PHMC Announces 22 New State Historical Markers

The iconic Don’t Give Up the Ship Battle Flag from the War of 1812, theater pioneer Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, innovations in natural gas extraction and distribution by George Westinghouse that made the fuel commercially available, and Sullivan Progress Plaza, the first shopping center developed, owned, and managed by African Americans are among the subjects of the 22 new state historical markers approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

The new markers, selected from 50 applications, will be added to the nearly 2,300 familiar blue-with-gold-lettering signs along roads and streets throughout Pennsylvania. Since 1946 PHMC’s historical markers have chronicled the people, places and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries. The signs feature subjects such as Native Americans and settlers, government and politics, athletes, entertainers, artists, struggles for freedom and equality, factories and businesses and a multitude of noteworthy topics.

Nominations for historical markers may be submitted by any individual or organization and are evaluated by a panel of independent experts from throughout the state and approved by the agency’s commissioners. More information on the Historical Marker Program, including application information, is available online at

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The following is a list of the newly approved state historical markers with the name of the marker, location and a brief description:

American Institute of Mining Engineers, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County
Founded in 1871 in Wilkes-Barre, this organization of mining professionals was formed to attain a more economical production of useful minerals and metal, and to improve the safety and welfare of those involved in the mining industry.  It was one of the earliest associations of engineering professionals in the nation and known as an Engineering Founder Society.

Anthony Benezet, Philadelphia
A Quaker abolitionist who was a pioneer in the education of females and blacks.  In the 1750s he established schools for both, some of the first in Pennsylvania.  He was tireless and unwavering in his opposition to slavery, writing numerous pamphlets and correspondence on the subject.  He is credited with convincing many, including Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush, to promote abolition.

The Dennis Farm, Brooklyn Twp., Susquehanna County
African American Farm that was established c. 1800 and remained in the same family for over 200 years.  This property tells the story of free blacks in rural PA.  It is believed to have been an Underground Railroad station, due to strong anti-slavery sentiments in the integrated community and evidence that the family was active in abolitionist activities.

Devon Horse Show, Devon, Chester County
Begun in 1896 and designated a Heritage Competition by the US Equestrian Federation (USEF), the Devon Horse show is the oldest and largest outdoor multi-breed competition in the nation.  It was a founding member of the American Horse Show Association, which became the USEF.

Don’t Give Up the Ship Battle Flag, Erie
In the summer of 1813, seven Erie women created a battle flag for Oliver Hazard Perry to fly on his ship, the Lawrence, in the Battle of Lake Erie.  Perry used these inspiring last words of recently deceased Captain James Lawrence to rally his crew to victory, one of the first for the nation’s fledgling navy.  The words have become the unofficial motto of the US Navy, and the flag a national icon now on display at the US Naval Academy.

Dr. Constantine Hering, Philadelphia
A pioneer in the field of homeopathic medicine, Hering’s research and educational methods were ground breaking.  He developed numerous medicines, established the first school of homeopathy in the US, and published books and journals still influential today.  He was a founder of the American Institute of Homeopathy in 1844, the first national medical society in the US.

Eddie Adams, New Kensington, Westmoreland County
A Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, whose iconic photo Saigon Execution brought to light the brutality of the Vietnam War and swayed public opinion about the war.  Adams got his start as a photographer in his PA home town, shooting photographs for his high school yearbook and as a staff photographer for the local newspaper. After a career of national and international acclaim, Adams was buried in New Kensington.

Ethel Waters, Chester, Delaware County
A renowned singer and actress, Ethel Waters was born into poverty in Chester, PA.  Having an unstable family life, she was forced into marriage to an abusive husband at the age of thirteen.  Originally working as a maid, she began singing at nightclubs in Philadelphia, and eventually made her way to Broadway.  Her blues style reflected her difficult early life.  She became a Grammy winner and Academy and Emmy Award nominee.

Maxfield Parrish, Philadelphia
A nationally recognized artist and illustrator, Parrish was born, raised, and educated in Philadelphia.  He is known for painting in vibrant shades of blue and capturing the spontaneity of movement.  He was in the forefront of commercial art, realizing that presenting appealing artwork on advertisements boosted sales.  His works have garnered widespread popularity and can be found in museums worldwide.

Medical Library Association, Philadelphia
The oldest medical library association in the world, it was founded in 1898 to improve the condition of medical libraries and thus facilitate the availability of medical literature to medical practitioners, researchers, educators and students.  This increased accessibility of records led to critical advances in the medical professions.

