Bookshelf

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

After the Holocaust
by Barbara Stern Burstin
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989 (219 pages, cloth, $19.95)

Subtitled The Migration of Polish Jews and Christians to Pittsburgh, this selection of the Jewish Book Club is the story of more than one hundred emigrants – half Jews, half Christians – who fled to the United States and settled in Pittsburgh after their home­land was devastated by the Nazis during World War II. Based on interviews with the survivors themselves, and on records of the local and na­tional organizations that as­sisted in the resettlement of displaced persons, the narra­tive follows the emmigrants from their pre-war years in Poland, through their harrow­ing wartime experiences, their decision to emigrate, and their early adjustment to life in the United States, to their atti­tudes and circumstances to­day. The book examines the ways in which the subjects’ experiences were similar, as well as different, and analyzes the ways in which each group was perceived by the local ethnic groups. The author also investigates the difficulties they faced as they embarked on their new lives and and the attitudes that members of each group share today. An unusual epilogue recounts a conversa­tion among six of the Chris­tians and six of the Jews, arranged by the author, in which they exchange their perceptions of the past and of each other. After the Holocaust offers a unique comparison between the experiences of Jews and Christians both in Europe and America, and it provides significant new in­sights into the sensitive issue of relations between Polish Christians and Polish Jews today.

 

Southwestern Pennsylvania Painters
by Paul A. Chew, editor
Westmoreland Museum of Art, 1989 (138 pages, paper, $14.95)

Students, admirers and collectors of pictures by artists who lived and worked in southwestern Pennsylvania will find this color-illustrated catalogue an informative and rewarding reference book. Unlike the previous edition – which accompanied an exhibi­tion in 1981 entitled “Southwestern Pennsylvania Painters, 1800-1945” – this book features works, including paintings, drawings, sketches and prints, in the permanent collections of the Westmoreland Museum of Art, Greens­burg. Southwestern Pennsylvania Painters lists nearly three hun­dred pieces by fifty-five artists, many of whom are well known throughout the nation: George Hetzel (1826-1899), Albert F. King (1854-1945), Malcolm Parcell (1896-1987), Joseph Ryan Woodwell (1843-1911) and William Coventry Wall (1810-1886). But there are many pleasant surprises for those not acquainted with less famil­iar painters, such as William A. Blayney (1917-1986), Dorothy Lauer Davids (1905- 1980), Kindred McCleary (1901-1949), Louise Pershing (1904-1986) and Rachel McClel­land Sutton (1887-1982). A perceptive introduction by Paul A. Chew, catalogue editor and director of the Westmore­land Museum of Art, offers an overview of Pittsburgh’s – and southwestern Pennsylvania’s­ – place in American art. Nine­teenth century paintings, several of which appear as stunning, full page color illus­trations, will delight readers with depictions of the histori­cal landscape, including Emil Bott’s Beaver Falls, Pa. (1854), Hetzel’s On the Conemaugh (1866), Boyd’s Hill (1892) by Martin B. Leisser, Aqueduct of the Pennsylvania Canal below Harrisburg, Pa. (1868) by Wil­liam Thompson Russell Smith, and Wall’s Scene at Lockport, Westmoreland County, Pa. (1871). The catalogue provides suc­cinct, yet revealing, biogra­phies for each of the subjects, often accompanied by portraits and informal photographs. Southwestern Pennsylvania Painters includes a record of living artists who have either worked or are living in the region, and concludes with an extensive bibliography of more than one hundred and twenty­-five sources!

 

What’s a Coal Miner to Do?
by Kenneth Dix
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989 (258 pages, cloth, $29.95)

For more than a century, from the Civil War to well into the 1930s, the relationship between coal miners and coal operators was fairly well de­fined. While miners, shovels and picks in hand, made most of the day-to-day work deci­sions, operators and owners raised essential capital and marketed the commodity. This relationship changed radically when, in the 1920s, operators introduced machines into the mines, including the mechani­cal coal loader, which replaced the loading of coal cars by hand. Subsequently, work crews were reduced, and the new technology allowed oper­ators to concentrate their workers around the machine and to supervise them more closely. What’s a Coal Miner to Do? The Mechanization of Coal Mining, a sensitive and thor­ough study, explores the im­pact of technology on miners and mine operations during a crucial period in industrial history. Drawing on oral inter­views with retired coal miners, the papers of coal operators and owners, and numerous state and federal reports, the author constructs the social, political, technical and eco­nomic environment of the handloading era. Archival photographs, diagrams and detailed descriptions graphi­cally depict the development of the coal trade’s technology, including the career of Joseph Joy, whose pioneering inventions – beginning with the mobile loading machine­ – changed the course of the industry and created a major corporation. The mechanical coal loader, however, did not in itself transform the work­place; What’s a Coal Miner to Do? proves that it was but­tressed by the rise of the United Mine Workers of Amer­ica under John L. Lewis, ex­ceedingly sympathetic to mechanization, and by the expanded role of state govern­ment under the New Deal’s coal legislation and regulation.

