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

Organizing Archival Records

by David W. Carmicheal
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1993 (53 pages, paper, $9.95)

Subtitled A Practical Method of Arrangement and Description for Small Archives, this compact book is an easy-to-use “how-to” guide for community associa­tions, fraternal organizations, church groups, and local and county historical societies. This invaluable manual concisely offers techniques and step-by­-step instructions for arranging, cataloging, and conserving records. A highly practical guide, Organizing Archival Records, although designed to be used both by professionals and by volunteers affiliated with small archives and historical organizations, is written for the individual with Little or no formal training in archival work who is responsible for the care of historical records. This guide – prefaced by a friendly explanation of the theory of archival arrangement and description – actually illustrates the ways to organize and describe documents. Readers are advised not to think that the methods suggested by the author are the only ways to deal with records and documents; these are recommendations that have, over the years, proved practical. Perhaps the most helpful chapters of Organizing Archival Records are exercises which readers are encouraged to complete and review before attempting to sort and catalogue documents, letters, diaries, business papers, and govern­mental records. The author, a professional archivist, offers a number of hints that make preparation of background material an enjoyable and rewarding task. Organizing Archival Records also discusses the basics of archival work, including the use of the terms “records” and “papers,” the principle of provenance, establishing a work area, assigning accession numbers and dates, and numbering and titling collections.


Valley Forge

by John W. Jackson
Thomas Publications, 1992 (331 pages, paper, $16.95)

In autumn 1777, Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army had been driven back at the Battle of Germantown. The British, who now occupied Philadelphia, would surely launch an offensive in the spring. Distressed and unable to relieve the suffering of his troops, Washington was ordered by Congress to make winter quarters in eastern Pennsylvania and prepare his exhausted men for such a confrontation. The location he chose lay on a hillside overlook­ing the confluence of Valley Creek and the Schuylkill River. Named Valley Forge because of a nearby ironworks, it became one of the most famous of encampment grounds, and will for aU time be synonymous with tales of extreme hardships encountered, endured, and overcome (see “The Apotheosis of George Washington: America’s Cincinnatus and the Valley Forge Encampment” by William C. Kashatus III in the winter 1994 issue). Valley Forge: Pinnacle of Courage traces the history of the Continental Army’s winter encampment of 1777-1778. The author discusses in detail many issues with which the soldiers had to contend, such as designing and assembling huts and acquiring provisions. Washington’s soldiers had experienced untold hardships and bitter skirmishes as they faced setback after setback in the struggle for independence. As he, in “tearful compassion,” observed his army, the general saw that hundreds of soldiers were cold and hungry. In addition to lacking clothes, shoes, and food, the soldiers huddled in log huts, most of which collapsed, prompting one soldier to declare that “any hogsty was preferable.” A few of the tents erected at Valley Forge had been given to regimental doctors for use as makeshift hospitals. Many units also lacked adequate arms and ammunition. Before the end of November, it was painfully evident that such scanty provisions could not support these troops. Washington begged Congress for aid and was amazed to receive the report that members of the Continental Congress believed an ample supply of provisions had been collected at Valley Forge! Wherever possible, the author presents the narratives of encampment participants, recounting their personal stories in their own style. No attempt was made to update the orthography and punctuation of letters and commentary, except where absolutely imperative. In writing Valley Forge: Pinnacle of Courage, the author achieves his goal: to fully document the trials and tribulations the American soldiers endured as they nearly sacrificed their lives at the legendary winter encampment.


The Buried Past

by John L. Cotter, Daniel G. Roberts, and Michael Parrington
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992 (524 pages, cloth, $39.95)

