Chester County Historical Society
History Education Programs
                                                                                                                                                            225 North High Street, West Chester, PA  19380-2691
                                                                                                                                                            Museum Hours: Wednesday-Saturday  10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

2013 Theme
Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events

Each year there is a theme to the National History Day which is intended to guide students in developing their research. This year it is "Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events".  The theme is intentionally broad so that students may select a local, state, national or world history topic that is of special interest.

Some potential turning points in Southeast Pennsylvania history suggested by the staff of the Historical Society:

1. Ice harvesting and the invention of mechanical refrigeration:  Is an agricultural area more dependent on refrigeration? How did this invention change life in Chester and Delaware Counties?  What impact did it have on our local economy, the health of citizens, medical care, and nutrition?  

2. Public drinking water:  Did you know that the first attempt in 1825 to provide public water to the town of West Chester failed and it took 16 more years before public water became available to citizens?  What factors led to towns in our region taking responsibility for providing filtered water to residents?  

3. Women and Women's Rights: Forbes magazine calls Rebecca Lukens of Coatesville America's first female CEO of an industrial company". She took on this role in 1825, a time when women's rights were restricted.  Did she change how women's competencies were viewed?  How did she run her business differently than her male counterparts and did this have an impact on the community?  The first PA Women's Rights Convention was held June 2-3, 1852 in West Chester's Horticultural Hall (part of the Historical Society building now).  Did bringing the statewide reform movement to West Chester bring early change to our town?  How did the 19th Amendment change your town, county, and state as women entered politics?

4. The telephone comes to West Chester: The first telephone in West Chester was installed at the newspaper office in 1883.  By 1884 there were 50 phones in town.  Who had these phones and what was the effect of this new technology on our community?  

5. Penicillin: Did you know that West Chester was where penicillin was first mass produced?  How did making this drug widely available change our community? the medical community? soldiers fighting in WWII? our current health and concerns about antibiotic overuse?

6. Conservation and Land Use: Chester County scholar and botanist Dr. William Darlington used Marsh Creek's source as the site of his important field studies of native plants.  He published his "Flora Cestrica" in 1837. In the 1970s, the creek was damned and a 535 acre man-made lake was created as a reservoir.  The historic town of Milford Mills is now underwater.  In 1984, the Brandywine Conservancy's King Ranch Project succeeded in preserving thousands of acres of Chester County's undeveloped land.  This protects the watershed which supplies our region with 6 million gallons a day.
What turning points have changed our view of local environmental issues: land use and loss of farmland, protection of species and historical sites, conservation vs. need for water?

7. 1780 Pennsylvania Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery: This state law significantly predates Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.  How did the case of Phobe English of Chester County impact our region?  Did it matter outside of our community? 

8. Women's Temperance Union, Prohibition and Pennsylvania's Liquor Control Board:  Americans use of spirits and restrictions on drinking changed from colonial times to now.  What people, ideas and events were significant to this change?  How does our attitude toward drinking affect our response to other choices and laws?

9. African American enlistment in the Union Army: How did this change the course of the war?  What motivated freed slaves to enlist?
Did Frederick Douglass' recruiting speech at West Chester's Horticultural Hall influence local militia? 

10.  The Civil War and advances in medical care on the battlefield:
What changes came from caring for an overwhelming number of wounded soldiers during the Civil War?  Are any of these still in effect today?  

11. Arctic Exploration: Did you know that Chester County explorers were among early visitors to the Arctic?  In the mid to late 1800's the Arctic was an undiscovered frontier.  Sir John Franklin's 1845 expedition did not find navigate the last portion of the Northwest Passage as he planned, but it was responsible for other unexpected outcomes.  Was there an expedition, a discovery, and/or an explorer who made a significant impact in history?  

Contact NHD Coordinator, Mary Galligan at  Mary is also available to visit your classroom and can provide examples of past NHD projects to inspire your students.

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