Cover image for Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth Edited by Randall M. Miller and William A. Pencak


A History of the Commonwealth

Edited by Randall M. Miller and William A. Pencak


$47.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-02214-7

712 pages
9" × 10.25"
36 color/435 b&w illustrations/28 maps
Co-published with The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Keystone Books


A History of the Commonwealth

Edited by Randall M. Miller and William A. Pencak

“From Quaker rule to the devastating decline of the steel industry, Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth chronicles political, cultural, and economic developments that have shaped the Keystone State. Edited by Saint Joseph’s University history professor Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, a historian at Pennsylvania State University, this lucid and comprehensive history includes contributions from archivists, historians and other academics on such subjects as the state’s role in the Underground Railroad and the folklore of the Pennsylvania Dutch. The first part of the handsomely illustrated volume is a straightforward chronological history, while the second is divided into thematic chapters on such subjects as the geography, archaeology and literature of the state.”


  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects
The Keystone State, so nicknamed because it was geographically situated in the middle of the thirteen original colonies and played a crucial role in the founding of the United States, has remained at the heart of American history. Created partly as a safe haven for people from all walks of life, Pennsylvania is today the home of diverse cultures, religions, ethnic groups, social classes, and occupations. Many ideas, institutions, and interests that were first formed or tested in Pennsylvania spread across America and beyond, and continue to inform American culture, society, and politics. This book tells that story—and more. It recenters Pennsylvania in the American historical narrative.

Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth offers fresh perspectives on the Keystone State from an array of distinguished scholars who view the history of this Commonwealth critically and honestly, using the latest and best scholarship to give a modern account of Pennsylvania's past. They do so by emphasizing the evolution of Pennsylvania as a place and an idea. The book, the first comprehensive history of Pennsylvania in almost three decades, sets the Pennsylvania story in the larger context of national social, cultural, economic, and political development. Without sacrificing treatment of the influential leaders who made Pennsylvania history, the book focuses especially on the lives of everyday people over the centuries. It also magnifies historical events by examining the experiences of local communities throughout the state.

Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth is divided into two parts. Part I offers a narrative history of the Commonwealth, paying special attention to the peopling process (the movement of people into, around, and out from the state); the ways people defined and defended communities; the forms of economic production; the means of transportation and communication; the character, content, and consequences of people's values; and the political cultures that emerged from the kinds of society, economy, and culture each period formed and sustained. Part II offers a series of "Ways to Pennsylvania's Past"nine concise guides designed to enable readers to discover Pennsylvania's heritage for themselves. Geography, architecture, archaeology, folklore and folklife, genealogy, photography, art, oral history, and literature are all discussed as methods of uncovering and understanding the past. Each chapter is especially attuned to Pennsylvania's place in the larger American context, and a Foreword, Introduction, and Epilogue to Part I explore general themes throughout the state's history. An important feature of the book is the large selection of illustrations—more than 400 prints, maps, photographs, and paintings carefully chosen from repositories across the state and beyond, to show how Pennsylvanians have lived, worked, and played through the centuries. This book is the result of a unique collaboration between Penn State Press and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Together they gathered scholars from all over the Commonwealth to envision a new history of the Keystone State and commit their resources to make imagining and writing a new history possible.

