Bookshelf

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

The World of William Penn
edited by Richard S. Dunn and Mary Maples Dunn
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986 (421 pages, cloth, $29.95)

A collection of twenty es­says by a distinguished panel of specialists in British and American history, The World of William Penn explores the com­plex political, economic, intel­lectual, religious and social environment in which William Penn lived and worked. Indi­vidually, these essays offer important new insights into later seventeenth century Quakerism and into the major phases of Penn’s life in Britain and in Pennsylvania. Collec­tively, they show the variety of his interests, and they probe the puzzling and contradictory aspects of his extraordinary career. The essays are orga­nized in four sections: the first, “William Penn Consid­ered,” presents a variety of perspectives on Penn’s behav­ior at critical junctures in his life; the second, “Penn’s Brit­ain,” considers various forma­tive features of his environ­ment in England and Ireland; the third, “Penn’s America,” investigates important devel­opments in early Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and the final section, “Meeting House and Counting House,” comments on the central dualism in Wil­liam Penn’s life and in Quaker history – the tension between the Friends’ spiritual values, which emphasize the inner life, and their work ethic, which focuses on the external. Originally presented as part of “The World of William Penn: A Conference in Anglo­-American History,” conducted in Philadelphia in 1981, these articles are invaluable to stu­dents and scholars interested in American and British his­tory, Quaker history and the history of Pennsylvania.

 

The Pennsylvania Culture Region: A View from the Barn
by Joseph W. Glass
UMI Research Press, 1986 (255 pages, cloth, $47.95)

In spite of its European origins, the barn has become identified as a fundamental part of the “Pennsylvania Culture,” the most prominent culture that developed in the American Middle Colonies. Formed in southeastern Penn­sylvania, this culture and its basic barn type were dispersed well beyond the Common­wealth’s borders by the migra­tions of farmers and other settlers from that region. This book identifies the distribution and examines the meanings of southeastern Pennsylvania’s barns and the farmhouses associated with them as mate­rial elements of this distinctive Pennsylvania Culture. Written by a scholar who obviously cares about barns, farmhouses and farmsteads, and respects the skilled craftsmen who built them as much as he does the farmers whose lives have re­volved around them, the book presents detailed information – gathered during an extensive study of farms throughout the designated Pennsylvania Cul­ture region – in a style accom­modating both specialist and layperson. Included are maps which plot the distributional patterns of various visible features of the barns, farm­houses and farmsteads. In­spired by the beauty and majesty of the picturesque rural Pennsylvania landscapes, the author also makes a plea for the care and preservation of what remains of the culture, citing the barns as historic, cultural and social landmarks.

 

Laurel Line: An Anthracite Region Railway
by James N. J. Henwood and John G. Muncie
Interurban Press, 1986 (207 pages, cloth, $34.95)

The dawn of the twentieth century saw a new form of transportation evolve in the United States: the interurban electric railway. These railways were natural offshoots of the original, short urban trolley lines that quickly replaced the horsecar before the turn of the century. Laurel Line: An Anthra­cite Region Railway portrays, in chronological order and with liberal illustrations, the history of the Lackawanna and Wyo­ming Valley Railroad of north­eastern Pennsylvania. The railway fit the general pattern of intercity electric railways, but it was also unusual in several important respects. It was built to higher than aver­age specifications and normal standards for electric railways; it operated mostly with a third rail power system; it ran exclu­sively on private rights-of-way; it served a geographically narrow valley whose economy was heavily dependent on one industry – coal; and, perhaps most significantly, many of its corporate records are extant and accessible. Laurel Line is much more than a well-­documented history of a trans­portation system, though. In this book, the railroad emerges in almost human terms of strife, struggle, victory and defeat. The authors provide the historical background against which the significant events and characters play out the drama of this venture. The reader learns not only what happened, but why, and who made it happen. Laurel Line, too, portrays what life was like in Pennsylvania’s anthracite region – from Scranton to Wilkes-Barre – during the first half of the twentieth century.