Figure 35: A Milton Hill star re-creation, painted on weathered barn wood at the Kutztown Folk Festival in 2016, modeled after a star from the Leiby Homestead in Virginville, by barn star artist Milton J. Hill (1887-1972) of Virginville, Berks County, ca. The majority of the Pennsylvania Dutch established communities organized around Lutheran and Reformed congregations. No one knows who the first artists were and precisely when they began to paint stars on the wooden siding of Pennsylvania barns.10 They were likely farmers, carpenters, builders, and tradesmen who painted as a secondary occupation. The 40-year-old reality star turned business mogul confirmed they are set to tie the knot after Carter got down on one knee during a romantic proposal on 13 February. Coincidentally, Mercer, curator of the archaeological collections at the University of Pennsylvania, and a fellow faculty member and folklorist Dr. Edwin Miller Fogel, both documented the idea of the “Hexefuss” (plural “Hexefees”) in their field work at the turn of the twentieth century as a chalk marking used by farmers to ward off the influence of the supernatural.93 This was an ancient ritual marking that resembled the upright foot of a goose, and in some cases farmers would even nail the actual foot of a goose onto a barn door for protection from evil.94 This ritual, however, bore no visual similarity with the colorful painted stars on the barns, and Mercer would likely have been aware of Nutting’s error. For new accounts: Purchase APR is 29.99%. II: Special Festival Issue, Summer 1960. https://digitalcommons.ursinus.edu/pafolklifemag/9. Printed birth and baptismal certificates from the mid-nineteenth century, produced by the thousands throughout Pennsylvania, reflected the shortness of life in these common lines of poetry: Our wasting lives grow shorter still, 1940. Although these accounts were highly imaginative and lacking any basis in fact, they were nevertheless some of the very first travelogues written about the decorated Pennsylvania barns, which served to introduce broad American audiences to the folk art of Pennsylvania. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 16-17. Figure 44: A weathered barn star “ghost,” salvaged from a once-decorated wagon shed in Windsor Castle, Berks County. We have appliance touch-up, door paint, wood stripper, concrete sealers and concrete stain. Certain contemporary painters, such as Eric Claypoole of Lenhartsville, Berks County, draw upon oral history in the region to describe what the stars may represent numerically. This signature star was composed of ten colors. Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) of Framingham, Massachusetts, released the first detailed explanation of the origins of southeastern Pennsylvania’s decorated barns to national audiences. However, one need only look to the churchyards and cemeteries to see that such imagery extended beyond the realm of the trades and featured prominently in the symbolism of early gravestones, which were equally an expression of sacred, consecrated space. No ledgers of barn star painters from the nineteenth century are known to exist which could help to illuminate the particulars of time, materials, and process employed to decorate a barn. His geometric composition was intricate and meticulous, and he combined high-contrast colors in the star points with subtle variations in the border. And who maintains the scales of all things in balance? Barn stars are rarely found west of the Susquehanna, except for traditional wooden applique stars found in Bedford, Somerset, and Washington counties. Many subsequent tourist promotions suggested the stars originated with Amish artists, but these designs were never found on barns in Lancaster, except along the border with Berks and Lebanon. Rarely, certain Mennonite farmers have, within the past generation, painted their barns in the Kutztown area, but this is largely because some have chosen to have their properties restored to their original states, including the stars that adorned the barns.96 The Mennonites in the Kutztown area were not the original owners of these properties, but instead are descended from Lancaster County families that purchased large tracts of land in Berks in the 1950s and 1960s. However, one particular barn painter of the early twentieth century, Milton J. Hill (1887-1972) of Virginville, kept a ledger that outlined his hourly project schedules, his paint pigments, and precisely how long it took him to paint the stars. The 1815 Belleman’s Union Church in Mohrsville, Berks County, once featured six-pointed rosettes in the configuration of clear glass windows on the upper gable ends of the meetinghouse.38 Similarly, sunbursts once accented the gable windows of the 1805 Bindnagel’s Lutheran Church of Palmyra, in Lebanon County. Milton had been painting for decades before this word was invented and came into common use, and he deeply resented that his work, and the work of fellow artists in the region, was subjected to this interpretation. Drawing upon architectural traditions of Europe, eighteenth-century German and English-speaking immigrants from Central Europe and the British Isles had built a variety of barns in the fertile valleys of Pennsylvania before settling upon a New World form that revolutionized farming in early America.21 Standing separate from the home, the Pennsylvania barn was a two-level hybrid engineered for diversified farming operations. Despite the fact that Johnny Ott was often depicted in the popular media as being connected with the painting of barns, he never actually