Barnstorming in Eastern Pennsylvania and Beyond by Jeffrey L. Marshall

Book Review presents reviews of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects by noted scholars, historians and journalists.

Barnstorming in Eastern Pennsylvania and Beyond
by Jeffrey L. Marshall
Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, 224 pp., hardcover $30

In this beautifully illustrated volume, highly regarded preservationist Jeffrey L. Marshall shares his wide-ranging knowledge about Pennsylvania barns and conveys his deep affection for these remarkable structures. The book is geared to the general reader and organized topically in short chapters with titles such as “Under the Forebay” or “The Magic of a Barn.” The stars in this book are the outstanding, evocative photographs taken by the author over several decades. His brief commentaries provide explanations.

The book represents an approach to barns that stresses construction technique, aesthetic beauty, technical accomplishment, and specific function. Aside from a brief foray into the 20th century with a discussion of silos, the book is anchored firmly in the 18th and 19th centuries. The examples are drawn from both well known and less familiar barns. Stone, timber frame, brick, and log construction techniques are discussed and illustrated. Important historical types (ground barn, forebay barns) are covered, and key features (mow, threshing floor, granary) are well depicted and explained.

The book’s unique contributions lie in its wide reach and in the way it exposes many little-known details. Marshall has traveled many byways over many years, and he has built a remarkable knowledge base and an image collection to match. For example, vivid images show “wicket holes,” which reveal where logs were secured to rivergoing rafts back in the day when timber was floated to market. Other photos show unusual survivals like integral windmill structures, hay chutes, and even granary-wall patches made from license plates and flattened lunch-meat cans. Marshall’s eye for detail and composition make for an enjoyable reading and viewing experience.

Sally McMurry
Penn State University