Bookshelf

Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

Made in Pennsylvania­

by Bruce Bomberger and William Sisson
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1991 (57 pages, paper, $6.95)

Subtitled An Overview of the Major Historical Industries of the Commonwealth, this book surveys the industries which have played critical roles in the evolution of both.the Commonwealth and the United States during the past three centuries. The Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries transformed Pennsylvania’s rural, largely agrarian economy into an urban economy dominated by industry. Manufacturing made the Keystone State the iron forge to the colonies, and a leading state in the enormous industrial expansion of the last two centuries. Industry’s impact on the lives of the people of Pennsylvania has been considerable, and its development has been integral to the growth of a modern national economy based on manufacturing and trade. This succinct overview not only outlines the industrialization of Pennsylvania since the eighteenth century and summarizes the history of specific industries important to state and nation, but it addresses the need for the preservation of significant and historic buildings, structures, and sites associated with the Commonwealth’s industrial heritage. Pennsylvania­ – breadbasket of the colonies – eventually ranked second in the production of manufactured goods from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, and was unsurpassed as supplier of the steel, iron, and coal that propelled America’s dramatic industrialization. In addition to citing the significance of transportation, particularly the railroad, the authors contend that “Pennsylvania was the unrivaled provider of such vital products as sawn lumber and petroleum, and supplied a broad and diverse industrial base as a leader in textiles (see “Two Gentlemen of Vision” by Alan D. Tabachnick in the spring 1991 issue), machinery and foundry products, leather, railroad locomotive and car building and repair, coke, printed material, electrical machinery, glass, oil refining, ship building, cigar making, sugar refining, chemicals and drugs, and Portland Cement.” They also note that the Commonwealth has been the birthplace of many innovations, inventions, and technological developments that merit national attention, such as the rolling of the first steel rails, the invention and manufacture of the Westinghouse air brake, the first commercial production of aluminum, and the first drilling of oil wells. Their chapter entitled “Pennsylvania’s Industrial Development” discusses the principal factors that guaranteed Pennsylvania’s prominent place as an industrial leader: the abundance of natural resources, advanced transportation systems, availability of labor, and investment by state government and far-sighted capitalists. It also addresses the major impediments to industrial expansion from the late seventeenth century to the late eighteenth century, including shortage of capital, work forces, and transportation. Made in Pennsylvania includes chapters devoted specifically to the Commonwealth’s foremost and major industries, and the need for preserving and interpreting its past. The concluding chapter, “Preserving Pennsylvania’s Industrial Past,” argues that “it is imperative that significant industrial buildings and sites be preserved. Saving industrial sites from destruction can help Pennsylvanians interpret their past and understand how their world has evolved from the world of yesterday. Preservation and promotion of industrial sites can also aid the development of tourism and the State’s economic revitalization.” Made in Pennsylvania features thirty vintage photographs, several charts, endnotes, and a bibliography.

 

Amish Ways

by Ruth Hoover Seitz
RB Books, 1991 (120 pages, cloth, $1795)

Their distinctive clothes and horse-drawn black buggies make the Amish noticeable, and many of their quaint – and often misunderstood – ways resemble peasant life in nineteenth century Europe. It is no wonder the Bible-based lifestyle of this plain sect provokes curiosity among outsiders. This insightful narrative – illustrated with spectacular photographs by Blair Seitz – addresses the hows and whys of Amish lifestyle. The author’s story, an intimate glimpse of the Amish, is based on experiences and interviews, by which she sensitively describes a home birth; Sunday morning worship services in a suburban basement; a sisters’ day devoted to making chow chow, a popular (and pungent) vegetable relish; and a typical school day. Blair Seitz’s one hundred and fifty stunning full-color photographs – of which two-thirds were taken in Lancaster County – illustrate chapters entitled “Amish Life,” “Farm Life,” “History and Kinfolk,” “Faith and Tradition,” “Community Ties,” “The Family Produce,” “Art and Business,” and “The Amish School.” Although the husband and wife team primarily provide a pleasant and peaceful glance at the Amish lifestyle, they do not neglect the significance of change amidst the seemingly tranquil continuity of Amish life in Pennsylvania. “For young Amish born in the nineties, the winds of change blow across the traditions that are theirs from birth. Their European ancestors suffered persecution for their faith. No Amish remain there, but even here in America they have endured jail and harassment until they made peace with the government regarding their own parochial schools and exemption from high school and Social Security. Now the young ones grow up with innumerable opportunities to make money from tourists and other consumers who crave their well-made products. Whether they can continue farming in the burgeoning East or even will in the light of more remunerative jobs is a puzzler for the upcoming generation. Despite the changes in the workplace, their commitment to family and community – everyone taking care of each other – still holds firm.”

