Bookshelf

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

Penn’s Example to the Nations: 300 Years of the Holy Experiment

by Robert Grant Crist, editor
Pennsylvania Council of Churches, 1987 (266 pages, paper, $6.00)

A celebration of Pennsylva­nia’s rich heritage of religious diversity and toleration, this collection of twenty-three original works introduces the reader to the Commonwealth’s three centuries of religious traditions and illustrates the many contributions that reli­gion has offered generations of Pennsylvanians. Penn’s Example to the Nations is divided into three major sections – “The Colonial Period,” “The Early Republic and Middle Years” and “The Period of Industrial­ization and Immigration” – in which various religions are discussed individually in a distinct historical frame of reference. Such a format al­lows for succinct overviews in a given time period. For example, the first section dealing with the colonial period treats, among others, the Moravians, Catholics, Jews, Anglicans, Society of Friends, Schwenk­felders and Lutherans in the province which William Penn hailed as “the holy experi­ment.” Each chapter pinpoints the origins of the religion it analyzes, placing it in context with significant events and developments of the day. The second section continues with discussions of the Churches of God, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, while the third part concludes with chapters de­voted to the Salvation Army, the Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God, Unitarians and Universalists. Chapters have been written by distin­guished lecturers, professors, scholars, historians and re­searchers, all of whom sup­plied, following their entries, a listing of books for additional reading.

 

St. Clair

by Anthony F. C. Wallace
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1987 (519 pages, cloth, $30.00)

A dramatic social history subtitled A Nineteenth-Century Coal Town’s Experience with a Disaster-Prone Industry, this book re-creates the Schuylkill County town of St. Clair be­tween 1850 and 1880, a period during which expectations collided violently with reality. The fifty year span encapsu­lates the period when the coal trade suffered chronic distress, exacerbated by the epic battles between the forces of capital and labor. The author’s skillful use of both public records and private papers reconstructs the operation of an anthracite colliery and the life of a work­ingman’s town totally depen­dent upon it. He painstakingly describes the hierarchy of the collieries, the dangerous con­ditions under which the min­ers worked, the communal spirit that sprang up in the small mining villages, the polyglot immigrant life in the taverns and churches, and the workingmen’s societies that gave identity to the miners and provided relief to families in distress. St. Clair examines the birth of the first effective coal miners’ union, led by John Siney, who organized the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association of St. Clair, the forerunner of the powerful United Mine Workers union. It also probes the escalating antagonism between mostly Irish-Catholic immigrant work­ers and the Protestant middle class mine owners. Using documents and letters, the book illustrates how the coal operators, propelled by ambi­tion and avarice, ignored basic rules of safety to exploit the rich coal veins. St. Clair is a rich and illuminating work of scholarship, an engrossing portrait of a disaster-prone industry, and a documentary of the tragic hubris of a ruling class that foisted ruin upon a small Pennsylvania coal town at a crucial moment in its his­tory.

 

Charles Demuth

by Barbara Haskell
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987 (240 pages, cloth, $40.00)

Published in association with New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and written by one of its curators, Charles Demuth is devoted to the Pennsylvanian recognized as one of the most creative minds in art during the earlier twentieth century. Charles Demuth (1883-1935), a member of one of Lancaster’s patrician families, was a pioneer of modernism, a masterful color­ist and an important intellec­tual and aesthetic force in the development of American art following World War I. He was also a talented writer and a renowned figure in the avant­-garde groups that introduced modern art and literature to America. His works rocketed him into prominence in the avant-garde circles of New York, and his life’s story is the story of an era in American cultural history. But it was to Lancaster he returned, at the height of his career, because of debilitating diabetes. Forever drawn to his hometown, he abandoned his cosmopolitan lifestyle and international travels to return to Lancaster in 1922 at the age of thirty­-eight. He momentarily stopped painting – but only for a year or so in order to regain his strength. Through Charles Demuth, the reader is treated to the artist’s distinctive styles, all complemented by striking color illustrations. Of special interest to Pennsylvanians, particularly Lancaster coun­tians, are illustrations in full color entitled Lancaster (1920) and End of the Parade, Coates­ville, Pa. (1920). Nearly two hundred illustrations, of which more than half are in color, help justify the author’s con­tention that Charles Demuth was – and remains – a modern master. In addition to the exciting illustrations and in­formative text, Charles Demuth features an extensive exhibi­tion history, selected bibliogra­phy and a listing of the subject’s published writings.

