A walking tour of Erie’s New Jerusalem neighborhood, a rare look at Blasco Library’s vault and programs on Revolutionary War espionage, an 1812 African-American seaman and notorious Erie murders are among free events during the Erie County Public Library’s first HistErie Week celebration May 22- 28
The weeklong HistErie Week is offered in collaboration with local historians, historical societies and museums and features free programs, tours and virtual preservation talks, plus take-home packets, and free or reduced admission at participating sites.
The goal is to promote community-level historic preservation and share local history, said Courtney Baran, who organized HistErie Week. Baran is digital collections librarian at the Erie County Public Library.
“There are more than 30 different programs or events, some sponsored by the library and others by community partners,” Baran said. Most programs will be offered in-person, others are virtual. Some events require advance registration.
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African-American sailor signaled the start of Battle of Lake Erie
A fife likely played by a seaman during the Battle of Lake Erie is on display at the Erie Maritime Museum, which will offer free admission to celebrate the new exhibit on Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 pm
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, during the September 1813 battle.
Linda Bolla of the Maritime Museum 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 went on exhibit at the Maritime Museum early this year.
Tiffany, “having fought by land and water, and already knitting in years, allowed himself considerable license of speech, and having wit at will, had been a great amusement to the crew of the Lawrence,” wrote Perry biographer Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, who served with Perry and Tiffany in the Mediterranean in 1815.
Tiffany, Mackenzie wrote, “could give (the fife) more thrilling and eloquent expression” than anyone.
Lawrence fifers helped call his crew to stations as the Battle of Lake Erie began.
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“The grog ration being served out, drums and fifes struck up the thrilling air ‘all hands, all hands, to quarters,'” wrote Usher Parsons, surgeon’s mate on the ship.
Tiffany accompanied Perry back to Erie after the victory.
“When the Commodore entered Erie after the Battle, Tiffany attended him as a body servant and as they approached the town … pushed his horse in advance and commenced playing an animated tune on his fife,” Mackenzie wrote.
Tiffany served with Perry until 1818, when Tiffany died in Newport, Rhode Island.
Visit the vault at Blasco Library
Blasco Library’s vault of rare books and periodicals will be open for tours on Friday afternoon. The materials are secured in a climate-controlled environment near the library’s second-floor Heritage Room.
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There’s a complete six-volume set of Edmund Spenser’s epic poem “The Fairie Queene,” “Harper’s Pictorial History of the War with Spain,” James Otis’ “With Perry on Lake Erie: A Tale of 1812,” and, on the lighter side, Louisa May Alcott’s “Aunt Jo’s Scrap-bag,” published in 1872, and “Palmistry,” or palm reading, 1916 style.
“They’re books that are too rare or too delicate to be checked out or even read in the library except by advance request,” Baran said.
Periodicals in the vault include “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” dating back to 1841, and the Nov. 25, 1865, edition of Harper’s Weekly featuring the dedication of the Dan Rice monument to Civil War dead in Girard.
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Artwork stored in the vault includes a miniature painting of Erie philanthropist Sarah Reed and paintings previously displayed in the library or loaned for at-home display.
There’s also a wooden Gaylord Fine Calculator used to figure overdue book fines when the first Erie Public Library opened in 1897.
Tours of the Heritage Room vault, also including a workroom, will be offered Friday beginning at 1 pm Tours will begin every 15 minutes through 3:30.
More free History Week presentations and programs
- Erie County in the 18th and 19th centuries, in the days of Native Americans, Forts Presque Isle and LeBoeuf, and canoe and stagecoach travel, by the Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society, at Blasco Library, Monday at 5 pm
- “Quilting through the Ages with Marcia Scott,” at the Fairview Area Historical Society Sturgeon House, 4302 Avonia Road, Fairview, Monday at 7 pm
- The Continental Army’s espionage and reconnaissance unit and American spies in British-occupied New York during the Revolutionary War, by historian George Deutsch, at Corry Higher Education Council, 221 N. Center St., Corry, Tuesday at 6 pm
- Waldameer and other western Pennsylvania amusement parks, by historian Jennifer Sopko, at Blasco Library, Wednesday at 6:30 pm
- West Sixth Street preservation, focusing on the restoration of vintage homes, by architect Jeff Kidder, at Blasco Library, Thursday at 7 pm
- “Murder & Mayhem in Erie Pennsylvania,” including the 1905 murder of Detective “Jimmie” Higgins at an Erie school, by author Justin Dombrowski, at Blasco Library and on Zoom, Friday at 2 pm
- Researching your home’s history, a workshop by Erin Philips of Old Erie on Foot, at Blasco Library, Saturday at 2 pm
Free or reduced admissions
- May Community Day at the Hagen History Center. Admission is free for visits to the History Center. The restored Wood-Morrison House on the 356 W. Sixth St. campus also will be open at no cost, Sunday from noon to 5 pm
- Hay Day activities at Erie Children’s Museum, 420 French St., featuring the building’s past use as the Boston Store livery and garage, Wednesday through Friday, 10 am to 5 pm; Free admission for up to two adults and four children with a Children’s Museum family pass from the Erie County Public Library.
- Erie Art Museum, at 20 E. Fifth St., will feature an exhibit of vintage photographs, of Erie and beyond, during Pay-What-You-Wish-Day on Thursday from 2 to 8 pm
- The newly renovated Warner Theater, at 811 State St., will offer free community open houses Friday from 2 to 5 pm and 6 to 9 pm
- Yahn Planetarium at Penn State Behrend will offer its “Erie Legends” show, featuring a UFO landing, Ax Murder Hollow and other chills, Saturday at 4 and 5 pm Reduced admission is $2.50 per person.
Walking and bike tours and take-home kits
Free HistErie Week take-home kits will be available through the week at all Erie County Public Library branches while supplies last. The kits will include a button, tour route, craft and recipe and are funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant.
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Guided walking tours exploring Erie neighborhoods include:
- West BayWalks: African-American History, touring the area once known as New Jerusalem settled by the formerly enslaved, Wednesday, 11 am, beginning at Pontiac Field, 200 Cherry St.
- Lincoln Avenue, led by Liz Allen and featuring homes by Erie architect C. Paxton Cody and built from Sears kits plus Ferncliff and a World War I-era “Garden Suburb,” Thursday, 7 pm, beginning at Lincoln Avenue Park & Ride/Thomas C. Hoffman Bayfront Hub.
- Memorial Day Weekend Walking Tour, led by Michael Fuhrman, featuring sites of 18th-century frontier forts, the Pennsylvania Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home Veterans Memorial Cemetery and Wayne Blockhouse, Saturday, 9 am, beginning at the foot of Parade Street.
A biking tour will explore the architecture of the West Bayfront, Friday, 5 pm, beginning at Bayview Park on West Second Street.
More events and more information
There are more HistErie Week programs, plus self-guided walking tours and virtual noontime talks on historic preservation.
There’s also a Passport to the Past prize drawing for people who participate in at least four of the week’s events.
The complete list of HistErie Week activities is on the Erie County Public Library website at bit.ly/2022_HistErieWeek. Click on the various tabs for virtual events and for library and community-sponsored events.
Participants can also register online for events requiring advance registration.
Contact Valerie Myers at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ETNmyers.