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

Crossroads of Commerce: The Pennsylvania Railroad Calendar Art of Grif Teller

by Dan CupperGreat Eastern Publishing, 1992 (184 pages, cloth, $69.95)

From its infancy as a mere sixty-one mile track running through central Pennsylvania’s deep forests and river valleys, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) eventually emerged as a giant of the railroading industry, known throughout the world for its power and prestige. Chartered in 1846, the Pennsylvania Railroad by 1900 extended far beyond the Keystone State’s boundaries and into the vast stretches of the Northeast and the Mid­west. The Pennsylvania Railroad – affectionately dubbed “the Pennsy”­ – employed two hundred and eighty thousand workers and became America’s first billion dollar company, with nearly twenty-seven thousand miles of track-enough to circle the earth! Proud of its dominant role in railroading, and always seeking to secure its enviable position, the PRR employed a number of high profile strategies to promote its image. One of the company’s favorite campaigns was the distribution of large wall calendars. Each year, Pennsy officials commissioned an original oil painting of a train to feature on its calendar, three hundred thousand of which were given to patrons and clients. Crossroads of Commerce: The Pennsylvania Railroad Calendar Art of Grif Teller chronicles the history of the Pennsy from 1928 to 1958 through this calendar artwork. Since the early 1830s, when railroads were first being developed in this country, artists have been attracted to the subject of trains, which offer unusually dynamic and perspective qualities. Railroad promoters took advantage of this visually appealing subject and commissioned artists to portray steaming locomotives and, later, sleek diesel engines, for a seemingly insatiable audience. The PRR was fortunate to engage Grif Teller, a landscape painter whose work for the company made him the best known railway artist in the world. Crossroads of Commerce presents more than two hundred and fifty photographs, of which one hundred and fifty are striking color images. The thirty-three paintings created for the Pennsylvania Railroad’s calendars – twenty-seven by Grif Teller alone – are featured in this book, as are many rare and previously unpublished photographs and paintings tracing the history of the company and the artist’s career. The author provides informative commentary on the creation, development, and significance of each calendar painting, and offers intriguing “behind-the-scenes” details as well. For instance, in discuss­ing Teller’s famous depiction of the Horseshoe Curve, the U-shaped track built by the Pennsy to pierce the Allegheny Mountains near Altoona, the author reveals the true, but little known, story behind its development. In the photo­graph that Teller made of Engine Number 5419 climbing the steep grade, smoke billows furiously from the stack. However, in his painting, Teller paints only a light plume of smoke wafting above the locomotive. The reason for this discrepancy between reality and the artist’s roman­tic portrayal is quite simple: Pennsy managers, ever watchful of the company’s image, rejected pictures that suggested their engines poured an inordinate amount of heavy smoke onto the American landscape. Never­theless, Teller’s perspective rendered a vivid, if somewhat idealized, impression of the Commonwealth’s golden era of railroading. In Dynamic Progress, painted in 1956, the artist’s rendering of clouds, the west bank of the Susquehanna River receding into the background, and distant hills dotted with houses attests to his skill at depicting land­scapes that enhance the majesty of the mighty trains. Even Teller’s titles contain a poetry of power: Giant Conquerors of Space and Time (1931), The World’s Greatest Highway (1935), The Main Line of American Commerce (1938), Leaders of the Fleet of Modernism (1939), and The Steel King (1941). Bursting with vigor and emotionally charged, Grif Teller’s familiar calendar art revives and triggers rich memories of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Crossroads of Com­merce appeals not only to serious railroad enthusiasts and aficionados of advertising and illustration art, but to all those fascinated by the sight of a sinewy train led towards its destiny by a steam engine, penetrating the rugged American landscape to arrive, as Teller would title it, On Time! (1932).


Lebanon County: A Post Card History

by Donald R. Brown, Robert A. Heilman, and Henry C. Westenberger
Lebanon County Historical Society, 1992 (205 pages, paper, $15.90)

Lebanon County: A Post Card History is a fascinating look at one Central Pennsylvania county solely through post cards – more than eight hundred and fifty! Most of the post card images in Lebanon County are real photographs printed on stiff card stock marketed by the Eastman Kodak Company beginning in 1902, or by Ansco and several smaller firms two years later. Itinerant photographers who had roamed the countryside for several decades now were able to offer post cards among their photographic services and wares. After the turn of the century, photographers were establishing studios in cities, towns, and villages throughout the nation, and Lebanon County claimed several respectable studio photographers, particularly Luther G. Harpel (1869-1956). In the opening decade of this century, Harpel began to produce post cards bearing photographic depictions of scenes throughout the county, such as favorite resorts, historic landmarks and shrines, and major industries. Often these images were printed in color by large manufacturers and retailed locally. Harpel also created limited quantities of real photograph post cards, which he sold at his Lebanon store and selected outlets. Unwit­tingly, he set standards of quality in photography in Pennsylvania and influenced two county photographers and post card makers who had worked for him, Harvey S. Lineaweaver of Campbelltown and Herbert G. Yost, Lickdale. Lebanon County: A Post Card History chronicles the famous (and not so famous) places and events in the county’s history, but it also celebrates the picture post card as a visual document. Ironically (and sadly), the authors note that because so few post cards have been issued since mid-century, fewer popularly-styled images of local and regional scenes of the second half of the twenti­eth century will be available for historians in the future. This book proves true the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”


