Lunch and Learn Summer Series

Please join us for the “Lunch and Learn” summer series, presented virtually online via Zoom. In the past, we would invite the public to grab a lunch and attend in person. But now you can eat your lunch from the comfort of your home, while enjoying this series of talks. Presentations are free, but require separate registration. Please peruse our upcoming events from the links provided below. Also, consider watching a recording of our past events from the 2021 Lunch and Learn season, which will be added and updated weekly.

“‘After the Fashion of His Country’: Asia and Asians in the 18th-Century Mid-Atlantic”

Presented by: Daniel J. Seih

Talk Description: For centuries, Europeans sought the “exotic” luxury goods of Asia. By the 18th century, the British hoped to profit from commerce with the East. Far from a one-sided exchange, this international trade fostered a dialogue between two very distinct cultures. Goods, ideas, and people flowed through trade routes established by the British East India Company and reached as far as the thirteen colonies (soon, the nascent United States). These goods, and yes, even people, arrived as distant foreigners in a strange land, but left an indelible mark that has only recently been uncovered.

Speaker Bio: Daniel J. Sieh is a Living Historian with over eight years of experience working with historical museums throughout the East Coast. Previously, Daniel has worked at Colonial Williamsburg and later at Claude Moore Colonial Farm as one of their interpreters. He graduated with a History degree from the College of William and Mary in 2016 and has a Master’s degree from American University. He continues to research the history of Asia and Asians in 18th-century North America.

“Was Your Ancestor At The Encampment? The Valley Forge Muster Roll Project”

Presented by: The Muster Roll Project Team

The Valley Forge Muster Roll, a project of the Valley Forge Park Alliance, is dedicated to the memory of those who were at winter quarters from December 19, 1777, to June 19, 1778.  The Continental Army used monthly muster rolls to track the army’s strength. Each roll contains names, ranks, dates of enlistment, and other notes on soldiers’ assignments, activities, or conditions.

The Valley Forge Park Alliance invites you to attend a virtual presentation on the Valley Forge Muster Roll Project.  Learn about Muster Rolls and how the Continental Army used them, how to search for your ancestor, how patriots are added to the Muster Roll, and upcoming developments with the Muster Roll group.

“Crime and Punishment at Valley Forge”

Presented by: Russell Brindley, Park Guide, Valley Forge National Historical Park

What does running the gauntlet, the piquet, and the cat-o-nine tails have to do with the Valley Forge Encampment? Each of these will be an important tool that General Washington will have to use to hold the Continental Army together. Join Park Guide Russell Brindley from Valley Forge National Historical Park for an hour-long presentation on how the Continental Army was disciplined in the American Revolution.

Russell Brindley studied History and Social Studies Education at Rutgers and the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. He is passionate about History, and the ways it connects all of us. Between working three Summer Seasonal Positions at Valley Forge National Historical Park, Russell worked in four different public schools in New Jersey Teaching Social Studies. He is grateful for the amazing opportunity to work at the National Park Service, and consider it: “America’s Best Idea.”

“The Siege of Yorktown: Decisive Engagement of the American War for Independence”

Presented by: Glenn F. Williams, Ph.D., Senior Historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort McNair, D.C.

Although no one doubts the importance of the engagement to the outcome of the American War for Independence, few interpretations give more than the “Redoubts 9 and 10, then The World Turned Upside Down” approach. In contrast, this presentation will explore the engagement as a classic example of an 18th-century siege operation that followed a well-established formal doctrine. It will explain both construction of fortifications as well as methods for reducing enemy strongholds, illustrated by the events at Yorktown in 1781. At the conclusion, participates will better understand how Franco-American forces destroyed the combat power of a well-entrenched British field army without a bloody frontal assault.

Glenn F. Williams is a retired Army officer who entered public history as a second career. He is currently a Senior Historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort McNair, DC. He is the author of Year of the Hangman: George Washington’s Campaign Against the Iroquois and Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era, a contributor to Battles of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812: Two Interpretive Maps, and the essay “Let It Begin Here” (about Lexington and Concord) in: The Ten Key Campaigns of the American Revolution, as well as journal and magazine articles. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Maryland, College Park.

“Valley Forge from A to Z”

Presented by: Nancy Loane, Ed.D.

The Valley Forge encampment was so much more than hungry, ragged soldiers huddled around meager campfires and General George Washington galloping around camp on his horse! This presentation, “Valley Forge from A-Z,” shapes the difficult six months of struggle into twenty-six characters. By journeying through Valley Forge via the alphabet, you just may discover some things you never knew about the famous winter encampment of 1777-1778. Dr. Nancy K. Loane, a former season park ranger at Valley Forge National Historical Park, is the author of Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment. She has presented over 200 talks throughout the country about the women at camp, Martha Washington, the letters the officers wrote from the encampment, and Valley Forge itself. Dr. Loane volunteers at Valley Forge as an interpretive ranger.

“War in Winter: Fighting in the Philadelphia Region during the Valley Forge Encampment”

Presented by: Dave Lawrence, Park Guide, Valley Forge National Historical Park

While no major battle was fought at Valley Forge, neither was there a cease-fire.  With the Continental Army just outside of British-occupied Philadelphia, both armies engaged in a struggle for control of the region and the resources therein.  Foraging parties, raids, ambushes, and other small-scale engagements continued throughout the Winter and Spring of 1778, affecting the entire tri-state area.  Join Park Guide Dave Lawrence as he provides examples of some of the fighting that still went on during the Valley Forge Encampment, and sheds light on these little-known struggles that occurred between the big battles that made it into the history books.

