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Quilts to be part of the LancasterHistory “Lancaster County Amish Quilts from the Esprit Quilt Collection” tour March 23 include, from left, Diamond in the Square, Sunshine and Shadow and Ninepatch Variation.

If you’re a fan of American history, and want to broaden your knowledge base, LancasterHistory has an extensive slate of programs planned from late January through late May.

From a state law that formerly prevented public school teachers from wearing religious symbols in the classroom to a book about a couple escaping enslavement in disguise and from 19th-century female criminals to a well-known local 19th-century businesswoman, the topics LancasterHistory is covering in its winter and spring programs offer something for every historical interest.

Most events are held at the LancasterHistory campus, 230 N. President Ave., Lancaster, with some having the option of joining a presentation online. Some events are free, others have an admission fee.

Tickets and information for all of these presentations, tours and events are available at lancasterhistory.org or by calling 717-392-4633.

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“Defining Lydia Hamilton Smith” is the topic for a Thursday, Feb. 15, LancasterHistory lecture by author Mark Kelley at LancasterHistory. Kelley wrote the recently released biography “An Uncommon Woman” about Smith.

Regional colloquium program

LancasterHistory has three presentations planned in its ongoing Regional Historical Colloquium series of historical lectures. All have free admission — though registration is required — and all start at 5:30 p.m., with the in-person events following a 5 p.m. reception.

— On Thursday, Jan. 25, “Plain Dress on the Docket: Lillian Risser, the Pennsylvania Garb Law, and the Free Exercise of the Anabaptist Religion, 1908-1910” will be presented at LancasterHistory. Pennsylvania was the last state to repeal its religious garb law, which forbade public school teachers from wearing religious symbols in the classroom. Risser, a Lancaster County Mennonite public school teacher who wore a prayer covering, challenged the law in the early 20th century.

Elizabethtown College professors Steven M. Nolt and Jean-Paul Benowitz, who recently wrote an article about the law — the repeal of which went into

effect earlier this month — will discuss the history of the law and the court case. Zoom access to the talk will be available.

“Defining Lydia Hamilton Smith” is the topic for the Thursday, Feb. 15, lecture at LancasterHistory. This exploration of the life of this 19th-century businesswoman of mixed race — who was business manager for abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens — will feature Mark Kelly, whose recent biography of Smith is titled “An Uncommon Woman.” LancasterHistory is developing the Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History and Democracy at the site of Stevens’ former law offices and his and Smith’s homes. You can also register to join the lecture via Zoom.

— In a virtual-only event Thursday, March 14, “Behind the Bars: 19th-Century Female Criminals of Lancaster County & Southeastern Pennsylvania,” history professor Erica Rhodes Hayden will tell the stories of some Pennsylvania women who went through the state courts and prison system at that time. Registration for Zoom access is required for the 5:30 p.m. presentation. Rhodes is the author of the 2019 book, “Troublesome Women: Gender, Crime, and Punishment in Antebellum Pennsylvania.”

— On Thursday, April 30, bestselling author Ilyon Woo will present “Ellen and William Craft: A Love Story,” at the Ware Center, 42 N. Prince St., Lancaster. Woo will talk about and sign her book, “Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom” at an in-person-only event.

The lecture starts at 5:30 p.m., following a 5 p.m. reception and book signing.

The book is about the Crafts, who escaped slavery with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled white man and William posing as “his” slave. Details are pending for this event.

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Elizabethtown College professors Steven M. Nolt and Jean-Paul Benowitz, who recently wrote an article about the recently repealed Pennsylvania "garb law" — which prohibited public school teachers from wearing religious symbols in the classroom — will deliver a lecture about the law on Thursday, Jan. 25, at LancasterHistory.

Special lecture

— On Thursday, May 16, history professor and author John Quist of Shippensburg University will present a free lecture titled “James Buchanan, John Brown and the 1859 Attack on Harper’s Ferry.”

