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

Sometimes Pennsylvania history occurs outside the boundaries of the Keystone State. Throughout the past, Pennsylvanians have traveled to other parts of the U.S. or have gone abroad to make their marks in the commonwealth’s history. Pennsylvania’s involvement in World War I is a good example, when soldiers from the state joined their fellow American servicemen in the Allied fight against the encroaching Central Powers in Europe. In this edition of Pennsylvania Heritage, we continue our commemoration of the centennial of the Great War as part of PHMC’s ongoing, multiyear Pennsylvania at War initiative. No observation of the state’s contribution to the conflict would be complete, however, without the story of the legendary 28th Infantry, composed of units from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and nicknamed the Keystone Division. In the article “Keystone Men of Iron,” Brent C. Bankus and James O. Kievit of the U.S. Army War College follow the 28th through their 1917–18 service in the war, from training at Camp Hancock in Georgia to combat overseas in France, marking the division’s role in the major operations that led to victory and the subsequent Armistice of November 11, 1918.

Some 80 years before the 28th Division was en route to Europe to join the fight to make the world safe for democracy, individuals across America were working to secure freedom for enslaved African Americans. One individual who played a significant role in the antislavery movement in western Pennsylvania was Francis Julius LeMoyne, a physician who lived in Washington, Washington County, not far from the Mason-Dixon Line. In “I Must Be an Abolitionist,” historian and frequent contributor to Pennsylvania Heritage Todd M. Mealy writes about a civic-minded individual who became strongly committed to the antislavery struggle, not only by hiding fugitives in his home and assisting them on their journeys to freedom, but also through his involvement in an early movement that served as the political foundation for efforts that would push the issue to the forefront in the years leading to the American Civil War.

Pennsylvania history is also patently made by people from other parts of the world who have immigrated to the commonwealth, such as the German-speaking Europeans who arrived in the 18th century, bringing with them a distinctive folk culture that they passed on to their descendants, the Pennsylvania Dutch. As the holiday season approaches, we look at a peculiar Christmastide tradition that was common in the Dutch Country of the past but has faded in recent years: the visitation of an otherworldly figure called the Belsnickel. Masked and dressed in fur, the Belsnickel (actually a family member or friend) arrived at homes shortly before Christmas to test the resident children’s self-restraint, doling out presents or punishments in response. In “Der Belsnickel: Nicholas in Furs or Hairy Devil?” Patrick J. Donmoyer, director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University, traces the European origins of this ambiguous character and discusses his evolution in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania history is a fluid thing. It sometimes crosses borders. It has been shaped not only by individuals who have lived and worked within the state, but also by those who have come and gone. We tell these stories in Pennsylvania Heritage to provide readers with a sense of the scope and diversity of Pennsylvania’s past, which can serve as a key to better understanding our place in the present. We hope that you’ll find we are succeeding in that effort.

Kyle R. Weaver