Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area

204 Church Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460

610-935-7646   hspa@verizon.net

www.hspa-pa.org   or   www.phoenixvillehistoricalsociety.org




Speakers Since 2002

Speakers in 2017:

December: Jeff Amerine presented an exciting slide show program about the history of the Phoenix Bridge Company.  It included many photos of the bridges built by the Phoenix Bridge Company such as the Manhatten Bridge in New York, the Strawberry Mansion bridge in Phila., and the Calhoun Street bridge between Morrisville and Trenton.  It also including pictures of a famous bridge that collapsed during construction over the St. Lawrnece Seaway that resulting in may deaths because of a poor design by a New York bridge designer.  He showed pictures of the famous Phoenix Column and even steel lighthouses that the company constructed in the 1800s.  

September: This  was our annual banquet meeting.  Board member Jack Ertell presented a slide show of the history of the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area since it's inception in 1976.  It highlighted the many accomplishments and the contributions of many, many people including David Frees who was the Society's first President.  

June: Our March meeting was cancelled because of a severe snow storm, so we invited our planned speakers to return for this month's meeting.  Our speakers were Cyndi Hyatt, a teacher at Conestoga High School, and Amadea Martino Smith, a student at Conestoga High School who just graduated.  They presented a terrific program about Joseph Vasko who was a sailor from Phoenixville who was killed three days after D-Day in 1944 when his LST was torpedoed by a German submarine.  He was a Shipfitter 3rd Class on LST-314.  They traveled to Washington, DC, and to Normandy, France, to learn about Joseph Vasko.  They did local research on his life in Phoenixville.  He was burried at Sea.  They presented a slide show of pictures they obtained.  Cyndi Hyatt and Amadea were selected as one of 15 teacher/student teams from across the country to participate in the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Institute.  Please click here to view a web site about Joseph Vasko.

March: Our March meeting was cancelled because of a severe snow storm.  Our speakers were going to be Cyndi Hyatt, a teacher at Conestoga High School, and Amadea Martino Smith, a student at Conestoga High School.  They were going to present a program about Joseph Vasko who was a sailor from Phoenixville who was killed three days after D- Day while serving on LST-314 that was torpedoed by a German submarine. 

Speakers in 2016:

December:    Our speaker was Ellen Endslow who is the curator of the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, PA.  She had a slide show on the complex relationships between people and the land where they lived and worked in Chester County.  She talked about people from many heritages and walks of life who came to live in Chester County.  She had a fasinating talk about the beginnings of Mushroom growing in Chester County and its connection to the 1943 discovery of the technique of comercially making penicillin, which had an enormours effect on health since it was the first antibiotic medicine.  Until then it could not be mass produced. 

Speakers in 2016:

September:    Our guest speaker was Associate Professor Dr. Laura Sherrod.

Last Fall she and some of her students at Kutztown University conducted a geophysical site survey of the grounds of the Society. They used high tech ground penetrating radar to search for buried graves on the property.

June:    Our speaker was Susannah Brody from Coatesville, who is a storyteller and author of several books. Her web site is www.susannahbrody.com.

Her presentation entitled "On the Homefront, Stories of the American Revolution" shared four stories of real people who lived in Southeastern, PA, at the time of the American Revolution. Included were stories about Thomas Cheyney, a Quaker who warned George Washington about British troop movements just before the Battle of Brandywine and Thomazine Thomas who endured a looting raid by British soldiers in her home in West Whiteland. There was a story about Loyalist Judge William Moore whose home was rudley searched by Continental soldiers and then used as a living quarters for Continental Army officers and Susannah Longenecker, a peaceful woman in Coventry who was charged with treason. She was wrongly accused and convicted of treason for feeding four men in her home whom she thought could have been British soldiers out of uniform but who were actually Continental soldiers out of uniform. They were dispatched to locate loyalists to the British.

March:    Our speaker was Edward W. Duffy who published a book in 2013 titled Philadelphia A Railroad History.

Mr. Duffy is a graduate of La Salle and Temple Universities. He is a former U. S. Army officer. He has worked for the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, its Planning Commission, its Port Corporation, and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. His interest in railroads dates from his role as a liaison person between the City of Philadelphia and various rail reorganization agencies in the early 1970s that resulted in the creation of Conrail in 1976.

His presentation included some old photos and provided some of the history of Philadelphia and local railroads that trace their orgin to canals in the early 1800s.