Mildred Scott Olmstead, Rose Valley, Delaware County
A tireless worker for peace and relief movements beginning in WWI, Olmstead was a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and eventually the executive director of the national organization for 20 years.  She traveled the world speaking on behalf of WILPF and its causes, and she was an advocate for women’s rights.  She received many awards for her efforts.

Newport Citizens Free Captured Fugitive Slaves, Newport, Perry County
This well-documented event related to Underground Railroad activity, brings to light the anti-slavery sentiment in southcentral PA in the mid-18th century.  Three fugitive slaves entered Perry County in 1841 pursued by bounty hunters and were captured.  Several Newport citizens not only helped them to escape and provided them with food and money, but they were assessed a substantial fine in court due to their humanitarian actions.

Robertson Art Tile Company, Morrisville, Bucks County
A company that was pioneering in the art tile business, Robertson established its own laboratories early to keep improving its products.  They produced glazed, embossed wall and fireplace tile and floor tile.  In 1893 it joined with other companies to form Associated Tile Manufacturers, a forerunner to modern trade associations.   Herman Mueller, well-regarded in the tile industry, worked briefly for Robertson and brought some of his innovations to the company, notably the use of tile to line an indoor swimming pool.

Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, Forest City, Susquehanna County
Best known for establishing the Roxy Theater and opening Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Rothafel got his start in a theater in Pennsylvania.  He operated the Family Theater in Forest City for two years, popularizing such innovations as daylight movies and “perfuming” an audience.  He combined film and live action to produce a new kind of show.  He was progressive in attracting patrons with persuasive advertising.

Sarah Josepha Hale, Philadelphia
A pioneer in women’s journalism, Hale was an early American female author and editor.  She began editing the first magazine for women in the nation, the Ladies Magazine in 1828.  It became Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1837.  For four decades as its editor, Hale substantially increased its readership and made it the leading American women’s literary and fashion periodical.  She also is credited for advancing the idea of a national day of Thanksgiving for 20 years, and was finally successful with President Lincoln.

Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia
A leader in the Philadelphia music scene for nearly 50 years, Sigma Studios produced records for many nationally known acts such as, the O’Jays, the Spinners, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, David Bowie and Billy Joel.  Sigma was on the cutting edge of the soul music scene.  It was one of the first in the nation to introduce 24-track recording and console automation.  Many of its innovations are still in use today.

Sullivan Progress Plaza, Philadelphia
Established by Rev. Leon Sullivan in 1968, this shopping center was the first of this type of venture developed, owned, and managed by African Americans.  It was funded by investors from Sullivan’s congregation at the nearby Zion Baptist Church.  Visited by a number of presidents and presidential candidates, this location was prominent on the Philadelphia political scene.  It sparked a number of similar projects across the US and it remains a successful enterprise in center city and a symbol of economic empowerment and self-sufficiency.

Tatiana Proskouriakoff, Landsdowne, Delaware County
A groundbreaking archaeologist, Proskouriakoff revolutionized the world’s understanding of Mayan hieroglyphics.  Trained in architecture, she produced detailed and accurate drawings of Mayan buildings.  She received numerous awards for her archaeological research, including the Order of the Quetzal from Guatemala, the country’s highest award for a foreigner.

Terminal Commerce Building, Philadelphia
Built by Reading Railroad in 1931, it was the largest commercial structure of its kind in the world.  Combining a freight terminal, office space, a warehouse, a showroom, and a parking garage, it was created as a multi-tenant mercantile hub on the railroad line and near the heart of center city.  The spaces were linked by high-speed passenger and freight elevators. On the National Register of Historic Places, after being sold by the Reading Company in 1954, it went on to house various government agencies and businesses.

Westinghouse Gas Wells, Pittsburgh
In 1884, Westinghouse discovered natural gas on his property and drilled several wells for its extraction.  At the time the fuel was unsafe and dangerous to use.  Over the next few years, Westinghouse patented over 30 inventions for the distribution, safe use, and metering of natural gas.  His work was instrumental in the expansion and availability of natural gas as an important widespread energy source.

York Water Company, York
The oldest investor-owned utility in the nation, the public water system in York was incorporated in 1816.  Most of the 25 water systems in America at the time were started by local governments or wealthy town founders.  The idea of raising private funds for a public benefit was innovative.  The company’s dividend record – longest consecutive in America – speaks to its success.

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