Celebrate Pennsylvania’s Birthday with a Rare Display of William Penn’s Original 1681 Charter

Celebrate Pennsylvania’s Birthday with a Rare Display of William Penn's Original 1681 Charter

HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) will celebrate the commonwealth’s 339th birthday on Charter Day, Sunday, March 8, with a rare display of William Penn’s original 1681 charter. In honor of the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 15th Amendment, the Pennsylvania State Archives will also exhibit two rarely seen documents: Pennsylvania’s Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery (1780) and the state’s ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1869), which ensured the right of American men to vote, regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Pennsylvania was created when England’s King Charles II granted a charter to William Penn in 1681. Once each year, the Pennsylvania State Archives exhibits the original document for a limited time at The State Museum of Pennsylvania. The 339-year-old Charter is written on parchment using iron gall ink. The State Archives preserves the document in a high-security vault, shielding it from strong light and environmental fluctuations.

Admission to The State Museum is free on Charter Day, Sunday, March 8 only, and includes visits to the Planetarium, the Curiosity Connection and galleries. Free timed tickets are required for the Planetarium and the Curiosity Connection. A limited number of tickets are available at the Front Desk and offered on a first come first served basis.

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Additionally at The State Museum, Professor Patricia Likos Ricci will present “Charting the Holy Experiment: Violet Oakley’s Murals,” a discussion on painter Violet Oakley’s first commission for the Pennsylvania State Capitol, a series of murals in the Governor’s Reception Room, painted 1902–1906. Oakley’s theme, “The Founding of the State of Liberty Spiritual,” focused on William Penn’s decision to use the land granted to him to create a society with religious freedom in the New World. Oakley studied the history of the Quakers and the life of Penn in London and Oxford to prepare her mural series, which chronicles the struggle for religious freedom in England from the 16th century to Penn’s voyage to Pennsylvania in 1682. Oakley was the first woman in America to receive a government mural commission.

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Professor Ricci served as special advisor to The State Museum’s exhibit Picturing a More Perfect Union: Violet Oakley’s Mural Studies for the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber, 1911–1919, which features more than 50 of Oakley’s original studies for the Senate Chamber murals from The State Museum’s collections. The exhibit runs through April 26. The program is scheduled for 2:00 PM in the First Floor Gallery.

The Pennsylvania Charter, along with Pennsylvania’s Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery and the state’s ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, will remain on display at the museum until 1:00 PM on Friday, March 13, when the documents will be returned to the vault for another year.

In addition to programming at The State Museum, many historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History will offer free admission on Sunday, March 8.

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Participating historic sites and museums include:

For more information on Charter Day 2020, visit www.statemuseumpa.org

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