Speakers in 2015:

      March:    Our speaker was  Ryan Conroy, who is the Society President.  He gave a slide show of old photos and gave an interesting talk entitled "Shamrocks & Shenanigans", which is the story about the Irish history and experience in Phoenixville. 

      June:    The Society's Jack Ertell gave a terrific "Then and Now" slide show presentation of familiar sights in Phoenixville.  He showed the current pictures of various locations in Phoenixville and then he showed old photos of that site.  It was very interesting and educational. 

      September:    Our speaker was  Bob Gleason from the American Historical Theatre who portrayed Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain in costume.  He used his hometown of Hannibal, MO as the background for his two most notable works; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  

       December:    Our speaker was Neal Hurst who is an assistant curator of the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia that will open in 2017.  Please click click here for their web site.   He gave a presentation called "George Washington Really Slept Here: Researching and Recreating the General's Mobile Field Headquarters".  

Speakers in 2014:

      March:    Our guest speaker was Don Meyer, Ph.D, who was the President of the Valley Forge Christian College that is located on the former grounds of the Valley Forge General Hospital.  He became their President on January 1, 1997.  He gave an inspirational presentation about the history, current status, and anticipated growth of the college that led to the college becoming the University of Valley Forge later in 2014.  Please click here for the university's web site.

      June:    Society President Ryan Conroy spoke about Phoenixville, photography and World War I.  The talk's title was "From the Trenches to the Studio, U.S. Photography in WWI".  Ryan presented a slide show of photos from World War I.  Many of the photos were of men from Phoenixville who served in the military during the war.  Ryan also played part of an audio recording he made several years ago of a World War I Navy veteran who was 106 at the time of the interview.  He told the story of his late Grandfather who served in the Army during World War I and was badly wounded during combat in France.

      September:    Our guest speaker was Robert K. Wittman of Chester Heights, PA.  He is a former FBI agent who formed the FBI unit called the Art Crimes Team.  That team rescued over $300 million in the world's stolen treasures including a long lost original copy of the Bill of Rights.  He is the author of a 2010 New York Times best seller "Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures".  He described the hugh magnitude of art and cultural property sales in the world and the U.S which has about 40% of the world's sales that is about $80 billion a year in the U.S.  There is about $6 billion of illegal art and cultural property events in the U.S every year.  That inludes thefts and forgeries.  About 90% of museum thefts are inside jobs followed by armed robberies and burglaries.   Please click here for for his web site. 

      December:    Our guest speaker was Michael Axlerod of the Philadelphia Flag Day Association in Philadelphia, PA.  He is their Vice President. His talk was on the American flag and its history.

Speakers in 2013:

      March:   Our guest speaker was Paul H. Golfetto from Gilbertsville, PA, 610-473-2637, Pennsylvania Clock Company, Inc.  He restores watches & clocks for the public.  He gave a presentation about vintage watches and clocks.  Please click to go to the web site of the National Watch & Clock in Columbia, PA, 717-684-8261, www.nawcc.org.

      June:   Our speakers were the Society Chairman of the Board Jack Ertell and our President-elect Ryan Conroy.  They talked about Phoenixville and the Civil War.  Jack Ertell gave a slide show presentation about the Phoenix Rifle that was made by Phoenix Iron Co. and different people who served in the Civil War, such as General Galusha Pennypacker, who was the youngest Brigadier General in the Union Army.  Ryan Conroy brought some very interesting Civil War era pictures and Civil War era documents.

      September:   Our guest speaker was Carol Spacht who appeared in costume as Betsy Ross.  She gave a presentation using some early Revolutionary War era flags and gave a terrific history of George Washington entering her shop and ordering the first American flag and how she made changes to his original design.  Please click to link to her web site, www.avisitwith.net.

      December:   Society members Sue Marshall and Marji Rohrbach put on a program about old Phoenixville videos that have been restored.

Speakers in 2012:

      March:   Our guest speaker was Barbara Cohen.  She is a local civic leader, a Society member, President of the Schuylkill River Heritage Center, and a member of the Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors.  She gave a power point presentation about the concept of freedom, including religious freedom, going back to William Penn's time.  Her presentation illustrated the early churches and synagogues in Philadelphia and Chester County from both an architectural and a religious perspective.

