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

Harmony in Wood: Furniture of the Harmony Society

by Philip D. Zimmerman
published by the Friends of Old Economy Village, 2010; 214 pages, cloth, $60.00

Creators of an immensely successful nineteenth-century utopian society, the Harmonists, led by George Rapp (1757–1847), emigrated from Germany and first settled Harmony in Butler County in 1804, moved west to Indiana ten years later where they established a second Harmony on the Wabash River, and returned to western Pennsylvania to develop Economy in Beaver County in 1825. Rapp and his several hundred followers had organized the Harmony Society based on a written contract specifying communal ownership of all property and lived a godly life while awaiting the Second Coming of Christ.

The Harmony Society eventually emerged as an economic powerhouse. Although the original settlement was agriculturally self-sufficient, economic expansion eventually included various industrial pursuits such as winemaking, brewing and distilling alcoholic beverages, textile manufacturing, banking, brick making, and railroading. Commodities included shoes and leather goods, ironware, soap, candles, and silk, all of which contributed to the financial well-being of the society.

The prosperity eventually came to an end and in 1903 the society’s remaining assets were liquidated and mounting debts satisfied. In 1916, after much legal contentiousness, ownership of six acres and seventeen buildings and structures transferred to the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, predecessor of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). Today PHMC administers the complex as Old Economy Village, a destination along the popular Pennsylvania Trails of History.

The Harmonists created a remarkable material world. Many of their objects and artifacts survive intact at Old Economy Village. An extensive furniture collection, dating to the years between 1805 and 1835, has long daunted scholars and researchers because the pieces are unsigned, unmentioned in the society’s accounts and records, and went uninventoried after individual members died. Philip D. Zimmerman, an authority on American furniture, overcame these obstacles by employing object-based analysis to identify core features distinguishing Harmonist-made furniture from that produced by craftsmen elsewhere. The result of his scholarship is Harmony in Wood: Furniture of the Harmony Society, a sumptuous coffee-table style volume featuring historic images and stunning color photographs of tables, chests of drawers, cupboards, clocks, candle boxes, clothes- presses, benches, chairs, and blanket chests.

Rendering Harmony in Wood an outstanding publication are the descriptions and photographs of details the author researched that hallmark furniture made by the Harmonists. Over four years, Zimmerman worked with a number of individuals, including volunteers and staff of Old Economy Village, to make this work available to students of communal life, American furniture, and Pennsylvania history.

Harmony in Wood: Furniture of the Harmony Society includes a select bibliography and an extensive index.


The Practice of Pluralism: Congregational Life and Religious Diversity in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1730–1820

by Mark Haberlein
published by the Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009; 276 pages, cloth, $79.00

The clash of modernity and an Amish buggy might be the first image that comes to mind when imagining Lancaster, heralded as the heart of the “Pennsylvania Dutch Country.” In the early to mid-eighteenth century, Lancaster was an active and religiously diverse, ethnically complex, and bustling community. By the eve of the American Revolution, its population had risen to three thousand inhabitants; it ranked as a center of commerce, industry, and trade. The German-speaking population — Anabaptists as well as German Lutherans, Moravians, and German Calvinists — made up the majority, but about one-third were English-speaking Anglicans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers, Calvinists, and other Christian groups. A small group of Jewish families resided in Lancaster without a synagogue.

Painstakingly mining historical documents, from tax records to church membership rolls, Mark Haberlein confirms in The Practice of Pluralism: Congregational Life and Religious Diversity in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1730–1820, that religion in the community was neither declining nor rapidly changing.

The growing diversity of Lancaster’s religious population was largely due to the fact that it was the oldest of the communities in the Pennsylvania backcountry. Founded in 1730, it became the administrative center of Lancaster County and a significant commercial hub connecting the metropolis of Philadelphia to a rapidly expanding hinterland. The community counted twenty-eight hundred residents by 1770, and its population grew to four thousand by the close of the eighteenth century. The author writes that these figures made Lancaster one of the largest inland settlements in eighteenth-century North America. Moreover, its commerce foreshadowed, on a smaller scale, the role that Midwestern cities such as Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis would assume in the nineteenth century.

