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

Paint, Pattern and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725–1850

by Wendy A. Cooper and Lisa Minardi
published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011; 277 pages, cloth, $55.00

A sumptuous celebration of workmanship and artistry, Wendy A. Cooper and Lisa Minardi’s Paint, Pattern and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725–1850, is a landmark book exploring the fascinating and diverse furniture of southeastern Pennsylvania through the individuals who made, owned, inherited, and collected it. Delving into the culture and creativity of the area’s inhabitants, primarily those of British and Germanic heritage, this comprehensive publication looks closely at localisms and regionalisms of form, ornament, and construction that were influenced by ethnicity, religious affiliation, settlement patterns, socioeconomic status, and the skills of the craftsmen.

Founder William Penn’s policy of religious tolerance attracted people of various faiths and ethnic backgrounds, making Pennsylvania the most culturally diverse of the thirteen colonies. Through the study of well-documented furniture, fraktur, needlework, paintings, and architecture produced by the mixed multitude, the region’s great diversity is brought into focus.

Over the course of six years, the authors surveyed 250 private and public collections, attended auctions, and visited numerous dealers and galleries in their search for documented objects that can be directly tied to their makers, original owners, and places of origin. Their voluminous study looks at the furniture of both English- and German-speaking settlers, yielding a thorough understanding of style, decoration, and fabrication that developed in the Commonwealth’s southeastern counties from the early eighteenth century through the mid-nineteenth century. Contributing to Paint, Pattern and People were the staffs of the Daniel Boone Homestead, Ephrata Cloister, Old Economy Village, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, Graeme Park, Pennsylvania State Archives, and The State Museum of Pennsylvania, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Objects from Ephrata Cloister and The State Museum are illustrated in the book.

Paint, Pattern and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725–1850, accompanies a major exhibition by the same title organized by Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, located in Winterthur, Delaware. Winterthur houses a premier collection of American objects dating between 1640 and 1860 and preserves more than one thousand acres of rolling meadows and woodlands.


Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: A Photographic History

by Ann Bartholomew and Donald Stuart Young
published by Canal History and Technology Press, 2010; 247 pages, paper, $35.00

“Big Bessie,” as the Bethlehem Steel Corporation became known, was at one time the second largest steel producer in the country, second only to U. S. Steel. Bethlehem, the giant of “Little Steel,” owned plants in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Indiana, Washington, and California. The company also owned iron and coal mines, ore carriers, shipyards, and related businesses that consumed its steel products. “It produced,” write Ann Bartholomew and Donald Stuart Young, authors of Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: A Photographic History, “armaments that saved the world from tyranny, beams that took commerce skyward, bridges that spanned some of the great waterways of North America. Its mills provided jobs to thousands.”

Drawing chiefly from the extensive archives of the National Canal Museum in Easton, Northampton County, Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, features more than six hundred photographs, accompanied by captions that chronicle the saga of one of the nation’s great industrial plants. Using a straightforward documentary approach, the authors guide the reader from the Bethlehem Iron Company in the 1860s to the shutdown of steelmaking in November 1995. Growth and development of the facilities in Bethlehem, the significance of the Grey structural beam in the early twentieth century and of the plant and its workers in winning two world wars, plus images of how products were made and transported are some of the many facets of the plant’s amazing history that the book visually presents for readers.

In their forward, the authors make it clear “this volume is not analytical, nor is it intended to be a business history of the corporation. It is a photographic history of the plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that put the City of Bethlehem on the national map, with a few excursions to some of the grand projects erected by the Fabricated Steel Construction Division, headquartered in Bethlehem but truly a national company.”


Decisions at Gettysburg: The Nineteen Critical Decisions that Defined the Campaign

by Matt Spruill
published by the University of Tennessee Press, 2011; 198 pages, paper, $24.95

The Gettysburg Campaign and the July 1–3, 1863, Battle of Gettysburg have inspired scrutiny from virtually every angle. Standing out amid the voluminous scholarship, Decisions at Gettysburg: The Nineteen Critical Decisions that Defined the Campaign by Matt Spruill is not merely one more narrative history of the events that transpired before, during, and after those three momentous summer days in southern Pennsylvania’s Adams County. Rather, it focuses on and analyzes nineteen critical decisions by Union and Confederate commanders that determined the particular ways in which those events unfolded.

The author believes that among the many decisions made during any military campaign, a limited number – strategic, operational, tactical, and organizational – made the difference, with subsequent decisions and circumstances proceeding from those defining moments. At Gettysburg, Spruill contends, had any of the nineteen decisions he identifies not been made or another decision made in its stead, all sorts of events from those decision points on would have been different and the campaign and battle as they are understood today would appear differently.

Along with his insightful analysis of the nineteen decisions, the author includes a valuable appendix that takes the battlefield visitor to the actual locations where the decisions were made or executed. This guide features excerpts from primary documents that further illuminate the ways in which the commanders saw situations and made their decisions accordingly.

Decisions at Gettysburg includes photographs, maps, diagrams, notes, bibliography, and index.


Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution

by John A. Nagy
published by Westholme Publishing, 2011; 274 pages, cloth, $26.00

It did not take long after the end of the Seven Years’ War – the French and Indian War in North America – for France to return spies to America in order to determine the likelihood of regaining the territory it lost to Britain. One of the key places of French espionage was the colony of Pennsylvania since its frontier had been an important crossroads of French influence. The French recognized there was a distinct possibility that the colonies would seek their independence from Britain. Against this backdrop, John A. Nagy in Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution presents his exhaustive investigation.

Philadelphia played a central role in the history of spying during the American Revolution because it was the main location for the Continental Congress, was occupied by the British command, and then returned to Continental control. The city became a center of spies for both the British and the Americans – as well as for double agents. George Washington was a firm believer in reliable military intelligence; after evacuating New York City, he neglected to have a spy network in place. When the British took over Philadelphia, he did not make the same mistake and he was able to keep abreast of enemy troop strengths and intentions. Likewise, the British used the sizable Loyalist community in and around Philadelphia to assess the abilities of their Continental foes, as well as the resolve of Congress. In addition to describing techniques employed by spies and specific events, the author scoured rare primary source documents to provide new and compelling information about some of the most notable agents of the war such as Lydia Barrington Darragh (1728–1789), a celebrated American spy. After her home was seized and taken over by the British, the Philadelphia Quaker became a spy for the revolutionaries.

An important contribution to Revolutionary War history, Spies in the Continental Capital demonstrates that intelligence operations on both sides emanating from Pennsylvania were vast, well-designed, and critical to understanding the course and outcome of the war.