Bookshelf

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

The Battle for Homestead, 1880-1892: Politics, Culture, and Steel

by Paul Krause
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992 (548 pages, paper, $19.95)

The Battle for Homestead – as its subtitle suggests – examines the politics, culture, and mo­rality of steelmaking in late nineteenth century America by tracing the circuitous path that led businessmen, engineers, entrepreneurs, politicians, and workers to the site of the world’s largest and most “pro­gressive” steel mill and of the country’s most infamous de­bate about steel and labor: Homestead, Pennsylvania. Homestead attracted national attention well before Andrew Carnegie’s chief of operations, Henry Clay Frick, a notorious opponent of unions, inaugu­rated the June 29, 1892, lockout of thirty-eight hundred men at the Homestead Steel Works located six miles upstream from Pittsburgh (see “‘The Public is Entitled to Know’: Fighting for the Public Mem­ory of Henry Clay Frick” by Brent D. Glass in the winter 1992 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). The dramatic events of this lockout – in particular, the pitched battle between the steelworkers and the three hundred Pinkerton Detective Agency guards summoned by Frick – are among the most familiar in American history. For many, the story of the lockout is as famous for the violent events that punctuated it as for the way it ended – with a resounding defeat for unionism in the steel industry. In The Battle for Homestead, 1880-1892: Politics, Culture, and Steel, the author goes far be­yond recounting the events which have been characterized as the most “savage and signif­icant chapter” in the history of American labor, and discusses relevant topics, including labor reform in Pittsburgh between 1867 and 1881, the capitalists who financed the nation’s great steel companies, the dual personalities of Andrew Carnegie as robber baron and philanthropist, and the lega­cies of Homestead in the cen­tury following the 1892 strike.

 

Severin Roesen

by Judith Hansen O’Toole
The Greater Williamsport Community Arts Council, 1992 (139 pages, cloth, $55.00)

Severin Roesen was a pro­lific painter whose influence on the American still life tradi­tion during the second half of the nineteenth century was far-reaching. His work is repre­sentative of the European tenets brought to the United States by fellow German artists who fled to this country in the mid-nineteenth century. The quality of Roesen’s work has caused him to be represented in virtually every discussion of American still life painting, and his works are in a number of prestigious collections, both public and private. Severin Roesen outlines the little known biographical informa­tion on this elusive, somewhat itinerant, painter who was active in this country from 1848, when he arrived in New York City, until 1872, when he mysteriously disappeared­ – without a trace – from William­sport, Lycoming County, where he had been living since 1860. Roesen’s exact birthdate remains unknown, but the year of his birth has been es­tablished as 1815 or 1816 through census records, which document his age as forty-four in 1860 while he was living in Huntingdon, Huntingdon County. Records of the Ameri­can Art Union in New York provide evidence of his partici­pation in exhibitions and sales from 1848 to 1852, when the Art Union closed. City directo­ries for New York list his ad­dress until 1858; only the names of his wife and children appear in subsequent editions. Severin Roesen is known to have visited many communi­ties in Pennsylvania before settling in Williamsport, where he worked for twelve years – the longest period that he would work in any American city. He enjoyed the patronage of the booming lumber town’s residents, often living by the barter system, and offering classes to aspiring local artists. Roesen’s paintings of lush floral still lifes can be best analyzed in the context of the Dutch tradition, with regard to the tastes of Victorian Amer­ica. His ebullient and lavish compositions parallel the sen­timents expressed by the grand landscapes of the con­current Hudson River Valley artists, which celebrate the splendor of the country’s natu­ral resources as a source of national pride. As a teacher, Roesen had a tremendous impact on American painters who turned to the still life tradition in significant num­bers late in the century. Al­though Severin Roesen is not a catalogue raisonne, it is a checklist of more than two hundred and fifty known works by the artist, many of which are illustrated by stun­ning full-color plates.

 

A History of Adams County, Pennsylvania, 1700-1990

by Robert L. Bloom
Adams County Historical Society, 1992 (489 pages, cloth, $55.00)

Although the history of Adams County has been previ­ously researched and inter­preted by historians and writers, not one major study has been published in the last century. (The last general book to appear was History of Adams County edited by H. C. Bradsby in 1886.) This book is a survey of Adams County’s history, from the opening of the eighteenth century through 1990. The author opens A History of Adams County, Pennsylvania, 1700-1990, with a chapter entitled “Creating a County, 1700-1800,” in which he contends that the county can claim “a tangible and surviving record of prehistoric life” by citing the state geologist’s report in 1937 of the discovery of a dinosaur’s footprints in the region. The reader soon learns that this is no ordinary county history. What the author provides is an insightful, in-depth, and, at times, exhaustive foray into nearly three centuries of Ad­ams County’s heritage and culture. In addition to his painstakingly researched con­clusions, the author is reflec­tive and contemplative, eager to place this local history in a context that can be appreciated by many. A History of Adams County is well-organized, re­calling the style of traditional county histories with sections devoted to the professions, industry, politics, urban life, leisure time, and education, among many others. The book features a number of early photographs, charts, popula­tion tables, a select bibliogra­phy, and an index.