painted a barn in his life. Were the planets and stars, In fact, the reason that barn stars are largely absent from Lancaster County is because the Amish do not typically decorate their barns, due to their religious commitment to plain living. Eric Claypoole paints commercial hex sign disks on signboard in addition to barns, and demonstrates annually at the Kutztown Folk Festival. The Pennsylvania German Family Farm: A Regional Architectural and Folk Cultural Study of an American Agricultural Community. This type of geometric pattern can therefore be called abstract, as opposed to realistic. In the early twentieth century, the invention of the automobile enabled tourists from all across the Mid-Atlantic to travel to rural Pennsylvania communities. With what almighty, infinite Force Although it is possible that the initials were for Samuel J. and Maria Elizabeth (Ladich) Kistler, buried at the nearby Jerusalem Union Cemetery in Stony Run, records from this time are scant and cannot be confirmed.28 Nevertheless, this inscription outlines the function of the earliest barn stars in the region as a colorful means to commemorate the establishment of a property. Lebanon, PA: Lebanon County Historical Society, 282-284; see also Fogel, Edwin Miller. These carved images of flowers also suggest the earthly realm of mortals, where in some gravestones the flowers are depicted at ground level, with a shining star above. As a living tradition, barn stars are not merely ancestral relics of the past, but opportunities for cultural expression among future generations who will continue to explore their roots and spiritual identities, their relationship with the land, and the legacy of artistic expression in the rural landscape. Around one percent were Roman Catholics.7, What originally unified them, in all their diverse creeds and places of origin, was the German language, spoken in a wide variety of distinctive dialects at the time of immigration. We offer name brands at great prices to give you value and quality with a professional finish. It was once commonly believed that the barn stars first appeared on the landscape with the advent of commercially available ready-mixed paints and the widespread establishment of painting crews in the late nineteenth century.19 We know today that the earliest stars were painted generations prior, when paints were mixed by the artists from old recipes combining oils, pigments, and raw materials that were both locally available and imported for sale. Our drowsy sense, Offer cannot be used in conjunction with coupons or any other discounts. 2003. “The History of Hex Signs.” The Pennsylvania German Review, Fall 2003. This relief, often called a “ghost,” is still visible even if the star is painted over. Courtesy of Patrick J. Donmoyer. Figure 19: An elaborate house blessing plaque dated 1820, with painted faux-brick border from North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County. Courtesy of Patrick J. Donmoyer. .”64 The Old Testament is not the only place in which the celestial sphere is celebrated as a means of understanding the will of the divine. 30 Kline, John Jacob. However, these ideas certainly held some appeal among the Pennsylvania Dutch of the late nineteenth century, who treasured their highly ornamented Victorian family Bibles, and eventually replaced many of their small, austere meetinghouse churches with the rural and urban American equivalents of cathedrals.17, For barn star patterns, however, numerological religious meanings are complementary and are interwoven with cosmological significance, such as in the case of the number seven. Johnny Claypoole continued to tell tall-tales about the effects of his commercial hex signs on his customers. These two inscriptions characterize two primary genres of architectural blessing inscriptions in Europe, namely, those which serve to invoke the protection of the divine, and those which serve to inspire righteous living. Figure 37: Barn star artist Milton J. Hill (1887-1972) painting on Masonite panels ca. One such pair of house blessing inscriptions records the names of revolutionary soldier Johannes Bolman and his wife Anna Maria Bolman, who settled near Millbach on the border of Lancaster and Lebanon counties following the receipt of Johannes’s compensation after the war. 38 This is no longer extant, but visible in an old photograph in the Pennsylvania Folklife Society Archive, Ursinus College. Nevertheless, for the outside world, the barn stars, also commonly called hex signs, have captured the American imagination as generations of visitors to the region marvel at the seamless integration of art into the agrarian countryside. 1973. “Pennsylvania German Astronomy and Astrology VII: Carl Friederich Egelmann (1782-1860).” Pennsylvania Folklife Magazine. It depicts the phases of the moon, the planets, the signs of the zodiac, the seasons, as well as Psalm 19 in German: “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth his handywork.” Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Folklife Society Archive, Myrin Library, Ursinus College. The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University is a folklife museum and research center on the Kutztown campus. While this is a common feature of both printed and handwritten certificates, it is unusual that this detail is given more prominence in the limited space of the central circle of the document than even “the father and mother of this child;” they are listed as the baptismal sponsors, but their specific names are absent. Right: Eight-pointed star butter mold. Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole Books. Angels and winged busts suggested the messengers of heaven and the passage of the spirit of the deceased to the afterlife. Due to rapid land development, suburbanization, changes in ownership, and economic circumstances, the range of visual expression in Pennsylvania barns of the region has diminished, leaving behind fragmented rural landscapes. Ironically, for previous generations of Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, it was the stars in the sky themselves that were thought to influence the weather and the fertility of the land, and even human affairs such as success and prosperity, love and romance. Subject to credit approval. Although I had expected to document an artistic tradition in decline—and that was precisely what I found in some areas—I was surprised and delighted to find that the sheer number of decorated barns in Berks alone had outstripped previous estimates for the whole region.4 I documented over 400 decorated barns in 2008 with the majority in Northern Berks, and have added scores from neighboring counties ever since, tallying over 500 for the total region. Figure 48: Tools of the Trade (clockwise from the top left):A fragment of old wooden barn siding showing a weathered barn star “ghost” with a relief created overtime by solar weathering. This distinctive architectural structure was unlike anything in the Old World, and is distinctly American in its evolution and form. Figure 8: An eight-pointed star with raindrops between each star point, painted in the classic Lehigh Valley color scheme of red, white, and black. PA Death Records, 1948. It is notable that Nutting describes his subject in an unusual way, as “marks” “on or about the door” rather than with precise descriptions of stars in elaborate arrangements on the siding of the barns. 1950 in his studio at his farm west of Virginville, Berks County. Hausinschriften im Schweitzerland. E. L. Walz, Lutheran minister of Hamburg, Berks County, printed in Reading by Johann Ritter in 1830. These are combined in ways that suggest certain floral species, and were once occasionally called Lillye (lilies) or Dullebaane (tulips).12. Again, the earliest Protestant gravestones deliberately avoided the use of the cross,39 and instead a diverse range of images appeared to serve as reflections of mortality and rebirth. Similar uses of stars are found in the alpine architecture of Switzerland and Austria, and along the border with northern Italy, as well as in Alsace, France, bordering the Rhine to the west, and across the Rhine in the Black Forest of Germany. Until recently, no comprehensive surveys of the region’s decorated barns had taken place since the 1950s,2 when the tradition was still very much in its hey-day and farming communities were substantially more stable. 28 A plaque at Jerusalem Union Cemetery in Stony Run lists Maria Elizabeth (Ladich) Kistler as Samuel’s first wife, but no other vital statistics are given. These directions align with the most common orientation for gravestones: facing east, in the direction of Jerusalem and the rising of the sun, echoing the symbolism of Christ’s death and resurrection. The dialog concerning the earliest stars was utterly changed in the early 2000s when early examples were discovered, and challenged the idea that barns were only painted after 1830. A decorated folk-house, it bears sunburst and rosette patterns, as well as running borders, and the following inscription: “Highest Lord above us, with your graceful hand protect our house and village from sickness, storm, and fire, Amen.” And elsewhere on the same structure: “It is not in the field nor in the trees, but it must germinate in the heart, if one is to become better.” From Gilfian Maurer, Hausinschriften in Schweitzerland. But just as elements of the architecture of the Pennsylvania barn can be traced to parts of Switzerland, so too are Swiss alpine farmsteads, called folkhouses,23 some of the most decorated structures in Europe, combining a wide variety of house inscriptions, geometric motifs, religious emblems, and heraldry, or family crests. (It is not in the field nor in the trees, but it must germinate in the heart, if one is to become better.). See Moyer 2003 for an alternate translation. Visual qualities such as symmetry, rotation, balance, regularity, and cyclicality point to the celestial movement and progression of the stars as the source of this inspiration. Among the earliest expressions of Pennsylvania’s folk art stars still extant in today’s landscape are those which appear in the domestic and sacred architecture of the first communities established by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the southeastern part of the state. Many of these symbolic images were pictorial reminders of scriptural passages commonly read at the graveside, such as the image of the crown featured in the comforting words of Christ from the Revelation of John, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,”41 or the gates of heaven.42 For the vast majority of gravestone symbols, biblical verses both inspired and reinforced the use of particular images, establishing a standard of meaning with the potential to be easily identified and widely recognized. Folkhouses are massive alpine farm dwellings combining the house, barn, stables, and grain storage under one roof for convenience during the harsh winter weather. 84 Newspaper article, “Hex of a Way to Make a Living.” Pittsburgh Press. Hearts depicted the seat of the human soul and its capacity to experience both mortal and divine love, while the skull, crossed bones, the hourglass, and the sickle represented the death of the body, and the harvesting of the soul.40. 