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.

Compelling in Themselves

Having caught up, belatedly, with the Spring 2010 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage, I am bowled over with the depth of its coverage of Black history in the Commonwealth.

Cumberland Willis Posey’s fortitude and subsequent enrichment of the broad community, the tales of so many brave civil rights activists, including the remarkable Forten women, aided by my favorite Quaker lady, Lucretia Mott, are tremendous contributions to the history of Pennsylvania. The story of Nick Biddle’s Civil War experience is a boon to the students and scholars of the First Defenders. Charles “Teenie” Harris’s marvelous images of African Americans in Pittsburgh are compelling in themselves. What a treasure!

Thank you for the “WOW!” editions (and a teacher’s dream) in the magazine’s Black history theme.

Betsy Bell Condron
Kingston, Pa.


Hear Ye!

I have written letters to Pennsylvania Heritage that were printed and gained responses. This one relates to the recent listing of Black landmarks and communities in Pennsylvania in the Summer 2010 issue. Mother Bethel African American Episcopal Church in Philadelphia was listed [“Remembering Place: Black National Historic Landmarks in Pennsylvania” by Kenneth C. Wolensky], as was Coatesville in Chester County [“Black History in Pennsylvania: Communities in Common“]. Hear Ye! Not listed: Darby, adjacent to Philadelphia, that claims African American residents who count seven generations of settlement. Just ask them!

Darby was visited by an antislavery Quaker, John Woolman (1720–1772). The day before he sailed to England to teach, Woolman spoke before the Darby Quaker Meeting. Word returned that Woolman died while assisting a pocket of poor who suffered smallpox, which he contracted. On early visits, Darby Quakers became disciples for the crusade against slavery. When the same Quakers realized they were the last to hear Woolman, their commitment deepened. Darby adopted Woolman’s mission and made it a “community and citizen legacy.” The local Home family farm became a place for free Blacks, Hometown. A place to the west, originally known as Oakliola, was a free Black settlement. The northern reaches of Darby included Garrettford, where abolitionist Thomas Garrett (1789–1871) was born. Garrettford was the northernmost Black community radiating from Darby. The hub cluster goes unforgotten and unrecorded.

Since its early years, Darby has been a mixed community of African American and whites. Maryland-born Blacks arrived early and in increasing numbers after 1830. Independent Black churches in the community were incorporated beginning in the 1870s.

A native-born Darbyite, I have nearly a half-century of knowledge to share. This letter, above all others I hope, generates correspondence with me at tomroysmith@aol.com.

This letter was inspired by your excellent coverage of Black history.

Thomas Roy Smith
Darby, Pa.


Fascinating Stories

Pennsylvania Heritage is a treasure trove of fascinating stories. The Planters story [“Mr. Peanut’s Hometown: Wilkes-Barre and the Founding of Planters Peanuts” by William C. Kashatus, Summer 2010] stimulated a visit to Wilkes-Barre, with which I was only modestly familiar. It was sad to see the headquarters building boarded up and abandoned; nevertheless, one could imagine its beauty in its heyday. How wonderful it would be to see it restored and put to good use again.

The Bedford Springs Resort is a great example of the restoration of a dilapidated building to a beautiful new facility [“Investing in Our Past: Giving New Life to a Grande Dame” by Bonnie Wilkinson Mark, Summer 2010]. I had the good fortune to portray President James Buchanan during the 150th anniversary celebration of the first transatlantic cable transmitted in August 1858 by Queen Victoria to the president while he was vacationing at the resort. Records indicate that Buchanan spent forty vacations there and used it as his summer White House during his presidency.

How sad, as well, to see the reduced access to and maintenance of Pennsylvania’s wonderful historic sites, museums, and state parks. I support your efforts to restore proper funding to them.

Don Walters
Willow Street, Pa.


Truly Regrettable

I am so happy that your publication survived the awful state budget cuts. The magazine is something that every Pennsylvanian can (and should) be proud of. The exceptionally high quality of the articles makes it one of the best periodicals I’ve seen in quite a long time. Every local library and school district (and college and university) in the state should be mandated to subscribe. To lose Pennsylvania Heritage would be a truly regrettable and egregious mistake.

Todd Becker
Philadelphia, Pa.