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

Mt. Gretna: A Coleman Legacy
by Jack Bitner
Lebanon County Historical Society, 1990 (221 pages, cloth, $20.00)

The Lebanon County village of Mt. Gretna has been many things to many people. First a rustic railroad stop in 1883, followed three years later by construction of a lake and park, then encampments by the National Guard, the summer colony’s landmark year was 1892, when the Pennsylvania Chautauqua and the United Brethren arrived to make Mt. Gretna the site of a Chautauqua and camp meeting. Thus, Mt. Gretna: A Coleman Legacy is forerunner of a centennial celebration planned for 1992 – and it is a celebration in and of itself. The author carefully connects the myriad events and the fascinating people – the most prominent of whom is Robert Habersham Coleman (1856-1930) – which are integral to the understanding and appreciation of Mt. Gretna’s heritage. Scion of one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest and most influential families, Coleman, ever the philanthropist, made plans to “lay out elegant picnic grounds, as everything combines to make it a delightful spot for such purposes.” But that was only the very beginning of the summer resort which has hosted thousands of visitors and sojourners. Not long after, and as part of the Chautauqua movement sweeping the nation, Mt. Gretna became home, for several weeks each summer, to those seeking enlightenment and education through a finely balanced program of arts, religion, culture, and recreation. The Mount Gretna Campmeeting Association held its first services in August 1892, not far from the Chautauqua grounds, and the two co­existed peacefully for many years. The author skillfully weaves the complex history of Mt. Gretna and its various uses and diverse occupants into a book that is as entertaining as it is informative. Vintage photographs – particularly of the late nineteenth century Adirondacks summer resort style structures – convey the rustic charm of Mt. Gretna, enabling readers to fully appreciate the lure and enchantment of what the author called “a woodland paradise.” Mt. Gretna: A Coleman Legacy is, in itself, a unique legacy of the author, a longtime resident, whose love for Mt. Gretna is evident throughout the entire book. Mt. Gretna will especially appeal to those interested in the educational, religious, social, architectural, and transportation history of Pennsylvania.


Arms Makers of Pennsylvania
by James B. Whisker
Susquehanna University Press, 1991 (218 pages, cloth, $65.00)

Concentrating primarily on the cottage industry gunsmiths and gun makers who worked in the Keystone State from its early years through 1900, Arms Makers of Pennsylvania – heavily illustrated with detailed photographs of the makers’ craftsmanship – is devoted to concise biographical sketches of these gunsmiths, each of which is accompanied by citations noting documentation and sources of information. The author succinctly traces the roles of Pennsylvania’s gun makers, from the earliest days when they were actually armorers who repaired the military arms of the regular army and kept the common militia weapons in order. During the American Revolution, the Common­wealth’s craftsmen supplied a significant portion of the arms needed by the Pennsylvania Line and other units as well. They also repaired weapons acquired from Europe and those left behind by, or captured from, the British. However, after the Revolutionary War, the need for military arms makers and repairmen all but disappeared, and by 1790 only three gunsmiths remained active in Philadelphia. While the demand for military weapons plummeted, a great interest in finely decorated civilian arms burgeoned. As the frontier moved westward, long rifles were made in many regions of Pennsylvania, and each area developed its own distinctive style. The Berks County style, for example, had a sweeping comb that has become known as the “Roman nose.” Gunsmiths trained in that area carried the style with them so that Armstrong County weapons not infrequently carry that style. By the 1830s, however, gun making in eastern Pennsylvania was entering a period of artistic decline. Many of the western schools of gunsmithing were, at the time, just experiencing their golden ages, but the availability of ready-made sheet brass and easily obtainable parts rendered many of the traditional makers’ arts obsolete. Gunsmiths became, generally, repairmen and gunstockers, and by the Civil War, guns of artistic merit were seldom made. Arms Makers of Pennsylvania features a number of rare portraits of makers, in addition to early advertisements and bills of sale.


Andrew Wyeth
by Richard Meryman
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991 (92 pages, cloth, $17.95)

One of America’s best known living painters, Andrew Wyeth was born into a family of accomplished artists. Andrew Wyeth, part of the publisher’s series entitled First Impressions, is the first biography of the Chadds Ford painter written especially for the younger reader. The book begins with Wyeth as a young boy already drawing and painting, and determined to become an artist among a family of artists. It continues with his rebellion against his father, the famous illustrator N. C. Wyeth, as he strove for independence – a struggle with meaning for all adolescents. The author also explores the artist’s sources of inspiration, his thoughts about technique, and his deep connections with the people and landscape of Pennsylvania’s Brandywine River countryside and coastal Maine. Andrew Wyeth illustrates the artist’s love for his boyhood worlds of Pennsylvania and Maine, nor has he outgrown the people of those places, still alive in person or in his memory. Their worn houses, their land, their tools, and their work forever make Wyeth’s imagination race. More than anything else, this book opens a door to the world of art, where the man can paint the boy he nourishes within, a world in which anything is possible. For this introduction to his art, Wyeth lent many family photographs and early drawings and paintings that have never before been reproduced. Nearly thirty color plates, including a portrait of the artist as a child by his father, bring the story to life and introduce readers to the inimitable art of Andrew Wyeth.


