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

Readers may be surprised by the cover redesign and photograph – and probably be even more amazed to learn motorsports in Pennsylvania claims a long and proud history. In his article entitled “A Century of Motorsports: ‘Gentlemen, Start Your Engines’,” Rae Tyson introduces us to racing at its best as well as the promoters behind the competitions and the drivers behind the wheels. Over the past one hundred years of tumultuous and heart-pounding racing, fearless drivers proved their mettle by pressing their pedals to the metal in competitions throughout the Keystone State. Rae’s lively account is illustrated by both historic and contemporary photographs bound to fascinate today’s readers. Until he shared his manuscript with us, I knew virtually nothing about the sport; now I realize it’s a bonafide (and often overlooked) piece of our recreational history.

Fred M. Yenerall wasn’t a professional photographer, but he certainly possessed an eye for the unusual, the curious, and ways of life that were rapidly vanishing in the 1960s and 1970s. Thanks to Yenerall, we enjoy a visual legacy of buildings and structures – covered bridges, one-room school buildings, roadside novelties, Mail Pouch Tobacco barns, stadiums and arenas, wooden churches, and tollhouses – that have been radically altered, obliterating their original appearance or historic character, and demolished or allowed to fall into ruin. For her contribution entitled “Pictures From Roads Less Traveled,” I thank Judy Thomas, the photographer’s granddaughter, for sharing these vintage mid-century images of landmarks throughout the Commonwealth, especially in western Pennsylvania. Yenerall’s pictures speak volumes.

During the nation’s observance of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, it’s common knowledge that many Pennsylvanians went off to war, leaving families behind to fend for themselves on the home front. What isn’t so apparent is that Chinese Americans also fought for the Union cause. Willis L. Shirk Jr. chronicles the service of one such individual in “Woo Hong Neok: A Chinese American Soldier in the Civil War.” An immigrant who settled in Lancaster in 1855, Woo was naturalized an American citizen in 1860 and “volunteered on June 29, 1863,” he wrote, “in spite of the advice of my Lancaster friends against it, for I had felt that the North was right in opposing slavery.” Willis traces Woo from his life in central Pennsylvania and follows him on his return to China where he devoted himself to educational and religious pursuits.

In this edition, you’ll notice the bylines of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) colleagues Karen Galle, April E. Frantz, and Cory R. Kegerise who generously undertook the task of writing regular departments while I was out of the office on sick leave for several months following a successful kidney transplant. They are true professionals and their passion for history is evident. I am especially indebted to Kimberly L. Stone, magazine art director and graphic designer for PHMC, who stepped in and served as both an editor and graphic artist during my absence. This is her edition. She worked tirelessly with staff, authors, image repositories, museum curators, and historic preservationists to bring you this splendid issue of Pennsylvania Heritage. To Kim and Karen, April, and Cory I give my utmost thanks for a job exceptionally well done.

Michael J. O’Malley III