History

Historic Eras

Indigenous/Lenape History

The Aces Museum hosts a substantial collection of objects that tell the story of indigenous military service from the 20th century onward.

James Logan played a leading role in the colony’s relations with indigenous American tribes and peoples, and in the territorial expansion of the province. Stenton exhibits artifacts and documents that interpret these stories, including the Walking Purchase, which forced the Lenape to cede a large swath of lands north of Philadelphia.

Stenton

 

Colonial History

The Germantown Historical Society occupies a revolutiony era building and is located on Market Square, a circa 1704 town green. Its collections contain a wide range of documents and objects from the 17th and 18th centuries.

As the seat of William Penn’s Secretary, Stenton was at the center of a complex web of colonial relationships – with Great Britain, with the backcountry, with Native Americans, with Quakers, with commercial interests in Pennsylvania, with enslaved and indentured labor, and with eminent figures of science and philosophy.

Grumblethorpe is a colonial era house built by the Wister family in the early 1700s, and displays period architecture and objects.

Established in 1690, Wyck was home to many prominent figures in Colonial America, including the glassmaker Caspar Wistar.

The 17th century Germantown Mennonite MeetingHouse is one of the oldest buildings in Philadelphia.

Historic RittenhouseTown is an early industrial village in Philadelphia established in 1690 with the first paper mill in America.

Showcasing artifacts that tell the story of enslavement’s reality throughout the colonial period, Lest We Forget offers a unique perspective in early American history.

 

Revolutionary/Early Republic History

The Germantown Historical Society occupies the 1790s era Fromberger-Harkness House and its collection contains objects and documents related to the Battle of Germantown.

Deshler-Morris House, aka. “the Germantown White House” is the oldest surviving presidential residence, having hosted George Washington twice, as well as members of his first cabinet.

Beyond a substantial collection of Early Republic period objects, the Stenton House played a large role in the Battle of Germantown.

The Grumblethorpe Site played a crucial role in the Battle of Germantown.

Historic RittenhouseTown is the birthplace of David Rittenhouse, a clockmaker, astronomer, surveyor, Founding Father, and first president of the United States mint.

Showcasing artifacts that tell the story of enslavement’s reality throughout the early Republic period, Lest We Forget offers a unique perspective into a little-shown portion of early American history.

Wyck served as a field hospital during the Battle of Germantown.

 

Abolition/Underground Railroad History

Historic Fair Hill is a historic Quaker burial ground where many abolitionists are buried, and a mural site that provides tours for murals dedicated to the Female Anti-Slavery Society, Underground Railroad, and more.

The Germantown Mennonite MeetingHouse was the site of the written 1683 protest against slavery, the first in the British colonies.

Johnson House Historic Site is one of the few remaining Underground Railroad Stations open to the public.

 

Victorian History

With historic homes from the 1800s onwards, Awbury Arboretum’s Victorian Cope House is a must see.

Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion represents life of the rising middle class in 19th-century Philadelphia.
Wyck’s collection contains thousands of objects from the 19th century, including furnishings, fashions, and everyday household items.

 

WWII History

The Aces Museum has a special focus on experiences of nonwhite soldiers in World War II.

 

20/21st Century History

The Aces Museum explores military service in the 20th century, with objects from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.

The Germantown Historical Society’s Juneteenth Photo Exhibit highlights the last of decade of Germantown community celebrations of Juneteenth.

Awbury Arboretum’s landscape represents over 100 years of environmental protection history and present-day land conservation efforts.

Johnson House Historic Site is a Center for Social Advocacy (CSA), dedicated to working towards abolition justice in the 21st century and beyond.

The Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery has numerous “Jim Crow” objects, displaying the objectively racist culture that continued after slavery.

 

History by Theme

African American History

The Aces Museum hosts a substantial collection of objects that tell the story of African American soldiers and military service from the 20th century onward, with a focus on World War II.

The Germantown Historical Society currently hosts two exhibits exploring the past and present of African American life in Germantown; Bright April, and a photo exhibition on Germantown’s Annual Juneteenth Festival.

Historic Fair Hill holds mural tours for murals showcasing the Female Anti-Slavery Society, Underground Railroad, and more, with several of the people interred at Historic Fair Hill featuring prominently. American abolitionists Robert Purvis and Harriet Forten Purvis, who worked on the Underground Railroad, are interred at Fair Hill.

