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

Stoneware of Southwestern Pennsylvania

by Phil Schaltenbrand
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996 (216 pages, paper, $22.95)

A greatly expanded version of the author’s Old Pots (1978), Stoneware of Southwestern Pennsylvania describes the salt-glazed stoneware industry that once flourished in the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Valleys and contains much new information about the remarkable individuals involved in making pottery – owners, clay diggers, throwers, decorators, kilnmen, and those who delivered the wares by wagon and flatboat. This work has been so extensively updated and reorganized that it’s more than a revision; it’s a completely new book. Among the most significant changes is the inclusion of stoneware potteries of the Youghiogheny River Valley. The villages and towns of Perryopolis, Layton, Connellsville, Confluence, and Somerfield each supported at least one pottery, which sometimes became influential. These companies, grouped with the better known Monongahela Valley operations, comprised an industry of nearly fifty individual stoneware firms. Salt kilns were fired as early as the 1830s and the last factory closed just before World War I; Stoneware of Southwestern Pennsylvania makes it abundantly clear that manufacturing was ambitious and long-lived. For several decades the district’s production rivaled that of the large stoneware centers of upstate New York. The author notes that the manufacture of utilitarian stoneware in the Keystone State’s south­west corner developed several decades after other major American pottery centers. The region’s most significant production took place from the early 1840s until the late 1890s, although stoneware vessels were still being turned by hand in New Geneva, Fayette County, as late as 1914. Thick rims, vertical, upwardly striving forms, and stenciled decorations characterize the salt-glazed stoneware made in the river valleys south of Pittsburgh. To date, the author has identified nearly one hundred and fifty potters and skilled craftsmen who worked in the region, including the first to fire stoneware commercially, Daniel Boughner, of Greensboro, Greene County. Boughner is credited with propelling the manufac­ture of pottery in the district from a quasi-cottage industry toward a commercial enterprise of grand design. Greensboro eventually became home to the largest and best known stoneware manufactures west of the Allegheny Mountains, eventually earning distinction as the area’s leading stoneware production and distribution center. Records indicate that stoneware was also made in Fredericktown, Washington County, and Connellsville, Fayette County, before 1850, although probably not on a large scale. The book continues with a chronological history of the pottery makers and their specific locales and closes with a chapter on the art of collecting stoneware. Appendices include listings of regional potteries, production statistics, types of wares, and styles of decoration. More than two hundred illustrations in Stoneware of Southwestern Pennsylvania present outstanding examples of stoneware canning jars, flasks, butter crocks, storage jars, jugs, and pitchers, as well as maps, charts, documents, drawings, portraits of potters and their employees, and period photographs of kilns and buildings in which vessels were thrown, decorated, and stored.


Imagining Philadelphia: Travelers’ Views of the City from 1800 to the Present

by Philip Stevick
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996 (204 pages, cloth, $22.95)

Philadelphia. Christened “the virgin settlement of this province” by founder William Penn. Touted as the City of Brotherly Love. Self-promoted as the locus of revolutionary greatness. Hailed as the birthplace of democracy. Described as North America’s earliest major city of commerce. Known for its row houses and public gardens. Celebrated as a city of famous neighborhoods and landmarks, and of singular personalities and complex social histories. This is the familiar, time-honored Philadelphia of textbooks and guidebooks, but there exists a parallel city created by visitors during the last two hundred years. In travel narratives, correspondence, and diaries, and even more so in fiction, visitors to Philadelphia have bequeathed, as the author suggests, “as many Philadelphias as there are observers.” The au­thor’s collection of outsiders’ observations captures what visitors thought they had seen and how they felt to have engaged the life of the city. Some travelers visited the classic destinations of earlier times, such as the great Fairmount Waterworks, while some reacted generally to the tone and temper of the city. Together, these accounts fall into patterns that often convey a mythic reading of the city as a place of uncommon order and symmetry, or a place of great torpor and dullness, or a city extraordinary for the way in which elements of wilderness interpenetrate the metropolitan core. These attempts to make sense of the city are highly subjective yet vividly compelling versions of Philadelphia. Imagining Philadelphia: Travelers’ Views of the City from 1800 to the Present analyzes these accounts to offer a way to understand the patterns, to understand their significance as alternate visions of an extraordinary city. The author deduces that “the city has inscribed itself on the imaginations of two centuries of visitors in ways that are often compelling but unpredictable, a parallel city to the place on the map and the street under foot, a city of the mind, an imagined Philadelphia.”


