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

Documenting Pennsylvania’s Past: The First Century of the Pennsylvania State Archives

Edited by Willis L. Shirk Jr.
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2003 (242 pages, paper, $32.95)

A detailed and highly graphic centennial celebration in print, Documenting Pennsylvania’s Past: The First Century of the Pennsylvania State Archives offers readers a glimpse at the vast holdings of the Keystone State’s official repository for government records and papers of individuals, organizations, and businesses deemed worthy of preservation. Established in 1903 and assigned to a small room in the basement of the old State Library and Museum Building (now the Speaker Matthew J. Ryan Legislative Office Building) adjacent to the State Capitol, the Pennsylvania State Archives now occupies a twenty-story tower housing nearly two hundred million pages of documents. These collections – comprising photographs, maps, blueprints, audio-visual materials, forty million images of historical records on microfilm, and electronic records on tapes, discs, and CD-ROMs – reveal the thrilling moments, diverse peoples, and competing visions that make up the raw materials that tell the rich history of the Keystone State. Documenting Pennsylvania’s Past celebrates the centennial of the Pennsylvania State Archives, tracing its history from its modest beginnings as the Division of Public Records of the State Library, through its incorporation in the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1945, to the present-day challenges of managing records created by twenty-first-century technologies. This intelligently written, thoughtfully organized, and beautifully illustrated book celebrates – most fittingly – the documents and records safeguarded by the Pennsylvania State Archives: the Royal Charter for Pennsylvania granted by King Charles to founder William Penn in 1681; the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776; a 1737 deed for the infamous Walking Purchase; a manuscript copy of the 1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery; and a license authoring a Philadelphian “to trade with the Nations or Tribes of Indians, with whom his Majesty is connected,” signed by John Penn in 1765. Documenting Pennsylvania’s Past, however, showcases more than the famous and the infamous. In this book, readers will find a Civil War-era photograph of the Cornwall Iron Furnace; a map of Erie surveyed and published in 1851; a circa 1858 albumen print of the Horse­shoe Curve by William T. Purviance; the death warrant signed in 1878 by Governor John F. Hartranft for John “Black Jack” Kehoe, a leader of the Molly Maguires, a group of miners that took their fight against labor injustice in the anthracite region during the second half of the nineteenth century into their own hands; a stock certificate issued by the Philadelphia and Lan­caster Turnpike Road Company in 1795; mid-nineteenth ­century marriage records of Perry County; a sanitary engineering report written following the outbreak of typhoid fever in Lime Ridge, Columbia County, in 1910; late nineteenth-century death records of Johnstown, Cambria County; a handbill for Sally Rand’s appearance in Sunset Strip Case, a 1938 motion picture vetted by the State Board of Censors; and a J. Horace Mc­Farland lantern slide of a Dibble’s Farm Seed Catalog for 1911. These images constitute just the very tip of the proverbial iceberg – the book features numerous historic and rare photographs documenting the Commonwealth’s varied industries, sports, and personalities. Essays written by individuals best suited to describe these treasures – Pennsylvania State Archives staff members – provide context and illuminating narratives revealing some of the fascinating stories associated with the records. Documenting Pennsylvania’s Past: The First Century of the Pennsylvania State Archives is an absorbing guided tour among some of the most precious and fragile pieces of the Commonwealth’s memory.


Voices of the Turtledoves: The Sacred World of Ephrata

By Jeff Bach
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003 (282 pages, cloth, $35.00)

