A Gift to America: Maxo Vanka and the Millvale Murals

“This is my gift to America,” declared Croatian artist Maksimilijan “Maxo” Vanka (1889–1963) in 1941, when he completed a vast mural cycle for a small Catholic church in Millvale, Pennsylvania, a working-class town just across the river from Pittsburgh. A recent émigré, Vanka had not yet been in the United States a full decade when he completed the 4,500 square feet of wall painting for St....
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Cambria City

Nestled between a bend in the Conemaugh River and a steep bluff, Cambria City is a distinctive, dense neighborhood that tells the story of hundreds of immigrants who came to work in Pennsylvania’s steel mills and coal mines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Following the founding of the Cambria Iron Works in 1852, investors purchased land across the river from the mill, subdivided it,...
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Little Italy in the Great War by Richard N. Juliani

Little Italy in the Great War Philadelphia’s Italians on the Battlefield and Home Front by Richard N. Juliani Temple University Press, 302 pp., paper $37.95 With this work Richard N. Juliani, a professor emeritus of sociology at Villanova University, provides an admirably researched microhistory that explores how Philadelphia’s Italian Americans responded to the demands of World War I, the...
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Lebanon County: Small in Size – Rich in Heritage

Lebanon County is located in the southeastern portion of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the center of the beautiful Lebanon Valley, which is formed by the Blue Ridge of the Kittatinny range of mountains to the north and the South Mountains, or Furnace Hills, to the south. Covering an area of 363 square miles, the county is inhabited by ap­proximately 100,000 people. Between the shale...
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Paesano: The Struggle to Survive in Ambridge

For nearly three-quarters of a cen­tury, Lucy Derochis, my grandmother, has struggled successfully to preserve and convey her Italian heritage while living in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Her cultivation of familial closeness was rewarded when family members gath­ered to celebrate her eighty-ninth birthday on March 13, 1980. The dur­ability of the tight and close structure of an Italian-American...
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America’s Oldest Brewery: A Pictorial History

Touted as “America’s Oldest Brewery” by the family which originated and still owns the Pottsville brewing company, D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. is an unusual collection of mid-nineteenth century buildings which seem to cling pre­cariously to the steep northern slope of the Sharp Mountain above this Schuylkill County seat. The brewery was founded by David G. Yuengling, a...
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The Brunswick Tannery

“One of the largest and most complete establishments of its kind in the world” During the 1870s and the early part of the twentieth century, the hemlock sole-leather tanning industry boomed in northern Pennsylvania. As reported in the Scientific American, January 21, 1882: From Port Jervis almost to Lake Erie, a vast industry is conducted in the manufacture of hemlock sole leather....
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Lancaster County: Diversity of People, Ideas and Economy

When Lancaster County was established on May 10, 1729, it became the proto­type for the sixty-three counties to follow. The original three counties­Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester – were created as copies of typical English shires. The frontier conditions of Ches­ter County’s backwoods, from which Lancaster was formed, presented knot­ty problems to the civilized English­men....
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Somerset County: Paths through the Roof Garden

Referring to the high elevation and the scenic quality of the region, Gov. Martin G. Brumbaugh called Somerset County “the Roof Garden of Pennsylvania” at an annual Farmers’ Day picnic in 1916. Since then. the description has become a familiar and respected title; the words “Roof Garden” have been in­corporated in the names of various businesses, and the complete...
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The Stetson Company and Benevolent Feudalism

Philadelphia, during the first three decades of the twentieth century, was known for its great industrial enterprise. The city called itself the World’s Greatest Workshop and was a leader in the manufacture of more than 200 different items. It ranked first in the nation in the pro­duction of hosiery and knit goods, carpets and rugs, locomotives, street railway cars, saws, surgical...
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