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

Football, fine art, and festivals. Throughout the years, Pennsylvanians have received national acclaim in all three fields. Each has become a vital part of our shared heritage, engaging residents and representing the commonwealth’s rich and diverse culture. In this edition, you’ll find three outstanding features on prominent examples of these activities in the Keystone State.

Football has been Pennsylvania’s most popular sport for more than a century. The commonwealth has been home to some of the best championship teams—high school and college levels as well as its pros, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The state also has produced many of the greatest players in the history of the sport, from first “openly paid” professional John Brallier to legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas to shutdown corner Darrelle Revis. When it comes to fans and team loyalties, however, Pennsylvania has been split between east and west. On the collegiate level, this division has manifest itself in an ongoing rivalry through the years between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. The two teams first squared off on November 6, 1893, and have played 99 games to date. In “100 Games: The Penn State–Pitt Rivalry,” sports historian Todd M. Mealy looks back at some of the memorable moments in the history of the on-again, off-again rivalry, now called the Keystone Classic, and considers its significance to Pennsylvanians as we approach the 100th and last (until further notice) game in the series.

In the world of art, Pennsylvania has been noted not only for its first-class museums and institutions but also for the renowned artists who have hailed from the state. We’ve featured many of them in past issues, most recently Modernist painter Charles Demuth of Lancaster (“After All,” Winter 2019) and Philadelphia’s professional women artists of the Early Republic (“From the Anonymous Lady to the Peales and the Sullys,” Fall 2018). In “Life of a Portrait,” Valerie Harris highlights the work of Laura Wheeler Waring, an African American painter of the first half of the 20th century who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and was an instructor of art at Cheyney Training School for Teachers (now Cheyney University) for more than 40 years. Harris, who has been researching Waring’s life and career for an upcoming biography, examines the story behind the artist’s most celebrated painting, a portrait of an elderly African American laundress named Anna Washington Derry. Weaving the lives of the artist and the subject together in her finely crafted article, Harris also offers an insightful analysis of the overlooked Pennsylvania masterpiece that is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

The Keystone State is additionally known for its many festivals held throughout the year, from the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg and the Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney to the Odunde Festival of African culture in Philadelphia to the many year-end holiday celebrations around the commonwealth. Also prominent on that list is the Kutztown Folk Festival, which in 2019 was voted second place (after the multilocational Water Lantern Festival) in USA Today‘s 2019 Readers’ Choice poll for the 10 best cultural festivals in the nation. Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, Kutztown was groundbreaking when it was established in 1950. It was the first folklife festival in the country, presenting in one setting the traditions of one ethnic group — in this case the Pennsylvania Dutch — as a veritable “living museum” at which visitors sample the culture through food, music, dancing, comedy, crafts, competitions, farming practices and other experiences, all presented by the actual practitioners. Patrick J. Donmoyer, director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University, tells the story behind this popular festival, starting with its founding by three academics intent on collecting and sharing Pennsylvania folklife to today’s generation of tradition bearers who carry on these folk-cultural traditions and return each year to share them with the public.

Kyle Weaver