, West Vincent, home about 20 years ago, they were drawn by the quaint setting and historic character. Thomas, a builder, and Margaret, now a real estate agent, had no idea that their house was once home to a man who changed the medical trajectory of the world.