a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Donora museum rolling out military exhibit

The town of Donora is lucky a local postmaster became the first president of its historical society.

Roman Koehler, who managed the Pennsylvania borough’s post office from 1905 to well into the 1940s, saved everything the government gave him, including posters he displayed to help sell World War I bonds.

“We’re very fortunate,” said Brian Charlton, curator of the society’s new musem at 595 McKean Ave.

His favorite wartime relic is a Gerrit A. Benker (1882-1934) poster, the artist’s most famous, titled, “Sure We’ll Finish the Job.”

Like many of the American portrait artist’s paintings, it features a workingman in the uniform he wore on the job. Nearly 3 million of the Impressionist-style posters were sold in the drive conceived to drum up support among labor for the war effort.

Charlton is putting together a military exhibit in approach of Memorial Day in what opened last year as the Donora Smog Museum. In a former Asian restaurant in the town’s blighted downtown, the museum has a remarkable collection of old photographs relating to the killer smog of 1948 and the town’s steel and zinc mill.

The museum is open from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The society that formed in the 1940s is training volunteers to open the museum more often as summer approaches.

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