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

Welcome to the first issue of the 45th volume of Pennsylvania Heritage. Since the publication of the premiere edition of December 1974, more than 750 features on Pennsylvania history, culture and natural history by leading authors in their fields, as well as hundreds of columns and news items, have been printed in our quarterly magazine. In this anniversary edition we continue our tradition of “telling stories, sharing history” with three biographical pieces by authors who have previously graced these pages through the years.

We lead with an article by Irwin Richman, professor emeritus of American studies at Penn State Harrisburg, who in addition to authoring numerous books and other publications, has written several features on fine art and horticultural subjects for Pennsylvania Heritage over the past decades, his first being “Gardens Change with Time” in September 1977. Here, in “After All,” he tells the story of early 20th-century Modernist painter Charles Demuth, who achieved cultural immortality for his Cubist-inspired botanical watercolors and Precisionist industrial scenes mostly set in his hometown of Lancaster, including My Egypt, his world-famous painting of the John W. Eshelman & Sons grain elevator in the city. Richman not only focuses on Demuth’s evolution as an artist but also the development of his reputation in Lancaster, where today his home and studio, along with a superb selection of his art, are preserved by the Demuth Museum.

Journalist Don Sarvey is another author whose work has been published in this magazine. His article on Rebecca F. Gross, credited as the first woman editor of a daily newspaper in Pennsylvania, appeared in Spring 2017. Now, in “Paying It Forward,” he profiles another groundbreaker, Genevieve Blatt, the first woman to win statewide elected office in Pennsylvania in 1954. After tracing Blatt’s distinguished career, from her three terms as secretary of internal affairs to her tenure as a justice on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, Sarvey emphasizes how Blatt, who was the beneficiary of valuable mentoring that enabled her to surmount great odds as she began her career, paid the favor forward by helping to establish a foundation for providing internships in state government to students and by closely guiding young law clerks in the court, many of whom are quoted in the piece.

David McCormick’s previous contribution to Pennsylvania Heritage was a biography of painter George Catlin, portraitist of the Plains Indians, published in Winter 2014. Here, in “Pennsylvania’s Nostrum Kings,” he looks at some of the more unsavory figures in Keystone State history, four 19th-century entrepreneurs who took the practice of peddling healing remedies from the lowly
medicine shows to the level of big business — Thomas W. Dyott, who began his own glassworks in Philadelphia to bottle his patent medicines; William Swaim, whose Panacea even garnered the acclaim of the medical community for a time; Henry T. Helmbold, whose Extract of Buchu inspired music; and David Hostetter, who in Pittsburgh published a popular almanac to sell his Celebrated Stomach Bitters. Preying on people’s vulnerabilities, these entrepreneurs mounted prodigious, sometimes outrageous, advertising campaigns for their mostly useless remedies.

After you’ve read this 45th anniversary issue, I hope you will want to look back at other editions of Pennsylvania Heritage from the previous four-and-a-half decades to relive pivotal moments in Pennsylvania’s rich history and culture (for back issues, visit SHOPpaheritage.com). And there’s more ahead in future installments as we move toward a half-century of documenting Pennsylvania’s storied past.

Kyle R. Weaver