60 The Agricultural Almanac series started by printer and publisher Johann Baer (1795-1858) of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has been in print for over two centuries. JOHNNY OTT.” Heritage Center, Kutztown University. The order and progression of the heavens is essential to the human understanding and experience of the passage of time. Some of these European blessings are no more than date-stones, capturing the specifics of the time of construction, while others are literary and religious, alternately invoking divine protection or offering some inspirational message for those passing by. Although the work of Johnny Claypoole closely resembled his teacher Johnny Ott’s work in many respects, Claypoole took his painting to another level. Although it is uncertain how many barns Milton Hill painted over the course of his long career, his work and legacy provided a continued folk-cultural narrative consistent with the experience of earlier generations. 71 Selections of this manual are in the archive of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, Kutztown University. Waken, O Lord! And yet how unconcern’d we go, At the same time, he is fascinated by archeological evidence of such motifs in the ancient world, as well as the sacred geometry found in all the cultures of the world. Each door and window is crowned with a star and a pair of moons. 1995. Instead, it suggests the opposite, that the stars and their artistic representations were a part of everyday life, and that every aspect of life was equally deserving of their celestial presence—both sacred and mundane. This coalesced into the spoken vernacular language of Deitsch, or Pennsylvania Dutch, a distinctive American hybrid that is similar in structure and sound to the Palatine dialects of High German today, along with an admixture of Swiss elements and English loan-words. The residents of these quiet rural communities regard the stars as something to be cherished, yet perfectly ordinary—an agricultural expression of folk art, and as commonplace as eating pie. A lover of the stars, artist Milton J. Hill began his career painting barn stars at the age of 14 under the mentorship of his father, John M. Hill, who paid him the generous going-rate of ten cents per hour, and asked him only to furnish his own paint.78 This of course required Milton to learn the art of mixing his own colors from linseed oil and commercial pigments, rather than the loathsome ready-mixed “patent” paints that performed unpredictably even in the best of circumstances. Most surprising of all was the fact that these numbers continue to increase by as many as half a dozen barns a year, as active artists, such as Eric Claypoole of Lenhartsville, as well as property owners, continue to paint barn stars in the region. From interviews with Eric Claypoole in 2007, 2012, 2017 & 2018. Upper Milford, Lehigh County. 18 For more discussion of these possible religious implications, see Donmoyer 2013. 40 See also Barba, Preston A. District Township, Berks County. Instead, Folk Festival director Alfred L. Shoemaker and his coworker Olive Zehner recognized the importance of Hill’s work, and courted him for years before he finally agreed to attend the Kutztown Folk Festival to demonstrate his art. Figure 17: An elaborate rosette on the back of a nineteenth-century chip-carved chair from the Palatinate, from the collection of the Mennonite Research Center, Mennonitische Forschungsstelle Weierhof, Germany. While these reflections may at first appear to be a morbid intrusion into a document celebrating new birth, for centuries among the Pennsylvania Dutch, the anticipation of death began at the very beginning of life, when infant and childhood mortality was an all too common experience; death claimed equally the young and old, the rich and poor, without prejudice for one’s achievements or station in life. It was not long after Ott’s retirement that Claypoole took his place at the Kutztown Folk Festival, where he became a national sensation. No interest will be charged and equal monthly payments are required on promo purchase until it is paid in full. Egelman depicted himself in the very center with the horn of a messenger, proclaiming his astronomical observations for the glory of his divine creator.70. While Johnny Ott’s work combined these two genres as early as the 1950s, artwork resulting from this synthesis never appeared directly painted on barn siding until Johnny Claypoole began painting barns. Patrick Donmoyer is a fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch and an advocate for regional folk culture. Figure 7: An eight-pointed star within a star, characteristic of the Northern Berks-Lehigh border. Thus Claypoole was able to participate in the artistic dialog of his era without compromising what he knew to be true about the origins of the tradition. A wide variety of such inscriptions in alternate formats can be found on the gables of early nineteenth-century barns and houses throughout Pennsylvania. As with many agricultural societies, the Pennsylvania Dutch possess a well-developed system of beliefs concerning the movements of the heavens and their effects on earthly processes, as well as on botanical, animal, and human affairs. Glencairn Museum staff photo. Existing cardholders: See your credit card agreement terms. Editor Patrick J. Donmoyer. Figure 21: A six-pointed rosette on the carved keystone above the door of the 1767 New Hanover Lutheran