Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

Traveling the Pennsylvania Railroad: The Photographs of William H. Rau

Edited by John C. Van Home, with Eileen E. Drelick
Univer­sity of Pennsylvania Press, 2002 (272 pages, cloth, $49.95)

In 1891 and again in 1893, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR) – known to generations by its sobriquet, “the Pennsy” – commissioned William Herman Rau (1855-1920), a well known Philadelphia photographer, to make exhibition-size prints of vistas, panoramas, and points of special interest along its lines. The PRR hoped to increase passenger revenue by advertising rail travel to the general public. Rau’s photographic expeditions were a great undertaking at an enormous expense. Undoubtedly, the most costly aspect was his transportation. To provide the variety of scenes desired by Colonel F.N. Barksdale, the head of the PRR’s advertising department, Rau and his assistants traveled the rails – Rau in his own private passenger coach with a darkroom, a living room, and storage room. Whenever necessary, he had an engine and a crew at his disposal. Railroad superintendents took great care to ensure the photographer’s safety as he worked on the railroads that linked metropolitan New York and Philadelphia to Pitts­burgh and the industrial Midwest. Using a mammoth view camera that made eighteen-by-twenty-two-inch glass plate negatives, Rau produced a spectacular series of images for the railroad’s promotional use. Pennsy officials were delighted with Rau’s work. When his photographs were exhibited in cities along the railroad’s lines, local dignitaries were invited, orchestras entertained, and company executives vaunted the railroad to the crowd. The large photographs were displayed in hotel lobbies and storefronts and reproduced in various PRR publications. More than four hundred and fifty of these remarkably detailed and texturally rich images – most taken in Pennsylvania – have been placed on long-term deposit at the Library Company of Philadelphia by American Premier Underwriters, Inc., successor firm to the PRR. In cooperation with the Library Company, the University of Pennsylvania Press has published Traveling the Pennsylvania Railroad: The Photographs of William H. Rau, which reproduces eighty-seven photographs as full-page four-color illustrations. Edited by John C. Van Home, librarian of the Library Company, with Eileen E. Drelick, the book includes several introductory essays by noted scholars that detail Rau’s career and early commercial photography; that place Rau and his PRR images in the context of the history of American landscape photography; and discuss the advent of railroad advertising photography and its role in shaping perceptions of the American landscape. Photographs appearing in the oversize volume were carefully selected for their historical and artistic significance. They are arranged in geographical order along the various branches of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and each is accompanied by a descriptive caption provided by PRR expert James J.D. Lynch Jr. Traveling the Pennsylvania Railroad: The Photographs of William H. Rau captures the breadth and depth of “the standard railroad of the world,” which at the height of its power and might employed a quarter of a million workers.


Duquesne and the Rise of Steel Unionism

By James D. Rose
University of Illinois Press, 2001 (288 pages, cloth, $42.50)

Not all workers’ needs were served by their union. Focusing on the steel works at Duquesne, Allegheny County, a linchpin of the old Carnegie Steel Company empire and later of the U.S. Steel Corporation, Duquesne and the Rise of Steel Unionism exam­ines the pivotal role played by a nonunion form of employee representation usually dismissed as a flimsy front for management interests. The early New Deal set in motion two versions of workplace representation that battled for supremacy: company­-sponsored employee representation plans (ERPs) and independent trade unionism. At Duquesne, the cause of the unskilled, hourly workers, mostly eastern and southern Europeans, as well as blacks, was taken up by the union – the Fort Dukane Lodge of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers. For skilled tonnage workers and skilled tradesmen, mainly United States native citizens of northern and western European extraction, ERPs offered a different solution. Initially little more than a crude antiunion device, ERPs matured from tools of the company into semi-independent, worker-led organizations. Isolated from the union movement through the mid-1930s, ERP representatives and management nonetheless created a sophisticated bargaining structure that represented the shop-floor interests of the mill’s skilled workforce. Meanwhile, the Amalgamated Association gave way to the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, a profes­sionalized and tightly organized affiliate of John L. Lewis’s Con­gress of Industrial Organizations that expended huge resources trying to gain company-wide unionization. Even when the Steel Workers Organizing Committee secured a collective bargaining agreement with US Steel in 1937, however, the union was still unable to recruit a majority of the workforce at Duquesne. A sophisticated study of the forces that shaped and responded to workers’ interests, Duquesne and the Rise of Steel Unionism confirms that what people ilid on the shop floor was as critical to the course of steel unionism as were corporate decision-making and shifts in government policy.


