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

The Place I Call Home: How Abolition and the Underground Railroad Shaped the Communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania

by Sherman F. Wooden
published by the Center for Anti-Slavery Studies, 2009; 289 pages, paper, $16.95

Established in 1996, the Center for Anti-Slavery Studies (CASS) in Montrose, Susquehanna County, researches, documents, and preserves the history of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad in northeastern Pennsylvania. Research undertaken by CASS reveals that the region’s story is one not commonly told within the large scope of the anti-slavery movement. Escaping slaves did not simply stop here for a night hidden in a barn or back room. Many were offered work, money, and land by certain residents willing to take enormous personal risk. Fugitive slaves and free blacks successfully integrated communities that welcomed them and supported their quest for freedom.

CASS recently published Sherman F. Wooden’s The Place I Call Home: How Abolition and the Underground Railroad Shaped the Communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania, which explores not only the Underground Railroad but also “individuals of color, both free and freedom seeking, who settled in Northeastern Pennsylvania prior to 1900.” The book examines the challenges they encountered, and their perseverance in attempting to realize their dreams. It looks at the assistance they were given along the way, and the support they, in turn, gave to others. The Place I Call Home discusses the communities they developed and concentrates on their work, businesses, churches and faiths, homes, and families.

The author contends the most important message associated with the Underground Railroad is the two-fold approach to eradicating oppression: how it occurred on an individual level, such as grassroots efforts and spontaneous actions, and on an organized level, including national debate and campaigns. The story has global appeal and applicability with significant implications for current concerns about racial conflict and cooperation. The Underground Railroad chapter in the history of the United States is an undeniably American story that provides inspiration for people around the world.

The Place I Call Home: How Abolition and the Underground Railroad Shaped the Communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania is illustrated with a number of nineteenth-century photographs, drawings, and documents.


AFSCME’s Philadelphia Story: Municipal Workers and Urban Power in the Twentieth Century

by Francis Ryan
published by Temple University Press, 2011; 308 pages, cloth, $40.00

Chronicling the history of Philadelphia’s blue-collar city workers from the pre-union era of the 1920s to the opening years of the twenty-first century, AFSCME’s Philadelphia Story: Municipal Workers and Urban Power in the Twentieth Century by Francis Ryan provides a comprehensive account of what is today the largest and most powerful union in the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The author describes how sanitation workers and various city laborers formed an organization that successfully challenged the power dynamics of one of the country’s largest cities to become the model for successful collective bargaining in the United States.

AFSCME’s Philadelphia Story discusses the emergence of the union out of the city’s notorious Republican political machine and the ways in which ordinary rank-and-file workers forged what would become Philadelphia’s most enduring interracial, working-class organization of the twentieth century. The book offers new insight into the working-class origins of African American political power, as well as a thorough overview of the municipal state played in the Quaker City’s urban economy.

The author’s engaging story offers a compelling analysis of the growth of a single union in a major American city and, by grounding his narrative in the experiences of municipal workers, from sanitation workers and crossing guards to clerical staff and administrative professionals, recasts how the history of government sector unionism is perceived and understood. The story is made more profound because the author interviewed a number of individuals whose recollections add immeasurably to the narrative.


Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones: The Artist Who Lived Twice

by Barbara Lehman Smith
published by Outskirts Press, Inc., 2010; 245 pages, paper, $16.95

Barbara Lehman Smith’s feature in the Spring 1995 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage, “Talented, Tragic & Triumphant: The Life and Career of Elizabeth Sparhwk-Jones,” was the first in-depth look at this brilliant but tortured twentieth-century American artist. In the early 1990s, the author inadvertently rescued Sparhawk-Jones’s scrapbooks left forgotten in cardboard boxes for nearly a century and profiled her for the magazine. With a new biography, Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones: The Artist Who Lived Twice, she adds details to the painter’s riveting life from being a celebrated golden girl of the art world to becoming an insane asylum patient and back again to glory in the 1940s.

In 1908, New York critics christened Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones (1885–1968) the “find of the year.” As a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia from 1902 to 1909, she had earned every award and honor possible. Barely in her twenties, she sold several of her oil paintings for today’s equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars. After winning honorable mention in the Carnegie Institute’s prestigious 1909 International Exhibit, Harper’s Weekly published her painting In Rittenhouse Square next to those of two other American winners, Bruce Crane (1857– 1937) and Edmund C. Tarbell (1862– 1938). The periodical even hinted that her talent exceeded that of her teacher, the internationally acclaimed William Merritt Chase (1858–1916).

And then she vanished.

Thirty years after the breakdown that sent her to an insane asylum, American Artist described her as a “phenomenon in the world of paint.” Artist Marsden Hartley wrote Sparhawk-Jones was a “thinking painter with a rare sense of the drama of poetic and romantic incident.” She attracted admirers as much for her wit, candor, and fierce loyalty as for her talent. Collectors and friends included film star Claude Reins, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Whitney Museum of Art’s first director Juliana Force, and Chase. Her paintings are in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wichita (Kansas) Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and the Addison Gallery of American Art on the campus of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts.


Another Time, Another World: Pennsylvania Coal, Coke, and Communities

by John A. Enman
published by Patch/ Work Voices Publishing, 2010; 340 pages, paper, $30.00

“At the beginning of the twentieth century, Pittsburgh was known internationally as a prime producer of iron and steel and the Connellsville area as the world’s premier maker of the best metallurgical coke,” wrote John A. Enman in Another Time, Another World: Pennsylvania Coal, Coke, and Communities. “At that time, the Connellsville region was the servant of Pittsburgh, but a century earlier that was not the case, for the roles were reversed.” Before 1800, twenty-two iron furnaces operated at one time or another in Fayette County; until the dawn of the nineteenth century, not more than one furnace at a time ever operated in Allegheny, Greene, or Westmoreland Counties.

With this as his opening of chapter one, “Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Mining,” the author launched an exhaustive analysis of the developmental trends in mining, transportation, uses of significant coal seams, expansion and changes in the ethnicity and state of various employee groups, and the origin, makeup, and internal dispersion of the work and residential sections of colliery complexes. Research of southwestern Pennsylvania’s bituminous coal and coke period is difficult because many company records and government documents have been destroyed over the years. Compounding the problem are incomplete surveys, especially those created by state and federal legislatures that were given enormous tasks but too little time for committees to complete little more than a fraction of the assignments.

Another Time, Another World, surveys a number of statistics, including the sizes and costs of soft coal tracts, coal volatility, production, and losses, the life expectancy of a mine, mine names, and transportation. Part two, concentrating on coal miners and coke workers, discusses native-born and immigrant miners, the literacy of workers, wages and family income, and religions, churches, and cemeteries. In part three, the author described company-owned towns, or “patches,” and their design, in addition to housing, company stores, hotels, hospitals and medical care, and public perception of mining communities.