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

Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architec­ture

by David Bruce Brownlee and David G. De Long
Museum of Contemporary Art and Rizzoli International Publications, 1991 (448 pages, paper, $34.95)

Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974) had strong ties to Philadelphia during his internationally acclaimed architectural career. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1906, and was encouraged by the Graphic Sketch Club, Central High School, and the University of Pennsylvania . It was in Philadelphia that Kahn executed some of his earliest professional work, as chief of design for the Sesquicenten­nial Exposition (1925-1926); built his first independent commission, the Ahavath Israel Synagogue (1935); and designed his first mature work of major significance, the Rich­ards Medical Research Build­ing (1957-1961) at the University of Pennsylvania. New York’s Museum of Mod­ern Art (MoMA) honored the Richards structure with an exhibition, hailing it as “proba­bly the most consequential building constructed in the U. S. since the war.” The archi­tect’s designs for Philadelphia ranged from houses and hous­ing to visionary and large-scale plans for center-city. To cele­brate Kahn’s legacies, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, organized an exhibition which shares the same title as this book. Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architec­ture, expected to become the definitive scholarly source for the study of the architect and his work, contains guest es­says and guest articles on his buildings, as well as a com­plete list of his projects and structures from 1925 to 1974, a chronology of his life and work, and a bibliography. More than five hundred pho­tographs of his drawings and models illustrate this first comprehensive survey of Kahn’s contributions to the practice and history of archi­tecture.

 

“The River Ran Red”: Homestead 1892

by David P. Demarest, Jr., editor
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992 (232 pages, paper, $19.95)

The violence that erupted at the Carnegie Steel Company’s sprawling Homestead mill near Pittsburgh on July 6, 1892, attracted national atten­tion, prompted a congressional investigation and trials for treason, motivated a nearly successful assassination at­tempt on Henry Clay Frick, contributed to the defeat of Pres. Benjamin Harrison for a second term, and irrevocably changed the course – and history – of the American labor movement (see “‘The Public is Entitled to Know’: Fighting for the Public Memory of Henry Clay Frick” by Brent D. Glass in the winter 1992 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). Al­though “The River Ran Red”: Homestead 1892 commemorates the centennial of the Home­stead Steel Strike, instead of retelling the story of the strike, the book re-creates the events of that summer in excerpts drawn from contemporary newspapers and magazines, reproductions of pen-and-ink sketches and photographs made on the scene, passages from the congressional investi­gation that resulted from the strike, firsthand accounts by both participants and observ­ers, and poems, songs, and sermons from throughout the country. Contributions by outstanding scholars and respected researchers provide the context for understanding the social and cultural aspects of the strike, as well as its violence. A collaboration of a team of writers, archivists, and historians, “The River Ran Red” is readable, as well as richly illustrated, and recalls public and personal reactions to an event in American history whose reverberations can still be felt.

 

Historic Philadelphia

by William C. Kashatus III
University Press of America, 1992 (198 pages, paper, $19.50)

In Historic Philadelphia: The City, Symbols and Patriots, 1681-1800, the author deftly cap­tures the familiar figures and symbolism of the city’s rich eighteenth century past, as well as the heady drama of some of American history’s greatest moments, such as the clandestine meetings of the Second Continental Congress, the drafting of the United States Constitution, and the exciting final days of Philadelphia’s prestigious – and turbulent – role as the nation’s capital. Historic Philadelphia was written by a Philadelphian for fellow Philadelphians, as well as for visitors to what he characterizes by the opening chapter as “The Cradle of American Liberty.” The book is not intended to be a scholarly work, but rather a popularly­-styled history, one designed to excite the curiosity of the reader and offer new and fresh interpretations of existing historical data. The opening section provides an informal, concise history of the city from its founding in 1681 to the turn of the nineteenth century, while the second section dis­cusses the historical signifi­cance of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, the two most widely recognized sym­bols of Philadelphia’s legacy to the nation. The third segment explores the lives of the city’s most prominent citizens and their contributions to its devel­opment during the colonial period, while the concluding chapters suggest walking tours of Old City. Historic Philadel­phia: The City, Symbols and Patriots, 1681-1800, is an ideal companion for readers desir­ing more than the brief out­lines contained in typical visitors’ guidebooks but want­ing material more entertaining than detailed treatments and interpretations provided by scholarly reference works. (The author of Historic Philadel­phia is, incidentally, a regular contributor to Pennsylvania Heritage.)