       June:   Our guest speaker was Bob Sullivan of Elverson who give a presentation about the Civil War Era "dime novels" and books.  He discussed the rise of the "dime novels" and the inexpensive "how to" books that coincided with the Civil War.  He showed a slice of the 1860s culture through books on sports, etiquette, public speaking, songs, and novels.  He talked about the publishing house of Irwin and Erastus Beadle, the creators of the "dime novel" as well as some of their rivals during the Civil War years.  He brought many copies of these works to the meeting.  They were in good condition considering their age.  He is the owner of Sullivan Press that is located in Morgantown, PA, whose specialty is reproductions of old books, documents, and stationary, www.sullivanpress.com.

        September:  Our guest speaker was Sean Moir of Berwyn, PA.  He gave a computer animated program (GIS) showing a dynamic map of Revolutionary War troop movements in Chester County concentrating on the Battle of Brandywine and the Paoli Massacre.  His e-mail address is moirs@comcast.net.

        December:  Our guest speakers were Missy Livingston Farkouh and Cory Etchberger.  They gave a talk about the Medal of Honor Grove at the the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge, PA.   Their talk included a slide show with a video about Richard L. Etchberger.  There have been 3,476 Medal of Honor recepients beginning with the Civil War.  The Freedoms Foundation has 96 acres of which 52 acres are dedicated to the Medal of Honor Grove.  The Grove was started in 1952.  Mr. Etchberger's father, Richard L. Etchberger, received the Medal of Honor posthumously.   Ms. Farkouh's father is James Livingston who is a living Medal of Honor recipient.  The Freedoms Foundation, www.freedomsfoundation.org, owns the grove, but it is maintained by the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove, www.friendsmohgrove.org

  Speakers in 2011:

          March:   Our speaker was Gene Pisasale who spoke about the important role that Marquis de Lafayette played in the Revolutionary War, including his participation in the Battle of the Brandywine that occurred on September 11, 1777.  He is the author of a historical novel titled "Lafayette's Gold - The Lost Brandywine Treasure".  Please click here to view his web site.

          June:    The speaker for our June quarterly meeting was Scott Houting who gave  a presentation about the 3 inch ordnance rifle that was made during the Civil War by the Phoenix Iron Company.  It was an updated version of the weapon that originally was the 1855 Griffen Gun that was designed by John Griffen.  Mr. Houting is a Park Ranger at the Valley Forge National Historical Park. 

          September:   Our guest speakers were from the famous Tuskegee Airmen in the Greater Philadelphia Chapter, 6500 Wissahickon Ave., Phila., PA 19119.  From 1941 to 1946, over 2,000 African Americans trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, where 992 of them became pilots, of which 450 served in Europe.  Sixty six were lost to all causes.  Some of them became members of the 99th Fighter Squadron in May of 1942.  The Tuskegee Airmen saw combat in over 1,500 missions flown over Europe and North Africa.  Not one of the bombers that they escorted was lost to enemy fire, a record not duplicated by any other U. S. fighter squadron during the Second World War.  They are credited with shooting down 111 enemy fighter planes plus three German jet fighters.  Please click to view their web site www.tuskegeeairmen.org.  

         December:  Our three guest speakers gave a presentation about the Pennsylvania Soldiers Orphan School in Chester Springs, PA, that opened in 1869 and closed in 1912.  Our speakers were Susannah Brody who portrayed Eleanor Bechtel Moore who was the principal of the school.  Robert Momyer portrayed Teacher and School Manager D. A. Harmon.  Joel Halstead portrayed a Civil War Soldier with a song "Tell My Father".  That is the poignant song of a young man preparing to go into battle during the Civil War who wanted to leave a message for his father to tell him how he stood bravely against adversity.  

  Speakers in 2010:

          March:   Our speaker was Valley Forge resident and local historian Mike Bertram.  His topic was a slide show called "Fire & Water - A History of Valley Forge Industry".   He showed old photos and drawings of the historical Valley Forge community.

          June:   Our speaker was Ron Sloto, who is a Senior Hydrologist with the U. S. Geological Survey.  He has worked on a wide variety of water resource issues and has published over 70 reports, abstracts, and journal articles on water resources, geophysics, geology, and mineralogy.  He recently published a book titled "The Mines and Minerals of Chester County, Pennsylvania".  His power point presentation was about the mines in the Phoenixville area.

          September:   Our speaker was Kurt D. Zwickl, who is the Executive Director of the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area in Pottstown, PA and co-author of the recently published Arcadia Book "Along the Schuylkill".  His topic was "Reflections on the Schuylkill River Heritage Area".  He discussed the Schuylkill River watershed area's heritage as one of America's most significant cultural, historical, and industrial regions of the country  He discussed the progress of the Schuylkill River trail system.  They sponsor the 109 mile Schuylkill River Sojourn held every June.  Please click to view the Schuylkill River National & State Heritage Area web site, www.schuylkillriver.org.

