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

Historical research is often motivated by a personal connection to a subject. Two articles in this issue of Pennsylvania Heritage come from authors who have investigated individuals significant to their own lives and found links to broader themes in Pennsylvania history. David D. Hursh became intrigued by his maternal great-grandfather, Rudolph M. Hunter, after years of hearing family lore about his life as an inventor in Philadelphia from the late 1800s through the early 20th century. Eventually, Hursh decided to research his ancestor’s life to learn the truth. “Everything snowballed from there,” said Hursh, who began combing U.S. patents and was amazed to find 299 for Hunter. He then began studying related histories for the patents, which included innovations for the electric street railway and the motor truck. “I had stumbled on an untold part of the story, which I was unexpectedly in a position to tell,” Hursh told me, “and maybe I could make a small contribution to history.” In “Philadelphia’s Forgotten Inventor,” Hursh does just that by locating his ancestor as a leading innovator during an era of burgeoning technology. Although a great invention on the level of Edison or Bell eluded Hunter, his story of breakthroughs, corporate competitions, patent wars and wild alchemistic aspirations provides a fascinating glimpse into the Age of Invention.

Don Sarvey has had a long career in journalism, working first as a newspaper reporter and then for many years as a freelance writer and magazine editor. Thinking back to his college days during a summer internship at the Lock Haven Express, he recalled his experience with the newspaper’s fastidious editor, whose aptitude and drive, despite a devastating injury that left her walking on prosthetic legs, had a great impact on him. Sarvey recently began to research her career and discovered a remarkable story about a barrier-breaker in journalism, which he recounts in “Tough and Determined: Pioneering Newspaper Editor Rebecca F. Gross.” Beginning at The Express in 1931 and identified as the first woman in Pennsylvania to run a daily newspaper, Gross rubbed shoulders with literary figures such as John Steinbeck, traveled to news hot spots around the world, interviewed world leaders from David Ben-Gurion to Fidel Castro, and received numerous accolades within her profession.

Also in this edition, we mark the 50th occurrence of Art of the State, the juried exhibition held annually at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, Dauphin County. Over the past half-century, thousands of Pennsylvania artists have shared their personal visions in Art of the State through painting, photography, sculpture, crafts and works on paper. In “Representing Pennsylvania’s ‘Precious Heritage,'” museum curator Amy S. Hammond roots the stimulus for this key exhibition in the enactment of federal and state legislation to promote the arts in the 1960s, as well as PHMC’s ongoing commitment to preserving and fostering the arts in the commonwealth (also see Trailheads: “Artful Trails“). Hammond shows how the exhibition has reflected transformations in art movements, social concerns and regional identity in Pennsylvania, with a focus on particular works that have been chosen by the museum as Purchase Awards through the years.

I hope the articles in this issue of Pennsylvania Heritage will inspire you to explore the museums and historical institutions of Pennsylvania – including PHMC’s State Museum, State Archives and Pennsylvania Trails of History sites—to find your own personal connections to the history and cultural heritage of the Keystone State.

Kyle R. Weaver