Join Andrea Smith, professor of anthropology on Nov. 3, at Skillman Library to discuss Pennsylvania’s commemoration of the Walking Purchase of 1737.

The Walking Purchase was a deceptive land transaction between William Penn’s sons and four Lenape leaders. It led to Lenape dispossession from 1.2 million acres of land, including much of the Lehigh Valley. This deal was infamous for the many layers of deception deployed by Penn agents, including trick maps, illegal land sales, elusive deeds, and trained runners. For centuries it has been known as the “shameful,” “notorious,” or “infamous” Walking Purchase. Why, then, would the State of Pennsylvania venerate the transaction with four large historical markers in 1925?

This presentation considers the curious tale of the 1920s Walking Purchase markers — a tale that involves opposition, professional rivalries, and its own forms of deception. I conclude by considering the lasting consequences of sanitizing the past.


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