Bookshelf

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

Guide to the State Historical Markers of Pennsylvania

by George R. Beyer
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1991 (211 pages, paper, $9.95)

Guide to the State Historical Markers of Pennsylvania is a classic – and a perennial – favor­ite of both travelers through the Keystone State and arm­chair historians. The fifth edition of the original 1948 Guide to the Historical Markers of Pennsylvania, Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, this com­pact volume offers readers a succinct survey of Pennsylva­nia’s history and culture through the fifteen hundred markers which dot the Com­monwealth’s landscape and punctuate the streets of its cities, towns, and villages. The latest version of this popular guidebook – unlike previous editions – includes the plaques erected between 1914 and 1933 by the old Pennsylvania His­torical Commission that still stand today. For the first time the new edition groups coun­ties into twelve regions, each of which is discussed by a brief historical introduction by Harold L. Myers, a senior historian of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Com­mission who has authored and edited many familiar titles, and each of which is accompa­nied by maps locating every marker by number. The marker texts themselves are arranged in geographic se­quence within each county, and all titles are alphabetized in an easy-to-use index. Throughout Guide to the State Historical Markers of Pennsylva­nia, readers will find many people, places, and events familiar in American history, including writer John O’Hara and composer Stephen C. Foster, Christ Church and Fort Duquesne, and the Gettysburg Campaign and the Johnstown Flood. The book opens with a brief introduction discussing the Commonwealth’s state historic marker program and concludes with an extensive index. The book, featuring historic but mostly contempo­rary images, includes photo­graphs of, among others, Pennsylvania Hospital, Phila­delphia County; Hopewell Village, Berks County; Gettys­burg National Military Park, Adams County; Henry Clay Frick Birthplace, Westmore­land County; Bedford Springs Hotel, Bedford County; and the Kinzua Viaduct, McKean County. Perhaps most impor­tantly, Guide to the State Histori­cal Markers of Pennsylvania provides capsules of history, allowing each region – and, hence, each county – to show­case its contributions to state, national, and in some cases, international history.

 

The Training of an Army

by William J. Miller
White Mane Publishing Company, Inc., 1990 (334 pages, cloth, $27.95)

While Camp Curtin will be familiar to students and scholars of the Civil War, The Training of an Army: Camp Curtin and the North’s Civil War is the first book to tell the entire story of the Harrisburg facility. Camp Curtin was a place of great importance. It was the largest Camp of Ren­dezvous and Training in the North and was strategically significant in the Eastern The­ater. It was also part of the experience of a large portion – perhaps as much as twenty­-five percent! – of the Army of the Potomac, as well as that of many Pennsylvania volunteers (see “That Was the Week That Was: The First Battle of Harris­burg” by John B.B. Trussell in the fall 1991 edition). Located only several hours by train from the front, the camp had additional importance as a supply base and a hospital depot. Camp Curtin was of critical importance during the Civil War, and especially dur­ing the organization of militia units during the invasions of 1862 and 1863. Undoubtedly, Camp Curtin ranks as one of the most significant sites in the Eastern Theater, but The Train­ing of an Army is more than the story of the education, supplying, and medical care of Union soldiers. The author adds an important dimension to the story of the common soldier by addressing the back­ground, training, and leisure time activities that made up the recruits’ introduction to military life. Opened only five days after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Camp Curtin trained more than three hundred thousand men in nearly five years, and this books recounts the experiences of both the soldiers in the ranks and some of the future generals who passed through the camp on their way to Antietam, Gettys­burg, the Wilderness and Petersburg. The Training of an Army is a significant addition to the appreciation of the ad­ministration, training, medical care, and combat efficiency of the Army of the Potomac, in addition to the understanding of the Civil War’s impact on town and family life in Penn­sylvania, a large state in which state and national history crossed in the years between 1861 and 1865.

 

The Transformation of Western Pennsylvania, 1770-1800

by R. Eugene Harper
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991 (273 pages, cloth, $34.95)

Between the 1780s and the closing of the eighteenth cen­tury, western Pennsylvania changed dramatically-before the Revolutionary War it had been a remote frontier region, but in the years following the war the territory spawned a functioning society. Although many early community studies chart the stages of develop­ment, from traditional to mod­ern societies and the maturation of economics that this development involved, The Transformation of Western Pennsylvania, 1770-1800, dem­onstrates that the changes in western Pennsylvania – which occurred in the pattern of land ownership, in the rise of vil­lages and towns, in the occupational structure, in the development of commercial agriculture, and in the political institutions – were condensed into a single generation. The primary data for this study was drawn from records avail­able in the courthouse records of the five present-day coun­ties of Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland. In addition to analyzing the dockets and papers of the Courts of Com­mon Pleas, as well as deed books and early records, the author used tax assessment records of these counties to determine their validity for studying the class structure of western Pennsylvania. By studying population figures, the author has concluded that western Pennsylvania claimed a sizable population before the American Revolution, which continued to grow during the war years. The years from the end of the Revolutionary War through the 1790s were forma­tive in the blossoming of soci­ety throughout the western counties; the war was followed by rapid growth and develop­ment. The changes in land patterns occurring between 1783 and V96 indicate the rapid demise of the Pennsylva­nia frontier, as the percentage of ownership declined and individuals’ acreages became smaller. An unprecedented factor affecting the distribution of land during the 1790s was the appearance of town lot owners – the first indication of urbanization. Common labor­ers and artisans – not land­owning farmers – had been the typical settlers in some town­ships, but by the final decade of the eighteenth century, economic functions were being altered, and social stratification became evident. The author theorizes that a small class of wealthy individuals provided the impetus for the evolution of western Pennsylvania fol­lowing the Revolution, thereby dominating the region’s class structure by the 1790s. This book also identifies the absen­tee land owner and the land speculator as having played important roles in the develop­ment of western Pennsylvania, but it sets forth the beginning of urbanization as one of the most potent forces in the ex­pansion of the area. Towns attracted the professional, mercantile, and artisan popu­lations within the townships, in addition to serving as cen­ters of trade and cultural life. The Transformation of Western Pennsylvania, 1770-1800, offers a detailed examination of the ways in which both the elite and the working classes influ­enced economic and social development in early western Pennsylvania.

