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

At Work in Penn’s Woods: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Pennsylvania

By Joseph M. Speakman
Penn State University Press, 2006; 237 pages, cloth, $37.50

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one of the most popular relief programs of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. During the nine years of the program, from 1933 to 1942, more than two and one-half million unemployed young men found work on conservation projects across a country stricken by the Great Depression. “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” as the CCC enrollees were sometimes called, planted billions of trees, fought forest fires, tackled historic preservation projects, and constructed recreational facilities in state and national parks. At Work in Penn’s Woods: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Pennsylvania offers a rich and compelling portrait of the program in the Keystone State.

In Pennsylvania, the CCC had one of its largest and most successful programs. The Commonwealth recruited the second-highest number of workers and had the second-highest number of work camps in the country. Gifford Pinchot (1865–1946), perhaps the most famous conservationist of the first half of the twentieth century, was governor of the Commonwealth in 1933, and his state foresters were well prepared to make use of the abundant labor the CCC made available to them. Pennsylvania’s CCC men planted more than sixty million trees in a state that had been scarred by clear-cut logging, rampant forest fires, and destructive tree diseases. They also worked at creating and upgrading state park recreational facilities; several of the camps engaged in historic preservation work at Gettysburg, Hopewell Village, and Fort Necessity. A dozen camps provided assistance to farmers on soil conservation projects.

Aside from conservation work, the CCC program also played another important role in providing relief assistance to the Commonwealth’s families in need. The men were paid thirty dollars monthly, but usually they sent about twenty-five dollars home to their families, who were often on relief and in need of the extra money their sons and brothers earned. In their free time, the men were given the opportunity to take courses in a variety of academic and vocational subjects to train them for life after the CCC.

At Work in Penn’s Woods, the first comprehensive study of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Pennsylvania, combines administrative history with portraits of the men who worked in the camps. The author, son of a CCC worker, draws on archival research in primary sources, including several source collections never used before, and on interviews with former CCC workers.

 

Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania, and the First Nations: The Treaties of 1732–62

Edited by Susan Kalter
University of Illinois Press, 2006; 453 pages, cloth, $45.00

Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania, and the First Nations: The Treaties of 1732–62 is an annotated edition of the agreements between the British colonies and the Indian nations, originally printed and sold by Franklin. Last published nearly seventy years ago, in 1938, this book makes these important treaties available once again, featuring a simpler, easy-to-read format, extensive notes, and maps. A detailed introduction puts the treaties in their proper historical and cultural contexts.

This carefully researched edition shows these treaties to be complex intercultural documents, and provides significant insight into the British colonies’ relationship with native peoples of North America (see “Susquehannocks, Catholics in Seventeenth-Century Pennsylvania” by Colin P. Varga and “Our Documentary Heritage” in the winter 2007 issue). The treaties also reveal the complexity of Franklin’s perceptions of Native Americans, showing him in some negotiations as a promoter of Indian perspectives against the colonial ones. Finally, the treaties offer an enormous wealth of linguistic, aesthetic, and cultural information about the Iroquois, the Lenapes, and their allies and neighbors.

In the preface to Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania, and the First Nations, the editor emphasizes that “research by and about Native Americans, and about relationships among Indian nations and European/Euroamerican nations, is an ongoing process,” emphatically adding that “no one person involved in the process has the definitive last word.” Instead, she believes this volume will facilitate further research into the continuing history of diplomacy in which the Iroquois, the Lenapes, and others are engaged.

 

From Elephants to Swimming Pools: Carl Akeley, Samuel W. Traylor, and the Development of the Cement Gun

By Louis Rodriquez
Canal History and Technology Press, 2006; 150 pages, paper, $15.95

Developed in eastern Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley in the early twentieth century, the cement gun sprayed mortar — then known as Gunite and now as shotcrete — at high velocity and was used by contractors and builders for both new construction and repair work. The emergence of both the gun and the process in the Lehigh County seat of Allentown was not coincidental; there was abundant understanding of and interest in cement and concrete, con- crete construction, and design and fabrication for a commercially viable way to apply materials — originally invented by Carl E. Akeley (1864–1926). His first machine was introduced at the Cement Show at New York’s Madison Square Garden in December 1910. A naturalist, Akeley originally invented the gun and the process to recreate animal skeletons.

