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.

Over The Top!

I enjoyed the Gifford Pinchot story in the Winter 2004 issue [“‘He, On the Whole, Stood First’: Gifford Pinchot,” by Kenneth C. Wolensky], particularly because there is an anecdote that was told to me many, many years ago by Henry Masker, who was the water­craft concessionaire at Promised Land State Park in Pike County. During World War I, Masker and hundreds of other Pike County men served in France with the Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF). After the war ended, Gifford Pinchot invited all of the county’s war veterans to attend a grand luncheon at his baronial home, Grey Towers, in Milford. War stories of all kinds were exchanged with much enthusiasm. Pinchot expressed his interest to see a demonstration of just how the soldiers went “over the top” to attack “The Huns.” Delighted to oblige, the ex-soldiers gathered at the foot of the magnificent, steep lawn that swept up to the Pinchot mansion. After much reconnoitering, the men quickly fashioned rifles with fixed bayonets out of nearby tree limbs and branches, and with a mighty roar, the dough.boys charged up the hill to Grey Towers. Gifford Pinchot was impressed, very impressed – but, of course, no alcoholic beverages were served at the luncheon.

Sanford Shelton
Equinunk, Pa.

Sanford Shelton retired in 1990 as superintendent of the three-thousand-acre Promised Land State Park.


The Man

Lester is the man! I enjoyed this interview with one of Pennsylvania’s most talented potters [“On the Porch with Lester Breininger: The Pennsylvania pottery Tradition” by John K. Robinson, Spring 2004]. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Breininger speak at local museums, and his talks are as entertaining as they are educational. From what I hear – which your article reiterates – his annual porch show and sale is a “must do.” Does anyone know the date for this year’s extravaganza?

William L. Smyth
Royersford, Pa.


Relevant To Our Times

In wrongly deciding that mandating the “Pledge of Allegiance” was constitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court overlooked why “governments are instituted among men” in the first place: to protect individual rights [see “Minersville v. Gobitis” by Zehra Hussain, Fall 2003]. I wonder why Mr. Gobitas brought his suit in federal court rather than in Commonwealth Court, since Pennsylvania’s Constitution begins with a more forceful endorsement of this argument: “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences … no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience” (Article I, Section 3). Congratulations and thanks to Zehra Hussain on presenting a piece of Pennsylvania history that is very relevant to our times.

John Cartledge
Allentown, Pa.

Zehra Hussain, of Cresson, Schuylkill County, was the winner of the Pennsylvania Heritage Award in the senior division for best paper on a Pennsylvania subject at Pennsylvania History Day in 2003 for “Minersville v. Gobitis.” Sixteen years old at the time, size was a junior at Blue Mountain High School in Schuylkill Haven. For information about Pennsylvania History Day, which is part of National History Day.


Violet Oakley

The piece on Violet Oakley [“Book­shelf,” Fall 2003] was exciting! I am fortunate to own original drawings by Oakley for The Holy Experiment. I also have an original plaster cast of “The Philadelphia Award,” founded in 1921 by Edward W. Bok, designed by Violet. Edith Emerson, long-time friend of Violet’s, sold it to me a few years before she died.

Elaine Peden
Philadelphia, Pa.

Elaine Peden is affectionately known as the “William Penn Lady” for her successful attempt in obtaining United States citizenship for Pennsylvania’s founder. She is currently the greeter at the Betsy Ross House. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Edward W. Bok (1863-1930) created The Philadelphia Award, which carries a cash prize of ten thousand dollars, to recognize n Philadelphia area citizen who performed or contributed a service for the betterment of the city.