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.

Pure Escapism

Hess’s was more than a department store [“Max Hess Jr. Puts Allentown on the Map” by Liz Armstrong Hall, Fall 2004]. It was part magic, part fantasy, part enchantment – pure escapism! When you were young, you didn’t need more than a dollar (for the candy counter) to feel like a million dollars. I’ll always remem­ber the women who tended the cosmetic counters – they wore smart little black dresses and strands of pearls. It was chic. As a teenager, I was impressed by the exotic perfumes, many of which I couldn’t pronounce (let alone afford). One evening, before a date, I stopped in to see if there was a small bottle of perfume I could buy on a secretary’s salary. I must have been excited about my date and gushing about my beau, because one of the lovely clerks took me by the hand and walked me over to a counter, where she dabbed a “rare French parfume” behind each ear and dropped a few precious beads on my handkerchief. l was in heaven! The perfume was none other than Joy by Jean Patou, one of the most expensive fragrances in the world at the time! In a moment, she elevated me from a young working girl to a radiant princess. From that day on, Hess’s had my loyalty and I shopped there until this wonderful store closed.

Sandra P. Hillier
Emmaus, Pa.

 

Invisible History

I now remember the deplorable housing for migrant workers north of Fogelsville [in Lehigh County] in the 1960s – thanks only to your recent article by John Bloom [“Voices of Migrant Workers,” Winter 2005]. What I mostly recall is a row (maybe there were several?) of dilapidat­ed shacks on the edge of an orchard. The shacks were awful. The workers were poorly dressed and the few vehicles we would see were broken-down pickup trucks and older automobiles desperately in need of work and paint. Those shacks are long-gone now, remembered by very few people l know. This chapter in our history, which touches upon agriculture, labor, minorities, and economics, is what I call “invisible history” – epitomizing the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind.” The hovels were torn down about twenty or more years ago, and not a trace remains. No one now could ever imagine that such a miserable scene existed in this beautiful area. Thank you, Pennsylvania Heritage, for making us see the way things really were and, in many cases, still are. The story of migrant workers is not a happy story, and I applaud you for documenting this saga in photographs and in the very words of the workers themselves.

Jack Reeder
Philadelphia, Pa.

John Bloom’s article on seasonal migra­tory workers was fascinating and I commend the author and the magazine for telling it like it was. History isn’t always cheerful, pretty, or appetizing and, as an old, sixth-generation Pennsyl­vanian, I am proud that Pennsylvania Heritage isn’t afraid to take on such controversial subjects. I can always count on the magazine to give us history in an objective and truthful manner.

Roger A. Fisher Jr.
New Castle, Pa.

 

Happy Birthday!

Congratulations to The State Museum of Pennsylvania on its one hundredth anniversary this year [“A Centennial, A Celebration, A Cache of Treasures,” by Barbara Trainin Blank, Winter 2005]. On summer visits to my grandparents in Harrisburg, the museum was a “must do”! My brother and I spent so much time wandering through Mammal Hall that my mother teased us that we’d eventually become part of the exhibits. The trip down “memory lane” was enjoyable. To The State Museum: Happy Birthday! To Pennsylvania Heritage: Keep up the great work!

Allison McC. Shay
Scranton, Pa.

 

Profile in Courage

I think your governors articles are about worthy of Pennsylvania governors are worthy of being distributed to schools around the state. The way your writers introduce each governor is novel, and they have made me even more interested in learning about twentieth-century politics. Kenneth C. Wolensky’s article on Governor Robert P. Casey [“Remember­ing a Twentieth-Century Public Servant,” Winter 2005] could have been justifiably called “A Profile in Courage.” Thank you for the intimate portraits of the men who have led this great Commonwealth. I can’t wait for the day when I can thank you for profiling a woman governor.

Heather Meck
State College, Pa.

 

Cover Story

The cover of your Winter 2005 edition was spectacular; in fact, I’d say it was the best in a number of years. It really grabbed my attention. As soon as I saw it, I had to immediately open the magazine to find out more about it. Until I saw this picture, I assumed that we Marylanders had the market on fine old silver with Samuel Kirk and Son, Jacobi and Jenkins, and the Stieff Company. Are the other pieces in this set as magnificent as what is shown in this issue?

Karen Y. Ball
Baltimore, Md.

The cover photo for the Winter 2005 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage featured a detail of the decoration of the sterling silver centerpiece commissioned for the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania. The service ranks among the greatest presentation services error manufactured in the United States. Pieces of this magnificent service are ornately decorated with vignettes, cartouches, engravings, and three-dimensional figures. The Philadelphia jewelry firm of J.E. Caldwell won the commission for the service, but it was actually manufactured by the Gorham Company of Providence, Rhode Island. Gorham & Tiffany Co. were the undisputed leaders in the field of presentation silver at the time.

Designed by the Gorham Company’s Gilbert Crowell,the extended service totals 162 pieces – weighing in at 12,000 ounces! – and is acclaimed for its exuberant design. The State Museum of Pennsylvania lent the USS Pennsylvania‘s fifteen-gallon punchbowl (with its tray, cups, and ladle) for the landmark 1987 traveling exhibition, “Marks of Achievement: Four Centuries of American Presentation Silver,” which concluded its national tour at Metropolitan Museum of Art.