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

Deep Water Sailors, Shallow Water Soldiers

by Gerald T. Altoff
The Perry Group, 1993 (203 pages, paper, $7.95)

Subtitled Manning the United States Fleet on Lake Erie – 1813, this book exam­ines the composition of the crews of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet that took part in one of the most signifi­cant naval encounters during the War of 1812. According to the author, these crews “exemplified a cross-section of the young nation: sailors from all over the eastern seaboard who formerly served in proud ships like the Constitution, Argus, Alert, and John Adams, who volunteered for hazardous duty in a vast watery wilderness; soldiers, who like their latter day counterparts in Vietnam, were fighting a war not particularly popular even in their own country.” Deep Water Sailors, Shallow Water Soldiers opens with a discussion of Commodore Perry’s assignment to the Great Lakes upon the United States’ declaration of war on Great Britain in June 1812, and follows with an explanation of naval maneuvers on Lake Erie. No discussion of the Battle of Lake Erie seems complete without a blow-by-blow account of the battle, during which Perry shifted his flag to the United States Brig Niagara and com­manded her to victory – and this book is no different. Through sheer daring and tenacity, Oliver Hazard Perry had achieved a victory of epic significance (see “The Battle of Lake Erie: A Victory for Commodore Perry” by James E. Valle in the fall 1988 edition, and “Sail On, O Ship of State: An Interview with Capt. Walter Rybka of the U. S. Brig Niagara” in the summer 1993 issue). This book seeks to identify the men who participated in this battle and determine whether they were sailors or soldiers. The author esti­mates that between ten and twenty-five percent of Perry’s sailors were African Americans, excluding Marines and vol­unteers from the Army. He is able to doc­ument the fact that soldiers taking part in the battle included those assigned to the United States Marine Corps, the 2nd United States Artillery Regiment, the 134th Pennsylvania Militia Regiment, the 1st United States Light Dragoons, and several infantry regiments, among others. The text is supplemented by appendices, including “Samuel Hambleton’s Prize List,” “Soldiers and Marines by Unit,” and “U.S. Marines on Fleet, But Not in Battle.” Deep Water Sailors, Shallow Water Soldiers: Manning the United States Fleet on Lake Erie – 1813 concludes with an exten­sive bibliography.


In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860

by Lillian B. Miller
National Portrait Gallery, 1992 (320 pages, cloth, $60.00)

For more than a century, the reputa­tion of artist Rembrandt Peale has been overshadowed by that of his lively and famous father, Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), celebrated for his portraiture and for his interest in museums, technol­ogy, and natural history. Rembrandt Peale’s self-promoting autobiographical essays and few published letters cast him as a priggish or conceited offspring, no match for the democratic artist who fathered him. Because Little was known about the extent and quality of the younger Peale’s portraiture, other than his more than seventy replicas of a com­posite George Washington, his oeuvre has never been evaluated in its entirety. Although Philadelphians referred to him during the last year of his Life as the “venerable artist,” Rembrandt Peale never attained the fame that his artistic talent and considerable achievement merit. Peale was more than the talented son of an ingenious father, and much more than a purveyor of competent images. His body of work consists of more than twelve hundred works, pri­marily portraits, but also history paint­ings, landscapes, and “fancy pieces,” and – in terms of media – oils, crayons, lithographs, and drawings. He was a writer whose travel accounts, essays on natural history, poems, and writings on the art of painting contributed to the nation’s collective cultural experience. He also acted as an educator, committed to introducing the American public to skills necessary for the new technological and industrial society that he saw emerging in the United States. Like many American cultural figures who found society unsympathetic to their causes, Peale attempted through his art, writings, and institutions to effect change. At a time when cultural leaders were striving to introduce arts and letters to an expanding America to raise popular taste to more elevated standards, Peale had to create works of art and form art organi­zations that depended upon popular acceptance for their success. Simply put, In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860, is the biography of a career. As the first full-length study of the artist, it establishes the structure of Peale’s career, analyzes several of its high points, and provides a context in the social and cul­tural history of the pre-Civil War society of which he was an important part. The author makes it quite clear that In Pursuit of Fame is not a psychoanalytic study of the artist; its purpose is not to probe his psyche, for which only a limited number of documents exist. Only occasionally did Rembrandt Peale give way to person­al expression in his correspondence, usu­ally when he was abroad and lonesome for home and family. For the most part, he was a restrained writer, highly con­scious of his position as a member of a distinguished family and a practitioner of the fine arts. It was as an artist that he wished to be known. And this volume helps place that reputation in context.


A Place to Live and Work

by Harry C. Silcox
Penn State Press, 1994 (230 pages, cloth, $35.00)

A Place to Live and Work: The Henry Disston Saw Works and the Tacony Community of Philadelphia chronicles the remarkable saga of the company and the town built by industrialist Henry Disston (1819-1878). The book provides a rare view of the rise and fall of one of the country’s most powerful family-owned businesses from its modest beginnings in 1840s to the 1940s, when Disston products were known worldwide, to the sale and demise of the company following World War II. Not only did Henry Disston build a factory, but he shaped Tacony, the sec­tion in northeast Philadelphia where his workers lived. A Place to Live and Work describes the company’s interdependence with the community and profiles the way of life that grew out of the paternalistic Disston’s blueprint for Tacony, which the capitalist envisioned as a utopian factory town. Using original letterbooks, shop committee meeting notes, photographs, and numerous documents, the author reveals Disston’s highly sophisticated marketing and management systems that responded to the concerns and needs of workers and foremen. Through two world wars, the Great Depression, and the rise of unions, Disston’s innovative business practices enabled the company to remain active and strong even when factories throughout the nation were failing. This book is an in-depth study of both a pros­perous factory and a planned urban com­munity in the suburban countryside, a small, one-factory town controlled by a single family for nearly eighty years. The story which unfolds is one of a company and a community bound together by a culture that was dominated by the Industrial Revolution.


The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr.

by Martin Aurand
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994 (172 pages, cloth, $49.95)

Frederick G. Scheibler Jr. (1872-1958) of Pittsburgh was the rare turn-of-the-centu­ry American architect who looked to pro­gressive movements, such as Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts, for inspira­tion rather than relying on conventional styles. His fresh house designs and unusual plans for apartment buildings and multifamily “group cottages” fea­tured dramatic massing, rich detailing, and a wide variety of materials such as brick, stucco, wood, exposed steel, deco­rative tile, and art glass. Scheibler envi­sioned each building as a work of art, integrating architecture and ornamenta­tion. Treasured today, his best works are scattered throughout Pittsburgh’s East End and eastern suburbs. This richly illustrated volume, the first comprehen­sive study of Frederick G. Scheibler Jr. and his work, includes more than one hundred historic and contemporary pho­tographs and drawings, a catalogue of the architect’s known projects – including many not recorded in published sources – a list of books in his library, notes, and a selected bibliography. Throughout The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr., the author probes his subject’s Life and career, and discusses the influences on (and of) his architectural concepts, his artistic sensibility and tastes, and his lasting significance.