July 07, 2003

A few weeks ago I ventured out to the Atwater-Kent Museum, a small but wonderful museum focused on the history of Philadelphia. It was my first trek over there, and I enjoyed it very much. It’s small, and a bit haphazard in its collection as many city history museums are, but there are some real gems in the collection.

If you’re like me, and you’re probably not, you have an intense interest in antique toys. If you share my passion, the Atwater-Kent has an outstanding collection of toys dating back from the 1950s back to the Revolutionary Era. It’s in the first room on your right as you enter the museum, and it’s not to be missed.

The main gallery is equally interesting. Take your time going through it, because if you don’t you’ll miss some of the best things in the museum’s collection, including a lock of George Washington’s hair, ample memorabilia from the centennial celebration held here in 1876, and some incredible portraiture.

Here’s another tid-bit. Did you know that the original Stetson hats were made in Philadelphia? I didn’t either. Stetson was based in Philadelphia but, as a smart businessman, determined the East Coast market was too competitive for a new entrant. He saw growth opportunities out West and focused his marketing efforts out there, to much success and fame.

And did you know that half the people on the boat with William Penn on the way to Philadelphia from England died of smallpox? Neither did I. (Lots of people died on Columbus's voyages also. And on the Mayflower, etc.) It’s interesting to think how differently things could have turned out if certain famous figures in history had not survived their Atlantic crossings.)

The same weekend I ran across the construction site at Penn’s Landing, on the Delaware River, set aside for the Irish Memorial. It’s about time someone decided my people are worth recognizing. (Or half of my people. Or half of me.) I can’t wait until it’s completed.


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