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

As Pennsylvania Heritage moves into its 49th year of publication with this issue, we present three features about Keystone State phenomena that are marked by longevity and progression through the years.

One of the highlights of the first wave of the movement for women’s rights in Pennsylvania was the 1897 founding of the Plastic Club for women artists in Philadelphia. At the time, most women who wanted to create art were relegated to amateur status, working at home without a professional career, unable to secure exhibitions of their work. Although women could attend art schools, they were denied membership in the city’s active art clubs, which provided opportunities for building a career though professional networking. Then, one group of female artists — including Emily Sartain, Violet Oakley, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Willcox Smith and Cecilia Beaux, names that would become canonical — decided that if women were to be excluded from professional art organizations, they would have to create their own club. Patricia Likos Ricci, distinguished professor of the history of art at Elizabethtown College, tells their story here in “The Plastic Club: Advancing Women Artists for 125 Years,” focusing on the organization’s development in the early decades — with visionary exhibitions in a variety of genres, “bohemian” social events, and civic activities—and closing with the club’s advance into the 21st century as it redefines itself for a new age.

Originally a producer of cork and now a designer and manufacturer of walls and ceilings, Armstrong World Industries has a long and varied history as a Pennsylvania corporation. Headquartered in Lancaster, it today has approximately 2,800 employees and a network of 21 facilities across the country and Canada. Much of Armstrong’s growth throughout the 20th century can be attributed to its early recognition of the emerging mass media as a force to successfully reach a national audience. In “For Every Room in the House,” LancasterHistory curator James D. McMahon Jr. has delved into the research center’s Armstrong World Industries Collection to present the highlights of the corporation’s mass marketing campaigns that began with magazine ads in The Saturday Evening Post in 1917, continued to radio with the Armstrong Quakers vocal group program in the 1920s and ’30s and the Armstrong Theatre of Today dramatic radio series in the ‘40s, and progressed to television with the Armstrong Circle Theatre in the ’50s and sponsorship of popular television shows and musical specials in the ’60s.

On New Year’s Day, many Pennsylvanians will be feasting on pork and sauerkraut — said to bring good luck in the new year. This tradition, rooted in the folk culture of the European Rhineland, is today practiced throughout Pennsylvania and even beyond the Keystone State’s borders. This and other New Year’s customs arrived in the commonwealth with German-speaking Europeans when they immigrated here in the 18th century and were subsequently carried on and adapted by their ancestors, the Pennsylvania Dutch. In “A Wish, a Dish & a Fish,” Patrick J. Donmoyer, director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University, explores these New Year’s traditions — some that have spread widely and others that survive only in small pockets of Pennsylvania Dutch County — from farmhouse rituals and symbolic baked goods to door-to-door chanting of blessings for the new year.

Kyle R. Weaver