Keystone Moments in Local History

In our ongoing effort to better connect with our local communities, we've been doing some historical research. As we dived into the stories of Pennsylvania's past, we found ourselves in awe of the daring, the innovative and the inspiring people that have called Pennsylvania their home. So we created a series of commercials that spotlight various Pennsylvanians and Pennsylvanian traditions. Some of these stories may be familiar to you, and others may be new, but we have collected them all here for you to peruse and perhaps research further on your own.

We're just a television station. We know our accomplishments cannot measure to the legacy of the good people below. But we want to use their stories as our benchmark, as our inspiration, so we can better serve you. Whether they invented something amazing or gave the ultimate sacrifice, they are part of our fabric as Pennsylvanians. We're proud of them, we're proud of where we live? and we know that you are too.

Commander George S. Rentz"It was during the abandonment of the sinking Houston that Commander Rentz entered the water and attained partial safety along with other crewmembers on a destroyed airplane's float. Seeing extreme overcrowding and the fact that the pontoon was taking on water, he attempted to relinquish his space and lifejacket to wounded survivors nearby. He declared, 'You men are young, I have lived the major part of my life and I am willing to go.' According to Houston survivor Private Jim Gee, 'No one would oblige the generous, fearless chaplain. Each time Rentz attempted to leave he was brought back by his shipmates. He ultimately relinquished his lifejacket to Seaman First Class Walter L. Beeson who recounts that Rentz 'told me his heart was failing him; told me he couldn't last much longer.' Following a brief prayer, the Chaplain gave the lifejacket to Beeson who refused to put it on. Rentz kicked away from the float and disappeared. Gee recalled 'No one realized what had happened. It's just one of those things that one minute he's there, and the next minute . . . he wasn't.' When Beeson realized that Rentz was gone, he put on the lifejacket. For these actions, Rentz was posthumously awarded the United States Navy's second highest award for valor, the Navy Cross."

This full article can be found here.

John Burns"The old hero took down an old State musket he had in his house, and commenced running bullets. The old lady saw what he was about, and wanted to know what in the world he was going to do. 'Ah' said Burns, 'I thought some of the boys might want the old gun, and I am getting it ready for them.' The rebels came on. Old Burns kept his eye on the lookout until he saw the Stars and Stripes coming in, carried by our brave boys. This was more than the old fellow could stand. His patriotism got the better of his age and infirmity. Grabbing his musket, he started out. The old lady hallooed to him: 'Burns, where are you going?' '0,' says Burns, 'I am going out to see what is going on.' He immediately went to a Wisconsin regiment, and asked them if they would take him in. They told him they would, and gave him three rousing cheers. The old musket was soon thrown aside, and a first-rate rifle given him, and twenty-five rounds of cartridges."

This full article can be found here.

The Conestoga Wagon"The Conestoga Wagon probably began as a farm wagon that was adapted for use on the rough, hilly ground in Lancaster County. A cover was added to protect the goods inside from the rain, the bottom was bowed in the middle to make it less likely that the material inside the wagon wouldn't slide as the wagon went up and down hill, and the wheels were large so the wagon could pass over streams without getting the products inside wet. Also, large wheels meant the wagon could pass over stumps in the roads or large rocks, in those days roads were not paved and the Conestoga Wagon is a perfect example of how a farm wagon was modified to make it better able to move over the rolling hills, the many streams and the poor roads of Lancaster County."

This full article can be found here.

Bob Hoffman"Bob Hoffman wasn't born one of the strongest, fittest men in the world, but after working to become just that in his twenties, he spent the balance of his life encouraging others to follow. At sixty, he could still lift 250 pounds over his head with one hand, break chains with his 52-inch chest, and, when the impulse struck, strap an anvil to his stomach, lie down on the ground, and let his buddies bang away with a sledgehammer."

This full article can be found here.

Milton S. Hershey"Following a four-year apprenticeship as a teenager to a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, candy maker, Hershey in 1876 attempted to start his own candy business in Philadelphia. Despite six years of hard work, it failed. So he moved to Denver and found work with a confectioner who taught him how to make caramels using fresh milk. He then started up a second candy business in New York City. It also failed. Undaunted, he returned to Lancaster and once again tried making a go of the caramel business. This time, it worked. Soon, his Lancaster Caramel Company was shipping all over the U.S. and Europe, employing 1400 people and turning him into one of the area's leading citizens."

This full article can be found here.

Harry B. Reese"In 1879, a candy visionary was born in Frosty Hill, Pennsylvania. His name was Harry Burnett "H.B" Reese. Reese was born into a farming family, but quickly realized that farming wasn't for him. After following several different business ventures, Reese settled back in Hershey Pennsylvania, near the Hershey's chocolate plant and began making candy bars of his own. In 1928, he introduced the peanut butter cup (what we now call the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup)."

This full article can be found here.

Robert Fulton"Whatever may have been Fulton's honors as to the invention, he undoubtedly deserves the credit of first bringing into practical use the steamboat as a conveyance for passengers and freight, all earlier undertakings having been inefficient practically. The success of the "Clermont" was followed by the rapid multiplication of steamboats. A list of those built under Fulton's superintendence comprises the "Car of Neptune," the Paragon, the Firefly," the " Richmond," the " Washington," the " Vesuvius," the "Olive Branch," the "Emperor of Russia," and the "Chancellor Livingston," as well as several ferryboats."

This full article can be found here.

Molly Pitcher"During the battle of Monmouth, June 28th, 1778, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees, the wife of William Hays, by then a Gunner Private of Proctor's 4th Artillery, was carrying water in a pitcher (or more likely, a bucket) to the soldiers, and to cool the blazing cannons. For this service, they called her "Molly Pitcher." During the battle, her husband was struck down, but not killed as many claim, and the cannon was ordered to be withdrawn. She immediately seized the rammer and continued to assist in serving the cannon until the battle ended."

This full article can be found here.

George Stibitz"There, in front of a somewhat skeptical audience consisting of members of the American Mathematical Society, Stibitz demonstrated the process of remote-control electromechanical computation by transmitting data over the teletype and receiving the computer's calculations in the same way--at the same time changing the concepts and uses of computers forever."

This full article can be found here.

York Fair"The traditions of fairs in the New World began with the York Fair, America's first fair, held in the historic old Town of York in 1765, eleven years before the nation was founded. A charter to hold that fair was granted to the people of York by Thomas Penn, son of William Penn in recognition of 'the flourishing state to which the town hath arrived through their industry.' Those early gatherings were reported to have been 'the liveliest days of the whole year.'"

This full article can be found here.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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