Voices of Hazleton: A Century of Jewish Life

by Jeannette F. Miller
Interna­tional Printing Company, 1993 (288 pages, paper, $20.00)

Voices of Hazleton: A Century of Jewish Life presents an intimate portrait of Jewish life and culture in this Luzerne County community through the judicious use of oral histories, primary sources, and scholarly texts. Located in northeastern Pennsylvania’ s anthracite region, Hazleton celebrated its one hundredth year of incorporation in 1991, followed by the centennial of its organized Jewish commu­nity two years later. The author opens this book with a chapter aptly entitled “In The Beginning,” in which she documents the arrival of the first Jews in the area and examines the institutions they established. Interestingly enough, even before Hazleton’s Jewish community organized a synagogue, it established a cemetery. According to one of the individuals interviewed for this book, Isaac Honig asked Sophia Coxe, wife of one of the region’s most prosperous nineteenth century coal barons (and hailed for her many charitable acts as the “Angel of the Coal Fields”), to donate land for such a cemetery. The cemetery, whose earliest known burial took place in 1882, served the entire Jewish community from the late nineteenth century through the 1920s. Although eighty-seven Jews were known to have been living in Hazleton by 1878, the community’s first synagogue, Hagodas of Israel, was not organized until 1893; it was formally incorporated two years later as Chevra Agudath Israel. The most fascinating sections of Voices of Hazleton are those that deal with issues encountered by the community’s Jewish residents during the present century, most of which are presented in the first person. Interviews offer intriguing snippets of everyday Jewish life in the coal regions, touching on the need for kosher cooking and catering, engaging teachers and rabbis, establishing factories and opening specialty stores, and tending to the sick. In what is perhaps the most revealing chapter, “Causeless Hate,” interviewees recall bits of family history that poignantly illustrate cases of anti-Semitism: a widow refused a lease on an apart­ment because of her religion; children mercilessly taunted and teased by schoolmates; and denial of membership in the restricted Valley Country Club, located in the Conyngham Valley. However, those interviewed for Voices of Hazleton: A Century of Jewish Life do not wallow in self-pity, nor do they loathe their detractors. Instead, they proffer lively and spirited commentary, giving a human dimension to what life was like for their ancestors, and meaning to their lives and culture today. These voices do not simply speak; they sing.


The Longrifles of Western Pennsylvania

by Richard F. Rosenberger and Charles Kaufmann
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993 (139 pages, cloth, $60.00)

For more than a century, the American longrifle­ – commonly called the Kentucky rifle – was the finest rifle in the world. Written by avid students of the subject, The Longrifles of Western Pennsylvania: Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties chronicles the distinctive gun’s history from the mid-eigh­teenth century to about 1870, with an emphasis on the “golden age,” spanning from 1785 to 1815. Moreover, the authors dramatically illustrate that the gun.makers of western Pennsylvania were second to none in their skill and artistry. From the first settling of land west of the Allegheny Moun­tains, local gunsmiths produced the rifles that enabled the frontier family to survive in the wilderness. The Longrifles of Western Pennsylva­nia offers a brief history of the longrifle, an introduction to its manufacture and use in western Pennsylvania in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, biographies of all major makers, and detailed descriptions of known examples. Highlighted are fifty-eight longrifles and pistols, each photographed in three views. Several are shown in full color. Detail photo­graphs reveal exceptionally fine decoration on selected rifles. According to the authors, the American longrifle evolved slowly from its European ancestor, begin­ning about 1725. In order to survive on the American frontier, settlers required a weapon of greater accuracy, lighter weight, increased efficiency in the use of powder and ball, and longer range. Over time, these requirements stimulated the development of a new rifle, which became the finest firearm of its day. The longrifle may have been a necessity, but it was often a work of art as well, with a finely carved and painstak­ingly inlaid stock and intricately designed patch box. Above all, this book – the definitive study of the guns and gunsmiths of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties­ – establishes western Pennsylvania as an important center in the manufacture of the American longrifle.