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.

A Giant Among Men

Congratulations to William C. Kashatus on his extraordinary article, “A New Birth of Freedom,” which appeared in the Fall 1999 issue. Americans, who have witnessed the downfall of so many latter-day heroes in recent years, can take heart in knowing that Abraham Lincoln was truly a giant among men. The article has enhanced my already considerable admiration for this great president.

Bruce Kistler
Winter Haven, Fla.

It seems ironic to me that after so many years, Abraham Lincoln is still subjected to the “praise tinged with ridicule” he felt early in his lifetime. In the letter Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley to make clear his intention, the following sentence was omitted in the article: “I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.” That statement was intended for publication in Greeley’s New York Tribune. Sounds fairly ambiguous. Sounds like more than the statement of a “shrewd politician.” Sounds like a man with long-held moral convictions. Ever the pragmatist, Lincoln pursued the goal of Union at all times. That goal assured, and the temper of the country now able to support such a notion, he was able to press for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, to assure that all slaves might be free. It is true that he marveled at the wide-ranging consequences of the civil conflict, even as we were astounded at the fact of the Cold War, the standing scourge of our generation, ended within our lifetimes. Lincoln often referred to Providence, and he prayed, but he worked to achieve what he could. Some of us do not think a sudden and mighty metamorphosis took place in the man; he learned, he grew, he remained the product of his own efforts, his own place, his own times.

Jo Retter Dzombak
Latrobe, Pa.


Artistic License

Unless there was an error in reproducing the illustration by Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) for the cover of the Fall 1999 issue, the artist indulged in artistic license by altering the combined Union Jack of the red cross of Saint George of England and the white saltier of Saint Andrew of Scotland (declared by King James I in 1606) with the enclosure of the red saltier of Saint Patrick of Ireland in 1801. To be brief and simple: the Union Jack depicted by Szyk was not created until twenty-five years after the death, in 1776, of Colonel Johann Gottleib Rall at Trenton, New Jersey. One of my sources is the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Alexander R. Chamberlin
Mountain Grove, Pa.


Unraveling a Mystery

Your story “Slaying the Republican Giant John B. Kelly and the Rise of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party” [by Jesse T. Rendell, Fall 1999] led me to further readings regarding the Kelly family. I was hoping these books would help to unravel a family mystery. A portrait of three children identified as “The Kelly Children” is the basis of this mystery. My father told of being taken at an early age by his father to a spacious home in Philadelphia to visit his a\mt. The date was about 1895. He remembered a beautiful home and his aunt giving him this photograph of these children. What is known about the relationship of my grandfather David Matthew and his sister Rebecca, the aunt in this story, is that they were separated when the family was disbanded after the Civil War. Samuel Matthew’s family of nine children, living in Newmanstown, Lebanon County, were scattered after he died in the war. David entered the Mt. Joy Soldiers’ Orphans Home and Rebecca was “ta.ken in” by a Kelly family of Philadelphia. Aunt Rebecca probably served as a servant for this family. The visit of my father to the Kelly home about 1895 suggests that the children in the photograph were born circa 1883 to 1887. Who are they? More significant, however, is that this story, unimportant in itself, reflects a small point in the broad spectrum of Pennsylvania Heritage.

Richard E. Matthews
Slatington, Pa.