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

Looking for ways to spend an educational, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable summer day with family and friends?

Look no further.

As Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) staff members Howard M. Pollman and Michael A. Bertheaud explain in their article entitled “Exploring the Pennsylvania Energy Trail of History” in this edition, there’s plenty to see and do this summer at PHMC historic sites and museums throughout the Commonwealth. At the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Venango County – the birthplace of the modern petroleum industry – an unusual private-partnership of museum staff, volunteers, Pennsylvania Conservation Corps crew members, and local businesses enthralls visitors of all ages with its spectacular Nitro Show. Produced by Scott R. Cartwright, president of Cartwright Fireworks in Franklin, Venango County, the dazzling pyrotechnic event recalls the dangerous days of shooting a well with nitroglycerin to release oil. On Thursday, August 27, the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the day Edwin L. Drake’s oil well came in, the museum will host Drake Day Extravaganza which includes, in the words of museum site administrator Barbra T. Zolli, “the great-granddaddy of all Nitro Shows.” It’s noisy, theatrical, and an event not to be missed!

The Pennsylvania Energy Trail of History is an outgrowth of PHMC’s annual theme for 2009, “Energy: Innovation and Impact.” For decades, Pennsylvania fueled the nation with anthracite and bituminous coal, water, and lumber, and provided the iron, steel, and cement that built communities along the eastern seaboard. The Industrial Revolution of the second half of the nineteenth century owes its success to Pennsylvania and the generations of workers that tended its furnaces and mills. And at PHMC historic sites and museums, visitors can discover the role that the Keystone State played in energizing the country.

At its zenith, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Company employed nearly a quarter-million workers and controlled ten thousand miles of rail line. It was at one time the largest publicly traded corporation in the world, and holds the record of continuously paying dividends to its shareholders over a period of more than one hundred years. In addition, the budget of the PRR was larger than the federal government’s. In Strasburg, Lancaster County, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania chronicles the history of railroading in the Commonwealth and has mounted a special interpretive exhibit underscoring “Energy: Innovation and Impact.” Continuing through the end of the year, the exhibit addresses the ways that railroads conserved energy by efficiently moving enormous quantities of products and raw materials.

One of the precious commodities that railroads hauled for more than a century was anthracite. A network of rail lines carried hard coal from northeastern Pennsylvania to markets far beyond Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton dramatically illustrates the impact of coal mining on the region, and explores its effects on the lives of miners and their families. Another exciting destination along the Pennsylvania Energy Trail of History, the museum examines the industrial, commercial, and energy heritage of the anthracite region.

Destinations along PHMC’s special energy trail for 2009 include the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, Hope Lodge, Pennsbury Manor, Daniel Boone Homestead, Eckley Miners’ Village, Landis Valley Museum, and Old Economy Village, among others.

Michael J. O’Malley III