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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, November 4
Patrick Henry, as portrayed by Doug Thomas

Patrick Henry teaches us that one can be poor, grow up in the backwoods with a limited education, fail multiple times, and yet ultimately succeed. Henry married at a young age and owned and operated a store, which failed. His first wife suffered from depression after the birth of their sixth child. Rather than having her committed, Henry kept her in the basement of their home. After her death, Henry remarried and fathered eleven more children. Ultimately this self-taught musician became a respected lawyer and Governor of Virginia (1776–1779 and 1784–1786).

Henry led the opposition to the Stamp Act in 1765. A passionate orator, he is perhaps best known for his “Give me Liberty or give me Death!” speech. Henry promoted the fight for independence, but later opposed both a federal government and the Constitution. He ardently supported what would become the Bill of Rights.

About the Speaker

Doug Thomas

Born in Indiana, Doug Thomas made his way to Pennsylvania in 1986 when his family moved to Mansfield. He attended college at Mansfield University, graduating with a dual major in theater arts and speech communications.
 A professional actor with over two decades of performance experience, Thomas’s local credits include The Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival, Vagabond Theatre, and the Arden Theatre Company.

Doug Thomas, who regularly performs at Independence Hall, has been immersed in historical interpretation for many years. Other characters in his repertoire with American Historical Theater include Meriwether Lewis, William Penn, John Paul Jones, Francis Scott Key and a young Governor Livingston. Doug is also certified to choreograph stage fighting.

December 2
Tim McGrath
Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy
The adventures of the sailors and the ships of America’s fledging Navy, as meticulously researched and masterfully told by author Tim McGrath.
January 6
Nancy K. Loane
’My Dear’: Officers’ Letters from Valley Forge
Author Nancy K. Loane shares new information about the encampment and the lives of the officers in the Continental Army, and those they left behind.
February 3
Scott Randolph
The Battle of Crooked Billet
Scott Randolph, the director and producer of the award-winning film “The Battle of the Crooked Billet,” discusses this little-known Bucks County battle.
March 3
Jesse West-Rosenthal
Archaeology at Valley Forge
Archaeologist Jesse West-Rosenthal presents a history of archaeology at Valley Forge, details of recent excavations, and a show-and-tell of selected artifacts from the encampment.
April 7
Joel T. Fry
The Bartram Family: Plant Collectors in the 18th century
Joel T. Fry, the curator of Bartram Gardens, shares the story of the careers and travels of John and William Bartram, famed natural scientists and plant men, and the family garden.
May 5
to be announced