“From Quaker rule to the devastating decline of the steel industry, Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth chronicles political, cultural, and economic developments that have shaped the Keystone State. Edited by Saint Joseph’s University history professor Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, a historian at Pennsylvania State University, this lucid and comprehensive history includes contributions from archivists, historians and other academics on such subjects as the state’s role in the Underground Railroad and the folklore of the Pennsylvania Dutch. The first part of the handsomely illustrated volume is a straightforward chronological history, while the second is divided into thematic chapters on such subjects as the geography, archaeology and literature of the state.”
“This book is not like any other history of Pennsylvania you have ever seen. This is an engagingly-written, profusely-illustrated presentation of the latest academic thinking about the history of the Keystone State, as viewed within the expanded perspective of the nation’s history.”
“A new history that inspires readers to uncover their own stories. With suggested readings and a bibliography, this thoroughly enjoyable work will appeal to both lay readers and specialists. Highly recommended for area academic, public and high school libraries.”
“No need to wonder when you’ll have time to plow through the book. . . . Each chapter makes for a satisfying read in itself.”
“Nearly a decade in the making, this weighty tome is one for which historians—avocational and professional—have been waiting! Essays by contributors representing various disciplines and fields make Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth well worth the wait.”
Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth is literate and informative, but it is not a dry encyclopedia. It is readable, reader-friendly and worth reading, whether from start to finish (a great snowy day adventure) or by randomly selecting chapters. In other words, it’s meant to educate, enlighten and entertain today’s people (to whom it’s dedicated) because it’s about yesterday’s people from whence we came.”
“Pennsylvania offers a rich array of people and events to consider. It is quite simply a magnificent book, worthy of the Keystone State’s past and of vital importance to its future. In its pages, the quiet, industrious heroes and heroines of Pennsylvania—who did indeed make William Penn’s colony ‘the seed of a nation’—come alive once more. . . . Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth combines a innovative format, perceptive scholarship, and a compelling literary style.”
“The editors, authors and publishers are to be congratulated for producing such a challenging and handsome product. This volume should find a home in schools, colleges, universities and public libraries. It could be useful to the scholar and layperson alike. Miller and Pencak have performed a signal service to anyone who wants a starting place to learn about Pennsylvania.”
“The editors have chosen a way to present ourselves to ourselves and do it painlessly. If you are worried about being pummeled with names and dates, rest assured there’s more to Pennsylvania than that, as the parade of pages proves.”
“Edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth combines an innovative format, perceptive scholarship, and a compelling literary style.”
“This comprehensive history of Pennsylvania is truly the new social history.
Essential for students and educators, anyone interested in understanding the community where they live will enjoy this book.”
“This fresh, interpretive history is highly recommended for its attention paid to the people of Pennsylvania and the process of historical inquiry and methodology. The book compels reassessment of one’s understanding of Pennsylvania history.”
“Edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, the book is a user-friendly, in-depth look at the significant people, places, institutions and events in the state’s history.”
Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth provides the first definitive history of the Keystone state in nearly 30 years.”
“This fresh, interpretive history is highly recommended for its attention paid to the people of Pennsylvania and the process of historical inquiry and methodology.”
“Fresh perspectives for the Keystone State for a modern account of Pennsylvania’s past.”

Randall M. Miller is William Dirk Warren '50 Sesquicentennial Chair and Professor of History at Saint Joseph's University and past president of the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

William Pencak (1951–2013) was Professor of History at The Pennsylvania State University and editor of Pennsylvania History, the journal of the Pennsylvania Historical Association.


Foreword by Brent D. Glass


Introduction: Why Should We Care About Pennsylvania History?

Part I: The History

1. The First Pennsylvanians

Daniel K. Richter

2. Encounter and Experiment: The Colonial Period

Susan E. Klepp

3. The Promise of Revolution: 1750–1800

William Pencak

4. Building Democratic Communities: 1800–1850

Emma Lapsansky

5. Civil Wars: 1850–1900

Walter Licht

6 Reforming the Commonwealth: 1900–1950

David R. Contosta

7 The Postindustrial Age: 1950–2000

Philip Jenkins

Epilogue: The Making and Unmaking of the Pennsylvanian Empire

Michael Zuckerman

Part II: Ways to Pennsylvania’s Past

8. Geography

Wilbur Zelinsky

9. Architecture

Richard J. Webster

10. Archaeology

Verna L. Cowin

11. Folklore and Folklife

Simon J. Bronner

12. Genealogy

James M. Beidler

13. Photography

Linda Ries

14. Art

Randall M. Miller and William Pencak

15. Oral History

Linda Shopes

16. Literature

David Demarest

Appendix: Popular Vote for Governor of Pennsylvania, 1633–1998

Select Bibliography



Foreword: The Value of Pennsylvania History

George W. Bush won the presidential election of 2000 because the fifty states cast more electoral votes for him, even though more people actually voted for his opponent, Albert A. Gore Jr. The election reminded Americans about a peculiar institution called the electoral college, and an equally peculiar system known as federalism in which each state conducts elections according to distinct laws and procedures. The daily news contains dozens of stories that underline this basic but often overlooked fact of our national experience: what happens in the individual states that make up our nation is of critical importance. Despite the greatly increased power of the national government in Washington, D.C., each state still controls its own destiny—and that of their citizens—in many ways. Whether the issue is utility regulation, abortion rights, welfare reform, education initiatives, or environmental protection, the states serve as “laboratories of democracy” much in the way the founders envisioned. The history of each state is a narrative that both reflects its own political, social, economic, and cultural traditions and at the same time intersects and shapes the national story.

The history of Pennsylvania, perhaps more than any other state, reveals the complex relationship between state history and national history. From its origins as a colony with a special sense of mission—to show that peoples of diverse religions and nationalities could live in peace—to its emergence as a political and economic power, to its struggle to compete in the global marketplace, Pennsylvania and its history contain almost all the principal elements found in the history of the United States. One way to understand the meaning of Pennsylvania’s past is to examine certain places around the state that are recognized for their significance in the entire nation. These icons of state history also illustrate that every chapter of American history has at least a few pages written in Pennsylvania.

