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.

It’s a Small World

I am a maker of miniature furniture and tremendously enjoyed “Finding the Fabulous Furniture of the Mahantongo Valley” by Henry M. Reed in the fall 1995 edition. Needless to write, this particular issue is a real inspiration. My interest in pieces made in the Mahantongo Valley of Pennsylvania stems from my love for painted furniture and for historical research and documentation. I first encountered this unusual furniture in the 1970s when I purchased a copy of Dean Fales’s book, American Painted Furniture, 1660-1880. I found the decoration to be extremely appealing and not at all like the more common motifs of Pennsylvania furniture. I have been making miniature versions of American painted furniture for more than twenty years. My pieces are constructed and finished using only traditional methods and materials. Fancy decorating techniques, such as putty, vinegar, or smoke graining, are executed in the old manner using powdered pigments. The real piece of my dreams is the chest gracing the cover of your magazine. Every time I look at the colors and strong panels of this particular piece, I want to put everything else aside and start building it. Thank you for inspiring me!

James Hastrich
Kennebunkport, Maine


Fowler’s Fantasy?

Bravo to Linda A. Ries for her article “Pennsylvania Places Through the Bird’s­-Eye Views of T. M. Fowler” in the winter 1995 edition. To her topic I can give more insight. Thaddeus M. Fowler (1842-1922) was an exacting viewmaker, but his career demanded he also p1ease his patrons. This meant concessions, the kinds of which can be found in the artist’s 1872 View of Plainfield, Penna. The village, located six miles west of Carlisle, ranks among the smaller centers Fowler delineated. Plainfield citizens repute Fowler’s fee was paid by their physician, J.E. Van Camp. Not coincidentally, fronting in the artist’s published view is the doctor’s home. T. M. Fowler, in rendering Plainfield, lopped off part of the village. His patron, however, was pleased since the place­ment of his residence was enhanced. I’m reminded of the retort Picasso made when a friend, Pennsylvania-born Gertrude Stein – small world! – panned a portrait for a lack of resemblance. He simply replied, “It will.” Similarly, Plainfield residents have been willed a fixed mindset view, replete with a notion the village’s east boundary began where it did not. I suspect that Fowler’s views made a greater impact than Currier and Ives prints, which tended to depict broader themes and less “near and dear” to local residents and families.

Thomas Roy Smith
Upper Darby, Pa.

Thomas Roy Smith is archivist for the Upper Darby Township and Sellers Memorial Free Library.

I read with great interest the article on bird’s-eye views in Pennsylvania. I have hanging in my home a view of Tyrone in 1895, drawn by T. M. Fowler and published by Fowler and James B. Moyer.

Suzanne Sickler Ohl


Quite Stuffed

Pennsylvania Heritage always gives me a lot of good reading, but the summer 1996 issue was quite stuffed with outstanding articles. The story of Conrad Weiser’s life connected me with my grandfather, Johann Georg Trippner, who lived in the Tulpehocken Valley in 1751 and whose life up to now seemed too remote to imagine. Ida Jones’s paintings are delightful, and no less is her life story. The sesquicentennial of the Pennsylvania Railroad brings back memories of my great-uncle Martin Luther Walzer, who was a conductor on the Broadway Limited. The photograph of Daniel Drawbaugh’s state historical marker brings to life my great-grandfather, Ferdinand Roller, who was indentured to him as a young German immigrant from Ebhausen. And now, finally, the Commission has a web site which I shall quickly exploit! Thanks for this wonder­ful magazine.

Barbara Tripner Newcombe
Oakland, Calif.