Harrisburg in World War II by Rodney Ross

Harrisburg in World War II by Rodney Ross The History Press, 192 pp., paperback $21.99 Like the rat-tat-tat of a machine gun, author Rodney Ross fires off brief declarative sentences to tell his story of how Pennsylvania’s capital city prepared for and aided the war effort between 1941 and 1945. As it became apparent that the United States would enter the war, the citizens of Harrisburg were...
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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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Dox Thrash and the “Poetry of the Artist’s Own People”

A son of sharecroppers, Dox Thrash was born in 1893 and raised in a cabin outside the town of Griffin in rural Georgia. The second of four children, he was raised primarily, perhaps solely, by his beloved mother, Ophelia. Throughout her adult life, Ophelia Thrash worked six to seven days a week as a housekeeper and cook for a white family named Taylor while providing materially and spiritually...
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From the Executive Director

For a long time, the Smithsonian Institution has called itself “The Nation’s Attic.” The name conjures up its role as America’s memory. Storerooms hold bits and pieces of the lives of Americans, famous and less celebrated. That metaphor also works for us here at PHMC. We consider ourselves to be like a Pennsylvania version of the Smithsonian museums, capturing the broad history of the...
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ENIAC, the First All-Purpose Digital Computer

Seventy-five years ago, in February 1946, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer — ENIAC — was publicly demonstrated as the world’s first large-scale general-purpose digital computer. It was designed by John Mauchly (1907–80) and J. Presper Eckert (1919–95) at the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering in Philadelphia. Research began during World War II in...
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Tommy Loughran, Boxing’s “Philly Phantom”

The sport of boxing emerged in America in the 1800s, and by the early 20th century it had become one of the country’s most popular spectator sports. Philadelphia was a leading center of boxing at the time, and many of the best fighters hailed from the city. Thomas Patrick “Tommy” Loughran (1902–82) was born in Philadelphia to Irish Catholic immigrants during the heyday of boxing. He began in the...
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George Marshall by David L. Roll

George Marshall Defender of the Republic by David L. Roll Dutton Caliber, 704 pp., hardcover $34 George C. Marshall grew up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, but his chosen path would take him far, both physically and conceptually. His notable service in the military spanned from Gen. John J. Pershing’s aide-de-camp in World War I to Army chief of staff during World War II. After the war, he served as...
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Marketing Patriotism: Pennsylvania Railroad Advertising During World War II

During World War II, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) spent lavishly on patriotic magazine advertising. No other railroad put so much effort, money or creative talent into a campaign to boost the war and create favorable public opinion for itself. As the single largest railroad in the United States, the Philadelphia-based “Pennsy” carried 10 percent of all freight in America and 20 percent of all...
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From the Susquehanna to the Rhine: The Military Career of Daniel Strickler in Two World Wars

“Hold at all costs.” It’s an order no commander wants to give. It is certainly unwelcome — and perhaps even terrifying — to the subordinate who receives it. The phrase was used on the morning of December 16, 1944, at the headquarters for the 28th Infantry Division in Wiltz, Luxembourg. Maj. Gen. Norman Cota (1893–1971), the commander of the 28th, issued the order during the initial phase of the...
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Soldiers to Governors: World War II

More than 1 million Pennsylvanians served in the Armed Forces during World War II. Five of these servicemembers would later be elected as Pennsylvania’s governor. Carrying on the great American tradition of citizen-soldiers, these civilians or members of the National Guard left their homes and families to volunteer to fight for their country during a crucial period in history. The Pennsylvania...
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