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

Saved for the People of Pennsylvania: Quilts from The State Museum of Pennsylvania

by Lucinda Reddington Cawley, Lorraine DeAngelis Ezbiansky, and Denise Rocheleau Nordberg
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1997 ($14.95, paper, 67 pages)

Since its founding in 1905, The State Museum of Pennsylvania has collected nearly two million artifacts and objects which docu­ment and interpret the Commonwealth’s history and culture. Among these extensive holdings, quilts made in the Keystone State are especially important accessions, and the museum has acquired nearly two hundred examples since 1924. This collection, the largest in the Commonwealth, contains quilts that are visually exciting works of folk art and textile documents of traditional skills and craft. Because they are as fragile as they are magnificent, these quilts are rarely exhibited for any appreciable length of time, and Saved for the People of Pennsylvania: Quilts from The State Museum of Pennsylvania serves as a graphic treasury of quilts dating from about 1800 through the nation’s 1976 bicentennial. Documentation of the museum’s quilt collection, completed in 1995, contains phys­ical descriptions and details about each piece, supplemented with information gleaned from museum files, census and genealogical records, and local historical societies. The book offers a pictorial sampling of the quilts and gives readers an overview of the many styles contained in the museum’s collection. The highlights of the collection are arranged in six broad categories: early quilts, which illustrate the evolution from the English needlework tradition to the distinctly American repeat-block style; signature quilts; classic red and green appliqué quilts popular in the United States between 1840 and 1870; pieced quilts, representing a century of quiltmaking; silk and classic crazy quilts; and quintessentially Pennsylvanian quilts in style or color, dramatically (and colorfully) documenting the primary position of the Commonwealth in the evolution of American quiltmaking. Saved for the People of Pennsylvania showcases dozens of quilts in striking color, as well as many detail photographs in crisp black and white. The book includes a glossary and a listing of quilts and related textiles acquired by The State Museum in chronological order, notes, and a select bibliography. Its title is taken from a note attached to a Star of Bethlehem quilt pieced by Sally Albright of Dauphin County about 1900 and acquired by the museum in 1931: “Save for the People of Pennsylvania.”


Thaddeus Stevens, Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian

by Hans L. Trefousse
University of North Carolina Press, 1997 (312 pages, cloth, $39.95)

One of the nineteenth century’s most controversial figures, Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) is remembered chiefly as congres­sional leader of radical Republicans and as chief architect of Reconstruction (see “Thaddeus Stevens: Equality of Man Before His Creator” by Beverly Wilson Palmer in the Spring 1992 edition). Long characterized by historians as a vindictive “dictator of Congress,” intent on punishing the South on behalf of business interests and his own ego, Stevens’s role in American politics receives a more balanced treatment in this revealing biography. The author portrays him as an impassioned orator, an indefatiga­ble advocate of racial equality, a leader in the struggle against slavery – truly an egalitarian. Born in Vermont, he moved at the age of twenty-two to Pennsylvania, first teaching in 1815 at the York Academy in York, and establishing a law office the following year in Gettysburg, which would be his home for a quarter of a century. Stevens quickly became well known and practiced in Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York Counties. Between 1821 and 1830, he was involved in every case reaching the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania from Adams County and won nine of his first ten appeals. This telling biography traces Stevens’s career from his early days as a prominent lawyer, prosperous business­man, and state legislator, when he furthered the cause of public education and antagonized Freemasons, slaveholders, and Jacksonian Democrats; to his tenure as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee during the Civil War; and finally to his political involvement during Reconstruction (the twelve-year period between 1865 and 1877 during which the federal govern­ment ruled the former Confederate states before readmitting them to the Union), when he helped write the Fourteenth Amendment and spurred the passage of the Reconstruction Acts and the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. These last measures, although radical, stopped short of achieving Stevens’s ultimate goal of securing black suffrage and the extended disenfranchise­ment of the South’s ruling class. The author also addresses the riddle of the enigmatic leader’s personality – his seeming harsh­ness toward foes, his kindness toward the poor and powerless, his stern manner and searing sarcasm – and explores the motivations of Stevens’s lifelong commitment to racial equality. Thaddeus Stevens, Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian offers an intriguing portrait of the Pennsylvanian whose impassioned opposition to slavery helped move his more moderate congressional colleagues toward the implementation of egalitarianism.