Haberlein’s study of early records suggests that Lancaster fits a pattern of religious vitality, congregational growth, and a proliferation of ecclesiastical organizations. Since Lancaster, unlike New England towns, never knew a religious establishment but included a plurality of congregations from its beginning, this study also illuminates the diverse religious character of eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. However, the author emphasizes that “the microcosm of Lancaster does not fully represent the ‘crazy quilt’ of religious groups that had formed in the colony on account of religious toleration and the diversity of immigration.”


The Martinos: A Legacy of Art

by James McClelland
published by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2010; 181 pages, cloth, $59.95

By virtue of its prodigiousness alone, Philadelphia’s Martino family — which James McClelland compares to the Peale, Wyeth, and Calder dynasties — deserves a niche in the annals of American art history for which the writer makes a compelling case with his splendidly illustrated book entitled The Martinos: A Legacy of Art.

The story of this talented family begins with the patriarch and matriarch, Carmine Antonio, a stonecutter and mason, and Clementina Barenello Martino, a seamstress, who emigrated from Italy to the United States in the late nineteenth century. Carmine left the small village of Montacilioni, in the Campobasso Province of the Molise Region and sailed to New York aboard the SS Burgundi in 1888. His future wife left Ferrazano, near Montacilioni, and arrived in Philadelphia aboard the SS Neustria in 1893. The couple married in 1896.

The seven brothers of the second generation of Martinos in America — Modestino Francesco (Frank) (1896–1941), Antonio (Tony) Pietro (1902–1988), Alberto Benedict Francis (1904–1980), Ernesto Charles (1906–1981), Giovanni Ronald (1908–1998), William Clement (1910–1980), and Edmund (1915–2000) — became skilled in fine arts, particularly landscape painting, graphic arts, and commercial art. Sister Antonietta (1900– 1902) died at two years of age and Filomena (1898–1922) committed suicide at the age of twenty-four.

In 1926, after their boss at Philadelphia’s Mel Richman Art Studio refused to meet their request for a raise from five to ten dollars weekly, the brothers struck out on their own. Frank, Antonio, and Alberto organized the Martino Studios in 1926 at 27 South 18th Street, which employed all seven brothers. The business, the first commercial design house in center-city, prospered and attracted clients such as the Campbell Soup Company, Philadelphia Electric Company, Bell Telephone, RCA Victor, N. W. Ayer and Company, Philco Corporation, and Scott Paper Company. According to the author, “The brothers each had their own assignments: Antonio and Giovanni did the figure work; William, the layout and lettering, Ernesto, layout and decoration; and Edmund, the lettering and cartoons.” Alberto, who modeled for the Dutch Boy Paints logo, worked alongside his brothers in design and graphic arts,and Frank oversaw the bookkeeping. As successful as The Martino Studios was, several of the brothers were even more impressive as fine artists.

The most prolific of the Martinos, Antonio, studied at the Graphic Arts Club in South Philadelphia, now the Fleischer Art Memorial, the nation’s oldest tuition-free art school. By the age of seventeen, he was exhibiting his work and won honorable mentions from the Art Club of Philadelphia in 1925 and the Philadelphia Sketch Club in 1926. That year, he also received a bronze medal at the Sesquicentennial International Exhibition. Antonio’s streetscapes of Manayunk and landscapes of Bucks County catapulted him to critical acclaim in the greater Philadelphia area.

Like Antonio, Giovanni painted industrial street scenes in Philadelphia, particularly in Manayunk, and the countryside of Bucks County. Like his brother, he exhibited at an early age and won a number of prestigious prizes. His wife Eva, whom he married in 1948, became an accomplished painter. Daughters Nina F. and Babette followed in their parents’ footsteps and are known for their work. Marie Martino Manos, daughter of Antonio, has won awards for her paintings. Edmund’s wife Victoria dabbled in painting, which brings the number of family artists to a full dozen.

The Martinos: A Legacy of Art brings to light beautiful paintings of two generations of an Italian-American family which traces its roots to Philadelphia. Not only does this beautiful book present a stunning portfolio of styles, subjects, locales, and media, it also offers an intimate and artistic history of the family. The Martinos is made insightful and enlightening by the cache of oral histories recounted by the younger Martinos, whose recollections of fathers and uncles infuse the narrative with colorful anecdotes and family lore.

The Martinos: A Legacy of Art will appeal to art enthusiasts, collectors, and museum professionals; scholars of Italian-American life; and students of Philadelphia and Bucks County social history.