Two history majors receive prestigious conference award
When Dr. Jonathan Bloom assigned a project to his students in his Pennsylvania History class last spring, he had no idea the outcome would earn a major award.
Bloom, an associate professor of history and philosophy, offered extra credit to students who would present their poster at the 2012 Pennsylvania Historical Association Annual Meeting in Harrisburg.
Senior Jonathan Goos and junior Mark Shifflet presented their poster exhibit “Tycoons in Tailcoats” at the conference and won the Award for Outstanding Poster.
According to Bloom, “This is the premiere conference for Pennsylvanian historians. People come from all over the country for it because Pennsylvania is a state that has a lot of rich, historical topics. There was a lot of competition. I was incredibly impressed that they were chosen.”
The poster displayed research the two conducted on the history of iron forges in 18th and 19th centuries Pennsylvania, specifically showing the impact they had on development of the Commonwealth and the impact of the industry on the American Revolution.
According to Goos, “There’s a lot of physical evidence around in terms of charcoal iron furnace stacks. Not far from here is the Pine Grove Furnace, the stack at Carlisle. Peter Grubb originally built the Brickerville Tavern. He was an iron master and one of the great men who owned an iron dynasty. The Mount Hope estate was actually built by iron masters and it is an iron master’s mansion still in use today.”
“There’s lots of monographs and books out there on the iron industry in Pennsylvania and specific furnaces, but there’s only ever a few chapters dedicated to the American Revolution,” said Shifflet. “So I thought this was a place where I could do a little research. Lots of iron masters were prominent politicians and judges. Some iron masters signed the Declaration of Independence as well as the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776.”
Shifflet said the iron industry in colonial Pennsylvania was important during the Revolutionary. “One of the most important things in the war was the colonial iron industry and particularly the Pennsylvania iron industry. Not only did they produce cannonballs and cannons but they produced supplies like frying pans and camp tools for the Continental Army.”
The selection committee said it was very impressed by the depth of their research, their ability to connect that research to larger issues in ways that made clear the significance of their work, and by the quality of their poster's presentation of that research. It commended Goos and Shifflet on their scholarship and the clarity of their presentation and that their scholarship has great potential should they decide to continue that avenue of research.
Shifflet has received a grant to continue to fund his research on iron forges and their role in the American Revolution for Dr. Allan Deiterich-Ward’s history seminar.