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

The Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1879-1918

by Linda F. Witmer
Cumberland County Historical Society, 1993 (166 pages, cloth, $29.95)

The Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1879-1918, is a photo­graphic essay tracing the origins and development of the educational institu­tion established in the Cumberland County seat by Captain Richard H. Pratt. The Indian Industrial School was the first American Indian boarding school delib­erately located far from the reservation, in an Eastern environment free of the West’s anti-Indian prejudices, and re­moved from the influences of native cultures. A career soldier and friend to the American Indian, Pratt believed that, given equal opportunities, Indians would become contributing members of American society. This goal of accultura­tion was to be accomplished by “total immersion in the white man’s world.” More than eight thousand students, rep­resenting virtually every tribe in the country, came to study at the Indian Industrial School during its nearly four decades of existence. A conscientious Army officer and experienced lobbyist, Pratt persuaded key officials in the U.S. Department of the Interior and the War Department to allow him to establish a school for American Indians at the aban­doned cavalry barracks at Carlisle. Pratt realized that Carlisle’s proximity to fed­eral offices in Washington, D. C., was as important as its distance from Indian reservations in the West. While removing Indian children as far away as possible from their traditional culture in the West, he would also be moving them closer to civilization in the East. On September 6, 1879, Pratt was ordered by the War Department to report to the Department of the Interior for Indian educational duty and then “to proceed to Dakota and Indian Territory to recruit Sioux students for the new school.” Despite initial resis­tance by Indian leaders, Pratt was able to convince them to send school age chil­dren to Carlisle for education. His recruiting tour throughout the West was, indeed, successful. At midnight on Monday, October 6, 1879, eighty-two boys and girls in native dress, tired but excited, arrived on the eastern edge of Carlisle, where they were met by hun­dreds of people to walk with them from the railroad station to their new quarters. The process of photographing the school and the students began immediately­ – and so begins this book. The Indian Industrial School showcases, often in inti­mate detail, what life was like for the young students. In addition to the cus­tomary group portraits, the book features photographs of young American Indians at work and at play. They were pho­tographed in painting class, in the library, during a fire drill, parading in Philadelphia, costumed as famous Shakespearean characters, at camp, doing laundry, and ice skating. No task or game was ignored. This photographic history is important because it provides not only a portrait of an unusual educa­tional institution, but it offers a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the accultura­tion of American Indians during a forty year period. The Indian Industrial School features an essay by Richard L. Tritt, photo editor for the Cumberland County Historical Society, entitled “Notes on the Indian School Photographs and Photographers,” in which he describes the society’s collection of twenty-five hundred images documenting the insti­tution. This copiously illustrated book also includes a list of students and a ros­ter of staff and teachers.

 

Thomas Mellon and His Times

by Thomas Mellon
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994 (478 pages, cloth, $35.00)

First privately printed in a limited edition solely for his family and friends more than a century ago, Thomas Mellon’s autobiography stands the test of time. Thomas Mellon (1813-1908) wrote this 1885 memoir as a “memento of affection” for those he loved and be­friended, and he sternly warned in his preface that it must never be “for sale in the bookstores, nor any new edition pub­lished.” His caveat effectively concealed for several generations a book that is being recognized as a masterful American autobiography. Now, eleven decades later, the story of the individual who laid the foundation for one of the country’s greatest fortunes is available to all. At the time he looked back upon his life, the seventy-two-year-old Mellon was a highly successful Pittsburgh entre­preneur and banker. Highly literate and an excellent narrative writer, Mellon was deadly honest about his life, family, and financial success. Born in Ulster of Scotch-Irish heritage, Mellon immigrated with his family to the United States in 1818 at the age of five. He was raised by his parents on a small, hilly farm at “Poverty Point,” as it was then called, about twenty miles east of Pittsburgh. When he was ten years old, he walked to Pittsburgh and, awestruck, saw the man­sion, store, and steam-powered grist mill of the prosperous Negley family. “The whole scene was new to me, and impressed me with an idea of wealth and magnificence I had before no conception of,” he wrote. “I remember wondering how it could be possible to accumulate such wealth, and how magnificent must be the style of living and what pleasures they must enjoy who possessed it. I re­member also of the thought occurring whether I might not one day attain in some degree such wealth ….” Twenty years later, in 1843, Sarah Jane Negley ac­cepted his offer of marriage after a courtship that, Mellon analyzed, took “much valuable time, somewhat to the prejudice of my professional business.” (The Mellons remained devoted to one another; their marriage lasted sixty-five years.) The second turning point of Mellon’s life was a bold decision he made at the age of seventeen. For years his father Andrew had insisted that his son become a farmer. One day in 1831, leaving his son cutting lumber, Andrew Mellon rode to the Westmoreland County seat to finalize the purchase of an adjacent farm which he intended for Thomas. “Nearly crazed” by the impend­ing collapse of all hope of “acquiring knowledge and wealth,” young Mellon threw down his ax and ran miles to Greensburg to stop the purchase. From this spontaneous decision flowed his later and much-lauded success as judge, banker, and entrepreneur who caught the exhilarating tide of the American econ­omy during the second half of the nineteenth century. When Thomas Mellon died in 1908 at the age of ninety­-five, he was an almost mythic figure in American business history. He success­fully concealed until the present his literary bequest – a masterful, candid, readable, and sharply perceptive book about himself and his family, his work, the fortune he created, and the era in which he lived. His descendants – in­cluding his grandson Paul Mellon, who wrote the preface for this edition – would play major roles in American business, art, and philanthropy. The foreword to Thomas Mellon and His Times was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, who characterizes it as “a vastly engrossing nineteenth-century rags-to-riches autobiography … a charm­ing memoir with some surprisingly meditative reflections … on the bewildering changes wrought by nineteenth-century industrialism” (see “Homeward Bound: An Interview with David McCullough” by Brent D. Glass in the summer 1994 edi­tion of Pennsylvania Heritage).