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

The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960: Two-Party Competition in a Battleground State

by Renée M. Lamis
published by the Penn State University Press, 2009; 398 pages, cloth, $65.00.

The political party system in the United States has periodically undergone major realignments at various critical junctures in the nation’s history. The American Civil War boosted the Republican Party’s fortunes and catapulted it into majority status at the national level, a status that was further solidified during the Populist realignment in the 1890s. However, in The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960: Two-Party Competition in a Battleground State, author Renée M. Lamis contends that beginning in the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reversed the parties’ standings, returning the Democratic Party to national power. This realignment was modified by the so-called “culture wars” that broke out in the mid-1960s.

Each of these realignments occasioned shifts in the electorate’s support for the major parties, and the fact that they were superimposed on each other did not negate the consequences of the preceding realignments. The story of realignment is further complicated by the variations that occurred within individual states, whose own particular political legacies, circumstances, and personalities resulted in modulations and modifications of the patterns playing out at the national level.

The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960 examines how Pennsylvania experienced this series of political realignments. The author employs a wealth of data from a wide variety of sources to provide an analysis that allows for the tracing of the evolution of electoral behavior in the Keystone State in a narrative that is accessible to a broad range of readers. Her account helps explain why U.S. Senator Arlen Specter was reelected whereas Rick Santorum was not, and why Pennsylvania Republicans have been highly successful in major statewide elections in an era when Democratic presidential standard-bearers have regularly carried the state. Overall, Lamis’s book constitutes a gold mine of information and interpretation for students of politics, as well as for scholars who want to know more about how national-level politics plays out within individual states.

More than one hundred tables, charts, and maps, an insightful bibliographic essay, and extensive index are included in The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960.


Milton S. Eisenhower, Educational Statesman

by Stephen E. Ambrose and Richard H. Immerman
published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009; 331 pages, paper, $30.00

Milton S. Eisenhower (1899–1985) was one of the most honored and influential statesmen the country produced. His career spanned government and higher education, and he was a defining force in both.

Originally published in 1983, Milton S. Eisenhower, Educational Statesman, by Stephen E. Ambrose (1936– 2002) and Richard H. Immerman traces the thirty-fourth president’s younger brother from small-town Kansas into the Washington, D.C., bureaucracy and on through the presidencies of Kansas State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Johns Hopkins University.

Eisenhower served as president of Penn State from 1950 to 1956. His “six years at Penn State had been years of growth — in the physical plant, the faculty, the student body, the graduate school, and most of all in prestige,” wrote the authors. They cited the spike in new buildings on the University Park campus, particularly the Hetzel Union Building and the Helen Eakin Eisenhower Memorial Chapel, named to honor Eisenhower’s late wife, who was well known to the Penn State community. Enrollment had increased from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand students, and faculty salaries were up by nearly 50 percent overall (and, in some cases, 75 percent). He spearheaded the drive to have the college formally recognized as a university. The library budget was increased by 50 percent, and library staffing grew by 26 percent. Eisenhower doubled the university’s appropriation, from $10 million to $20 million. Perhaps the finest tribute to his administrative ability and the respect he had earned for Penn State came following his last appearance before the state legislature. “Astonishingly,” Ambrose and Immerman wrote, “the politicians sitting in Harrisburg granted Penn State $1 million more than Eisenhower requested. He could have received no greater compliment, nor could he have bequeathed to his successor [Eric A. Walker] a more appreciated legacy.”

Not long after he arrived at Penn State, Eisenhower made it clear that he intended to transform it from a leading agricultural and scientific college into an internationally distinguished university and to bring to it the glamour and reputation for excellence that the term denotes. It was not an easy task. The college and its students had suffered for decades with an inferiority complex and negativity was rampant. He had to first “sell” the institution’s potential to the student body, faculty, administrators, trustees, alumni, the general assembly, and the citizens of Pennsylvania. And a brilliant salesman he was.

Eisenhower believed in the power of public relations and eagerly sought publicity for Penn State at every opportunity. He parlayed favorable news reports into a cache of innumerable success stories, which he paraded before donors and politicians. Before long, people began to think of Penn State not as “a cow college,” a carryover from its origins as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania in 1855, but as a credible institution of higher education, and one recognized for its exemplary achievements.

Historians believe that Eisenhower would have remained longer as university president had his wife not died in July 1955. After leaving Penn State, Eisenhower assumed the presidency of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where he would be closer to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and be available to assist his brother’s administration in any way he was asked.

Milton S. Eisenhower, Educational Statesman, is an intensive, intimate look at an individual who selflessly devoted himself to reshaping the vision and mission of education in the United States. The book includes endnotes, index, and candid photographs.


Nickelodeon City: Pittsburgh at the Movies, 1905–1929

by Michael Aronson
published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008; 300 pages, cloth, $35.95

From the opening of the wildly popular, eponymous Nickelodeon in Pittsburgh’s downtown in 1905 to the outgrowth of nickel theaters in nearly all of its neighborhoods, the city proved to be perfect for the movies. It possessed a rich and growing meld of ethnic, economic, and cultural forces — a wellspring for the development of motion picture culture — and nickelodeons offered citizens a handy and inexpensive respite from the harsh realities of the industrial world.

Michael Aronson’s Nickelodeon City: Pittsburgh at the Movies, 1905–1929, provides a detailed view inside the city’s early film trade. Drawing from the pages of the Pittsburgh Moving Picture Bulletin, the first known regional trade journal for the motion picture business, the author profiles the major promoters in Pittsburgh, as well as many lesser-known ordinary theater owners, suppliers, and patrons. He examines early film promotion, distribution, and exhibition, and reveals the earliest forms of state censorship and the ensuing political lobbying and manipulation attempted by members of the movie industry. The author also probes the emergence of local exhibitor-based cinema, in which the exhibitor assumed control of the content and production of the film, blurring the lines between production, consumption, and local and mass media.

Nickelodeon City offers a fascinating look at early twentieth-century Pittsburgh and the socioeconomic factors that allowed an infant film industry to blossom, as well as a unique cultural fabric and neighborhood ties that kept nickelodeons prospering even after Hollywood took the industry by storm. “It’s about a city and its exhibitors, distributors, and audiences, about their desires, investments, and actions — some collective, many competing — to define what the movies were and what they might become in this place and time,” Aronson writes. “While written from this very local perspective, this study aims to provide an intimate view not only of a city but also of the film industry itself, from the nickelodeon era to the late 1920s, focusing in particular on the transformative middle period in the 1920s.”

Nickelodeon City: Pittsburgh at the Movies, 1905–1929, contains a number of historic images, endnotes, and bibliography.


These Just In…

A number of new and recent books about Pennsylvania history have been received by Pennsylvania Heritage’s editorial staff, which has not yet had the opportunity to review them, but wishes to share news of their availability with readers.

Pennsylvania’s Revolution, edited by William Pencak, published by the Penn State University Press, 2009; 424 pages, cloth, $85.00.

Muhammad Ali, The Making of An Icon, by Michael Ezra, published by Temple University Press, 2009; 248 pages, cloth, $69.50; paper, $24.95.

Weird Pennsylvania: Your Travel Guide to Pennsylvania’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, by Matt Lake, published by Sterling Publishing Company, 2009; 272 pages, paper, $14.95.

Ice Cream U: The Story of the Nation’s Most Successful Collegiate Creamery, by Lee Stout, published by the Penn State University Press, 2009; 72 pages, cloth, $19.95.

Pennsylvania Railroad, by Mike Schafer and Brian Solomon, published by Voyageur Press, 2009; 160 pages, cloth, $37.00.