 

Mary Grew, Abolitionist and Feminist (1813-1896)

by Ira V. Brown
Susquehanna University Press, 1991 (214 pages, cloth, $35.00)

This is the first full-length biography of Mary Grew (1813-1896), an American abolitionist and feminist. Born in Hart­ford, Connecticut, she settled in Philadelphia in 1834, where she resided until her death. Despite considerable illness, she worked steadily in the antislavery campaign from 1834 to 1865, in the Black suf­frage campaign from 1865 to 1870, and in the women’s rights movement from 1848 to 1892, her eightieth year. Mary Grew was corresponding sec­retary of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society from 1836 until 1870, authoring its annual reports and working with Lucretia Mott and Sarah Pugh. She took part in the three Anti-Slavery Conven­tions of American Women held in 1837, 1838, and 1839. She was one of eight women dele­gates denied seats in the World’s Anti-Slavery Conven­tion that met in London in 1840 and from which Elizabeth Cady Stanton dated the incep­tion of the women’s rights movement. Also active in the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, Grew served as a member of its executive com­mittee from 1844 to 1865, and for several years edited its newspaper, the Pennsylvania Freeman. Beginning in 1848 she labored for married women’s property legislation. When the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association, an affiliate of Lucy Stone’s American Woman Suffrage Association, was organized in 1869, Grew was chosen its president, a position she held until 1892. Mary Grew, Abolitionist and Feminist (1813-1896) is based chiefly on primary sources and to a great extent the subject is allowed to tell her own story in her own words, as she was a gifted writer and an able pub­lic speaker. The author used Crew’s letters, the minute books and correspondence of the Philadelphia Female Anti­Slavery Society and the Penn­sylvania Anti-Slavery Society, in addition to the Pennsylvania Freeman, National Anti-Slavery Standard, and Woman’s Journal to portray the life and contri­butions of this remarkable Pennsylvanian.

 

Architecture of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, 1700-1900

by Henry J. Kauffman
Olde Springfield Shoppe, 1992 (153 pages, paper, $15.95)

Including samples of rural building styles – represented by smokehouses, barns, spring houses, bake ovens, ice houses, and, of course, residences – Architecture of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, 1700-1900, is a survey of the domestic architecture of a region that has become com­monly (and mistakenly) dubbed “Pennsylvania Dutch.” For this study, “Pennsylvania Dutch Country” refers to the Commonwealth’s southeastern counties where the “Dutch” (so called by the English) influ­ence was the strongest and where it remains an integral part of the area’s culture to this day. This book focuses only on the products of three ethnic groups in Pennsylvania: the German, the Swiss, and the English. Building styles are discussed in chapters entitled “Architecture of the Dutch Country, 1700-1750,” “Geor­gian Style, 1750-1800,” “Post­Georgian Style, 1800-1850,” “Victorian Style, 1850-1900,” “Outbuildings,” and “Other Buildings.” illustrations of landmarks throughout south­eastern Pennsylvania – of which a dozen appear in color – include, among others, Rock Ford-Kauffman Mansion, Ephrata Cloister, and the Hans Herr House, Lancaster County; the Peter Wentz Farm­stead, Montgomery County; Tulpehocken Manor, Lebanon County; and the Golden Plough Tavern, York County.

 

Susquehanna Heartland

by Ruth Hoover Seitz
RB Books, 1992 (120 pages, cloth, $24.95)

The Susquehanna River is a great river. Its main artery lazily meanders through cen­tral Pennsylvania, from North­umberland County, and through northern Maryland to Havre de Grace, where it emp­ties into the Chesapeake Bay. This great waterway – the Keystone State’s longest river­ – forged its course during the past two hundred million years. The author’s succinct narratives provide historical background for Blair Seitz’s striking photographs of the Susquehanna River and the portraits of the people who live and work on and near its banks. Susquehanna Heartland is a cornucopia of dazzling pictures which capture not only the heart of the river valley, but also its pulse. This book puts the Susquehanna River within easy reach of the reader who will be enchanted by the soft photographs of interiors, glimmering in hues of rose gold, and delighted by breathtaking images of the great outdoors, particularly the river at sunset. The pho­tographer portrays the land­marks that hallmark the Susquehanna River Valley: the Millersburg Ferry, John Harris Mansion, Wright’s Ferry Man­sion, and Pennsylvania’s State Capitol. Above all, Susque­hanna Heartland – through more than one hundred and seventy photographs – is a moving tribute to one of the Commonwealth’s most beauti­ful and historic regions.

 

Battling the Indians, Panthers, and Nittany Lions

by E. Lee North
Dar­ing Books, 1991 (287 pages, cloth, $34.95)

Most small college football teams have only dreamed of playing in the big leagues with the giants of the game. How­ever, Washington and Jefferson College of Washington, Penn­sylvania, not only dreamed, but overcame great odds to become a serious contender against such formidable rivals as the University of Pitts­burgh, the Pennsylvania State University, and West Virginia University. The little western Pennsylvania school consist­ently trimmed the University of Pittsburgh and West Vir­ginia University in its early decades of football. In 1922, Washington and Jefferson College’s fabled team, the Red and Black, played in the Rose Bowl. Between 1910 and 1930, the team played – and trounced! – a number of col­lege teams, including those of Yale University, Lafayette Col­lege, and Syracuse University (see “Pennsylvania Gridiron: Washington & Jefferson Col­lege’s First Century of Foot­ball” by E. Lee North in the fall 1990 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). Subtitled The Story of Washington & Jefferson College’s Century of Football, 1890-1990, this book is more than a cele­bration of the school’s centen­nial year in football; it is an insightful and sensitive por­trayal of the individuals­ – college leaders, coaches, and players-who understood the sacred tradition of fair play. Battling the Indians, Panthers, and Nittany Lions includes numerous vintage photo­graphs, many of which depict the excitement and drama of the game.