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

It is with great excitement that the staff of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) prepares to launch the agency’s annual theme for 2010, “Black History in Pennsylvania: Communites in Common.” This theme enables PHMC to partner with local and regional organizations to rediscover – and, in many cases, uncover – Black history in communities throughout the Commonwealth. The Spring 2010 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage will once again serve as the observance’s special commemoration edition.

The Winter 2010 edition is full of surprises.

In this edition, you’ll discover insightful articles about several extraordinary individuals. You’ll meet three Philadelphia artists who specialized in painting ships and seas, a woman crowned by conservationists as “The Mother of Forestry in Pennsylvania,” and a governor who sacrificed his health for the common good.

James Hamilton, George R. Bonfield, and Franklin Dullin Briscoe were three remarkable nineteenth-century painters who capitalized on Philadelphia’s role as a port city and catered to a rising class of individuals who made their fortunes in maritime commerce. Their paintings – dramatic, often ethereal and, at times, haunting-not only captured the glory of tall ships departing harbors for open waters, but they also depicted stormy seas and shipwrecks. They found the sea to be an inescapable suitor that mesmerized them with its majesty and magnificence. Regular contributor Jim McClelland’s feature [“A Trio of Philadelphia Maritime Painters“] shows how these artists – long neglected by art historians – recorded for posterity the mighty vessels that once ruled the oceans.

Like Hamilton, Bonfield, and Briscoe, Mira Lloyd Dock, too, was intensely interested in the world around her and worked tirelessly at preserving it for both its natural beauty and economic value [see “‘With a Woman’s Instinct’: Mira Lloyd Dock, The Mother of Forestry in Pennsylvania“]. Author Bill McShane, a recent PHMC intern, reveals the ways she advocated prudent conservation measures – as well as understood the economic consequences of such stewardship – that put her on par with leading conservationists of her day, including Gifford Pinchot, J. Horace McFarland, and Joseph Trimble Rothrock. Although the Great Depression reduced her circumstances and she was unable to contribute financially to the cause as she once had, she continued to rail against the wholesale destruction of wildlands, which she saw as outright desecration.

Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin loved both his state and nation – so much so that he gave up his well-being for the preservation of the Commonwealth and the Union. William C. Kashatus, a longtime contributor to Pennsylvania Heritage, documents Curtin’s dogged determination to protect the Union at all costs, even if it left him a broken man [see “Pennsylvania’s War Governor“]. His allegiance to Abraham Lincoln was unparalleled, and he was the first to respond to the president’s call for troops to protect the nation’s capital in 1861. But he paid dearly for his loyalty; after years of public service, he returned home to Bellefonte, fragile and fatigued.

One lesson these visionaries, both individually and collectively, teach us is that preservation and perseverance go hand in hand. The stories of these legendary Pennsylvanians and their commitment to their causes continue to inspire us to this day.

Michael J. O’Malley III