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The Muster Roll

Speaker Series

Sponsored by the Sherrin H. and Bruce A. Baky Foundation

As part of the Alliance’s mission to provide interesting and compelling programming for the public, the annual Speaker Series is held in cooperation with the Washington Memorial Chapel. This series, which runs from September through May, gathers an array of historians, scientists, authors, archeologists, actors and performers to share with the public their multiple points of view on history, the natural world and the ongoing commemoration of Valley Forge.

September to April presentations are free and held at Washington Memorial Chapel, on Route 23 in Valley Forge, on Tuesdays at 7 pm. The May presentation will be held in the theater at Valley Forge. A complimentary reception follows each talk.

For directions to the Chapel, visit

October 4, 2016
“Whatever did they eat?”

In the 18th century, some called Pennsylvania “the best poor man’s country. Seeking a better life, and perhaps to practice religion peacefully, Europeans came by the boatload to Penn’s Woods. Hard work and a favorable environment led to success for many.

Then the Revolutionary War erupted. Some residents did not take sides, hoping to continue their lives undisturbed. The Battle of Brandywine, the British occupation of Philadelphia, and the American encampment at Valley Forge, however, kept the opposing armies in the area for months. With two armies nearby – both foraging and hungry – families in Eastern Pennsylvania during the winter of 1777-78 found themselves severely pinched for food.

Using a variety of 18th century sources as well as meticulous research and analysis, Dr. Dillon will help us to answer this question: Whatever did they eat during the winter of 1777–78?

About the Speaker

Clarissa F. Dillon

Clarissa F. Dillon, with a Ph.D. in history from Bryn Mawr College, is a highly regarded historian, interpreter, author, teacher, and demonstrator who brings wide-ranging research, hands-on experience, and careful documentation into her presentations and publications on 18th-century housewifery.

She has presented at dozens of conferences throughout the country and has given hundreds of programs at schools, garden clubs, Questers groups, historical sites, and museums. Dr. Dillon was the kitchen consultant at the 1696 Thomas Massey house in Broomall, the Thompson-Neely House in Washington Crossing, and Rockingham House in New Jersey, as well as a consultant for Cedar Grove, a Fairmount Park House in Philadelphia, and Waynesborough, in Paoli.

Dr. Dillon is a founding member of Past Masters in Early American Domestic Arts; many of her articles have appeared in this organization’s newsletter. Her numerous conference papers include intriguing titles such as They Did Too Eat Tomatoes! and Weeds or Wildings? She has also written at least twenty books, including So Serve it up: Eighteenth Century Foodways in Eastern Pennsylvania and Next to Godliness (about doing laundry).

Nov 1
The Storm
Sam Katz
The founder of History Making Productions shares his award-winning video about Philadelphia before, during, and after the Revolutionary War.
Dec 6
An Inventory of an Army: What the British Surrendered at Yorktown
Bob Sullivan
A unique perspective on the British Army through the equipment and accoutrements surrendered on October 19, 1781.
Jan 3
Preview of the Museum of the American Revolution
R. Scott Stephenson, Ph.D.
Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution, opening April 19, 2017, will tell the dramatic story of the founding of our nation through immersive gallery experiences, object theaters, and recreated historical scenes.
Feb 7
Ben Franklin’s Navy
Tim McGrath
The rarely told combination of adventure, intrigue, comedy and tragedy that is the story of Franklin as the unofficial leader of the Continental Navy.
Mar 7
The Revolution’s Last Men: The Soldiers Behind the Photographs
Don N. Hagist
The six surviving soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War were interviewed and photographed in 1864. A researcher and writer tells their stories.
Apr 4
Meet Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton, as interpreted by Eben Kuhns
The young Hamilton and his views on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Presented in cooperation with the American Historical Theater.
May 2
Special Location: Park Theater • Advance Tickets required due to capacity
George & Martha Washington: In Perfect Felicity
George & Martha Washington, interpreted by John Lopes & Carol Spacht
General and Mrs. George Washington share the story of their courtship and 40-year marriage.