Church, serving the oldest continuous German Lutheran congregation in America, located in New Hanover Township, Montgomery County. Figure 24: Bookplate and Birth Record for Marya Wenger, FFLP B-125, Rare Book Department, Free Library of Philadelphia. His star patterns were an entirely different breed of art than the strictly geometric patterns used by barn painters. Eric typically completes six barns per year, a rate which will allow him to reach the milestone of more than one hundred barns within less than a decade. The most celebrated of all of these architectural medallions is the 1819 barn blessing attributed to the Kistler family of Greenwich Township, Berks County.27 This painted wooden medallion is in all respects a highly developed forerunner to the distinctive star patterns in Northern Berks. One such stone, at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville, depicts a personified image of the sun and moon and two rosettes carved in relief, along with a series of incised stars, and the English-language inscription of lyrics by the Congregational hymnodist Isaac Watts: God my redeemer lives, 1925. “A history of the Tohickon Union Church, Bedminster Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania: with copy of church records, Reformed congregation, 1745-1869, Lutheran congregation, 1749-1849”. Indeed, even until fairly recently in human history, the stars in their courses were identified, along with the rising and setting of the sun and the phases of the moon, as the clearest indicators of the passage of time and the belief in a stable, ordered universe. 1790, Schwartzwald, Berks County. Methodical, process-oriented, and exacting, Eric is fascinated by geometry, and continually pushes the limitations of the tradition, by recombining celestial patterns in new and unique ways. He soon discovered that he possessed a natural talent for painting and traveled to London in 1767 to study with Benjamin West (1738–1820), a successful American-born artist. Although these Pennsylvania Dutch terms predominated long before English terms were in common use, nevertheless the barn decorations are widely known as “hex signs”—an idea that did not originate among the folk, but first appeared in tourism literature of the early twentieth century.13 These outsider theories promoted the spurious claim that the stars served the sole purpose of protection from the supernatural. Director, Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. It is notable that Egelman’s period of influence as an astronomer, almanac maker, and artist—roughly 1820-1860—coincides with precisely the time and place when celestial images were widespread in the traditional arts, when geometric representations of the stars became a popular art form in Berks County. Walz’s title page depicts the celestial sphere, complete with the moon, stars, and the milky-way, surrounded by the signs of the zodiac, and the sun shining forth as a beacon from a stylized church steeple. Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, Kutztown University. These classic geometric star patterns have been called a variety of names over the years, even within the predominantly Pennsylvania Dutch communities where the tradition originates.11 In the local vernacular, these motifs have been called Schtanne (stars), a term descriptive of their angular, radial forms as abstract, geometric representations of heavenly bodies. Figure 4: A classic eight-pointed star, Albany Township, Berks County. We have appliance touch-up, door paint, wood stripper, concrete sealers and concrete stain. Some stories claim he stayed up that very night to prepare several stars which he promptly sold the following day, but it seems unlikely that Hill embraced the idea literally “overnight.” Hill, who was too busy to attend the Festival, and operated a farm in partnership with his wife Gertrude, may not have had the time to respond so quickly to such a request for commercial production of his work. Pennsylvania Dutch is spoken by over 400,000 people in North America today, and it is considered one of the fastest growing small minority languages in the United States, with the core of its speakers in the plain communities of the Old Order Amish and Mennonites.8. 39 The author has examined scores of early cemeteries throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania, and the only two early graveyards with crosses on stones appear at the Catholic Church of the Blessed Sacrament, in Balley, Berks County, and the old cemetery in Richmond Township, formerly associated with St. Henry’s Catholic Church. 104 Interview with Eric Claypoole 2018. 15 These narratives were collected as informal oral history by Eric and Johnny Claypoole in Northern Berks County. Figure 11: A four-pointed star from the Berks-Lehigh border with symmetrical arrangements of raindrops, suggesting the opening of a flower. for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”66 In all of these biblical passages, the stars in the sky are viewed as a constant, ever-present reminder of divine order, only changeable under the most momentous of circumstances. The care and detail displayed in these records of human life serves as a reminder, not only of the particulars of one’s birth, but also the brevity of life. We reserve the right to discontinue or alter the terms of this offer at any time. See Fooks, David. An inscription fills the spaces between each star point with initials and a date, reading “S K 1819 M K”—honoring the husband and wife who established the farm property. 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