Founding Families of Pittsburgh
by Joseph F. Rishel
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990 (224 pages, cloth, $34.95)

Subtitled The Evolution of a Regional Elite, 1760-1910, this collective biographical portrait of twenty of the founding families of Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County traces their evolution through successive generations from the late eighteenth century to the early years of the twentieth century. As the greater Pittsburgh area began to grow into an important commercial and industrial center, a group of families distinguished by their wealth and social position emerged, and nearly two dozen of these families, embracing a total of 1,006 individuals, form the core of this study. ln order to determine the degree to which they formed a clearly defined, coherent upper class, and the extent to which they were able to maintain their status over time, the author examines the social character and composition within the larger society, and the career patterns of family members. They began the 1800s as a heterogeneous group, socially distinct from one another, but by the end of the century, their descendants had formed an identifiably homogeneous upper class. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the majority of the founding families had formed a distinct group easily distinguishable from the rest of the population. Although the study is concerned with the status of the founding families within their own socioeconomic circles, it is also rooted in the history and development of Allegheny County itself. The resources and opportunities of the region shaped and directed the destinies of the families. They changed and were themselves changed by their physical, economic, and cultural milieu. Unique to this study is its longitudinal investigation of occupational status. A11 the lineal descendants of the family founders, even those who left Allegheny County, are evaluated for the degree to which they maintained or lost the socioeconomic positions attained by their fathers and grandfathers. Through this analysis, Founding Families of Pittsburgh makes significant contributions to the debates over class formation and social mobility in American Society.


The Good Fight: Medicine in Colonial Pennsylvania
by Larry L. Burkhart
Garland Publishing Company, Inc., 1990 (360 pages, cloth, $66.00)

By modern standards, life in the colonies was a medical nightmare: medical theory was largely inaccurate, treatment often inappropriate, and medical professionals ill­-trained and unregulated. In addition, medical institutions were virtually nonexistent, and governmental programs for the health and welfare of citizens were minimal. Life in the New World exposed settlers to many hazards and often left them to heal themselves as best – and if – they could. As a result, settlers could expect high morbidity and mortality rates. However, the experience in colonial Pennsylvania varied significantly from the usual pattern, as location, abundance of natural resources, enlightened immigration, Indian policies, and humane leadership spared the early population many of the rigors of settlement. In fact, Pennsylvanians benefitted from an unusually abundant natural setting that was conducive to prosperity, good housing, varied diet, and sufficient fuel and clothing. The colony’s literate population, too, had access to considerable medical information in newspapers, almanacs and books, as well as enjoyed the good fortune of having excellent and popular medical propagandists. The colony’s elite, which had a predisposition towards medical and botanic studies, maintained useful European contacts that kept it abreast of the latest medical discoveries and theories, while also smoothing the passage of young Pennsylvania medical scholars seeking education abroad. The Good Fight not only analyzes these factors, but discusses folk remedies and home treatments; the role of religion in medicine; the medical professions of the nurse, the midwife, the apothecary and the surgeon; the contributions of physicians of the period; and the intellectual, political, religious, and economic climates of the period which allowed Pennsylvania to develop into the medical capital of North America. The author painstakingly relates many factors which, combined, contributed to the general good health and well-being of the colony. His exhaustive bibliography of more than five hundred sources concludes The Good Fight: Medicine in Colonial Pennsylvania.


No Crooked Death
by Dennis B. Downey and Raymond M. Hyser
The University of Illinois Press, 1990 (174 pages, cloth, $28.95)

No Crooked Death: Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and the Lynching of Zachariah Walker is more than a study of the lynching of a black laborer in the steel mill town in 1911; it explores the ensuing conspiracy of silence that engulfed the Chester County community. It also examines the dynamics of race, class, and ethnicity in the web of community relationships and provides a study of the larger process of demographic and social change, in Coatesville and throughout the nation, during the early twentieth century. Opening with an overview of various interpretations of lynching as offered by historians and sociologists, No Crooked Death provides a gripping – often heart-wrenching – detailed account by eyewitnesses of the lynching itself, and the events that led up to it. Included are the dramatic story of the investigation that followed the lynching, the eventual grand jury indictments against fifteen men and boys accused of involvement in the heinous crime of burning Zachariah Taylor alive (actually witnessed by several thousand residents in a carnival-like setting), and the trials in which all were acquitted. The final chapter analyzes the psychological and social circumstances of the lynching, details the involvement of the fledgling National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the case, and brings developments in Coatesville to the present.