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Peter Corbett Welsh

February 12, 2010
Lake Placid News
    TUPPER LAKE — Peter Corbett Welsh, historian, author and museum director, died on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 at the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. 

    Mr. Welsh was born in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1926 and was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. 

    He was educated at the Landon School, Mount Union College, the University of Virginia, and was the first Hagley Fellow at the University of Delaware.  He was named its first coordinator, a post he held until he went to the Smithsonian Institution as a Curator in the Department of Civil History at the National Museum of American History.  At the Smithsonian he was promoted to the Assistant Director General of Museums and had primary responsibility for the administration of the Museum Act. He was also editor of the Journal of History. 

    In 1971, he was named Director of the New York State Historical Association and the Cooperstown Graduate Programs.  He was then named Director, Bureau of Museums at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg.  In 1986, Welsh went to the Adirondack Museum as Curator with primary responsibility for “Work in the Woods: Logging the Adirondacks,” the museum’s logging exhibit.  He left the museum to continue writing and consulting.  Jacks, Jobbers, and Kings: Logging in the Adirondacks, 1850-1950, a regional history of logging with a focus on the Emporium Forestry Company near Tupper Lake, was published in 1995.

    Welsh was an historian of pre-industrial technology and American material culture in addition to being a museum curator and director.  He wrote numerous articles, reviews and several books, among them a study of hand tool design, a history of tanning in the United States, a work on early flour milling in the Brandywine Valley, and the history of logging the Adirondacks.  He also published studies on the cultural significance of American Folk Art and the social significance of American popular lithography.  He led the development of the 40,000 SF exhibit known as The Growth of the United States for the Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology. In addition, he was the curator for a seminal American folk art exhibit called The Art and Spirit of a People.

    No stranger to the North Country, Welsh spent his early childhood summers with his family on the south shore of Fourth Lake between Old Forge and Inlet and later as a camper and counselor at the Adirondack Woodcraft Camp.  He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and its Advisory Board and served on the Advisory Council of the Old Forge Arts Center, the Franklin County Arts Council and other non-profit organizations.  He and his wife and youngest son, Jamie, have lived in Blue Mountain Lake and Tupper Lake, since 1986. 

    He is survived by his wife, Caroline of Tupper Lake, and three children: James Munson Corbett Welsh of Lake Placid, New York, Jane Welsh and her husband, John Blackmore of Hamilton, New York, and Peter Corbett Welsh, Jr. of York, Pennsylvania, and three grandchildren, Caroline Welsh Blackmore, Robert Christopher Winslow Blackmore, and Redding MacKenzie Welsh.

    A service of Christian Burial will take place at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, contributions to honor the memory of Peter Corbett Welsh may be made to the Adirondack Museum Library to further the study of Adirondack Environmental History.                     Online condolences may be made at


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