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

What’s new for 2008?

How about the New Deal? Or, more precisely, PHMC’s annual theme commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New Deal in Pennsylvania.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, a seemingly endless roster of economic relief agencies created in the 1930s to alleviate massive unemployment and widespread poverty in the wake of the Great Depression, included the Works Progress Administration (WPA), an agency that gave work to millions of unemployed Americans. Pennsylvania desperately needed such visionary measures because unemployment in some industrial communities had spiraled to a staggering 40 percent.

In the Keystone State, FDR had a friend and ally in Governor George H. Earle III. Earle’s administration launched a number of innovative relief programs, earning them the epithet “Pennsylvania’s Little New Deal.” But “little” it was not.

In his absorbing account of Pennsylvania’s Little New Deal in this issue, PHMC historian Kenneth C. Wolensky brings to life the history of this heady era with gripping stories of how Governor Earle’s reforms mirrored FDR’s emergency programs and what they meant to Pennsylvanians. Ken’s article is the first of four major articles chronicling the impact of the New Deal that will appear in Pennsylvania Heritage during 2008. In addition to these full-length features, regular departments will also focus on the New Deal years.

In this edition, Mary Jane Schneider recounts the devastating 1908 Rhoads Opera House Fire in Boyertown, Berks County, and shows how this tragedy — in which 170 people perished — prompted state laws that made Pennsylvania a forerunner in fire safety legislation. Vance Packard shares the history of the venerable Forty Fort Meeting House as it enters its third century as a Wyoming Valley landmark — and with little alteration since it opened for full use in June 1808!

While planning your spring day trips, don’t forget Heritage Week, March 7–16 [2008], and Charter Day, Sunday, March 9 [2008]. Read all about the exciting opportunities these special events offer for travelers of all ages in this printed cover wrapper! The staff joins me in wishing one and all a happy and healthy New Year.

Michael J. O’Malley III