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Friends Speaker Series

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

As part of the Friends 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 October 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.

Presentations are held at Washington Memorial Chapel, on Route 23 in Valley Forge, on Tuesdays at 7 pm. Free and open to the public. A reception follows each talk.

For directions to the Chapel, visit

Tuesday, April 7
The Bartram Family: Plant Collectors
in the 18th Century

John Bartram and his son William Bartram, homegrown natural scientists and practical gardeners, were unique figures in 18th century America. Four generations of Bartram’s lived and worked at the family garden from 1728-1850, making their living by the exchange of plants and natural history specimens throughout the world. During that time, as now, Bartram’s Garden became a gathering point for scientists, artists, and gardeners, as well as the curious.

This talk will trace the careers of John Bartram and his son William, their travels in North America, and the impact these two men had on international science. It will also look at the history of the Bartram family garden and the influence of this important place on horticulture at home and abroad.

About the Speaker

Joel T. Fry

Joel T. Fry has served as curator for Bartram’s Garden, the home of John and William Bartram in Philadelphia, since 1992. He first became involved in archaeological research at Bartram’s Garden in 1975, and has participated in a number of archaeological and historic research projects at the garden site since. He studied anthropology, historical archaeology, and American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania, and has written extensively on the history of Bartram’s Garden and the Bartram family plant collections.

Recent publications include “America’s ‘Ancient Garden’: The Bartram Botanic Garden, 1728-1850” in Amy R. W. Meyers, ed., Knowing Nature: Art and Science in Philadelphia, 1740-1840 (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2011); work as associate editor and author of “William Bartram’s ‘Commonplace Book’ and ‘On Gardening’ in the volume, William Bartram, The Search for Nature’s Design: Selected Art, Letters, and Unpublished Writings, Thomas Hallock, and Nancy E. Hoffmann, eds. (University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA, 2010); “William Bartram’s Oenothera grandiflora: ‘The Most Pompous and Brilliant Herbaceous Plant yet Known to Exist,’” in Fields of Vision: Essays on the Travels of William Bartram, Kathryn E. Holland Braund and Charlotte M. Porter, eds. (The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2010); and “Historic American Landscapes Survey, John Bartram House and Garden (Bartram’s Garden), HALS No. PA-1, History Report,” U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, DC, 2004.

Season Finale
Tuesday, May 5
Special Location: VFNHP TheaterReception to follow in Visitor Center
“We Disagreed as Rational Friends”
A debate between John Adams & Thomas Jefferson

“on the question, What is the best provision? you and I differ; but we differ as rational friends, using the free exercise of our own reason, and mutually indulging it’s errors.” — Thomas Jefferson to John Adams: October 28, 1813

Join us for an evening with JOHN ADAMS (portrayed by Peyton Dixon) and THOMAS JEFFERSON (portrayed by Steve Edenbo) as they discuss, debate, and sometimes decry the revolutionary storms they weathered throughout their 50 year relationship as bitter political rivals and close personal friends.

Throughout the evening, they recall their bumpy collaboration on the Declaration of Independence in 1776, parting ways on its final content, and even on the appropriate date for commemorating American independence. They also clash on Constitutional issues such as rotation in office & term limits, freedom of speech, Presidential powers, the 10th Amendment, the 1st Amendment, and the virtues of a two-party system.

This lively and emotional debate is fueled by a shared love of America, spiced with opposing notions of how best to protect & foster the nation these two men helped to found. Through their differences they find surprising common ground that inspired Benjamin Rush to dub them “rival friends.”

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

Peyton Dixon (left) as JOHN ADAMS and Steve Edenbo as THOMAS JEFFERSON

FREE ADMISSION for Friends of Valley Forge Park
and Washington Memorial Heritage members

INDIVIDUAL membership – free admission for 1 person
FAMILY and higher levels – free admission for 2 persons

JOIN TODAY and attend for free!

Non-Members and additional tickets: $20 per person

Based on theater capacity, tickets must be acquired in advance.

Click here to request your free ticket(s).

Click here to purchase tickets online using a credit card.

Click here to pay by mail using printable form.
Payments by mail must be received by 4/25/2015.

For more assistance or information call 610-783-1777

About the Speaker

Steven Edenbo

Steven Edenbo is a Thomas Jefferson impersonator, historian, and motivational speaker and has entertained and inspired audiences of all ages since 1999. He researched Jefferson as a resident fellow at Monticello's International Center for Jefferson Studies in Charlottesville, Va. His key notes and one-man shows bring Jefferson's leadership and vision to the forefront at corporate symposiums, teachers' seminars, schools, colleges & universities, historical & patriotic organizations, as well as many other groups & events throughout the United States. He appears regularly at such venues as The National Archives in Washington, D.C., and at Independence Hall and the Declaration House in Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia.

Steve has been featured on the History Channel and has matched wits with Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report". He has shared Jefferson's life and legacy at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. across America and in England. Satisfied clients include The Smithsonian Institution, the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, The American Legion, the VFW, the US Mint, The University of Virginia's Darden School of Business & the University of Virginia itself, the National Governors Association, Thomas Jefferson University & Hospital, and many others.

Peyton Dixon

Peyton Dixon, the alter ego to John Adams, is an interpreter with over a decade’s experience and an actor for over twenty-five years. You may have seen Dixon as Adams at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Federal Hall in New York, the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He has also taken Adams to television with A&E’s biography of John Adams, and on PBS with the documentary “First Freedom, the Fight for Religious Liberty,” and Chef Walter Staib’s”A Taste of History.”

After graduating from DuPont Manual/Youth Performing Arts School of Louisville, Kentucky, and receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from Otterbein College of Westerville, Ohio, Peyton has traveled the country, performing in over 40 states (and commonwealths) in the continental United States. He even had the opportunity to portray Adams himself in 1776.

In the year 2000, Peyton discovered the world of first-person interpretation. He was captured by the spirit of the well-known and everyday man of the eighteenth century – trying desperately to understand and make their place in new, exciting, and frightening world. He was particularly fascinated and impressed by the powerful yet (at the time) mostly unsung John Adams.

Since that time, he has continued to research and travel, endeavoring to combine his passions of performance and American history. His goal is to bring to light the accomplishments as well as the imperfections of John Adams, as well as our other founding fathers. Look beyond the statue, bring them off the pedestal altogether, and see the very real everyman beneath.