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January 24, 2013


I no longer hunt, though I once did. I still own guns. I was brought up with guns—brought up to respect them and be careful around them.

Many of my friends are hunters. I believe in their right and my own to have guns for hunting and for self-protection. But I also believe in reasonable rules in the name of everybody’s safety.

Tonight the TV news told me the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show has been postponed because of a vendor boycott. It’s a shame. I often go.

The boycott was encouraged by infantile, extremist gun advocates angered because the show organizers decided to ban the sale of assault rifles and high-volume ammunition clips at the show.

Given the horror that transpired in Newtown, Connecticut, the people who run the show made a reasonable, sane decision.

The people who have strange ideas about guns, government, and the Constitution threw a tantrum.

I am disgusted by those who blindly espouse a guns-over-people, guns-over-civilization, guns-over-everything philosophy.

During my first season of deer hunting, many, many years ago, I filled the magazine of a Winchester lever-action rifle with eight bullets and put one in the chamber.

When I saw my first deer, I didn’t even notice whether it was buck or a doe. I pointed the gun and started pulling the trigger and working the lever until the gun was empty.

Given that I was no Natty Bumppo (look it up), I didn’t hit anything but trees.

Instead of chastising me my grandfather counseled me. A real hunter never needs more than two or three bullets in his gun, he told me.

My grandfather knew something about guns. He fought in the trenches in France in World War I. Were he alive I think he would be appalled by those who believe they have an inviolable right to keep assault rifles under their pillows in case the black helicopters come.

Folks, the nuts are winning. Don’t let it happen.

© 2013 Editorial Enterprises, Inc., and Donald C. Sarvey

11:50 pm          Comments

January 6, 2013


A recent trip to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford (OK, I went to see the Christmas electric train layout along with the art) turned up something unexpected: a piece of Dauphin County history.

On display was a massive wooden carving—thirteen feet wide and six and a half feet high—of the Pennsylvania state seal that, according to the museum signage, was originally affixed in the triangular pediment atop the exterior face of the old Dauphin County Courthouse. The courthouse sat at 218-220 Market Street. It was built in 1860 and torn down when the current courthouse at Front and Market Streets opened in 1943.

According to the museum’s notes on the piece, “The decorative folk-style carving … follows the tradition and methods of woodworking practiced by carvers of ship figureheads, tobacco store figures, and carousel animals. It is one of the few wood pediment carvings of its period to survive.”

Across the bottom the seal bears the state motto, “Virtue, Liberty, Independence.” Rearing horses stand on each side, between which are a ship symbolizing commerce and a plow and sheaves of grain symbolizing agriculture. At the top is an eagle with its wings spread.

The carving was a gift to the museum by Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Wyeth. The American artist Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) was the son of illustrator N.C. Wyeth and the father of contemporary artist Jamie Wyeth, all of whose work is displayed at the Brandywine River Museum.

It’s unclear how the carving came into the possession of the Wyeths, according to Virginia O’Hara, the museum’s curator of collections, but the assumption is that someone salvaged it when the courthouse was demolished and the Wyeths probably came across it many years later in some antique shop or gallery. “Unfortunately, we don’t have information on … the full chain of ownership before it was donated to the museum in 1974,” O’Hara said in an email.

The work has been attributed to one E. Omensetter of Philadelphia, whose name and the date 1861 appear in the lower left corner. The carving was thought to have been created for the courthouse, but O’Hara provided a photocopy of an undated note handwritten by Betsy Wyeth, Andrew’s wife, that says, “We now find that Omensetter was commissioned to repair the great seal in 1861. He was not the original carver. The carving was done in the late 18th century or the early 19th century.” There’s no indication of how the estimate of an earlier date of origin was arrived at.

Indeed, who might have been the original carver if not E. Omensetter? Did the carving come to the old courthouse from someplace else? The only other clue is a listing in an 1863 Philadelphia directory that references an “Albert Omensetter, Carver” living or doing business at 63 N. 8th Street. Were E. Omensetter and Albert Omensetter one in the same?

This may be only a minor mystery, but it is the most intriguing kind of mystery: an unsolved one.

© 2013 Editorial Enterprises and Donald C. Sarvey

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