 

Oliver Hazard Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie
by Gerry Altoff
Eastern National Park and Monument Association, 1989 (38 pages, paper, $2.50)

A brief but significant work devoted to Oliver Hazard Perry’s triumph in the decisive Battle of Lake Erie, this book­ – originally presented as a paper during the 1987 symposium, “War on the Great Lakes: Canada and the United States in the War of 1812” – analyzes the significant developments which directly affected the outcome of the war. Rather than recount the well known and excessively detailed accounts of the vessels, the fleet movements and the principal actors, Oliver Hazard Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie empha­sizes the often forgotten or ignored individuals who fought in the battle, as well as the disadvantages under which the British fleet fought (which have been little consid­ered by American historians). The book traces not only the tactics during the Battle of Lake Erie, but the preparations made before it by Gen. Wil­liam Henry Harrison, Daniel Dobbins, Commodore Isaac Chauncey and Perry, all key figures in the Lake Erie opera­tion. The author does not glorify Commodore Perry as have many historians; instead, he subtly commemorates the sailors and soldiers, many of whom lost their lives during the battle, whose valor formed the backbone of a celebrated frontier battle which affected the outcome of the War of 1812, and helped preserve forever the five states of the “Old Northwest” as an integral part of the United States. Oliver Hazard Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie contains extensive footnotes and nine­teenth century portraits of the individuals involved.

 

The Riddle of Amish Culture
by Donald B. Kraybill
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989 (304 pages, cloth, $35.00)

How the Amish have man­aged to maintain their traditional way of life in spite of the enormous pressures of the twentieth century – “the riddle of Amish culture” – is exam­ined in depth by the author, who reveals how the sect struck a bargain with modernity – allowing them to not only keep the modern world at bay, but to burgeon from a small band of five thou­sand at the opening of this century to more than one hundred thousand followers today. The Amish are one of America’s most intriguing and puzzling communities. Each year five million visitors travel to Lancaster County, home of the country’s oldest Amish settlement. Despite the tre­mendous publicity, as well as a raft of recent publications, misconceptions about the Amish way of life remain com­mon. In fact, their customs seem quaint, even contradic­tory: they will ride in automo­biles but refuse to drive; they will use pay telephones, but not have one in the house; and they will use tractors at their barns but not in the fields. Although their rules seem foolish to outsiders, this book illustrates how they have been essential to keeping the culture alive. The Amish bargain with modernity permits them to accept some aspects of con­temporary life while rejecting others. They have protected the vital ingredients of their cultural identity: their lan­guage, their clothing and their horses and buggies. Contrary to popular belief, however, the Amish have changed. Their buggies are equipped with turn signals and flashers; they use air- and hydraulic­-powered machinery; their clothes are made according to traditional patterns but from synthetic materials. On the other hand, society has made concessions to the Amish: at construction sites, Amish workers are allowed to wear their broad-brimmed hats instead of regulation hard hats, and parents send their children to Amish schools. The Riddle of Amish Culture explores the “riddles” on both sides of a cultural fence, which separates modern society from a people as remote as the seventeenth century, but as close as the market stalls and produce stands dotting Lancaster County’s verdant countryside.

 

Traditions in Transition
by Gail Stern, editor
The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 1989 (134 pages, paper, $20.00)

Traditions in Transition: Jew­ish Culture in Philadelphia, 1840-1940, is a liberally illustrated catalogue which accompanied a major exhibition mounted by the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies this past year. It not only documents but celebrates the rich and varied social his­tory of Philadelphia’s Jewish population during a critical period of adaptation and inno­vation. The catalogue opens with an introductory essay which provides a historical overview of Jewish immigra­tion to Philadelphia, including immigration from eastern Europe and from the West Indies and the Levant, subjects rarely addressed in existing scholarship. Other essays are devoted to the number and variety of the city’s landsman­-shaftn (“mutual aid societies”), the settlement by Jews in South Philadelphia, and the contributions of Jewish studio and commercial photogra­phers, which date to the mid­-nineteenth century team of Cornelius Levy and Leon Solis-Cohen (who documented the aftermath of the Civil War with their views in and near Richmond). Traditions in Transi­tion interprets the social his­tory of Philadelphia’s Jews through a diverse array of material culture, including diaries, journals, letters, immi­gration and naturalization papers, census documents, photographs, clothing, house­hold inventories and fine and decorative arts. Coupled with the informative and insightful text, these stimulating graph­ics offer a portrait of the city’s Jewish community throughout an entire century.