There might be more American History per square mile in Pennsylvania than anywhere else in the country, and the Lebanon Valley is fortunate to have much close by. History buffs should take note of two upcoming events at the historic Cornwall Iron Furnace.


This year Charter Day is being observed in Pennsylvania on Sunday, March 8. Charter Day is not an official holiday, but it could be. It’s Pennsylvania’s Birthday. Number 339 to be exact. It marks the anniversary of when, in 1681, William Penn was granted a charter for a big piece of land in North America by England’s King Charles II, settling a debt the King had with Penn’s father.

Penn, a strong advocate of religious freedom, now had a place to establish his community free of persecution. He founded Philadelphia and Pennsylvania was born.

The original Charter Document is locked up in the archives of the State Museum in Harrisburg, but for Charter Day (and until March 13) it is available for public viewing.

Like the State Museum, Lebanon County’s Cornwall Iron Furnace is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and on Charter Day will offer FREE tours of the furnace complex and the Buckingham Mansion and Paymaster’s Office at Cornwall Manor.

Tours will be given from 12 to 4 p.m. assisted by trained guides who will tell the fascinating story of the Furnace that operated from 1742 to 1883. Visitors will learn about how the furnace was established, what was done there, it’s important role in America’s history, and the thousands of workers who kept the furnace and the nearby ore mines, running up to the end. Be advised: There is no heat in the furnace building, so dress for chilly conditions.

Cornwall Iron Furnace is located at 94 Rexmont Road in Cornwall. Driving directions can be found on the furnace website. It is a National Historic Landmark. It is the only surviving intact charcoal cold blast furnace in the Western Hemisphere. It remains pretty much as it was when it shut down in 1883.

The Cornwall Iron Furnace was established in 1742 by Peter Grubb. It was transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1932.

The iron furnace as it looked circa 1930. Library of Congress

In addition to Cornwall Iron Furnace and the State Museum, these nearby PHMC historic sites and museums will also offer free tours and activities on Charter Day:

  • Conrad Weiser Homestead-Womelsdorf
  • Daniel Boone Homestead-Birdsboro
  • Ephrata Cloister-Ephrata
  • Railroad Museum of PA-Strasburg
  • Landis Valley Village Farm Museum-Lancaster
  • Joseph Priestly House-Northumberland

The Iron Furnace website has more information and also has helpful links to the PHMC site and others places of interest.


If you’ve ever driven through the Gettysburg Battlefield, you’ve seen all the monuments and markers. There are more than 1,300 sculptures in all shapes and sizes. You may have wondered: How did they get there? Why are they shaped like that? What is the symbolism of each one?

The Friends of Cornwall Iron Furnace will have answers for those questions at their event on Tuesday March 10 at 7 p.m. in the Freeman Hall Auditorium at Cornwall Manor Retirement Community.

According to a press release, the Friends of Cornwall Iron Furnace (FCIF) has enlisted the help of Sue Boardman, a licensed Gettysburg battlefield Guide and current leadership Program Director of the Gettysburg Foundation. Her presentation is part of the FCIF annual lecture series.

Ms. Boardman, who has written books and articles on the Civil War, states that some of the monuments were the creation of well-known American sculptors and all of them have their own story to tell.

The presentation is FREE and open to the public. Freewill donations will be accepted.

More information about the Friends of Cornwall Iron Furnace can be found on the furnace website or by calling 717-272-9711.

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