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


Mention the word and most people immediately think of Agkistrodon contortrix — one of three venomous snakes native to Pennsylvania — easily recognizable by its striking reddish-brown markings. In the mid-nineteenth century, Pennsylvania was a hotbed of Copperheads. They were venomous. Vehement. Vitriolic. But reptilian they were not.

The Keystone State’s Copperheads were a rare breed — Northerners who sympathized with the South at the outbreak of the Civil War. In his fascinating feature story, “Pennsylvania’s Copperheads: Traitors or Peacemakers?,” Timothy Kehm – a talented undergraduate at West Chester University of Pennsylvania – shows us how they instilled fear and provoked anger in communities throughout the Commonwealth. Their critics derided them as disloyal, but most Copperheads saw themselves as defenders of the Constitution. The two sides clashed fiercely, and Tim captures the drama with thrilling stories of mob violence, riots, even attempted lynchings.

We owe great gratitude to Ralph Elwood Brock, America’s first African American forester. A graduate of the Pennsylvania Forest Academy at Mont Alto, Brock is credited for the planting of at least one million trees in Pennsylvania! With her insightful article, Rachel L. Jones Williams introduces you to Brock and the visionary foresters who preserved the vast forestlands we enjoy.

Impressionism in art usually calls to mind the great French artists, but Joe Conti and Irwin Richman showcase two creative geniuses — she a painter, he a craftsperson — of our very own New Hope School in “The Last of the New Hope School: Faye Swengel and Bernard Badura.” Theirs is a love story — love for one another and for their art. The Bucks County couple moved among the great painters of their day, and this article gives them long-overdue recognition.

This autumn marks the 325th anniversary of William Penn’s arrival in his beloved province, and “Destination: Pennsbury Manor” gives us a peek at how the proprietor lived when in Pennsylvania. We’re touting the new visitor center at Pennsbury Manor that triples the size of the former building. And if that’s not enough, check out “Sharing the Common Wealth” [“Portrait of Lady Springett at Pennsbury Manor“] for a portrait of Penn’s mother-in-law, created by a student of Rembrandt, and “Marking Time” [“Penn Landing“], which documents his landing in October 1682 in Delaware County.

I am especially proud of this edition of Pennsylvania Heritage. The rich array of articles, the gifted writers, and our beautiful design should assure this edition its rightful place in your library of Pennsylvania history, culture, and art.

Michael J. O’Malley III