Fighter with a Heart: Writings of Charles Owen Rice, Pittsburgh Labor Priest

edited by Charles J. McCollester
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996 (244 pages, cloth, $49.95; paper, $19.95)

Monsignor Charles Owen Rice is one of the most influential religious figures in the history of western Pennsylvania. As Pittsburgh’s controversial labor priest, he has exerted considerable impact on the American labor movement. A radio commentator for four decades and a newspaper columnist for nearly sixty years, he has raised his voice to support workers’ struggles, resist racists, chide the comfortable, champion the poor, house the homeless, and hear the imprisoned. Born in New York City in 1908, Rice began his lifelong association with western Pennsylvania when he and his brother Patrick, after spending several years in Ireland being raised by a grandmother, two aunts, and an uncle after their mother’s death, rejoined their father in Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington section. Rice graduated from Duquesne University in 1930, after which he enrolled in St Vincent’s Seminary in Latrobe, Westmoreland County. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1934. Influenced by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker, who popularized papal and encyclical teach­ings on workers and the poor, Rice founded the Catholic Radical Alliance with two fellow priests and a small group of lay persons. During the thirties he established himself as a vocal public apolo­gist for the new Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and was selected to give the opening prayer at its first convention, held in Pittsburgh in fall 1937. His appearance was not a token gesture, however; Rice spoke at rallies, counseling nonviolence and urging adherence to the union cause. To workers and the general public, he implicitly carried the Catholic Church’s sanction of industrial union organizing which was being attacked from many sides as being communist inspired. His defense of the CIO as free from communist domination led him to struggle with the real influence of the Communist Party inside the CIO. He began to focus his anticommunist efforts on the political arena outside the unions, believing his stance gave him credibility as a defender of the 00, just as his fervent support for unionism gave greater force to his anticommunist attacks. As time passed, he centered himself inside a growing Catholic social justice movement. He began publishing book reviews and occasional articles, and as author of weekly columns in The Pittsburgh Catholic and other periodicals and jour­nals, Monsignor Rice chronicled the dramatic evolution of Pittsburgh as one of the world’s greatest manufacturing centers to a city in search of its soul. Early in his clerical career, he articulated the Catholic Church’s support for organized labor and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. His anticommunist campaigns of the forties had helped define the character of trade union poli­tics in post-World War II America. In vocal opposition to the Vietnam War and strident support for African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s, he expressed a Catholic social philosophy that was politically radical while theologically orthodox. In his intro­duction, the compiler and editor of this collection of forceful and eloquent writings contends that Monsignor Rice, deeply loyal to the institutional church, never deviated in matters of faith or morals, reserving criticism solely for Catholic hospitals and nurs­ing homes that resisted unionization. Texts of Fighter with a Heart: Writings of Charles Owen Rice, Pittsburgh Labor Priest, have been drawn chiefly from his published pieces; previously unpublished works are used, and only sparingly, to help explain various events or time frames. The focus of Fighter with a Heart is Rice’s writings about labor unions and the struggles for social injustice in which he participated, but the book also offers a few examples of his writings about his Irish family roots, Irish and Irish-American politics, and a wide range of national and .international events. Rice’s rich, evocative prose is rivaled only by the riveting pho­tographs of him with John L. Lewis at the first CIO convention in 1938; addressing a steel strike rally in 1937; watching as President Roosevelt opens a Pittsburgh housing project in 1940; picketing during a hospital strike in 1941; being introduced to President Harry S Truman by Pittsburgh Mayor (and later Pennsylvania Governor) David L. Lawrence in 1948; marching arm-in-arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1967 mobilization march to the United Nations; and protesting the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. Fighter with a Heart offers a firsthand, first-person glimpse of some of the most eventful and turbulent periods in American history, seen with understanding, and told with a rare mix of truth and compassion.


Holding the Line: The Telephone in Old Order Mennonite and Amish Life

by Diane Zimmerman Umble
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996 (193 pages, cloth, $35.00)

Among the Old Order Mennonite and Amish communities of Lancaster County, the coming of the telephone posed a serious challenge – and threat – to the longstanding traditions of work, worship, silence, even visiting. Ninety years ago, in 1907, Mennonites crafted a compromise to avoid a church split and grudgingly allowed telephones for lay people while prohibiting telephone ownership among the clergy. By 1909, the Amish had completely banned the telephone from their homes. Since then, the vigorous and sometimes painful debates about the meaning of the telephone have revealed intense concerns about the processes Old Order communities use to confront and mediate change. Holding the Line: The Telephone in Old Order Mennonite and Amish Life offers a historical and ethnographic study of the ways in which both sects responded to and accommodated the telephone from the opening of this century to the present. For these communities, the author writes, appropriate use of the telephone marks the edge of appropriate association – who can be connected to whom, in what context, and under what circumstances. The author’s analy­sis of the social meaning of the telephone explores how technology affects community identity and the maintenance of cultural values through the regulation of the means of communication. Analytical and in-depth, Holding the Line explains, through the use of extensive documentary sources, not only how the telephone was used, but how the technology was perceived through time.