An artifact – a pastor’s robe – from the historical collection of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) is one of the “cases” investigated by PBS television’s History Detectives. The episode will air Monday, July 23, 2007 at 9:00 pm on many PBS stations. Detectives investigator Elyse Luray and a camera crew from series co-producer Lion Television came to the LTSP campus in March to film part of the investigation and to reveal their findings.
The History Detectives team was investigating a popular story, which holds that the robe, part of the seminary’s collection since early in the 20th century, was worn by Revolutionary War figure and Lutheran pastor, Peter Muhlenberg. According to the story, General George Washington had recruited Muhlenberg as a leader in the militia before the American Revolution. On Sunday, January 21, 1776, as pastor of a congregation in the Shenandoah Valley in the colony of Virginia, Muhlenberg took his text from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes and delivered a sermon calling for volunteers for the county militia in the Continental Army. He concluded the sermon with the words, “There is a time to pray and a time to fight…” dramatically removing his clerical robe to reveal his officer’s uniform.
Mary Redline, researcher and grant writer for LTSP’s Krauth Memorial Library and the Northeast Lutheran Archives, also housed at LTSP, contacted the History Detectives and asked them to investigate: Is the legend true? Is this the robe that Peter Muhlenberg wore?
The legend is important to both the Revolutionary War and to the role the Lutheran Church played in the colonies and the United States. Peter Muhlenberg’s father, Henry Melchior
Muhlenberg, is considered the father of American Lutheranism, and founded many congregations that exist to this day. While the legend may or may not be true, Peter Muhlenberg did go on to become a general in the colonial army, and after the Revolution, returned to church life as a lay person and served the new country in Congress and other positions.
So, is the legend true, and was the robe Peter Muhlenberg’s? You’ll have to watch the History Detectives to find out! For local stations and times, search by your zip code at the History Detectives website.
For more information about The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, including the seminary’s historical collection, please visit www.Ltsp.edu.
Investigating the Legend of Peter Muhlenberg’s robe is one of LTSP’s planned activities to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the birth of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg in 2011. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg is considered the father of American Lutheranism, and his work was important to the life and faith of the colonists, and to the development of what became the United States of America.
Following is a select list of broadcast dates and times*:
Monday, July 23 at 9:00 pm
Philadelphia: WHYY TV 12
Allentown/Bethlehem: PBS 39
New York: Thirteen WNET
Buffalo: WNED 17
Troy: WMHT 17
Rochester: WXXI/Channel 21
Syracuse: WCNY/Channel 24
Binghamton: WSKG Public TV 46
Plattsburgh: Mountain Lake PBS 57
Watertown: WPBS/Channel 16
Connecticut: CPTV-Connecticut Public TV
Maine: MPBN Channel 10 Lewistown
Boston: WGBH Channel 2
Springfield: WGBY Channel 57
Vermont: VPT/Vermont Public TV 33
Wednesday, August 1, 10:00 pm
New Hampshire: NHPTV Durham Channel 11
Thursday, August 9, 8:00 pm
New Jersey: NJN New Jersey Network
*Subject to change. Please check local listings. Additional air times may be scheduled.
Click on the link to download a publication quality version of each photo from the LTSP web:
History Detectives’ Elyse Luray is about to reveal her research results to LTSP’s Mary Redline.
Elyse Luray from PBS’s History Detectives and Mary Redline look over Peter Muhlenberg’s robe, subject of a History Detectives investigation.
Public Television’s History Detectives on location in the LTSP Exhibition Room in The Brossman Center.
History Detective Elyse Luray doing research in the Krauth Memorial Library at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
(this entry was updated 7/10/07 to clarify Peter Muhlenberg's service after the Revolution)