Erie County Library HistErie Week offers programs, tours and admissions

A walking tour of Erie’s New Jerusalem neighborhood, a rare glimpse into the Blasco Library Vault and programs on Revolutionary War espionage, an 1812 African American sailor and Erie’s notorious murders are among the free events during the first celebration of Erie County Public Library History Week May 22-28.

The week-long HistEry Week is offered in collaboration with local historians, historical societies and museums and offers free programs, tours and virtual preservation talks, as well as grab-and-go packages and free or ticketed admission. reduced price at participating sites.

The goal is to promote historic preservation at the community level and share local history, said Courtney Baran, who organized the history week. Baran is the Digital Collections Librarian at the Erie County Public Library.

“There are over 30 different programs or events, some sponsored by the library and some by community partners,” Baran said. Most programs will be offered in person, others are virtual. Some events require prior registration.

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An African-American sailor signaled the start of the Battle of Lake Erie

A fife likely played by a sailor during the Battle of Lake Erie is on display at the Erie Maritime Museum, which will offer free admission to celebrate the new exhibit Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The fife is believed to have belonged to Cyrus Tiffany, a free black man and Revolutionary War veteran who served aboard Perry’s original flagship, the Lawrence, in the September 1813 battle.

Linda Bolla of the Maritime Museum has researched the history of the fife and its owner for more than a decade, beginning with documentation provided by its donors in 2010. The fife was put on display at the Maritime Museum earlier this year. year.

Tiffany, “having fought on land and water, and already stricken for years, allowed herself considerable freedom of expression, and having wit at will, had been great amusement to the crew of the Lawrence “, wrote Perry’s biographer, Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, who served with Perry and Tiffany in the Mediterranean in 1815.

Tiffany, writes Mackenzie, “could give (the fife) a more thrilling and eloquent expression” than anyone.

Lawrence’s minions helped call his crew to stations early in the Battle of Lake Erie.

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“The toddy ration being served, the drums and fifes beat the throbbing tune ‘all hands, all hands, quarters,’” wrote Usher Parsons, the surgeon’s companion on the ship.

Tiffany accompanied Perry to Erie after the win.

“When the commodore rode into Erie after the battle, Tiffany assisted him as a corps servant and on the approach to town…spurred his horse forward and began to play a lively tune on his fife,” Mackenzie wrote.

Tiffany served with Perry until 1818 when Tiffany died in Newport, Rhode Island.

The Blasco Library Heritage Hall is featured, May 11, 2022, in Erie.  The Blasco Heritage Room contains historical material such as paintings, books and photographs, many of which are priceless due to their historical value.

Visit the Blasco Library Vault

The Blasco Library’s rare book and periodical vault will be open for tours on Friday afternoon. Documents are kept in an air-conditioned environment near the Heritage Room located on the second floor of the library.

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There is a complete six-volume set of Edmund Spenser’s epic poem “The Fairie Queene”, “Harper’s Pictorial History of the War with Spain”, “With Perry on Lake Erie: A Tale of 1812” by James Otis, and , on the lighter side, “Aunt Jo’s Scrap-bag” by Louisa May Alcott, published in 1872, and “Palmistry”, or palm reading, style 1916.

“These are books that are too rare or too delicate to be borrowed or even read in the library unless requested first,” Baran said.

Periodicals in the vault include “Godey’s Lady’s Book”, dating from 1841, and the November 25, 1865 edition of Harper’s Weekly featuring the dedication of Dan Rice’s monument to the Civil War dead to Girard.

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Artwork stored in the vault includes a miniature painting of Erie philanthropist Sarah Reed and paintings previously on display in the library or on loan for home display.

There is also a wooden Gaylord Fine calculator used to calculate fines for overdue books when Erie’s first public library opened in 1897.

Tours of the vault of the Heritage Room, also including a working room, will be offered on Fridays from 1 p.m. Tours will begin every 15 minutes until 3:30 p.m.

