Editor's Letter is an introduction to the contents and themes of each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage by the editor.

Forty some years ago, when I was in elementary school, I took a field trip with my science class to The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg to see the dioramas of Pennsylvania’s wildlife in Mammal Hall. Walking around the dark, circular gallery, I peered through windows into the fascinating, realistic habitats of 13 mammals, from the common to the locally extinct, and was transported to locations throughout the commonwealth — from rural Lebanon County at the burrow of two groundhogs to the edge of the Allegheny National Forest where a trio of elk wade through wetland mud to a rock ledge overlooking Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon where two wolves prepare to battle over a dead fawn. Today, the 40,000 schoolchildren who visit the museum each year are still being educated and entertained by these vivid scenes and so are several thousands of adults, many who like me first encountered them in their youth. Now the iconic exhibit has been refurbished, and in this edition we highlight the Mammal Hall restoration project, just completed in 2018, with the article “Windows on Pennsylvania’s Natural Places.” Science author Elizabeth Hanson presents the backstory of the exhibit, describing the meticulous planning and work that goes into the architecture of natural history dioramas. Focusing first on Mammal Hall’s creation in the 1960s and the specialists involved in bringing its taxidermy, painted backdrops, and three-dimensional foreground elements to life, she then moves on to the recent restoration by a crack team whose expert tidying, color touch-ups, specimen replacements, and technical improvements have enhanced an exhibit that has become a cross-generational shared experience among Pennsylvanians.

When Mammal Hall was in its planning stages in 1966, television was in the twilight of its infancy. The medium’s power to persuade was becoming more evident, however, notably in Pennsylvania after a political campaign film called The Man Against The Machine was broadcast on TV stations throughout the commonwealth. The film promoted a dark horse in the Democratic primary for governor, Milton J. Shapp, whose candidacy had been rebuffed by the party machine that existed at the time. In “Wrench in the Machine” political writer Steve Lilienthal examines the success of Shapp’s campaign media blitz, which became the subject of national attention in a Life magazine report, no less, and a landmark case in the use of mass media to gain a political following.

We also feature in this issue two stories related to current anniversaries. Since early 2017 we have published several articles in the magazine marking the centennial of World War I. In the past two editions we have followed Pennsylvania soldiers to combat in France in sweeping stories about the 28th Division in the conflict (“Keystone Men of Iron,” Winter 2018) and the role of three divisions in the last major Allied offensive of the war (“Pennsylvanians at Meuse-Argonne,” Spring 2018). Here, Charles Fox, PHMC’s Western Division chief of museums and historic sites, takes a more intimate look at a unit of the 28th from Somerset County in “The Sacrifices of Company C.” The story, which underscores an exhibit this summer at the Somerset Historical Center, focuses on the individuals involved in the violent struggle to put down the last German offensive along the Marne River in France, a victory for the Allies but one that took a devastating toll in Company C casualties.

In 1718 Pennsylvania founder and first proprietor William Penn passed away and was buried at Jordans Meeting House in Buckinghamshire, England. Three hundred years later, Pennsbury Manor, the site of Penn’s home in America, is commemorating his legacy. The story of Penn’s founding of Pennsylvania as a haven of religious toleration and personal freedom is well known, but less has been written about Penn after he returned to England. Taking a participatory approach, Linda A. Ries, archivist emeritus at the Pennsylvania State Archives, travels overseas to explore this challenging time in the founder’s life in “The Last Days of William Penn.” Visiting the burial ground where Penn was laid to rest, she contemplates his later years in Queen Anne’s England, from financial and familial difficulties to his struggles to retain ownership of his colony, and puts this time into perspective with his enduring contributions to Pennsylvania and the world.

The heritage we share in Pennsylvania is learned throughout our lives and comes to us in many ways, including exhibits, anniversaries and stories. It can be experienced locally in the dioramas of Mammal Hall and even abroad at Penn’s resting place in England. In Pennsylvania Heritage, we strive to bring the elements of this shared past together to convey that Pennsylvania’s history and culture are not only distinctive but truly exceptional.

Kyle R. Weaver,
Editor