Letters presents readers' comments and reactions to specific articles in Pennsylvania Heritage, the initiatives of PHMC, and other developments in the historical, cultural and museum communities of Pennsylvania.

Filled the Bill

I appreciated the article entitled “Against All Odds: Chevalier Jackson, Physician and Painter” in the summer 1992 edition. Following a double mastoid ear operation at the age of seven, I moved with my family to Philadelphia in 1924, and my mother and I commuted at least weekly for ear treatments from Dr. Arthur J. Wagers, a friend and colleague of Dr. Jackson. It was during this time I met Dr. Jackson several times. Both doctors were interested in the fact that I survived scarlet fever and diphtheria (both at the same time), which infected the mastoids. I have ever since wanted to know more about Chevalier Jackson’s life and work. Louis M. Waddell’s article filled the bill and is a wonderfully written tribute to Dr. Jackson.

William S. Wright
Chicago, Ill.

 

Eckley Ancestors

In the “Currents” department of the spring 1992 issue (“Anthracite People”), there is a photograph allegedly from the turn-of-the-century of “Germans” in the coal mining patch town of Eckley. Both my wife and I are descended from ancestors, completely from southern and eastern Europe, who came to this country in the late nineteenth century and worked in the factories and coal mines of Pennsylvania. It seemed in our own family, as well as in various historical texts, that those who worked in the mines and lived in the coal patches from the late nineteenth well into the twentieth century were either from Ireland or southern and eastern Europe. With the exception of the Irish, no northern or western European physically worked in the mines, other than as superin­tendents, and most assuredly never lived in the hovels typically reflected in the mining patches around the turn-of-the-century. Were you in error, or was this the only German family who suffered the fate of the southern and eastern Europeans?

Richard A. Katzman
New Cumberland, Pa.

There was, indeed, a mass movement of eastern and southern Europeans to this country during the late nine­teenth and early twentieth centuries, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania to work as anthracite miners and laborers. Preceding them in the early nineteenth century were the English, Scotch, Welsh, Dutch, some Scandinavians, and Germans. These individuals also began work underground in the mines. While many of the workers from these ethnic groups eventually moved to higher-level positions in the company, many becoming superintendents, not everyone was fortunate enough to rise through the ranks. It would be inaccurate to generalize and claim that “no northern or western European physically worked in the mines … around the turn-of-the-century.” In the Report of the Department of Mines of Pennsylvania, 1919-1920, published by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a chart entitled “Nationality of Employees Killed, 1900-1920,” gives a total of two hundred and ninety German workers killed in the mines during those two decades. In an oral history interview, John Knock, an Ashland, Schuylkill County, folk artist born in 1913, recalls that his father, Fred Knock, a German­ American, worked underground and was killed in 1917 at the age of thirty-five in an accident at the Bast Colliery. Furthermore, mine employees, including mine operators and superintendents, did reside in patch towns. Those with a higher station enjoyed more comfortable, single dwell­ings, while miners and laborers lived in small, modest double houses. “Anthracite People: Immigration and Ethnicity in Pennsylvania’s Hard Coal Fields” has been installed as a permanent exhibit at the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in McDade Park, Scranton.

 

Etcetera

The Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, Philadel­phia, has acquired the archives of the late Robert N. C. Nix, Sr., a gift of his son, Robert N. C. Nix, Jr., who assumed the office of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1984 (see “Mailbox,” spring 1993). The photograph accompanying this query was incorrectly identified as that of Chief Justice Nix; it is actually a photograph of his father, the distinguished congressman. The staffs of the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum and Pennsylvania Heritage regret any confusion this mis­identification may have caused readers.