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

Keystone of Democracy: A History of Pennsylvania Workers

Howard Harris, editor, Perry K. Blatz, associate editor
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1999 (361 pages; cloth, 24.95; paper, 16.95)

“Our greatest debt is to past, current, and future generations of Pennsylvania workers. In telling their story in these pages, we honor their efforts to define and sustain the promise of the American Dream for themselves, their families and their communities.” The editor’s acknowledgement, in which he dedicates this book to the workers of the Keystone State, also serves as the book’s premise; this volume is a celebration of more than two hundred years of working men and women whom he hails as “the keystone of democracy. ” First and foremost, this story of wage earners in Pennsylvania – told by a half dozen experts in their fields-is representative of the history of all working people in the United States. Given its crucial position, first in agriculture, trade, and artisan production, then as a hub of industrialization in the nineteenth century, Pennsylvania has had a large and diverse labor force working at a wide range of trades and occupations. Immigrants and native-born Americans, whites and blacks, men and women, could all be found laboring in its iron and steel mills, coal mines, textile mills, garment factories, machine shops, hotels, restaurants, office buildings, and construction sites. While the composition of the work force changed over time, naturally, its basic concerns remained the same – good jobs at decent wages. Pennsylvanians often took the lead in the ongoing fight for workers’ rights in the United States. Many of the nation’s top labor leaders came from Pennsylvania; in fact, many unions were established in the Commonwealth. From the protests of Philadelphia cordwainers of the 1790s to community-based efforts in the 1980s to revive closed steel mills, the working men and women of Pennsylvania combined a reputation for toughness with a flair for the dramatic that often pointed the way for workers in other states. Keystone of Democracy‘s chapter titles say it all, and reflect not only the evolution of industry through the years but also the diversity of topics addressed by scholars. Chapters are followed by one or more “Keystone Vignettes,” interesting discussions of related subjects. For instance, Perry K. Blatz’s chapter entitled “Titanic Struggles, 1873-1916,” is supplemented by Kenneth C. Wolensky’s “The Lat­timer Massacre “; and “Glory Days, 1941-1969,” by Mark McColloch is expanded with several Keystone Vignettes, among them “The Postwar Strike Wave: The Case of the Plate Glass Workers” by Richard O’Connor, “Philip Murray: Pennsylvania’s Mid-Century Labor Giant” by Louis Pappalardo, and “Amy Ballinger: Pittsburgh’s First Lady of Labor” by Dale Newman. As a whole, Keystone of Democracy offers, for the first time, a history of labor in Pennsylvania in a format designed for a general audience as well as for secondary school and college students. Photographs, lists of books for further reading, and a helpful guide to acronyms used by labor organizations and unions completes this publication.


Fire in His Heart: Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner and the A.M.E. Church

by William Seraile
University of Tennessee Press, 1999 (256 pages, cloth, $32.50)

Pennsylvania native and periodic resident Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835-1923) distinguished himself in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as one of the foremost clergymen and editors of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.ME.) Church. With depth and insight, he wrote about major events he had witnessed – the Civil War, Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow – and, as part of the A.M.E. Church’s educated elite, he helped extend the denomination’s reach into the postbellum South as well as into Canada, the Caribbean, and Africa. Born in Pittsburgh, Tanner struggled in his early years with his own lack of religious zeal. This concern took him from pulpit preaching in 1868 to the editor’s desk where, for sixteen years, he edited the Christian Recorder, the official organ of the A.M.E. Church, which he molded into a major African American newspaper. He subsequently became founding editor of The A.M.E. Church Review, and in 1888 he was made a bishop, serving districts based in Philadelphia, Kansas City, Jack­sonville, and Nashville. As an editor and a bishop, Tanner demonstrated an ardent commitment to human rights and a firm belief in the inclusion of all people into American society. Proud of his African heritage, Tanner wrote books addressing the presence of the African in the Bible and was a pioneer in what is now called the Afrocentric school of theology. Even so, he considered himself first and foremost an American, predicting that the United States would eventually become a nation where race and color were unimportant. In its recounting and analysis of Tan­ner’s life, writings, and intellectual contributions, Fire in His Heart underscores the importance of a key figure in the history of the African American church. (One of Bishop Tanner’s children, an internationally acclaimed artist, was the subject of a cover story, “The Resurrection of Henry Ossawa Tanner” by Stephen May, in the Winter 1992 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage.)


Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966

by Sylvia Yount
Harry N. Abrams, 1999 (160 pages, cloth, $39.95)

Published in association with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to accompany a traveling exhibit by the same title (see “Currents,” Summer 1999), Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966, cele­brates one of the most famous American artists of the twentieth century. Born in Philadelphia, he traveled through Europe with his parents and attended Swarthmore College’s preparatory school, Haverford College, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He also briefly attended illustrator Howard Pyle’s classes at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (now Drexel University), and later taught interior and mural decoration at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art (since incorporated into the University of the Arts). As an artist who created images intended for a mass audience, Parrish’s widespread appeal has been the most defining aspect of his reputation. His breadth was enormous: covers for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Scribner’s, Century, Collier’s, Life, and the Ladies’ Home Journal; book jackets; theater sets; paintings; photographs; murals in posh hotels, among them Manhattan’s storied St. Regis; and graphic work ranging from posters to calendars. Parrish’s sensuous landscapes have likewise had a tremendous impact on the public imagination. His art was strongly affected by the improvement in printing methods in the early part of this century. Throughout his career, his use of the latest technical innovations in the design of theater programs, magazine illustrations, and advertisements fostered an exploration of the relationships between “fine” and “commercial” art. The technical advances also allowed Parrish’s art to find its way into American homes during the first three decades of the twentieth century. There have been few American artists whose works are so easily recognizable. Although his art was dismissed by the critical art world at mid-century, it has recently enjoyed a renewed interest by contemporary artists and viewers. Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966, is the first critical examination of the life and career of this modern master known for his signature brilliant blue skies, pastoral landscapes, and captivating (and often magi­cal) figures. The book’s sumptuous illustrations include many never-before-published images, from early student work to examples of Parrish’s little-known forays into photography. A fascinating discussion of the artist’s unusual and painstaking technique is documented with infrared views and numerous details.


The Philadelphia Ten: A Women’s Artist Group, 1917-1945

By Page Talbott and Patri­cia Tanis Sydney
Galleries at Moore and American Art Review Press, 1998 (175 pages, cloth, $50.00)

The Philadelphia Ten: A Women’s Artist Group, 1917-1945, is the first retrospective of the work of a pioneering group of women artists. Educated at Philadelphia art schools, individual members of the group exhibited together, with other prominent female artists, at the Plastic Club and the Philadelphia Art Club, as well as with the National Association of Women Painters, as early as the first decade of the twentieth century. But 1917 was the first year that the small group of women who subsequently called themselves “Ten Philadelphia Painters” (and later “The Ten”) held a group exhibition at the Art Club, featuring more than two hundred paintings. Four years later, the group began to exhibit annually at the Art Club, a tradition that continued, with only a few exceptions, until 1945. According to an art critic writing in the Public Ledger in 1924, the group consisted of “ten distinct personalities with ten varied expressions and reactions to life. … The names of the painters stand out as among the foremost women in their line of expression and each one has so created her own atmosphere that her work is suggested with the mention of her name.” In the intervening fifty years, unfortunately, most of these artists have lost their prominence. This book, which coin­cided with a traveling exhibition by the same title, also commemorates the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). Three women – all of whom attended the Philadelphia School of Design for Women-were consistent participants in the “Ten” from its inception until its demise. They were Isabel Brandon Cartwright, Constance Cochrane, and Lucile Howard. Several women regularly exhibited, including Theresa Bernstein, Cora Smalley Brooks, Fem Isabel Coppedge, Helen Kiner McCarthy, Emma Fordyce McRae, and M. Elizabeth Price. Entries for both this publication and the exhibition were chosen based on two criteria: their historical association with the exhibitions of The Philadelphia Ten and their aesthetic merit. The Philadelphia Ten features a number of vintage images, including photographs of early exhibitions, exhibition catalogues, art classes, studios, as well as numerous photographs of works of art in full color. The book also includes biographies of the artists, exhibition histories, and sources.