The application process became an immediate success, and early projects included encasement of structural steel supports in New York’s Grand Central Station to protect them against fire and corrosion. By 1915, the Cement Gun Company had grown to become a large contracting organization, and its numerous application projects included construction and repair of buildings, bridges, reservoirs, dams, tunnels for sewer, rail, and water lines, and repair of furnace linings in steel mills and various facilities requiring high temperature processes. The early 1920s witnessed widespread use of this sprayed concrete application process and, eventually, growth in sales of the machine that included instructions for its use, as well as permission to use the name Gunite by the franchise owner. Gunite construction projects spread throughout the United States and then crossed the Atlantic, where the UK Cement Gun Company was established. By 1950, the company had delivered nearly five thousand machines to projects or contractors in every state and in more than one hundred countries.

Bryan C. Collier, the first president of the Cement Gun Company, and Samuel W. Traylor, an energetic and ambitious entrepreneur, exhibited a strong interest in producing and publishing test data to confirm the quality and, especially, the versatility of Gunite, and early experiments were conducted at Lehigh University in nearby Bethlehem. Tests confirmed both the material and its application to be of quality. Traylor grasped the significance of the test results and eventually became the sole manufacturer of the cement gun, which he tirelessly promoted throughout the world.

Forty years after the introduction of Gunite, changes in the industry, the development of new formulas, the creation of new applicators and, not the least, confusion among users about new products appearing on the market began to diminish Gunite’s popularity with contractors and builders.

From Elephants to Swimming Pools: Carl Akeley, Samuel W. Traylor, and the Development of the Cement Gun is a fascinating look at a machine and a process that literally helped build America. In addition to chronicling the history of the Cement Gun Company and Gunite, the book includes a number of photographs, including an image of Akeley with one of his specimens, an elephant, at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. (In 1909, Akeley accompanied Theodore Roosevelt — who had left the White House earlier that year — on an expedition to Africa, and visitors can still see his specimens in the museum’s Akeley African Hall.)

 

These Just In…

A number of new and recent books about Pennsylvania history have been received by Pennsylvania Heritage’s editorial staff, which has not had the opportunity to review them, but wish- es to share news of their availability with readers.

Kevin Kutz’s Lincoln Highway: Paintings and Drawings, by Kevin Kutz, published by Stackpole Books, 2006; 122 pages, paper, $29.95.

Philadelphia Maestros: Ormandy, Muti, Sawallisch, by Phyllis White Rodriguez-Peralta, published by Temple University Press, 2005; 172 pages, cloth, $22.00.

Anthracite Roots: Generations of Coal Mining in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, by Joseph W. Leonard III, published by the History Press, 2005; 94 pages, paper, $16.99.

Don Troiani’s Civil War: Cavalry and Artillery, by Earl J. Coates, Michael J. McAfee, and Don Troiani, published by Stackpole Books, 2006; 57 pages, paper, $16.95.

Wright’s Ferry Mansion: The House, by Elizabeth Meg Schaefer; The Collection, by Elizabeth Meg Schaefer and Joe K. Kindig III, published by the Von Hess Foundation with the Antique Collectors’ Club, 2005; 2 volumes, 720 pages, cloth, $95.00.

Sex Among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution, Philadelphia, 1730–1830, by Clare A. Lyons, published by the University of North Carolina Press, 2006; 420 pages; cloth, $55.00; paper, $22.50.

Souls for Sale: Two German Redemptioners Come to Revolutionary America — The Life Stories of John Frederick Whitehead and Johann Carl Bittner, edited by Susan E. Klepp, Farley Grubb, and Anne Pfaelzer de Ortiz, published by Penn State University Press, 2006; 272 pages; cloth, $75.00; paper, $25.00.

Deer Wars: Science, Tradition, and the Battle Over Managing Whitetails in Pennsylvania, by Bob Frye, published by Penn State University Press, 2006; 310 pages, paper, $29.95.

Troubled Experiment: Crime and Justice in Pennsylvania, 1682–1800, by Jack D. Marietta and G.S. Rowe, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006; 353 pages, cloth, $59.95.

Form Radiating Life: The Paintings of Charles Rosen, by Brian H. Peterson, published by the James A. Michener Art Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006; 198 pages, cloth, $45.00.

We Are a Strong, Articulate Voice: A History of Women at Penn State, by Carol Sonenklar, published by the Penn State University Press, 2006; 220 pages, cloth, $24.95.

Thomas Hovenden: His Life and Art, by Anne Gregory Terhune, with Patricia Smith Scanlan, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006; 276 pages, cloth, $45.00.