What can historical archaeol­ogy tell today’s historians? This intriguing study, The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia, provides an abundance of answers to this seemingly rhetorical question! Historical archaeology, a sub-discipline of archaeology, investigates historical physical evidence to enhance modern scholars’ understanding of the past. This is best accomplished by maintaining a balance between the documentary and material evidence. Artifacts, when analyzed together with the written commentary, can provide a perspective that the written word alone or the physical data out of context could seldom, if ever, accom­plish. In addition, archaeological discoveries reveal aspects of everyday life that often fail to appear in history texts. Unlike the archaeology of prehistoric sites, which analyzes cultures that left no written records, the archaeol­ogy of historic sites focuses on early literate cultures that left behind at least some and, in many instances, numerous written documentations about their way of life. Even though scholars since the Victorian era have probed prehistoric sites, it was not until 1934, when Jamestown, Virginia, became the focus of an exhaustive study, that historical archaeol­ogy emerged as a defined practice. The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia analyzes the most momen­tous discoveries made in Philadelphia, irrefutably one of America’s most historically significant cities. Archaeological studies of historic sites began in Philadelphia in the 1950s at Independence National Historical Park. Since those initial investigations, Philadel­phia – the first urban area in the nation to undergo such studies – has attracted more archaeologists than any other major city in North America. The authors open this book with an examination o{ the landscape of the greater Philadelphia area in prehistory. They follow the story of Amerindians from mastodon-hunting days to their encounters with the Europeans in the seventeenth century. In the remaining eleven sections­ – the bulk of the work – the authors focus on the founding of the City of Philadelphia in 1682 and on the three centuries of development that ensued. The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia provides a fascinating archaeological tour through the houses and lifeways of both the great figures and the common people. ft reveals how they dined, what vessels and dishes they used, and what their trinkets (and secret sins) were. In addition, this massive study sheds new Light on the lives of jail inmates and schoolchildren, and uncovers evidence of unre­corded burials and infanticide. The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia offers new and different dimensions to the story of one of the nation’s oldest and most historic settlements.


When Bosses Ruled Philadelphia

by Peter McCaffery
Penn State Press, 1993 (264 pages, cloth, $35.00)

In 1903, muckraker Lincoln Steffens brought the city of Philadelphia unprecedented­ – and unwelcomed – notoriety as “the most corrupt and the most contented” urban center in the nation. Famous for its “feudal barons,” from “King James” McManes and his “Gas Ring” to “Iz” Durham and “Sunny Jim” McNichol, Philadelphia offers political and social historians a classic case of the duel between bosses and reformers for control of the American city. Strangely enough, however, Philadel­phia’s mighty Republican machine has not been subject to critical examination until now. When Bosses Ruled Philadelphia: The Emergence of the Republican Machine, 1867-1933, challenges conventional wisdom about the political machine, which contends that party bosses controlled the city as early as the 1850s and maintained that control, with little change, until the Great Depression. Accord­ing to this study, all bosses were not alike and political power came only gradually over time. Through a careful analysis of official city records and documents, the author identifies the beneficiaries of the emerging Republican Organization, which sections of the local electorate supported it, and why. He concludes that genuine boss rule did not emerge as the dominant institution in Philadelphia politics until just before the turn of the century. When Bosses Ruled Philadelphia considers the function that the machine filled in the city’s life and smashes the romantic image of the boss as benefactor in an unfolding (and unsettling) urban drama. In fact, it was the omnipotence of the city bosses and not the “sinful content­ment” of the middle class that made decent city government such an elusive goal in Philadel­phia at the time.


Pennsylvania’s Natural Beauty

by Ruth Hoover Seitz
RB Books, 1993 (120 pages, cloth, $24.95)

With more public lands than any other state east of the Mississippi River, Pennsylvania lives up to its original name, Penn’s Woods. More than four million acres of public lands have been set aside as parks, gamelands, scenic areas, forests, sanctuaries, and watersheds. Featuring one hundred and twenty color photographs by award-winning photographer Blair Seitz and accompanied by poignant essays by Ruth Hoover Seitz, Pennsylvania’s Natural Beauty offers readers a dazzling tour of some of the Commonwealth’s most breathtaking vistas, including the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pike County, World’s End State Park in Sullivan County, and Rothrock State Forest in Centre County. But Pennsylvania’s Natural Beauty is more than just a showy picture book of larger­-than-life perspectives, of haunting sunsets, and of vast horizons. The book includes revealing, intimate portraits of flora that many visitors might otherwise miss: one of the spectacular blossoms of a tulip tree in Cumberland County’s Colonel Denning State Park; a leaf of the American lotus, two stands of which thrive at Wildwood Lake, a marsh north of Harrisburg in Dauphin County; and a bursting pod of milkweed at Maurice Goddard State Park in Mercer County. There are also portraits of moss, rock outcroppings, mushrooms, lichens, and ice formations. In addition to illustrating the expansive state forests, Pennsylvania’s Natural Beauty takes readers to a shale cliff in Pike County, a glacial bog in the Pocono Mountains, and a relict prairie in Butler County. Using both common and scientific names, the text and captions identify the location of each photograph, and observations liberally sprinkled throughout this book offer sound reasons to preserve Pennsylvania’s wilderness. The author’s essays are, quite naturally, devoted to each of the four seasons, which sets the backdrop for the sensational images. Pennsylvania’s Natural Beauty not only showcases the Commonwealth’s spectacular wilderness riches, but pays tribute to the generations of Pennsylvanians who have worked tirelessly to ensure their preservation.