Summary Information
Title: Papers of John Harpster
Collection Number: MSS#19
Creator: John Harpster
Collection Dates: 1958-1971
Extent: 1 cubic feet (2 boxes)
Abstract:
John W. Harpster, a military historian who was educated at the University of Pittsburgh, was a leader of the historical community of Western Pennsylvania, holding positions at the Carnegie Library, the Fort Pitt Museum, and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. These papers consist primarily of correspondence, financial material, and publications relating to the Fort Pitt Museum, the development of Fort Necessity Historical Park, and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

Language:

The material in this collection is in English.

Repository:

Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania
Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412-454-6364
library@hswp.org
http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/libraryArchives.aspx

Sponsor:

This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project, a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.
Date Published:

Spring 2000
Author:

This guide to the collection was originally prepared by Ruth Salisbury Reid in 1973; the papers were rearranged and the inventory rewritten by Rachel Balliet on July 1, 1993. Revisions occurred to the finding aid as a part of the encoding process in Spring 2000.
Encoder:

Encoded by Martha L. Berg on April 5, 2000 from an existing finding aid. >Reviewed by Curator Steve Doell on August 1, 2000.
Revision Description:
July 1, 2006:
Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002

Biographical Sketch of John Harpster (1910-1973)

John W. Harpster was a leader of the historical community of Western Pennsylvania and both supported and worked towards many endeavors to preserve the region's history. Harpster was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1910. He attended the University of Pittsburgh for both his undergraduate (B.A., 1931) and graduate (M.A., 1933) degrees. A military historian by trade, he served as a research fellow for the Western Pennsylvania Historical Survey from its inception until 1937 and as Curator for the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania to 1938. During this period, Harpster wrote Pen Pictures of Early Western Pennsylvania, which was published in 1936 under the direction of Solon Buck. From 1938 until 1944, Harpster taught history for the University of Pittsburgh at the main campus and at the school's satellite campus at Erie Center. Harpster entered the armed services and worked there until 1959. Among his assignments was his service as technical projects editor for the Army Corps of Engineers, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and for the Office of Naval Research in Washington.

Upon his return to Western Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, John Harpster held a variety of positions with historical organizations in the region. Harpster worked at the Carnegie Library as an archivist from 1961-1963 and then with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania in the same capacity from 1964-1966. He briefly left the Historical Society to serve as curator for the Fort Pitt Museum (1967-1968). Harpster was a logical choice for the curator position as he had served the previous five years as a consultant to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, where he developed plans and exhibits for the Fort Pitt Museum. He returned to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania as director and held that position from September 1, 1968, until September, 1972. He resigned because of ill health and died shortly thereafter at his home in Wilkinsburg on January 31, 1973.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Papers of John Harpster consist primarily of correspondence, financial material and publications relating to the Fort Pitt Museum, the development of Fort Necessity Historical Park and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. These materials document Harpster's role in the planning, implementation and operation of these organizations and include correspondence to funding agencies, prominent historians, libraries and artifact dealers. These papers primarily document Harpster's work on the Fort Pitt Museum and include extensive correspondence regarding background research for the museum and Fort Pitt; the acquisition of archival material, and artifacts for the museum's exhibit; and the development plans for the site by the Allegheny Conference and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Correspondents include Stanton Belfour, Director of the Pittsburgh Foundation, regarding the Fort Pitt Museum Fund, and Charles M. Stotz, regarding the design and function of Point Park and the Fort Pitt Museum. Correspondence with dealers consists primarily of invoices and receipts of sale. Correspondence with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission relates to the establishment of the museum and surrounding area as a state park, the funding of the park and of Harpster's research, and general plans for the project.

Material relating to Fort Necessity is not comprehensive, but includes correspondence with the U.S. Department of the Interior regarding ownership of the site. Material relating to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania documents his role with the institution as Society archivist (1964-1965). Also included are papers related to his teaching at the University of Pittsburgh (1942 and 1962) and published materials from various historical parks in the United States and Canada, which Harpster visited prior to designing the Fort Pitt museum.


The John Harpster Papers are housed in two archival boxes and are arranged alphabetically by folder title.


Controlled Access Terms
Topics
  • Antique dealers.
  • Historic sites -- Pennsylvania -- Fayette County.
  • Historic sites -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Historical museums -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Museums -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
  • Universities and colleges -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
Corporate Names
  • Allegheny Conference (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
  • Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Farmington, Pa.).
  • Fort Pitt Museum (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
  • Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
  • Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (Harrisburg, Pa.).
  • University of Pittsburgh.
Personal Names
  • Belfour, Stanton, -- 1906-1969.
  • Stotz, Charles Morse, -- 1899-1985.
Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

This collection is open for research.

Aquisition Information:

These materials came in one accession, in 1973.

Acc# 1973.3 -- Gift of the Estate of John W. Harpster, (Papers).

Preferred Citation:

Papers of John Harpster, 1958-1971, MSS #19, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Ruth Salisbury Reid in 1973.

The papers were rearranged and the inventory rewritten by Rachel Balliet on July 1, 1993.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Martha L. Berg on April 5, 2000.

Copyright:

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.


Contents List

Box 1
folder 1 Fort Necessity 1971
Fort Pitt Museum
Correspondence
folder 2 General 1959-1965
folder 3 Allegheny Conference 1958-1965
folder 4 Company of Military Collectors and Historians 1960-1963
folder 5-6 Dealers 1959-1964
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
folder 7 1958-1960
folder 8 1961-1965

Box 2
folder 1 Stotz, Charles M. 1961-1965
folder 2 Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania 1964-1965
folder 3 Miscellaneous Correspondence 1962
University of Pittsburgh
folder 4 Roll Books c1942
folder 5 Student Examinations c1962
Published Materials
Historical Parks
folder 6 Canada c1963
folder 7 Other U.S. Parks c1963
folder 8 Pennsylvania c1963
folder 9 Miscellaneous c1963
folder 10 Pennsylvania Gazette 1759-1763
folder 11 Tourist Information c1963