SCRANTON — Happy early birthday, Pennsylvania!
If the Commonweath were to have a cake, a total of 333 candles would be needed. Charter Day, a day celebrating the founding of the Commonwealth, is March 9. It was on that day in 1681 that England’s King Charles II used a charter to grant the land that is now Pennsylvania to the state’s founder, William Penn.
“It really represents Pennsylvania’s birthday,” said Howard Pollman, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.
Visitors can see the original document to William Penn’s home in Pennsbury Manor, Bucks County, from March 9 to March 16. It will mark the first time the document will be exhibited outside of Harrisburg since 1960.
“The charter is a tangible link to Pennsylvania’s founding,” said James Vaughan, the executive director for the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. “The fragile historical document is exhibited only once a year and for a very short time — usually at the State Museum in Harrisburg. Staff at Pennsbury and the Pennsylvania State Archives have worked very diligently to make this special exhibition possible.”
Pollman said the decision was made to transport the document to Pennsbury Manor because it is the institution’s 75th anniversary. Due to the fragile nature of the document, it typically goes on exhibit for a week.
The charter’s trip will be a flashy one. It will be stored in special containers that control temperature and humidity and receive a special escort by the state police. Just when it will be transported is a mystery.
“No one really know when it’s going to go except the archivist,” Pollman said. “Moving it to another site does not come lightly.”
Links to the past
Museums throughout the state will also be joining in on the celebration by giving residents access to their exhibits to learn about the state’s history. Several will offer free admission, while Pollman said that others will offer special exhibits to commemorate the day.
“All of the the museums are linked to Pennsylvania’s past,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum will be among those participating.
The museum will host an illustrated presentation on March 9 at 2 p.m. as a part of Charter Day. The day will include family-oriented activities, as well as the opening of a new exhibition called “‘WYSO’ The Coal Connection: Art of Frank Wysochansky.” Refreshments will also be available for visitors.
Chester Kulesa, site manager for the Anthracite Heritage Museum, said it has participated in Charter Day activities for many years. He said the day generates traffic for the museum. He said it is important for people to get out and learn about the state’s 333-year history.
“Presently, at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, we have four different exhibitions for people to see in the 22,000-square-foot exhibit hall,” Kulesa said. He noted that Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and all of Northeastern Pennsylvania played an important role in the anthracite coal industry.
“The history is important as it greatly accelerated America’s industrial growth in the 19th and early 20th centuries,” Kulesa said.
The State Museum in Harrisburg will also present a number of exhibits and activities to celebrate Charter Day. A rare draft of the 1681 charter will be shown, and Luzerne County Community College professor William Kashatus will portray William Penn.
Pollman, of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, said Kashatus’ portrayal brings a historical figure to life, adding an exciting element for those who attend.
“It kind of brings history out of the history books, from behind the glass cases of an exhibit and brings it to life,” he said.
Charter Day might not have the popularity of other holidays, but Pollman estimates that thousands would venture out to visit museums. He estimated that it is the highest-attended day for the commission.