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

The Hospital on Seminary Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg

By Michael A. Dreese
McFarland and Company, 2002 (200 pages, illustrated case binding, $45.00)

“Old Dorm,” which served as the first classroom and dormitory of Gettysburg’s Lutheran Theological Seminary, is a popular attraction for visitors to the site of the bloody three-day Civil War battle in Adams County. Few visitors probably realize, though, that the building served as the second largest hospital at Gettysburg, treating wounded soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies. The Hospital on Seminary Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg combines church history and military history in an intriguing, engaging way. The book also combines seminary history with Civil War medicine and hospital experience by focusing on one of many major hospitals during and after the Battle of Gettysburg. “Old Dorm,” or Schmucker Hall, was named in honor of the institution’s founder, Samuel Simon Schmucker (1799-1873), an outspoken abolitionist, who also founded the nearby Pennsylvania College of Gettysburg (known since 1921 as Gettysburg College). The Hospital on Seminary Ridge opens by chronicling the history of the seminary, beginning with its founding in 1832, before launching into a detailed discussion of the building’s role during the Battle of Gettysburg. On July l, 1863, the first day of the battle, the seminary was at the center of one of the fiercest attacks. Early that morning, Lieutenant Aaron B. Jerome, a young signal officer and member of Union General John Buford’s staff, climbed two sets of stairs and a ladder to reach the distinctive cupola crowning Schmucker Hall, from which he surveyed the terrain below him. Buford had instructed Jerome to seek out a prominent point to monitor the enemy’s movements. After spying an advance guard of Confederates, Jerome dispatched a courier to notify Buford, who arrived at the cupola in time to see “the Rebel column marching steadily towards him” and who then “realized that the time of crisis had arrived.” Afterwards, Martin Luther Culler and a small contingent of fellow seminary students climbed up into the cupola and “saw the battle open with a puff of smoke from the mouths of booming cannon.” George New, surgeon-in-chief of the First Division, set up the first field hospital at Gettysburg in the sturdy and commodious seminary building. Its proximity to the front lines made it readily accessible to the wounded, but its advantage was offset by its susceptibility to artillery fire. Several hundred Union soldiers fought for their lives in the makeshift hospital only to face their greatest test of endurance: they were trapped behind enemy lines. Many died from lack of medical attention and inadequate food and water. Although primarily a Union hospital, an undetermined number of Confederate soldiers entered the seminary building, which served as a hospital until September. Until the publication of this book, few details were known to most students and scholars of Civil War history. The seminary has not cultivated the story of its involvement in the Battle of Gettysburg. No monuments or memorials punctuate its fifty-two acre campus, even though Schmucker Hall provided a signal tower and a refuge for causalities. But The Hospital on Seminary Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg has reconstructed the history of the Lutheran Theological Seminary and has interpreted its role in the Civil War through firsthand accounts of soldiers, civilians, surgeons, and relief personnel.


Foreigners in their Own Land: Pennsylvania Germans in the Early Republic

By Steven M. Nolt
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002 (238 pages, cloth, $29.95)

The early Pennsylvania German Lutheran and Reformed populations of eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the Appalachian backcountry successfully combined elements of their Old World tradition with several emerging versions of national identity. Many embraced democratic populist rhetoric to defend local cultural particularity and ethnic separatism. Others wedded certain American notions of reform and national purpose to European traditions of clerical authority and idealized German virtues. Their experience illustrates how creating and defending an ethnic identity can, in itself, be a way of becoming American. Although they would maintain a remarkably stable and identifiable subculture well into the twentieth century, Pennsylvania Germans were, even by the eve of the Civil War, the most “inside” of “outsiders.” They represent the complex and often paradoxical ways in which many Americans have managed (or manipulated) the process of assimilation to their own advantage. Given their pioneering role in this process, their story illuminates the path that other immigrants and ethnic Americans would travel in the decades to follow. Historians are only now beginning to tell the stories of the period’s ethnic minorities, and Foreigners in Their Own Land: Pennsylvania Germans in the Early Republic is the first to add the story of these settlers to that larger mosaic, examining how they came to think of themselves as quintessential Americans and si­multaneously constructed a durable sense of ethnicity.


Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

By Gretchen Worden
Blast Books, 2002 (192 pages, cloth, $50.00)

The aesthetics of the living body have long fascinated artists working in nearly every medium, and Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia presents the work of a group of distinguished photographers who have been drawn to explore the body stripped of its superficial coverings down to its inner realities. One of the last of the nineteenth-century medical museums to survive, the Mutter Museum comprises a sublime anatomical and pathological collection that originated with Thomas Dent Mutter (1811-1859), a professor of surgery who collected unusual specimens and models for teaching purposes (see “The College of Physicians of Philadelphia: ‘Not for One­self, But for All” by Thomas A. Horrocks, Winter 1987). Once an integral component of medical education, collections such as those at the Mutter Museum have been largely discarded by medical schools as the science of medicine has progressed. Under the auspices of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, to which Mutter offered his collection in 1856, the museum has grown and survived where most others did not, and a new audience for its macabre collection – which includes plaster models of abnormal births, deformed skeletons, surgical instruments, skulls, photographs, hair specimens, preserved organs, prosthetics, wax models of injuries, and a plaster cast of the bodies of Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese Twins, made after their autopsy in 1874 at the Mutter Museum – has emerged. This elegantly illustrated book shows the real beauty beneath the surface both in life, as revealed by the surgeon’s scalpel, and in death, as examined by the pathologist’s knife. Contemporary photographs, juxtaposed with powerful images from the museum’s historical photographic collection, stretch the boundaries to find beauty not in its conventional form, but in its opposite: the deformed, the broken, the disfigured bodies of those who suffered debilitating physical abnormality, trauma, or destructive diseases. There is a terrifying beauty as well in the spirits of those who endured nature’s challenges to human life and to medical understanding. The historical bond between photographers and medicine carries forward to the present day in Mutter Museum, the culmination of more than a decade of work by the contemporary artists whose magnificent images grace its pages, among them William Wegman, Mark Kessell, Arne Svenson, Dale Gunnoe, Harvey Stein, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Rosamond Purcell.


Pennsylvania Impressionism

By Brian H. Peterson, editor
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002 (368 pages, cloth, $49.95)

The first truly comprehensive study of one of the dominant schools of American landscape painting in the early twentieth century, Pennsylvania Impressionism is a sumptuous celebration, both in text and with illustrations. American impressionism was a movement that was largely rooted in the American soil – artists often spurned the cities, living and working in the numerous art colonies that sprang up throughout the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of the best known of these colonies emerged in 1898 on the banks of the Delaware River, north of Philadelphia, in the picturesque Bucks County village of New Hope. Known as Pennsylvania impressionists, these artists exerted considerable influence on the American art world of the teens and twenties (see “You Can Go Home Again: An Interview with James A. Michener” by Michael J. O’Malley III, Winter 1993). Their work was celebrated for its freedom from European influence, and was praised by noted painter and critic Guy Pene du Bois (1884-1958) as “our first truly national expression.” Many of the Pennsylvania impressionists studied and taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and their stylistic roots hearkened back to the “academy realism” practiced by Thomas Eakins and his followers. Edward Willis Redfield (1869-1965) was the acknowledged leader of the New Hope painters; his vigorously realistic brand of impressionism influenced several generations of artists associated with the group. Nonetheless, what most characterized Pennsylvania impressionism was not a unified style but rather the emergence of many mature, distinctive voices: Daniel Garber’s luminous por­trayals of the Delaware River; Fern I. Coppedge’s colorful village scenes; Robert Spencer’s views of mills and tenements; John F. Folinsbee’s moody snowscapes; and William L. Lath­rop’s evocative Bucks County vistas. Paintings by the Pennsylvania impressionists are now widely collected and prized by both private collectors and public institutions. Pennsylvania Impressionism is illustrated with more than three hundred and fifty color images, and includes biographies of eighty-four artists, many never before published. The book ex­plores the history of the Bucks County art colony and suggests new ways of understanding the art and artists who made their home in the area. An essay by Sylvia Yount weaves together the historic foundations of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and its impact on these impressionists. Noted art historian William H. Gerdts provides a comprehensive study of the art colony movement and its roots, and includes a comprehensive bibliography of that era.