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 Little Math

In case no one else noticed, in “Letters to the Editor” appearing in the Winter 1999 edition, letter writer Jack Bitner of Mt. Gretna states that $68,000 in 1880 would be worth three to four million dollars today. The editorial response to Eric G. Blumenthal’s question about Asa Packer’s worth in the same column states it was valued at twenty million dollars in 1879. A little math shows that Packer was worth about one billion of today’s dollars!

Paul E. Yamarik
Sugarloaf, Pa.

Cornwall Iron Furnace’s ironmaster Robert Habersham Coleman had spent sixty-eight thousand dollars to build a mansion for his first wife, Lillie Clark. Construction began in 1879 but her death, coupled with disputes with Coleman’s architect, caused him to halt work on the mansion in May 1880. Coleman then ordered the mansion destroyed. Scion of a prosperous family whose history in Pennsylvania’s iron industry predates the American Revolution, Robert Habersham Coleman built – and lost – one of the era’s greatest fortunes before he readied the age of forty (see “A Blast from the Past: Cornwall Iron Furnace” by Sharon Hemes Silverman, Spring 1998). At his death in 1879, Asa Packer was the richest individual in the Keystone State. He was an important canal boat builder, founder of the Lehigh, Valley Railroad, and entrepreneur. Also a philanthropist, he founded Lehigh University and financed St. Luke’s Hospital, both in Bethlehem, and donated money to schools, churches, and libraries (see “‘Your Future Depends on Yourself’: Asa Packer as the Self Made Man” by Lorett Treese, Fall 1998).


Philadelphia Politics

The article about Philadelphia’s mayoral campaign of 1935, which pitted John B. Kelly against S. Davis Wilson, was extremely well written. (How refreshing, too, to read about Kelly without one mention of his famous daughter, H.R.H. Princess Grace of Monaco, who still reigns as the sainted darling of A&E’s Biography and The History Channel.) I was surprised to read that the writer is a college student. His analysis was right on target and intelligently presented. Very astute. That’s great talent. He must have had a good mentor or else he has politics in his blood.

Marnie Kepler
Philadelphia, Pa.

Both. “Slaying the Republican Giant: John B. Kelly and the Rise of Philadelphia’s Democrat­ic Party” was written by Jesse T. Rendell, a student at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the son of Circuit Judge Marjorie Osterlund Rendell of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third District and Edward Rendell, two-term mayor of the City of Philadelphia. This article was originally written as an academic paper under the direction of former teacher William C. Kashatus, a long-time regular contributor to Pennsylvania Heritage.


Christmas Crossing

I grew up in the “golden olden days” when our grade school history classes were a mixture of fact and fancy. Until I read the article about George Washington crossing the Delaware River (“The Boat Ride That Changed America: Washington Crossing Historic Park” by Sharon Hemes Silverman, Fall 1999), I really thought that Christmas Day was a fictional device to give the historical account some extra oomph. Thank you for making me see it clearly.

William G. Dent
Pittsburgh, Pa.

My wife and I discovered your fine publication in a Philadelphia library. We’re from the “other side” of the Delaware and after reading the article about Washington Crossing Historic Park, we plan to attend the reenactment on December 25. Thanks for letting us know all about it.

Myron Cohen
Newark, N.J.

Each year, on Christmas Day, authentically costumed reenactors portray the 1776 crossing of the Delaware River by General George Washington and his troops. After their successful crossing of the ice-choked river, the American forces launched a surprise attack on the Hessians stationed at Trenton, turning the Revolutionary War in favor of the colonies. Today, thousands of spectators throng the banks of the river at the park to watch the immensely popular reenactment. For more information, write: Washington Crossing Historic Park, P.O. 103, Washington Crossing, PA 18977; or telephone (215) 493-4076.