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.

Eastern State!

I was keenly interested in William C. Kashatus’ article in the Winter 1999 issue [“‘Punishment, Penitence, and Reform’: Eastern State Penitentiary and the Controversy Over Solitary Confinement“]. I have something to add. In Pennsylvania Forestry, 1912-1913, an official report of the Department of Forestry, under a section showing activities in the Minisink Forest, Promised Land Division (now Promised Land State Park), it is stated that 296 basket willow cuttings were planted in 1913. In 1956, while in charge of the Promised Land Ranger Division, I was told by E.C. Pyle, district forester of Delaware District 19, that the clumps of basket willow growing throughout the picnic area of Promised Land State Park [in Pike County] had been planted in 1913 for the purpose of furnishing raw material to Eastern State Penitentiary so inmates could make baskets. The program was not successful and was abandoned. In 1956, detailed written records were maintained and kept by the Pennsylvania Department of Forestry; I have read these records very carefully. Oh, yes, the basket willow is still growing in the picnic area at the park as testimony to the program many years ago.

Sanford Shelton
Equinunk, Pa.

Your article about the prison in Philadelphia was incredible! I’ve driven by it for several years now, and I’m glad to know its history. It’s too bad it’s going to rack and ruin. In a few more years it might not be here, so I’m planning to visit as soon as I can. Is it open year-round?

Eric L. Long
Warminster, Pa.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open to visitors from May through November. For information about hours, tours, and admission, write: Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, 2000 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia, PA 19130; or telephone (215) 564-6005 or 236-7236.


Happy Birthday!

Some magazines boast about their centerfolds, but Pennsylvania Heritage can justly be proud of its covers. The Winter 1999 edition was gorgeous. The shimmering color is perfect for this time of year. Keep surprising us with your design and entertaining us with your articles. And congratulations on your twenty-fifth anniversary. Happy Birthday!

Jack Eagan
Philadelphia, Pa.


My Beloved

My husband and I really enjoy “Book­shelf” because we are genealogists and avid readers. I enjoy learning about new books on Pennsylvania’s history; in fact, after reading your reviews, I have purchased several. In these wild days of Internet frenzy, it’s great to sit back and read hard copy. (I’m no fuddy-duddy – I love using my computer and I don’t know how I ever got along without e-mail.) In any case, Pennsylvania Heritage should have its very own Web site. By the way, I realize that the new technology may make some periodicals obsolete, but don’t let that happen to my beloved Pennsylvania Heritage – and don’t ever give up “Book­shelf.”

Marilyn H. Kist
Pittsburgh, Pa.


To Market, To Market

Never will I go to our local farmers market without appreciating their history. What a great article [“The Country Connection: Farmers Markets in the Public Eye” by Helen Tangires, Fall 1998]! My only complaint is that the article should have been longer, because I now want to know about markets all across the state. As a young man, I used to help my uncle tend his produce stand. The days were long and the work was hard, but when I look back on it I know I was lucky to have the experience. We met so many interesting people from all walks of life. 111 never forget one man who worked in a local bank. He would always, without fail, week after week, ask for kumquats – which we never had in the first place. I don’t know if it was a secret joke, or if he just did it to tease me, but I can still, after sixty-some years, hear his voice: “How’re the kumquats today, young man?”

Marlin Smith
Lancaster, Pa.


Time Machine

If I had a time machine, I’d travel back in time to be a student of Mr. Swallows [“‘From the Things We Know Best’: The Art of William W. Swallow” by Martha Hutson-Saxton, Winter 1999]. My mom and stepfather think I’d make a good lawyer or an accountant. I am very analytical, but I want to teach art like Mr. Swallow. Your article opened my eyes to the importance of knowing about our history. Pennsylvania Heritage should be in every school library. Thank you.

Jennifer A. Washko
Allentown, Pa.