Ephrata Cloister, a historic site administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), was a community of radical Pietists founded by Georg Conrad Beissel (1691-1768), a charismatic mystic who had been a journeyman baker in Europe. In 1720, he and a few companions sought a new life in William Penn’s land of religious freedom, eventually settling on the banks of the Cocalico Creek in what is now Lan­caster County (see “Pushing William Penn’s ‘Holy Experiment’ to its Limits: Ephrata Cloister” by John Bradley, Fall 1996). Beis­sel and his followers named their community Ephrata, a Hebrew word for the area around Bethlehem. At its height in the 1760s, the community at Ephrata probably numbered more than two hundred members. Celibate “brothers” and “sisters” were divided into two separate but cooperative orders, jointly called the Solitary that followed a rule of ascetic devotion. A third order, the Householders, consisted of families that worshiped with the brothers and sisters and contributed to the communal economy. Voices of the Turtledoves: The Sacred World of Ephrata is the first book to draw extensively on Ephrata’s manuscript resources and on recent archaeological excavations (conducted annually by the PHMC since 1994) to present an overarching look at the community. The author concludes that the key to understanding the various aspects of life at Ephrata – its religious practices, social organization, manuscript art, and medieval-style architecture – is the thought of Beissel and his fellow leaders. Beissel preached God’s impending destruction of European Christendom, exhorting believers to prepare in lives of self-denial for the coming paradise of eternity. He embodied both fiery and prayerful charisma that rarely became routine to his listeners. Beissel promised and lived a rigorous training of body and soul in anticipation of eternity. Ephrata delivered a somewhat better “here-and-now” by sharing economic resources and labor, providing housing, and removing celibate women from the dangers of childbirth. Few of those who flocked to Beissel could know that the hardships of the Old World would yield in Pennsylvania not to an angelic paradise, but to a new colony of prosperity and toleration. Precisely that toleration allowed them to give visible form and expression to their Christian faith and practices, originally honed on the margins of Protestant dissent in Europe. They embodied this faith in one of the most singular constructions of gender identity in the American colonies. While not all at Ephrata Cloister shared Beissel’s views, nor did all find God or paradise in the Lancaster County commune, Beissel’s language so shaped the ways in which they ultimately conducted their lives. Many individuals at Ephrata sought to be united with Christ in a mystical union, much like the turtledoves frequently found in pairs in Ephrata’s works of art, from which this book derives its title.


The Pirates Reader

Edited by Richard Peterson
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003 (339 pages, cloth, $27.00)

The Pirates Reader is a sensational collection of more than sixty essays, stories, recollections, articles, and interviews offering entertainment, evoking emotion, and celebrating tradition. The team is one of the most respected and glorious franchises in major league baseball, the author contends, and he presents the history of the “Bucs” through the writings of some of the game’s greatest storytellers. For more than a century, the Pittsburgh Pirates have thrilled, frustrated, and fascinated generations of fans. One of the oldest franchises in major league baseball, the team began in 1876 as the Pittsburgh Alleghenies and entered the National League in 1887. Within a few years the team’s name was changed to the Pirates after “stealing” second baseman Louis Bierbauer from the Philadelphia Athletics (see “Philadelphia’s Mr. Baseball and His Amazing Athletics” by William C. Kashatus III, Summer 1990). Barney Dreyfuss purchased the Pirates at the turn of the century and latmched a winning tradition that brought four pennants and a World Series championship to Pittsburgh in a span of ten years. The Pittsburgh Pirates now hold five world championships and have had thirty-six players and managers inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, among them Honus Wagner, Pie Traynor, Lloyd and Paul Waner, Ralph Kiner, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, and Bill Mazeroski. The anthology opens with the poetry and magic of baseball, focusing on the 1970s, perhaps the most triumphant and tragic decade, before revisiting the beginnings of professional baseball in Pittsburgh and journeys through the many exciting events and among the unusual personalities in the team’s history. The Pirates Reader documents both the highs and the lows of the team, among the most poignant of which is the death of Clemente in 1972 (see “Profile,” Summer 2003). The book includes stories and articles by the greatest names in sports writing, including Henry Chadwick, the father of baseball statistics, and Alfred H. Spink, founder of The Sporting News. The book features pieces by George F. Will, Ring Lardner, Thomas Boswell, Roger Angell, Damon Runyon, and Dave Barry, among others. The Pirates Reader is a tribute to Pittsburgh teams, their fans throughout the nation, and to the franchise’s contributions to the national pastime.


The Weaver’s Craft: Cloth, Commerce, and Industry in Early Pennsylvania

By Adrienne D. Hood
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003 (230 pages, cloth, $35.00)

Cloth ruled as one of the most important commodities in the early modern world, and colonial North Americans had to develop creative strategies to acquire it. Although early European settlers came from societies in which hand textile production was central to the economy, local conditions in North America interacted with traditional craft structures to create new patterns of production and consumption. The Weaver’s Craft: Cloth, Commerce, and Industry in Early Pennsylvania examines the development of cloth manufacture in early Pennsylvania from its roots in seventeenth-century Europe to the beginning of industrialization. This focus on Pennsylvania and the long sweep of history yields a new understanding of the complexities of early American fabric production and the regional variations that led to distinct experiences of industrialization. Drawing on an extensive array of primary sources, combined with a quantitative approach, the author argues that, in contrast to New England, rural Pennsylvania women spun the yarn that a small group of trained male artisans wove into cloth on a commercial basis throughout the eighteenth century. Their production was considerably augmented by consumers purchasing cheap cloth from Asia and Europe, making them active participants in a global marketplace. The author’s painstaking research and illustrations of textile equipment, swatch books, and consumer goods will interest both scholars and craftspeople.