         December:   Our speaker was Dimitrios N. Bastas.  He is a long time collector and dealer of Etruscan Majolica.  He gave a terrific graphic presentation of Etruscan Majolica.  Mr. Bastas has written two books about Etruscan Majolica.  Please click to view his web site at www.etruscanmajolica.com.  Please click to link to the Majolica International Society in New York, NY.

Please click for a link to the Majolica International Society.

  Speakers in 2009:

          March:   Our speaker was Jeff Amerine, who is a Society member and serves on the Board of Directors of the Schuylkill River Heritage Society.   He presented a program on the bridges that were built by the Phoenix Iron Company and its subsidiary, The Phoenix Bridge Company.

          June:   Our speaker was Eugene L. DiOrio, Executive Director of the Graystone Society of Coatsville, PA. He presented a program on the history of the Lukens Steel Co. and the Lukens National Historic District, which was established in Coatsville in 1994.

          September:   Our speaker was William Watson, Ph.D., who is a History Professor at Immaculata University.   He gave a presentation on the "Duffy's Cut Project".  He has been leading the investigation and archological dig on the mysterious deaths in 1832 of 57 Irish immigrants who worked for the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad.  They were buried in a mass grave in Malvern next to the railroad tracks.  Please click to view their web site http://duffyscut.immaculata.edu.

          December:   Our speaker was Nancy K. Loane, Ed.D. She gave a presentation on the "Love Letters from Valley Forge".   She came in period dress and described the Valley Forge encampment using letters between family members and soldiers at Valley Forge.

  Speakers in 2008:

          March:   Our speaker was Sandy Momyer, who is the Archivist at Yellow Springs and a Society member.   She gave a graphic presentation about the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the country school at Historic Yellow Springs.

          June:   Our speaker was Laurie Rofini, who is the Director of Chester County Archives and Record Services.   She presented a program entitled "Grant me Relief from this Loathsome Jail: Down and Out in Early Chester County".

          September:   Our speaker was George Vinter, who is an early American re-enactor. He gave a presentation about 18th and 19th Century toys, games, and other play items from early America.  Please click to view his web site www.toydemonstrater.zoomshare.com.

          December:   Our speaker was Gus Spector, MD, who is a physician at the Phoenixville Hospital and author of four books about old images depicting Philadelphia.   He gave a slide show presentation about old post card images depicting Philadelphia.

  Speakers in 2007:

          March:   We had a speaker from the Wharton Esherick museum give a presentation about the "The Life and Work of Chester County Artist and Craftsman - Wharton Esherick".   A slide show and lecture provided a history of a unique local museum and discussed the life of a local artist and craftsman.

          June:   Oue speaker was Leon Rowe, who is a retired Avon Grove schoolteacher.   He gave a presentation about the art and rewards of post card collecting, which he and his wife have been doing for over 40 years.

          September:   Our speakers were Linda Ries and Steve Noel from the PA State Archives.   They gave a presentation about the Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls Project that is being conducted by the PA State Archives.   The Muster Rolls Project is a massive effort to preserve original Civil War documents containing information on the more than 360,000 Pennsylvanians who served in the Union Army.

          December:   Our speaker was Mr. Set Momjian, who is a retired Ford executive and a former U. S. Diplomat at the U. N. and a noted authority and collector of Presidential porcelain.   He gave a presentation about Presidential china. He spoke about his White House experiences with Presidents and First Ladies going back to Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s.

  Speakers in 2006:

          March:   Society member and board member Ryan Conroy and Paul Johnson, who teaches history at Upper Dublin High School, gave a presentation on the history of photography from its beginnings in 1840.   They spoke about the different types and processes that developed during the formative years and how to identify and date old photographs.

          June:   Our speaker was Eloine Dunlap of New Jersey, who is a former school teacher.   She gave a presentation on Colonial Art. Since her retirement she has taken a serious interest in museum art exhibitions.

          September:   Our speaker was Vincent Martino, Jr., who is a lifelong resident of Phoenixville and an author of a book about Phoenixville.   He gave a presentation about "Phoenixville, Then and Now".   He has acquired an extensive post card and photograph collection of the Phoenixville area.