 

Shattered Dreams

by Paul W. Heimel
Leader Publishing Company, 1992 (175 pages, paper, $10.95)

Shattered Dreams: The Ole Bull Colony in Pennsylvania recounts the saga of the fa­mous nineteenth century Norwegian master violinist Ole Bull (1810-1880) and those Scandinavians who followed him to establish villages in the wilderness of southern Potter County. The book opens with an announcement in summer 1852 by the People’s Journal, a Coudersport newspaper, of Bull’s purchase of one hun­dred and twenty thousand acres in northwestern Pennsyl­vania. (Bull – who had de­lighted Americans during his tour a decade earlier – actually purchased a little more than eleven thousand acres.) He arrived at Coudersport in September, followed several days later by the first wave of colonists, and traveled south to establish settlements at present-day Oleona (then called Oleana), Carter Camp (originally known as Carter Camp), and Ole Bull State Park. Confident and idealistic, Ole Bull christened his colony as “a new Norway, consecrated to liberty, baptized in freedom, and protected by the glorious flag of America.” Although Bull’s intentions were idealis­tic, they were less than realis­tic: it would be difficult to establish and maintain a series of self-sufficient agricultural communities in such a moun­tainous, sparsely populated, and isolated region. He in­vested a fortune in the colony before realizing its impractical­ity. Even worse, Bull discov­ered that much of the land he believed he had purchased was excluded by language in the deeds, and he developed tracts of land he did not own. It was not long before the visionary maestro’s plans began to crumble. Shattered Dreams examines not only the musician’s plans for New Norway but probes the trans­actions which led to the de­mise of the noble – albeit brief – experiment. The book also addresses what genera­tions of local residents have called “Ole Bull’s Castle”; the settlers who did not abandon their hopes of living in the United States and who re­mained in Potter County; and the arrival of German pioneers in the southern part of the county to settle the village of Germania. Shattered Dreams features several historic images of Ole Bull, as well as illustra­tions of concert programs and broadsides. (The saga of Ole Bull will be recounted by Paul W. Heimel in a full-length and liberally illustrated article to appear in the spring 1993 edi­tion of Pennsylvania Heritage.)

 

Facing the Past

by Susan Danly
American Federation of Arts, 1992 (104 pages, paper, $14.95)

Philadelphia’s venerable­ – and beloved – Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has long been known for its rich holdings of early nineteenth century portraits by members of the prodigious Peale family, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, John Neagle, and Jacob Eicholtz. Through­out the nineteenth century, many works were given to the Pennsylvania Academy by descendants of the sitters and by local collectors who recog­nized the institution’s impor­tant role in the exhibition of portraits and the teaching of portrait painting. The revival of interest in portraiture in the closing decades of the nine­teenth century is reflected by naturalist works by Thomas Eakins and his circle, as well as works by William Merritt Chase, Robert Vonnoh, and Cecilia Beaux. Their works, with those of other fashionable society portraitists, such as Thomas P. Anschutz and John McClure Hamilton, were pur­chased by PAFA from its presti­gious annual exhibitions or given by donors who wanted to recognize these artists’ spe­cial contributions to American art or the sitters’ importance to history. During the last dec­ade, the Pennsylvania Acad­emy has added several significant paintings to its collection of portraiture, in­cluding John Singleton Cop­ley’s Robert “King” Hooper (1767) and Henry Benbridge’s The Gordon Family (circa 1762), to expand its scope and geo­graphical range. Facing the Past: Nineteenth Century Por­traits from the Collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts – the title of a major exhi­bition (on view through Sun­day, April 11, 1993) and accompanying catalogue­ – provides, for the first time, an overview of the Academy’s nineteenth century portrait collection. Facing the Past in­cludes an essay, “The Portrait Tradition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,” chronicling PAFA’s acquisitions during two centuries, and illustrations of more than forty works of art. Not only does the catalogue reveal the variety of likenesses in the Academy’s collection, but it also touches succinctly on the compelling aesthetic and social images suggested by these images to offer readers a fuller apprecia­tion of American history. The catalogue’s essay focuses on the origins of the portrait trade in Philadelphia, emphasizing paintings in the Academy’s collection that represent not only the interests of Philadel­phians, but the nation as a whole. Organized in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts was concerned with the creation of a national artis­tic identity, the edification of the American people through the study of art, and the pro­motion of native-born artists. Portraiture was the most acces­sible form of art that fulfilled the Academy’s goals, and Facing the Past – thoughtfully written and handsomely designed – showcases the famous (and not-so-famous) faces of Philadelphia’s past two centuries.

 

The Pennsylvania Barn

by Robert F. Ensminger
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992 (238 pages, cloth, $39.95)

Subtitled Its Origin, Evolu­tion, and Distribution in North America, this book is the first comprehensive study of this important piece of American vernacular architecture. The forebay bank barn – better known as the Pennsylvania barn or the Pennsylvania Ger­man barn – is one of the most important agricultural struc­tures to have been brought to North America from Europe. It was so ideally suited to agri­cultural practices on this side of the Atlantic Ocean – at least in the humid East and humid West – that it evolved and spread throughout the corn and wheat belts, from the Tidewater to Nebraska, Wash­ington and Oregon, from northern New York and south­ern Ontario, Canada, to Ten­nessee and Texas. The Pennsylvania barn has long been admired as one of the outstanding vernacular farm structures in the United States and Canada. Existing early accounts by travelers in east­ern Pennsylvania indicate that, by the mid-eighteenth century, thriving German farmers were already erecting large barns, while retaining modest log cabin dwellings – a testimonial to the priority they placed on agriculture. The culmination of more than fifteen years of research, The Pennsylvania Barn: Its Origin, Evolution, and Distribution in North America will prove to be invaluable not only to cultural and historical geographers but also to indi­viduals interested in folklore and architectural history­ – especially vernacular architec­ture and material culture. The text is accompanied by more than one hundred and fifty photographs and forty maps.