Waldameer Park and Water World premieres May 7.  As part of History Week events, a lecture on the history of Waldameer and other western Pennsylvania amusement parks will be presented by historian Jennifer Sopko, at the Blasco Library, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

More free History Week presentations and programs

  • Erie County in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Native American Times, and Forts Près Isle and LeBoeuf, and Canoe and Stagecoach Trips, by the Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society, Blasco Library, Mondays at 5 p.m.
  • “Quilting through the Ages with Marcia Scott,” at the Fairview Area Historical Society Sturgeon House, 4302 Avonia Road, Fairview, Mondays at 7 p.m.
  • The Continental Army’s Intelligence and Reconnaissance Unit and American Spies in British-occupied New York during the Revolutionary War, by historian George Deutsch, at the Corry Higher Education Council, 221 N. Center St., Corry, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
  • Waldameer and Other Western Pennsylvania Amusement Parks, by historian Jennifer Sopko, at the Blasco Library, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
  • Preservation of West Sixth Street, focusing on the restoration of period homes, by architect Jeff Kidder, at the Blasco Library, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • “Murder & Mayhem in Erie Pennsylvania,” including the 1905 murder of Detective “Jimmie” Higgins at an Erie school, by author Justin Dombrowski, at the Blasco Library and on Zoom, Friday at 2 p.m.
  • Finding Your Home’s History, a workshop by Erin Philips of Old Erie on Foot, at the Blasco Library, Saturday at 2 p.m.
A reception area and reconstructed office space by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright are on display June 8, 2021, inside the Hagen History Center exhibit facility in Erie.  As part of the History Week events, admission to the Hagen History Center is free on Sundays.

Free or reduced admission

  • May Community day at the Hagen History Center. Admission is free for visits to the History Center. The restored Wood-Morrison House on campus at 356 W. Sixth St. will also be open for free on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
  • Hay Day activities at the Erie Children’s Museum, 420 French St., showcasing the building’s past use as the Boston Store’s livery and garage, Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Free admission for up to two adults and four children with an Erie County Public Library Children’s Museum Family Pass.
  • Erie Museum of Artat 20 E. Fifth St., will feature an exhibit of vintage photography, from Erie and beyond, on Pay-What-You-Wish-Day on Thursdays from 2-8 p.m.
  • The newly renovated Warner Theaterat 811 State St., will offer free community open houses on Fridays from 2-5 p.m. and 6-9 p.m.
  • Yahn Planetarium at Penn State Behrend will perform his “Erie Legends” show, featuring a UFO landing, Ax Murder Hollow and other thrills, Saturday at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Discounted admission is $2.50 per person.

Walking and biking tours and take-home kits

Free History Week on-the-go kits will be available throughout the week at all Erie County Public Library branches while supplies last. The kits will include a button, tour itinerary, craft and recipe and are funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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Guided walking tours exploring Erie’s neighborhoods include:

  • West BayWalks: African American History, tour of the area once known as New Jerusalem populated by former slaves, Wednesdays at 11 a.m., from Pontiac Field, 200 Cherry St.
  • Lincoln Avenue, led by Liz Allen and featuring homes by architect Erie C. Paxton Cody and built from Sears kits plus Ferncliff and a World War I “Garden Suburb,” Thursdays at 7 p.m. from Lincoln Park & ​​Ride Avenue / Thomas Hub C. Hoffman Bayfront.
  • Memorial Day Weekend Walking Tour, led by Michael Fuhrman, with sites of 18th-century frontier forts, the Pennsylvania Veterans’ and Sailors’ Memorial Cemetery, and the Wayne Blockhouse, Saturday at 9 a.m., beginning at the foot of Parade Street.

A bike tour will explore the architecture of West Bayfront on Friday at 5 p.m., starting in Bayview Park on West Second Street.

More events and more information

There are more History Week programs, as well as self-guided walking tours and noontime virtual talks on historic preservation.

There is also a Passport to the past raffle for people who participate in at least four of the week’s events.

The full list of History week activities is on the Erie County Public Library website at Click on the different tabs for virtual events and for library and community sponsored events.

Attendees can also register online for events that require pre-registration.

Contact Valerie Myers at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @ETNmyers.

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