          December:   Our speaker was Richard Wolf, who is a Phoenixville resident and a retired Federal Park Ranger at the Valley Forge National Park.   He gave a presentation entitled "18th and 19th Century Medicine".   He appeared in period dress and showed authenic medical tools, powders and potions, and surgey instruments.   He explained common treatments such as purging, bleeding, and blistering.

  Speakers in 2005:

          March:   Our speakers were Becky Manley, Ryan Conroy and his parents Mr. and Mrs. Joe Conroy.   They are Civil War re-enactors and members of the "Bucktails", who are based in Phoenixville.  They gave a program about the Civil War era including military and civilian life, jewelry, and cookery.

          June:   Our speaker was Ed Grusheski, who is the general manager of the Public Affairs Division of the Philadelphia Water Department.  He gave a slide show presentation entitled "Life, Death and Rebirth of the Schuylkill River".

          September:   Our speaker was Bruce Mowday, who is the chairman of the board of trustees of the Chester County Historical Society and a journalist.  He discussed his latest book entitled "September 11, 1777: Washington's Defeat at Brandywine Dooms Philadelphia".  He specializes in local history and he has written three pictoral and post card history books.

          December:   Our speaker was Dr. Nancy Loane, who is a member of our Society and who spent 8 years researching her subject gave a presentation about her book, "Present But Not Accounted For - The Women of the Valley Forge Encampment".  Her list of women is headed by Martha Washington, who spent two months in the early part of 1778 at Valley Forge with George Washington.  She has studied more than 400 diaries, journals, letters, returns, orderly books, and periodicals of the Revolutionary War.

  Speakers in 2004:  

           March:   Our speaker was Ray Waltz who gave a slide show presentation entitled "Emergency Money of the Civil War".  He is an active coin collector and photographer of old money.

           June:   Our speaker was Wesley Sessa, who owns 18th Century Restorations of Coventryville.  He gave a presentation about historic preservation jobs of buildings and antiques that take a lot of time and money to accomplish.

           September:   Our speaker was Nancy Webster who is a historian and belongs to the Society of Friends.  She gave a presentation about Quaker customs and ties to the area.

           December:   Our speaker was Anthony Gulotta, who lives in Phoenixville and writes "Poets Corner" for The Phoenix. He discussed poetry and his experiences as a poet.  He has written a lot of poetry and he is sometimes referred to as Phoenixville's "poet laureate".

  Speakers in 2003:

           March:  Our speaker was L. Alan Gehert, the ornithologist at Mill Grove Museum and Audubon Wildlife Sanctury.  Mill Grove was the home of James Audubon.  He spoke about James Audubon and his lifelong interest in birds.

            June:   Our speaker was Russell Schulz, USN (Retired).  He spoke about the history of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge and its mission in our society.  Captain Schulz has been a staff member of the Freedoms Foundation since 1995 and was the current executive vice-president.  Its mission is to educate Americans about our national heritage and the basic values of freedom.

           September:  Our speaker was William C. Kashatus, Ph. D, a noted local historian and author of several books.  He spoke in costume as Thomas Paine.  Dr. Kashatus spoke about Thomas Paine's famous publication in 1776 "Common Sence" that gave reasons for people to support the American revolution.

           December:  Our speaker was Eric Schmincki, who is a Civil War impersonator.  He gave a first person presentation of Union Civil War General Samuel K. Zook.  General Zook was a native of Tredryffrin Township, who commanded troops during several Civil War battles.  He was killed at Gettysburg. His home is now the Park Ranger Station at Valley Forge National Park.

  Speakers in 2002:

             March:   Our speaker was William C. Kashatus, Ph. D, a noted local historian and author of several books.  He gave a presentation about the Underground Railroad.  He had recently put-up an exhibit about the Underground Railroad at the Chester County Historical Society where he served as the Director of Public Programs.

             June:   Our speaker was Tim McAvoy, who lives in Schuylkill Township near the McAvoy family brick plant.  He spoke about his family's brick making business that goes back to 1896 when Thomas Bell McAvoy started a brick production facility on the banks of the Schuylkill River.  He spoke about the McAvoy family contributions to the area, clay mining from the adjourning property for the brick plant, and the use of the bricks in the area including in Philadelphia.

             September:  Our speaker was K. Ward Vinson, who lives in Langhorne, Bucks County, PA and is a retired history professor at Bucks County Community College.  He gave a presentation in costume as General George Washington.

             December:   No meeting was held due to inclement weather.


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