The museum interprets the complex history of Quaker attitudes toward slavery and the community of African Americans who were enslaved at Stenton. A memorial to Dinah, an enslaved woman who reunited her family and won her freedom at Stenton, will be dedicated in the near future.

The Johnson House Historic Site is an Underground Railroad station and explores the stories of free and enslaved African American abolitionists, and other European abolitionists, including the historic Johnson family.

Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion presents “DEEP RIVERS: How African Americans Waded Through the Waters of Oppression to Achieve Greatness in the 19th-century.” This docent-led tour is offered on select dates year-round. More Black History events are sprinkled throughout the year. Check our calendar for dates.

The Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery provides a unique historical perspective into the reality of slavery for Africans brought to America. It is the only museum of its kind in Philadelphia that exhibits authentic slavery artifacts, as well later artifacts that showcase a culture of American racism.

 

Women’s History

The Aces Museum hosts a substantial collection of objects that tell the story of female soldiers and military service from the 20th century onward.

The Germantown Historical Society’s Bright April exhibit explores the groundbreaking titular character’s story, and the stories of the many remarkable women that inspired her creation.

Historic Fair Hill is a historic Quaker burial ground where many women’s rights activists are buried, like Lucretia Mott, Harriet Forten Purvis, and Anna T Jeanes.

Women at Stenton played important roles in saving and making history, from Deborah, an accomplished historian, to Dinah, an enslaved women who played a role in the Revolutionary War, to the Dames, who preserved Stenton by creating Germantown’s first historic house museum in 1900.

Grumblethorpe explores the lives of the women who lived and worked in the house, most notably Sally Wistar, whose diaries chronicling life during the American Revolution bring the era to life.

The roles of Philadelphia women in both the anti-slavery and suffragist movements were significant.

Historic RittenhouseTown currently features exhibits on traditional women’s work in the textile industry, such as quilting.

Wyck was home to many influential women, including scientists, early preservationists, and, notably, the founder of the first school of horticulture for women in the United States.

 

Religious History

Historic Fair Hill is a historic Quaker burial ground.

Awbury Arboretum was the private estate of a Quaker family, who stewarded the land for generations.

The Germantown Mennonite MeetingHouse is the oldest Mennonite church in the United States, and the original meeting room still stands.

Wilhelm Rittenhouse, who established the first paper mill in America, was the first Mennonite minister in America. Many members of the Rittenhouse family continue to practice the Mennonite faith.

The Johnson House Historic Site was home to three generations of a Quaker family who worked to abolish slavery.

Wyck was home to one Quaker family for 283 years; the influence of their Quaker faith is felt throughout the site.

 

Science/Natural History

James Logan owned one of the largest and finest libraries in the American Colonies and was keenly interested in science, mathematics, and the new age of scientific inquiry that would become known as The Enlightenment. Logan’s experiments with corn and surviving artifacts, such as a Greek skyphos and labeled stone and marble samples from Italy, speak to his pursuits as a gentleman scholar.

At Awbury Arboretum, visitors can explore various habitats and plant communities including meadows, bogs, copses of ancient trees, a watercourse, farmland, and more.

Grumblethorpe showcases the Wistar family of Grumblethorpe’s long passion for science and significant contributions to the fields of botany and horticulture.

Wyck contains hundreds of objects that document Philadelphia’s prominence in scientific discovery, including specimens collected by Reuben Haines III, a founding member of the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

 

Military History

The Aces Museum explores the history of nonwhite military service in the United States, with a specific focus on World War II.

Stenton played an important role in the Battle of Germantown as headquarters to the commanding British General Howe and was also briefly occupied by George Washington’s troops.

Hood Cemetery contains the graves of 41 Revolutionary War soldiers, and veterans of subsequent conflicts, including the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

Taken over by the British and used as one of its headquarters during the Battle of Germantown, Grumblethorpe is one of Germantown’s prominent sites of military action during the Revolutionary War.

 

Ethnic/Minority History

The Aces Museum explores military service in the 20th century, with objects from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.

 

Cemeteries and Burial Grounds

Historic Fair Hill is a historic Quaker burial ground with the graves of many prominent women rights activists and abolitionists, like Lucretia Mott, Harriet Forten Purvis, Robert Purvis and Anna T Jeanes.

Historic Fair Hill is a historic Quaker burial ground with the graves of many prominent women rights activists and abolitionists.

Hood Cemetery is a secular burial ground that served residents of lower Germantown and contains the graves of several prominent Philadelphians

Over 150 Mennonites are buried in this historic graveyard, which is meticulously labeled for all families and visitors.