Photographs like this one are part of the reason I became an archivist. Sure, all archivists dream of holding George Washington’s letters or a Walt Whitman manuscript in their hands, literally touching a piece of history or coming into close personal contact with something that touched your life many years after it was created. But the items we collect and share in our museums, archives and libraries aren’t meant to reflect the lives and accomplishments of only the famous, sophisticated and well-to-do. They’re also meant to reflect the joys, struggles and small victories of average people trying to make the best of their world.
I come into contact with items both serious and comical every day. Beside photos documenting poverty and poor housing conditions in York City, or local bigwigs giving important speeches, are photos like this one. To celebrate our nation’s Bicentennial, the small borough of Felton in southern York County held a parade. Feltonites are known for their quirky sense of humor, which was on full display in this float. This denizen chose the advent of the use of pages from the Sears and Roebuck catalog as toilet paper, instead of corncobs, as the most important moment in the last 200 years of his community’s history.
Toilet humor aside, this citizen reflects on the moment when that famous catalog brought new and exciting products to the average family’s doorstep, easing the burden of travelling to stores in bigger towns, making your own household items, or simply making due with what’s on hand. The Sears and Roebuck catalog didn’t simply expand Americans’ retail options. It contributed to the development of national senses of fashion, design, personal hygiene and standards of living. It revolutionized housekeeping and farming with its wide selection of products meant to make chores easier. And when it started carrying radios, and later televisions, it helped shrink the distance between towns, states and countries, bringing the world to every household’s doorstep. What a truly momentous occasion for villages and hamlets across our great nation, worthy of inclusion in any Bicentennial parade. Start planning for the Sesquicentennial in 2026!
This blog won’t just bring you wacky photos from our collection — although if the powers-that-be humor me, this is the first of many. We want to show you the lighter side of the York County History Center, the side that runs counter to the stuffy, fussy atmosphere that comes to mind when most people think “history museum”. With the recent unveiling of our new brand, we felt it was high time to launch a blog that will bring our interweb visitors inside the new History Center, that will show you how fun and personal history can be — in short, to show you we ain’t your grandma’s historical society anymore.
In this blog, our staff will give you behind the scenes glimpses of what they are up to on any given day, the great discoveries they make during the course of their work, and their favorite fun facts about York County’s history. They’ll lift the curtain on our preparations for the fabulous exhibits and events we bring to the community. We’ll share our favorite artifacts, humorous historical anecdotes, and yes, sometimes wacky photos. After all, we’d like you to join in the fun we have every day on the job!
You’ll also be the first to hear about the exciting changes taking place at the York County History Center on a more in-depth level from our President and members of the Board of Directors, and all the other folks who are intimately involved in shaping the future course of our organization. They’ll keep you informed of the steps we’re taking to renovate and move into the Steam Plant, and to attract new audiences. They’ll share their ideas about how we’ll make history accessible, interactive and memorable. And they’ll share the “a-ha moments” they’ve had at the History Center that kindled a deeper appreciation of history and connection to their roots, and how they plan to create these kinds of moments for our visitors in our new facility.
Why should you visit the York County History Center’s new blog again and again? I hope I’ve given you plenty of reasons so far, but here’s one more: to learn about the pride our members, staff and leaders take in York County’s history, and how we hope to share and evoke this pride in every visitor.
— Amanda Eveler
Assistant Director of Library & Archives