Letters presents readers' comments and reactions to specific articles in Pennsylvania Heritage, the initiatives of PHMC, and other developments in the historical, cultural and museum communities of Pennsylvania.

Flight Right

A friend has passed along a copy of the Summer 2001 issue of your excellent magazine. It is thus a little late to be commenting on the article by Neal Carl­son [“Taking Flight! Pittsburgh’s Gate­way to the Skies“] on Pennsylvania Central Airlines, which became Capital Air­lines in 1948. I write as one who has researched and written about that airline in several publications, including one of my own, in which I wrote a tribute to company officer James “Slim” Carmichael, whose family I met. I also went to Pittsburgh twenty years ago to interview Clifford O. Ball’s widow. As a writer, I know that critics tend to concentrate on the one or two mistakes and seldom give credit to the hundreds of things right. Mr. Carlson’s article certainly had almost everything right, but the things he had wrong, however, are worthy of mention. For instance, he writes that Capital introduced first-class scheduled service. The opposite was true. Capital pioneered, with the Nighthawk flights, the first coach-class service. It was a historic development. Mr. Carlson refers disparagingly to “checkered financial condition and unscrupulous marketing efforts.” The former were no worse than those of other airlines at that time, and if the big money in Pittsburgh had come forward, Capital would still be a powerful force in American aviation today. The author does not mention this, but Capital introduced turbine power to the American airline industry when it purchased a fleet of British Vickers Vis­count turboprop (prop-jet) airliners, and proceeded to wipe out the competition in important markets. Once again, Capi­tal led the way. One reason for Capita]’s fall from grace was the inordinate delay on the part of the Civil Aeronautics Board in awarding the airline a just share of the lucrative market between the Great Lakes region, from the Twin Cities to Pittsburgh, and the Florida resorts. By the time Capital was given the permission to fly these routes with the Viscounts, it was too late. Incidentally, when United Airlines took over the company in 1961, it insinuated that the Viscount was a big problem-until its own engineers put them right. In closing, may I express my pleasure in reading your magazine. Keep up the good work!

R. E. G. Davies
Washington, D.C.

R. E. G. Davies is curator of air transport for the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


Quite a News Event

J enjoyed the article by Lisa Gensheimer about journalist Ida Tarbell and her crusade against oil magnate John D. Rockefeller [“The Lady and the Titan,” Spring 2002] but must point out that Floyd Collins did not become trapped and die in a coal mine in Kentucky. He was exploring a cave near Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, when this tragedy occurred. It was quite a news event at the time and was covered extensively by the press.

Leon Carey
Somerset, Pa.


Imagine Our Surprise

Imagine our surprise at finding a picture of our bedspread featured in “Sharing the Common Wealth” on the back cover of the Winter 2002 issue! I inherited my red, white, and navy coverlet made by William Morgan in 1872 from the farm of my great-grandfather, Henry Walker (1827-1902). Located about two miles form the Somerset Historical Center, the house and barn had to give way to “progress” about four decades ago: the modernization and rerouting of Route 219. May I take this opportunity to let you know how much we enjoy your publication.

Helen Walker Ott
Johnstown, Pa.


Owes Plaudits

The Upper Darby Historical Society owes plaudits to William C. Kashatus for his well-balanced article treating the Pennsylvania Abolition Society [see “Two Stationmasters on the Underground Railroad: A Tale of Black and White,” Fall 2001]. Much of this article deals with Thomas Garrett (1789-1871), who was born in Upper Darby. In opening my copy I was transported. I had just jotted a poem touching on the Gar­rett family’s legacy, by which I mean their later influence. I grew up in Thomas Garrett’s tiny Garrettford. No longer Quaker, Tom Garrett was a leg­end, and a “Friendly” effect lasted, and imprinted on me.

Thomas R. Smith
Upper Darby, Pa.

Thomas R. Smith is archivist for the Sellers Memorial Free Library in Upper Darby, Delaware County.