The presentation will be in person at LancasterHistory, but you can also watch it via Zoom.

Quist will discuss John Brown’s attack on the U.S. armory and why then-President Buchanan chose to hand Brown over to authorities for prosecution.

The 5:30 p.m. lecture, which follows a 5 p.m. reception, is free, but registration is required.

Special events

Aside from those lectures on historic topics, several upcoming special events are scheduled at LancasterHistory.

— The 20th annual LancasterHistory Valentine’s Day fundraising gala will be held Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Hamilton Club, 106 E. Orange St., Lancaster. The event is inspired by the Moulin Rouge club in Paris. Cocktails are at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 and dancing after dinner. Music is by the Mama Tried Band. Tickets start at $250.

— On Saturday, April 20, the annual wreath-laying ceremony at President James Buchanan’s grave in Woodward Hill Cemetery, 508 S. Queen St., Lancaster, will be held at 10 a.m. The event is free.

— From 5-8 p.m. Thursday, May 9, the founding of Lancaster County will be celebrated at LancasterHistory with an open house, extended museum hours and special tours of the exhibit “Thieves & Vagabonds: A History of Law and Justice in Lancaster County” — which explores the county’s origins and its system of law and justice. Details are pending.

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This Lone Star quilt will be part of the LancasterHistory “Lancaster County Amish Quilts from the Esprit Quilt Collection” tour March 23.


Three special tours of James Buchanan’s Wheatland, each focusing on a different aspect of the president’s life or family, are on the schedule for February through June.

All three of these tours will happen on the hour, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $10-$17.

— On Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 19, the tour is titled “James Buchanan: The One-Term President” and will explore the year 1859, when Buchanan sealed his fate as a one-term executive. The tours will cover Buchanan’s attempts to expand the country and corruption in his war department.

— Saturday, March 2, a guided tour titled “The Rich Uncle We Always Wanted” will explore the unmarried Buchanan’s role as patriarch of his family as he sheltered and supported his orphaned nieces and nephews.

— Saturday, May 4, the “Harriet Lane: Compassionate Philanthropist” tour will focus on the life of Buchanan’s niece. Orphaned young, Lane lived a life that showed concern for others.

Two Collections Up Close tours scheduled at LancasterHistory are:

— At 11 a.m. Saturday, March 23, visitors can view “Lancaster County Amish Quilts from the Esprit Quilt Collection,” and learn about these quilts made between 1880 and 1950, and their cultural significance.

Tickets are $5 to $15, and include access to other museum exhibits such as “Thieves & Vagabonds.”

— At 2 p.m. Saturday, April 6, you can learn about attempts to censor magazines, comic books and films here in Lancaster County. In “Unlawful, Immoral, and Corrupting: Censorship and the Lancaster Law and Order Society,” you’ll learn how this society waged campaigns to ban various kinds of media in Lancaster County. Tickets are $10-$15.

— From 5-8 p.m. June 27, visitors can tour a new exhibit, “Dutchirican: A Latinx History of Central Pennsylvania,” about the movement of Latino people into central Pennsylvania over the past 75 years. There will be guided tours and the chance to talk to the curators, Ivette Guzmán-Zavala and John Hinshaw of Lebanon Valley College. The event is at LancasterHistory, and details are pending.

For children

— On Monday, Feb. 19, LancasterHistory will present an indoor Presidents Day Storytime, aimed at those ages 2-6 and suggested for ages 12 and under, from 10-11 a.m. There will be a reading from a book about American presidents, followed by a president-themed craft or activity.

The event is free, but registration is required.

— In May, LancasterHistory will present weekly outdoor storytimes, also aimed at kids ages 2-6 and exploring gardening, growing and other springtime themes. There will be a reading from a historical or environmental book, followed by a craft or activity.

The events are at LancasterHistory at 10 a.m. on Thursdays, May 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.

The events are free, but registration is required. The storytimes will be outdoors unless they’re moved indoors because of bad weather.

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