Growing up in Levittown, PA, Dave Lawrence first visited Valley Forge as a little boy during the 1976 Bicentennial.  He began working there as a tour bus driver while in college in the early 90s, working alongside his parents.  After college, he became a social studies teacher.  He joined the National Park Service in 2004, with stints at Richmond National Battlefield Park, Morristown National Historical Park, and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument.  In 2012, he found himself returning to Valley Forge, and now serves as a Park Guide at the site he visited so long ago.

“John Marshall: The Final Founder”

Presented by: Robert Strauss

John Marshall was, in effect, the Forrest Gump of Founders—he was everywhere from Valley Forge onward, and with panache.  Were Lin-Manuel Miranda to have read a biography of Marshall instead of the one he did on Hamilton, the musical could very well have been “Marshall!!!”  The biography has within it, eight or nine essays on American history that are, hopefully, fun and elucidating at the same time: When did the Founding end? Who were the worst Supreme Court justices? Why was a myth about George Washington necessary to save the early Republic? and How and why do we study history?

Robert Strauss is author of “The Final Founder,” an unorthodox biography of John Marshall.  Strauss views the study of history to include the word “story” in it.  History should be lively and entertaining, not dull and turgid.  He chooses biographical subjects representative of their era, and he hopes to tell stories around them that bring that period to life.  Strauss also wrote: “Worst. President. Ever.,” a biography of James Buchanan which won the Gold Medal for Biography from the Independent Publishers association, and “Daddy’s Little Goalie,” a memoir about being the father of girl athletes.  He has been a reporter for Sports Illustrated, a feature writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and a news and sports producer for KYW-TV in Philadelphia.  He was a non-fiction writing professor at the University of Pennsylvania for 20 years and, as a freelancer, has had more than 1,000 by lines in the New York Times.

“The Medical Life & Death of George Washington”

Presented by: Jennifer K. Bolton, Park Guide, Valley Forge National Historical Park

Using George Washington as a case study, Park Guide Jennifer Bolton will provide a better understanding of eighteenth-century medical theory and practice.  She will discuss the general’s overall health and debunk common medical misconceptions, including those surrounding Washington’s final illness.

In January 2017, Jennifer Bolton joined the staff at Valley Forge NHP, having previously worked at Colonial National Historical Park and Colonial Williamsburg.  She earned a B.A. in Anthropology & History from Florida State University, and a M.A. in History from University of California, Davis.  Her professional research interests include the colonial and revolutionary eras of early America, the social history of disease and medicine, and environmental history as it pertains to health.

“Reconsidering Numerical Strength of the Continental Army at Valley Forge”

Presented by: Michael C. Harris and Gary Ecelbarger

For over a century, histories of the American Revolution have routinely misreported the number of Continental Army soldiers at Valley Forge. Historians Michael C. Harris and Gary Ecelbarger have explored this problem and discovered the source of troop strength discrepancies.  This talk will guide our audience through their scholarship and reveal their best calculations for the fluctuating size of Washington’s army at Valley Forge.

This talk builds upon an article written for the Journal of the American Revolution. For more information, visit:

Michael C. Harris is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the American Military University. He has worked for the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, VA; Fort Mott State Park, NJ; and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at Brandywine Battlefield. Michael has authored two military histories on the Philadelphia Campaign, focusing on the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown.  He currently teaches in the Philadelphia region.

Gary Ecelbarger has written or co-written multiple books and articles, including studies on the U.S. Civil War and notable personalities in American history. He claims ten direct-line ancestors who served as Patriot soldiers in the American Revolution. Ecelbarger obtained his M.S. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he is currently writing a single-year campaign biography of General George Washington.

“Revolutionary New Orleans: A Borderlands Town Goes to War, 1776-1784”

Presented by: Philippe Halbert, Ph.D. candidate, Yale University

1776: the year marking the United States’ fight for independence.  Yet, it’s also the year that merchant Oliver Pollock started brokering secret communication between Louisiana’s Spanish governor Luis de Unzaga and American statesmen, Patrick Henry and Robert Morris. In 1779, Spain joined the war as an ally of France, declaring war on Great Britain.  This intensified a growing conflict in the Gulf South and began the wider Anglo-Spanish War.  In Spanish New Orleans, people of all classes prepared for war.  Their legacy survives today, with material culture items documenting their various struggles.  Now adorning museum collections, Spanish colonial artifacts represent witnesses to a seldom-emphasized chapter of American history.  This talk brings these stories to light, reframing what we typically think of the American War for Independence.

A graduate of the College of William and Mary and the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, Philippe Halbert is a doctoral candidate in Yale University’s history of art department. His dissertation explores the artistic and performative dimensions of creole identity and self-fashioning in the French Atlantic world before 1800. He will hold a dissertation fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies in the 2021-2022 academic year.

“Living History and Reenactments, 1976-2026”

Presented by: Tyler Putman, Gallery Interpretation Manager, Museum of the American Revolution

Reenacting and costumed living history have deep roots, going back to well before the American Bicentennial events of the 1970s. Fifty years ago, these pursuits were deeply tied to ideas of American exceptionalism and emphasized stories of elite white people and soldiers at war. As we look ahead to the events that will surround the 250th anniversary of the United States in 2026, how can we use innovative living history to explore diverse stories of the country’s beginnings? What are the histories of reenacting (a hobby) and living history interpretation (a form of museum programming), and where are they headed in the future? This talk will discuss the concepts of authenticity, historical interpretation, and historical empathy and will include audience engagement and a question-and-answer period.

Tyler Putman is the Gallery Interpretation Manager at the Museum of the American Revolution. He holds an MA in American Material Culture from the Winterthur Program and an MA and PhD in American History from the University of Delaware. He has been a reenactor for almost twenty years and a professional living historian since 2007.