 

Advance the Colors!

by Richard A. Sauers
Capitol Preservation Committee, 1987 (320 pages, cloth, $45.00)

Pennsylvania’s Civil War battle flags are documented in the first of two volumes dedi­cated solely to the minute examination of flags carried by more than three hundred thousand Pennsylvanians during this tragic episode in the nation’s history. The first book-length study of a North­ern state’s Civil War flags, Advance the Colors! is a care­fully researched documentary describing the history of pre­war military flags used in Pennsylvania, the wartime flags themselves and the post­war history of the banners. Since Pennsylvania was the only Northern state to issue colors and standards to each regiment, this serves as the common denominator chosen to describe the regiment’s movements and history. Hence, the book contains sketches of each regiment’s flags in numerical order, in which the history of the flag constitutes the history of the regiment. Each state-issued flag is followed by a general description of the regiment’s movements while carrying that banner. Advance the Colors! features a glossary of flag and military terms, as well as bibli­ographies for every regiment and maps showing the opera­tions of Pennsylvania’s troops during the Civil War. Flags are well depicted by more than two hundred color illustrations and dozens of rare nineteenth century photographs.

 

Allentown, 1762-1987

by Mahlon H. Hellerich, editor
Lehigh County Historical Society, 1987 (1,248 pages, cloth, $109.00)

A handsome and profusely illustrated two volume set, Allentown is the first compre­hensive study of the Lehigh County community’s two hundred and twenty-five year history. The meticulous re­search and insightful perspec­tives of twelve leading historians offer readers an in­-depth study of more than two centuries of Allentown’s politi­cal, social, economic and cul­tural growth and development. In addition to recounting the city’s history, the book provides a glimpse into the lives of significant individuals whose contribu­tions helped shape present­-day Allentown. Allentown is not strictly limited to the county seat’s history; it probes the heritage and influences of neighboring Lehigh Valley communities in order to present a broader, more de­tailed history of the region. The book is especially impor­tant because it addresses the history of twentieth century Allentown, describing some of the city’s most significant events, such as the construc­tion of landmark structures, the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company office building and the Americus Hotel; pop­ular amusements, the Allen­town Fair and Dorney Park; titans of commerce, Mack Trucks, Hess’s and the Call-Chronicle newspapers; and leaders of industry, Harry C. Trexler and Edward M. Young. More than six hundred and fifty illustrations – including photographs, maps, posters, drawings and paintings­ – accent this scholarly work.

 

1887-1987: Second Century

by Nancy S. Shedd and Jean P. Harsbarger
Hun­tingdon County Historical Society, 1987 (17O pages, cloth $24.95)

Subtitled A Huntingdon County Bicentennial Album, this book is a photographic journey through a full century of the county’s history, heritage and culture. Prompted by the county’s bicentennial in 1987, this album is just that: a care­fully chosen sampling of peo­ple, places and events which help document and interpret the frenetic years between 1887 and 1987. Both informative and entertaining, the copi­ously illustrated volume presents a portrait of the county, as well as depicts the larger patterns of American life during the last century. Through Second Century, the sweeping changes that have affected the United States through the last one hundred years are seen against the backdrop of a single county and its people: changes and dramatic advances in transportation, occupation, education, mechanization, industrializa­tion and recreation . A special sixteen page color section, entitled “A Sense of Place,” pays tribute to the county’s many splendid natural land­marks and its outstanding historical treasures. Second Century is, above all, an out­standing and sensitive portrait of Huntingdon County’s people – and a record of their achievements during the last century.

 

Diaries of William Souder Hemsing, 1885-1918

by William Souder Hemsing
Union National Bank and Trust Company of Souderton, 1987 (494 pages, cloth, $24.95)

Carefully kept diaries by a keenly observant individual­ – whose birth and marriage associated him with Souder­ton’s leading families – convey, even a century later, the excit­ing politics, commerce and education of the Montgomery County community during the decades immediately before and after the turn-of-the­-century. Grandson of one of Souderton’s founders, William Souder Hemsing enjoyed success in banking, real estate and milling, positions which afforded him the opportunity to not only witness the deci­sions affecting the community, but to participate in them as well. Published in cooperation with the Souderton Centennial Commission, Diaries captures the life and vitality of Souder­ton and its people, reflecting the values and culture of the Pennsylvania German region located between Philadelphia and Bethlehem during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Throughout his poignant portrayal of his com­munity, Hemsing devotes great detail to the local com­mercial, religious, political, educational and social devel­opments.