Bookshelf

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

Reading Furnace, 1736

by Estelle Cremers
Reading Furnace Press, 1986 (193 pages, paper, $10.95)

Built in 1736 on the banks of the south branch of the French Creek as an expansion of the furnace on Rock Run (circa 1720) at Coventryville, Reading Furnace was one of the earliest furnaces established in Penn­sylvania. Reading Furnace flourished for forty-two years, until 1778, a relatively short­-lived operation and, subse­quently, a somewhat neglected subject of study. The author, realizing the significance of the early iron furnace, undertook the exhaustive research of the complex, focusing on the origi­nal builder, its first ironmas­ters, production, as well as descriptions of the plantation and the architecture of the furnace complex’s sprawling mansion. Because the fur­nace’s industrial history is intertwined with that of the various owners, operators and their families, much of Reading Furnace, 1736 deals with the social heritage of the Chester County site. Following its brief role as an iron furnace, the property was a choice parcel of southeastern Pennsylvania farmland, and the book suc­cinctly traces the chain of ownership through to the present. Reading Furnace, 1736 is complemented by an appen­dix, bibliography, chronology, tax comparisons and both black and white and color photographs. The book is an asset for students and scholars interested in the origin and evolution, albeit brief, of an important industrial site in Pennsylvania.

 

Farming and Folk Society

by Beauveau Borie IV
UMI Research Press, 1986 (139 pages, cloth, $39.95)

A glimpse of a “lost” Penn­sylvania German culture is graphically provided by the author, who has painstakingly studied the flail and the van­ished art of non-mechanized threshing. Although practi­cally extinct, and resembling nothing more than a hinged rod, the flail was once a com­mon farming implement. The history of this tool is exam­ined, as its roots are found in biblical references. Not only is its evolution traced, but the area and peoples it touched­ – concluding with Pennsylvania and the German settlers – are analyzed. By studying the flail, one finds other areas related to it, such as spaces created for its storage, related harvest tools, technology and the agricultural heritage of the Pennsylvania Germans. The environment of this significant tool is re-created to give read­ers the opportunity to appreci­ate the era before the advent of threshing machines, during which threshing was accom­plished by flailing and grain harvested by hand. Subtitled Threshing among the Pennsylva­nia Germans, chapters are de­voted to reaping, the threshing area, the flailing process and the types of flails commonly used. This liberally illustrated book presents a new look and study of the broadly varied Pennsylvania German history and culture through the funda­mental relationship between a society and its primary thresh­ing tool – the flail. Above all, the book yields a look at a vanished society during its most vital years.

 

Historic Highway Bridges in Pennsylvania

by the staffs of the Penn­sylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Common­wealth of Pennsylvania, 1986 (204 pages, paper, $9.00)

Resulting from a survey of the extensive state-owned highway system, which in­cludes twenty-five thousand bridges, this well-illustrated book serves as a record of bridges significant in the de­velopment of Pennsylvania’s highways and bridge engi­neering history. The joint study, conducted by the Penn­sylvania Historical and Mu­seum Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, was carried out over a three year period, after which one hundred and eighty state-owned spans were determined to be worthy of preservation. Historic Highway Bridges in Pennsylvania, based on the survey, makes informa­tion and data on the Common­wealth’s rich engineering and technological heritage readily available to the public, profes­sional and avocational histo­rians, historical organizations and agencies, local officials, engineers and bridge inspec­tors. The book identifies land­marks in Pennsylvania’s transportation and engineer­ing heritage: the first known stone-arch bridge built in the United States, one of the world’s longest multiple-span concrete-arch bridges, an early multiple-span steel lenticular bridge, and the first pre­stressed concrete girder bridge erected in the country. Open­ing with a brief history of Pennsylvania’s transportation system, the book examines the actual history of bridge build­ing in Pennsylvania. The bridges identified by the sur­vey are discussed by types (such as stone arch, covered, suspension, metal arch, metal truss and concrete arch). In addition to brief descriptions of ead1, the bridges are located on maps; certain spans have been highlighted to illustrate the range of resources within each category.