 

A Modest Mennonite Home

by Steve Friesen
Good Books, 1990 (128 pages, paper, $9.95)

In the early eighteenth century, the family of Hans Herr decided to join the exodus of persecuted Mennonites from the Palatinate, making their way from the Old World to the New. Following the urging of founder William Penn, and encouraged by his promise of a “Holy Experiment,” this group sought land and livelihood in what is now Lancaster County. The house that the Herr family erected in 1719 still stands and is a well­-known landmark. It also serves as the focal point for the author’s discussion of the milieu in which the builder and his family lived, worked, and worshipped. In addition to recounting the saga of these (and other) immigrants, A Modest Mennonite Home summarizes the history of the Anabaptists, and of martyrdom, hardship, survival, and renewed strength. The author uses this book to describe the tools used by the early eighteenth century settlers, as well as their dress, customs, culture, and attitudes. A Modest Mennonite Home opens with an introduction by Andrew Wyeth, features handsome color photographs by John P. Herr, and concludes with an extensive bibliography.

 

Cultural Connections

by Morris J. Vogel
Temple University Press, 1991 (256 pages, cloth, $29.95)

The greater Philadelphia region is culturally rich, and its collection of museums, historic sites, libraries, and archives is unsurpassed in the nation. Cultural Connections: Museums and Libraries of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, a guide to these treasures, explores the holdings of these institutions and examines the reasons why society cherishes certain works of art, and particular books, manuscripts, and natural specimens. Addressing broad themes in American history and culture, this book illuminates the vast collection of objects held by the institutions of the Delaware Valley. Featuring more than two hundred and fifty full­-color illustrations, Cultural Connections literally draws “connections” between the holdings of one museum and those of others to reflect the manner in which Americans have consciously thought about culture in making sense of their experience as a people. Readers will catch glimpses of the spectacular galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University Museum, the period rooms of Pennsbury Manor and Hope Lodge, and the less familiar treasures of the American Philosophical Society, the Wagner Free Institute of Science, and the Mercer Museum. The array of both historical and cultural artifacts of the region is nothing less than astonishing. In addition to offering commentary on these fabulous objects, the author discusses the evolution of such institutions, the roles they play in broader society, and the interaction among various groups, such as professional staff members, volunteers, patrons, and visitors. By tracing the origins of Philadelphia’s historical, cultural, and scientific institutions during the formative years of the American republic, Cultural Connections examines the effects of the later economic expansion and rise of fortunes in the mid-and late nineteenth century, explores the notion of progress and the place it occupies in institutions of formal culture, and considers the continual reinterpretation of the past. Brimming with striking photographs and historic images, the book was designed by Katz Wheeler.

 

Volunteers

edited by Allan Peskin
The Kent State University Press, 1991 (342 pages, cloth, $35.00)

The candid and engrossing diaries of two young Pennsylvania attorneys who fought – and grumbled – their way from Vera Cruz to the Halls of Montezuma are featured in Volunteers: The Mexican War Journals of Private Richard Coulter and Sergeant Thomas Barclay, Company E, Second Pennsylvania Infantry. The War with Mexico has been variously described as an act of aggression, as proslavery conspiracy, as hostility, and as America’s manifest destiny. It was the war that inspired James Russell Lowell’s satirical Bigelow Papers and Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. The young Ulysses S. Grant condemned the motives behind the war, but the Pennsylvania diarists harbored no reservations or misgivings – at the time or upon reflection. To them it was a war both necessary and just, a conflict that followed a lengthy series of provocations by the Mexican government. Richard Coulter (1827-1905) and Thomas Barclay (1827-1908) enlisted with the Westmoreland Guards of Greensburg in western Pennsylvania. Much like many of the soldiers in Company E, both Coulter and Barclay were well born and well connected. As part of Winfield Scott’s tiny army, they took part in the battles of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, and Chapultepec. When not fighting Mexicans, hunger, or boredom, they battled their own officers, including Gideon Pillow, John Geary, Joseph Hooker, Preston Brooks, and Caleb Cushing. Coulter and Barclay filled their diaries daily with remarkably vivid and extraordinarily candid descriptions of drunkenness, cowardice, petty criminality, and the various concerns of fellow soldiers. In these highly literate and perceptive diaries – published for the first time in history­ – the Mexican War springs to life as seen through the eyes of these enlisted men. Mexican War diaries are not uncommon, but the diaries of Richard Coulter and Thomas Barclay are notable for their scope and quality. Moreover, there exist few diaries written from the point of view of an enlisted man who served in the entire campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, and of those extant not one can match these insightful journals for either felicity of style or clarity of perception. Occasionally Barclay succumbed to poetic license, but Coulter could generally be relied upon to bring the moment into focus. In their diaries, they complained about officers, Mexicans, Catholicism, and soldiers from all other states except Pennsylvania, but as a rule they accepted their hardships with surprisingly good grace. Coulter and Barclay returned to Greensburg with the Westmoreland Guards, but the unit never raised a monument in the city because of its ambivalence about the morality of war and partly because an even greater conflict eventually consumed the country. These diaries remain the true monument to the young volunteers who struggled for peace in a foreign land.