 

Philadelphia Images

by James Merlihan, editor
The University of the Arts Press, 1990 (184 pages, cloth, $40.00)

The artists who contributed to Philadelphia Images: Philadel­phia People, Places and Pastimes by Artists from The University of the Arts present the city and its citizens in an upbeat, uncon­ventional juxtaposition of images – from the Mummers to Rittenhouse Square, from the Reading Terminal to the Ma­nayunk Canal. The book fea­tures striking “portraits” of well-known Philadelphia land­marks, such as Thirtieth Street Station, Boathouse Row, the Union League, Claes Olden­burg’s Clothespin, and the polar bear exhibit at the Phila­delphia Zoo, as well as like­nesses of Philadelphians, young and old, captured for posterity in one moment of their fleeting, everyday lives. The artists – students, faculty, and alumni of The University of the Arts – did not limit their focus to a historical, sociologi­cal, or philosophical examina­tion of the city, although history, sociology, and philoso­phy are undeniably present. By presenting ordinary images in extraordinary ways, the artists celebrate both the spirit and rich cultural heritage of the City of Philadelphia (see “Philadelphia – As They See It” by Josey Stamm in the fall 1991 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). Some images were created especially for this book; in other instances, alumni of The University of the Arts selected works from their portfolios. Faculty, stu­dents, and staff painstakingly reviewed more than five hun­dred submissions by hundreds of members of the institution’s arts community, of which they chose one hundred and eighty pieces to showcase in Philadel­phia Images. The works of art represent a cross-section of contemporary styles and tech­niques, featuring photogra­phy, oils, acrylics, woodcuts, drawings, mixed-media, cloth, fabric stitchery, gouaches, etchings, sculpture, and computer-mediated video prints. Each work stands alone, yet combined with other images illustrates myriad aspects of Philadelphia life. Because The University of the Arts strives to be a positive, energizing force in the city, Philadelphia Images depicts the community’s many faces with a colorful, new twist. This album is both a keepsake for residents and a treasure map for visitors. For homesick Philadelphians transplanted elsewhere, Philadelphia Images: Philadelphia People, Places and Pastimes by Artists from the University of the Arts offers a way for them to see their city once again!

 

Henry Ossawa Tanner

by Dewey F. Mosby, et al.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1991 (307 pages, paper, $19.95)

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was the first Afri­can American artist to achieve international acclaim in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (see “The Resurrection of Henry Ossawa Tanner” by Stephen May in the winter 1992 issue). This catalogue, replete with illustrations of the artist’s distinctive works, pro­vides not only a chronology of Tanner’s life and a record of his exhibitions, but it also yields an insightful portrait of the man behind the artistic facade. For a glimpse into artist’s up­bringing and early influences, Tanner’s grandniece, Rae Alexander-Mintner, supplies details of the family history. Named Ossawa after the aboli­tionist John Brown’s residence of Osawatomie, Kansas, the young Tanner was sensitized to prevailing racial issues by his father, Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner, an individual who challenged all forms of racial abuse, denial, and dis­crimination. The adolescent Tanner felt the sting of racism in his search for an art teacher and later during his years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Frustrated yet fiercely determined to be a successful painter appreciated for the quality of his work regardless of the color of his skin, Tanner moved to Paris, where his paintings drew much admiration and many accolades. This biography identifies Tanner’s bitter hatred of prejudice as the core of his art. Henry Ossawa Tanner was the first African American to produce Black genre works, and he often painted scenes of North Africa and its people. Even his dream-like religious paintings are imbued with racial significance; he believed that Biblical scenes could illus­trate the struggles and hopes of African Americans. Henry Ossawa Tanner chronicles the evolution of the painter’s works, from his preliminary sketches and studies to his completed paintings. It also explores Tanner’s love for his parents, his wife, and his son, and discusses his fascination with Orientalism, nineteenth century art and literature in­spired by North Africa, Al­bania, Turkey, and the Holy Land. Above all, Henry Ossawa Tanner pays tribute to its sub­ject’s impressive career. Al­though his life spanned several of the most turbulent decades of modern times, Henry Os­sawa Tanner turned out more than one hundred and forty works of art, making him one of the best known painters of his day.