Serving History in a Changing World: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in the Twentieth Century

By Sally F. Griffith
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001 (512 pages, cloth, $59.95)

State historical societies in the United States generally fall into one of two categories: the older independent societies and the relatively more recent state-supported organizations. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), founded in Philadelphia in 1824, is an example of the former. Throughout its long history, it has, like its similar organizations in New York and Massachusetts, assembled magnificent manuscript collections, as well as an important library and a collection of historic artifacts and objects. Although the HSP has always welcomed nonmembers to use its resources, for much of its history it functioned in many respects as a private club, its leadership proud of not asking for government assistance, relying instead on the support of its members. As a result, the institution was perpetually underfunded. By the second half of the twentieth century, dramatic changes began to affect the HSP and, indeed, all similar institutions. The HSP repeatedly found itself in a bind. Rising professional standards in the care of collections, increased use of its library and manuscript collections, demands for more public programs, and continuing growth of its collections – all with no significant growth in funding – led to serious financial problems. Government, foundation, and private grants for specific programs encouraged expansion of staff and programs without addressing the underlying problem. In Serving History in a Changing World: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in the Twentieth Century, the author draws an absorbing story out of the situation by providing a detailed account of the personalities who engaged the ongoing questions of service and funding, as the HSP tried to balance its public responsibilities with a preconceived image of the institution as a semiprivate domain of elite Philadel­phia. Serving History in a Changing World introduces individuals whose personalities affected the HSP’s programming and direction, as much as the lack of sufficient funding had. Readers meet the elegant old-school presi­dent of the HSP, Hampton L. Carson; the young Julian Boyd, who tried to bring the society into the mainstream of the histori­cal profession; the unflappable R. Norris Williams II, who barely survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912; the urbane, prolific editor and director, Nicholas Biddle Wainwright; and many others, including the eccentric cataloguer and spiritualist, Albert Edmunds, who, according to many current and former staff members, has haunted the corridors of the HSP for years. Serving History in a Changing World is a frank appraisal of one of the most venerable institutions in the country, addressing both its sunny days of glory and its dark days of moribundity. The author’s extensive use of primary sources – documents, staff reports, memoranda, meeting minutes, and interviews – gives credence to the cliché that truth is often stranger than fiction. Despite great internal struggle and, at times, misguided leadership, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania has survived tumultuous change and continues to provide researchers with access to one of the finest archives and libraries in the United States.


Bone Wars: The Excavation and Celebrity of Andrew Carnegie’s Dinosaur

By Tom Rea
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001 (288 pages, cloth, $25.00)

In 1899, in the vast badlands of Wyoming, a team of paleontologists, amateur bone hunters, and manual laborers discovered the most complete fossil of one of the largest dinosaurs up to that time. Named Diplodocus carnegii in honor of Pittsburgh iron and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), the expedition’s patron, it was eventually mounted and exhibited in a, dozen museums throughout the world and viewed by millions of people. It also fueled ongoing debates about what these beasts are, how they walked, where they lived-debates that continue today. In revealing how a fossil unearthed in the western United States helped give birth to the public’s ongoing fascination with dinosaurs, Bone Wars: The Excavation and Celebrity of Andrew Carnegie’s Dinosaur takes readers through the Byzantine corridors of Wyoming politics, examines the causes and consequences of Carnegie’s philanthropy, and shows how natural history museums became dinosaur-driven shrines to science. In recounting this saga, the book touches upon the rebuilding of the Union Pacific Railroad, the notorious Wilcox train robbery, Pittsburgh’s polluted water supply, European politics, and the golden age of Antarctic exploration. Bone Wars also traces change in scientific thought that have led to current opinions of how the giant sauropods, including the Diplodocus, lived. The book focuses on five individuals: Wyoming fossil hunter William H. Reed who worked with the famous paleontologist O. C. Marsh, but was more interested in making a living than in science; headstrong paleontologist Jacob L. Wortman, boss of the expedition that dis­covered Carnegie’s dinosaur; John Bell Hatcher, the brilliant pale­ontologist whose theories on continental land connections were decades ahead of their time; William J. Holland, the imperious director of the recently founded Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh; and Andrew Carnegie himself, smitten with the colossal animals after reading a newspaper story in the New York Journal and Advertiser. What emerges in this book is a picture of an era reminiscent of today: technology advancing by leaps and bounds; the press happy to sensationalize anything; huge amounts of money ending up in the hands of a small number of people; and some devoted individuals placing honest research above personal gain. Bone Wars: The Excavation and Celebrity of Andrew Carnegie’s Dinosaur presents an absorbing cultural history of the early years of paleontology at the turn of the last century. With the help of contemporary newspaper accounts, early scientific articles and essays, and letters found in scattered archives, the book re-creates a remarkable saga of hubris, hope, and late Victorian era science.