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

With this issue, the staff and I are pleased to present the third feature in our series devoted to commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New Deal in Pennsylvania, PHMC’s annual theme for 2008.

For more than a decade, author David Lembeck — whose enthusiasm for the murals created for post offices during the New Deal is nothing less than infectious — has researched these works of art, their creators, and the buildings they adorn. Photographer Michael Mutmansky’s stunning images of these murals grace the cover and pages of this edition and offer a small sampling of these priceless public treasures.

Working with our contributors to research and illustrate this special series brought home a poignant message. The New Deal wasn’t about the myriad alphabet agencies — the CCC, PWA, REA, NYA, WPA, SSA — President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created to provide economic recovery and stimulus. It was about people, the millions of Americans whose security was being jeopardized by rampant joblessness, plummeting stock prices, and bank failures during the Great Depression.

Understanding history gives us perspective. If we are to appreciate the lessons of the New Deal, we should realize that, as a nation, we are resilient. Today’s unsettling economy — with financial markets fluctuating as unpredictably as fuel oil prices — gives us all concern, but America — and Pennsylvania — has been through tough times before. By embracing our history and learning from the past, we can take comfort in knowing that we will persevere.

Escalating gasoline prices, affecting the costs of nearly all goods and services, certainly impact on how and where we decide to work and play. Vacationing families may not be traveling as far or as often this year, but as “Rediscovering the People’s Art: New Deal Murals in Pennsylvania’s Post Offices” graphically shows us, these artworks are scattered throughout the Keystone State, just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. Many of these works have been created by world-class artists such as John Fulton Folinsbee (View of Burgettstown, Burgettstown, Washington County), Lee Gatch, (Squaw’s Rest, Elizabethtown, Lancaster County), Chaim Gross (Puddlers, Irwin, Westmoreland County), Janet de Coux (Vacation Time, Girard, Erie County), Harry Leith-Ross (General Lafayette Is Welcomed at Friendship Hill by Mr. and Mrs. Gallatin on May 27, 1825, Masontown, Fayette County), F. Luis Mora (Arrival of the Stage, Catasauqua, Lehigh County), and Moses and Raphael Soyer (Philadelphia Waterways with Ben Franklin Bridge, View of Downtown Philadelphia Skyline, Philadelphia). Many are located in historic buildings in charming communities not far from our homes. And admission is always free!

This summer is an ideal time to explore what the New Deal meant to generations of Pennsylvanians three-quarters of a century ago. It’s also an opportunity for all of us to learn how we can be more creative with our resources and savor the wealth of heritage, culture, and art that literally lies just beyond our doorsteps.

Michael J. O’Malley III
Editor