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.

New World

Plaudits! I was captivated by the detailed article entitled “New Sweden and the New World – History Lessons from the Morton Homestead” by Sharon Hernes Silverman in the Winter 1999 edition. It treated one of my primary subjects of interest, John Morton (1725-1777). I have an observation about this founding father. Morton is among several signers of the Declaration of Independence of whom there is no authentic likeness. The staff at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia informs Morton researchers that the patriot lacks a biography. The same professionals lament, with researchers, that there is no extant portrait of him. My fifteen years of searching concurs. Hence, the all-too-familiar portrait in the article is spurious and affords pursed frowns. Having read scores of articles, however, I can testify that this article ranks as the most straightforward. I have one standing frustration relating to Pennsylvania’s New Sweden period. Everyone seems to have knowledge of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Why is it that Pennsylvanians cannot so readily recite their own first permanent European equivalent, Tinicum?

Thomas R. Smith
Upper Darby, Pa.

Thomas R. Smith is archivist for the Upper Darby Township and Sellers Memorial Free Library in Delaware County.

 

Found Treasure

As a former chief of historic sites for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission [PHMC], my interest in state history continues. I read with interest in the Winter 1999 edition about the restoration of sculptor Roland Hinton Perry’s Common­wealth. The artist’s model of this work now reposes in The State Museum of Pennsylvania. The whereabouts of this artifact remained unknown until it was acquired by the museum. How did it get there? The story may be of interest to you. While working for the Nassau County Museum, I haunted antiques shops on Long Island. In one shop I saw a statue with marks indicating its connection with the State Capitol in Harrisburg. I asked the dealer, Samuel Pollack, of the Bellmore Antique Galleries, if he had offered it to the new museum but he had not done so. He had sold the piece several times to private individuals, all of whom had returned it upon finding Commonwealth‘s outstretched ann at dangerous eye-level when placed it their homes. I asked the dealer to hold it while I sent a photograph and the quoted price to Dr. Sylvester K. Stevens, PHMC executive director. He found that no photograph of the figure on the dome existed. Having nothing to compare with my photo of the model, Dr. Stevens had one taken by helicopter! Following authentication, the model was purchased by the PHMC. Unfortunately, the pick-up was so delayed, I’ve been told, that the dealer delivered it himself to consummate the sale. Had the dealer been successful in making a sale to a private buyer, the artist’s model of Commonwealth would have been lost to us forever!

Robert P. L. Frick
Bethlehem, Pa.

 

Swallow Style

For a good number of years I have been taking a subscription to Pennsylvania Heritage and have found numerous leads and articles. I was taken by the article “‘From The Things We Know Best’: The Art of William W. Swallow” by Martha Hutson­-Saxton in the Winter 1999 issue. I find his pieces simple without any attempt for cute twists and turns. It was a breath of fresh air. I found myself perplexed, however, by the caption, on page 15, which describes “a grouping of stylized and highly glazed bird figures.” The realism of the beautiful art pieces begs for something more than such editorial constraints-the picture requires a specific identification of these birds as “guinea chickens,” or “guinea hens,” or “guinea cocks.” The concrete, non-abstract article and the photo on page 20 had me looking for the actual name of Swallows cow. Keep up the good work!

Richard Druckenbrod
Allentown, Pa.

 

The article on the art of William W. Swallow by Martha Hutson-Saxton was very enjoyable. I’m puzzled by the picture captioned “stylized … bird figures.” These are not really stylized – they are figures of guinea fowl. In my youth, they were common in Pennsylvania, prized for their eggs, eating of bugs, and ornamental looks. They can still be seen sometimes, mostly on Amish and Mennonite farms. They were originally from Africa but were domesticated in the United States. William Swallow caught them “just right,” as they go about with their heads up, strutting and jabbering constantly, with gray and white feathers and red topknots. Very proud birds! I Jove your magazine and find many things of interest. I am of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage – the “Gay” Dutch as differentiated from the “Plain” Dutch. I am somewhat familiar with the Dutch dialect, but we have adopted the modern conveniences and dress, more or less. Thanks for the memories!

Doris I. Zearfoss
Selinsgrove, Pa.