James Buchanan and the Political Crisis of the 1850s

edited by Michael J. Birkner
Susquehanna University Press, 1996 (215 pages, cloth, $29.50)

An outgrowth of a 1991 symposium marking the two hundredth birthday of Pennsylvania’s only president, James Buchanan and the Political Crisis of the 1850s offers fresh analysis of a troubled presidency in nineteenth-century America. When James Buchanan (1791-1868) entered the White House in March 1857, he seemed well positioned to accomplish his main objectives. A canny and seasoned politician with a reputation for moderation on slavery-related issues, Buchanan possessed a straightforward agenda: the amelioration of sectional tensions, the promotion of American prosperity, and the extension of the Democrats’ control of the federal government. Four years later, he left Washington convinced that he had done his best and accomplished much. However, he left behind a shattered Democratic Party, a new Republican president, and a ruptured Union. Except for a cadre of faithful Pennsylvania friends, Buchanan’s reputation lay in ruins. He has been consistently ranked among the least effective presidents in American history. James Buchanan and the Political Crisis of the 1850s opens with the editor’s introduction to the subject’s character and career, in which his presidency is termed “a disaster.” Following chapters include ” Another Look at the Election of 1856″ by Michael F. Holt; “Dough in the Hands of the Doughface? James Buchanan and the Un tamable Press” by Mark W. Summers; “‘No Bed of Roses’: James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Presidential Leadership in the Civil War Era” by William E. Gienapp; “James Buchanan, the Neutrality Laws, and American Invasions of Nicaragua” by Robert E. May; “James Buchanan, the Election of 1860, and the Demise of Jacksonian Politics” by Peter Knupfer; and “The Presidency of James Buchanan: A Reassessment,” a transcript of a panel discussion by Kelmeth M. Stampp, Don E. Fehrenbacher, Robert Johannsen, and Elbert Smith. James Buchanan and the Political Crisis of the 1850s concludes with a bibliography of nearly one hundred and fifty sources.


A Wise Extravagance: The Founding of the Carnegie International Exhibitions, 1895-1901

by Kenneth Neal
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996 (273 pages, paper, $14.95)

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), a native of Dunfermline, Scotland, emigrated to Pittsburgh in 1848. By 1867, he was well on his way to amassing the fortune that would enable him to bring “art to the masses,” and to attempt to establish an American salon in – of all places – Pittsburgh. A Wise Extravagance: The Founding of the Carnegie International Exhibitions, 1895-1901, examines the creation of the prestigious exhibition and its tumultuous – and troubled – early years. The milieu of 1895 and the early International Exhibitions are set in an America just emerging from an aesthetic backwater. Art was becoming increasingly important to individuals of wealth as they traveled through Europe and became important patrons for painters and sculptors. In the United States, the cities of New York, Boston, St. Louis, and Chicago were hosting exhibitions and becoming known as cultural centers. This book deftly reveals how Carnegie’s desire to lift up the masses and his strident belief in education led to the building of the Carnegie Library and the staging of the inaugural Carnegie International Exhibition in 1895. Carnegie professed “to have contributed to the enlightenment and the joys of the mind, to the things of the spirit, to all that tends to bring into the lives of the toilers of Pittsburgh sweetness and light. I hold this the noblest possible use of wealth.” The International’s early years, however, were wracked by trouble and controversy. Even though the shows were critically acclaimed and well attended by the public, they were sharply criticized by artists for the requirement that paintings submitted for exhibition could not have been previously shown in other venues. The artists also resented their work being judged by what they called “a businessman’s jury,” since Andrew Carnegie had designated that the Carnegie Institute’s board of trustees be “men of affairs” and not artists. The earliest Internationals became hotbeds of controversy when this was combined with a lack of sales and the complaint that the work of many prominent painters had been “skied,” or hung in the highest row of the gallery. A Wise Extravagance re-creates the local and aesthetic sensibilities surrounding the early exhibitions, examines the founders and their philosophies, analyzes the public’s reaction to the participating artists, and summarizes the event’s achievements and impact at the opening of this century. This book is a concise, intelligent, and interesting history of the Carnegie International Exhibitions set in local, national, and international contexts.