Editor's Letter is an introduction to the contents and themes of each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage by the editor.

In Pennsylvania Heritage, we often run stories related to current anniversaries. Anniversaries give us the opportunity to focus on moments that have remained significant from our shared past — in our case as a community of Pennsylvanians — to gain a better perspective on what came before us and how the achievements, challenges and even misfortunes of history can instruct us in the present. Three features in this edition mark anniversaries in Pennsylvania history.

One hundred years ago, toward the end of the First World War, the planet was devastated by an outbreak of influenza, leading to the deaths of millions of people. In the article “1918’s Deadliest Killer,” historian Thomas J. McGuire sets the Pennsylvania story of the flu pandemic within the context of the larger global catastrophe, describing how the disease spread to tragic proportions when 250,000 people gathered at a Liberty Loan parade in Philadelphia. Touching on the most recent flare-up of influenza this past year, the piece ends on a note of foreboding, reminding us that nature is often our greatest adversary.

In our ongoing series of articles to highlight PHMC’s Pennsylvania at War initiative, we transition to the 75th anniversary of the Second World War with a home front story. Pennsylvania industry was crucial to success in the conflict, as many businesses in the state altered their regular production to begin manufacturing munitions and supplies for the war effort. In “Stockings, Cap Braids and Bomber Turrets,” Robert D. Hill, curator of history at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, presents an exemplar in Wyomissing Industries, a group of textile manufacturers in Berks County that retooled production and welcomed women into their workforce to create a variety of war supplies, from cord-edge braids for service caps and stockings for WAACs and WAVES to cargo parachutes, M-5 gun directors, and gun turret components for B-29 Superfortress bombers.

Until 50 years ago, governors of Pennsylvania lived in an assortment of buildings throughout the capital city of Harrisburg, none of which had been created specifically as the residence for the state’s chief executive. In “‘Keeping with the Dignity of the Commonwealth,’” David J. Morrison, director of Historic Harrisburg Association, discusses the history of housing for the state’s governors, leading to the planning and construction of the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg at 2035 North Front Street, completed in 1968. He then highlights five decades of the mansion from its first gubernatorial occupancy and its flooding in 1972’s Tropical Storm Agnes to its present status as a cultural icon of the state.

In this issue’s cover story, “From the Anonymous Lady to the Peales and the Sullys,” we look at Philadelphia’s early women painters. The city was at the forefront of a paradigm shift according to author Cynthia Haveson Veloric of the American Art Department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She contends that “an extended series of circumstances particular to Philadelphia enabled a number of ‘firsts’ for trailblazing women there against the context of gains made by women in other cities.” In her article Veloric describes the cultural climate of early 19th-century Philadelphia that made it possible for women to begin exhibiting and selling their art. She demonstrates this progression from an artist whose work was covertly attributed to a “Lady of Philadelphia” in a 1795 exhibition catalog to the bold virtuosos from the city who achieved success and distinction in the years of the Early Republic, focusing particularly on miniaturist Anna Claypoole Peale and large-scale oil painters Sarah Miriam Peale and Jane Cooper Sully Darley.

With the next issue of Pennsylvania Heritage, we will be celebrating our own 45th anniversary. As we reach this milestone, I invite you to keep reading as we continue to highlight significant anniversaries and other relevant episodes in Pennsylvania history.

Kyle R. Weaver