Human occupation of what we now call Pennsylvania began more than 16,000 years ago. Evidence of the earliest peoples is found at Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County, a site that is important for its well-preserved artifacts of prehistoric times and that reveals that the region—indeed, the entire North American continent—was inhabited much earlier than previously thought. By the time Europeans moved into Pennsylvania in the mid-seventeenth century, several native groups, such as the Monongahelas and the Eries, had already vacated the area, and Delawares, Susquehannocks, and Senecas lived in small villages like Kittanning, Shamokin, Logstown, and Wyoming. William Penn sought to coexist peacefully with these Native Americans, and the treaty he signed in 1682 instantly became a symbol of a new philosophy and attitude in the New World. Unfortunately, in an action that foreshadowed deteriorating relations between whites and Natives throughout American history, his sons ended a long era of peace and trust by the infamous Walking Purchase of 1737, acquiring through deception a large portion of the northeastern part of the colony.

A popular belief holds that the idea to cast the Liberty Bell in 1751 began as a way to honor the fiftieth anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, a remarkable constitution that guaranteed religious freedom and defined the political framework of the new colony. In the decades preceding the American Revolution, other colonies followed Pennsylvania’s model of religious toleration. During this period, Philadelphia blossomed as a major urban center led by Benjamin Franklin and his colleagues, who created educational, commercial, and social institutions such as the Library Company, the first banks in the British colonies, and the University of Pennsylvania. The Liberty Bell became a symbol of the revolution against Britain and later came to be seen as a touchstone of democracy in a new republic. In the nineteenth century, abolitionists adopted the Liberty Bell as the universal symbol of freedom and justice. Pennsylvania, with the Mason and Dixon Line forming its southern boundary, became a major destination on the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves. In the final decades of the twentieth century, the Liberty Bell has been the centerpiece of Independence National Historic Park. Enshrined in a specially designed pavilion, it beckons millions of visitors from every corner of the world.

In western Pennsylvania the Forks of the Ohio achieved international fame even before it became the site of Pittsburgh, the Commonwealth’s second largest city. The strategic importance of that location attracted George Washington to the region on behalf of the Virginia colony, which claimed the region along with Pennsylvania and French Canada. Washington’s aggressive push to remove the French and their Indian allies from western Pennsylvania sparked a decade of conflict that spread worldwide. British forces gained control of the Forks of the Ohio in 1758 and established Fort Pitt—an important step contributing to the removal of the French from the North American continent. The city of Pittsburgh grew from this colonial fortification into one of America’s greatest industrial centers, the hub of the nation’s crucial steel industry. Railroads and warehouses buried the old fort at the Forks in mounds of dirt and coal ash. Remarkably, the old blockhouse of Fort Pitt survived all this development, and the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution successfully challenged the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad to preserve it. After World War II, Pittsburgh embarked on a “Renaissance” that transformed the blockhouse and fifty acres of industrial blight into a state park and museum commemorating the epic struggles for empire in the eighteenth century.

An Amish farm in Lancaster County reflects both the state’s religious heritage and its agricultural heritage. Known as “the best poor man’s country” in the eighteenth century, Pennsylvania’s farms earned a reputation for productivity and quality. Places like the Oley Valley in Berks County, where stone bank barns and timbered covered bridges have withstood the challenges of a changing landscape, carry a rich architectural legacy. The annual State Farm Show in Harrisburg—sixteen acres of indoor displays and attractions—is perhaps the greatest evidence of the variety and vitality of agriculture’s place as the state’s largest industry. Although the Amish refuse to drive cars or use electric appliances, they actively participate in the Farm Show. Their presence is a reminder of the tradition of religious freedom that made Pennsylvania unique among the American colonies. The Quakers in Philadelphia established this tradition, and William Penn gave voice to this ideal in his writings and policies. Groups that fled persecution in Europe—Moravians, Schwenkfelders, Mennonites, and Harmonists—sought and found refuge and isolation in Pennsylvania. Ironically, these communities of faith have now become some of the state’s leading tourist attractions, and they are so popular that commercial development threatens to destroy their integrity and authenticity.

In the nineteenth century, Pennsylvania was a center for a variety of reforms. Concern for individual rights, plus the need for social change, brought about important initiatives in criminal justice, public education, care for the mentally ill, social welfare, and the abolition of slavery. For example, the construction of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia (1829) introduced a new system of criminal justice that became a model throughout the world. The building itself expressed a new philosophy, that prisoners should be rehabilitated and become “penitent” rather than merely suffer for their crimes. Throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, Pennsylvanians continued to challenge the status quo. Ida Tarbell, reared in the state’s oil region, wrote a pathbreaking study of the Standard Oil Company and exposed the abuses of unregulated capitalism. John Mitchell and Mary Hariss “Mother” Jones, well known in the coalfields, led a protracted struggle for the rights of workers to organize. The violence in the anthracite region associated with the Molly Maguires, and the bloody events at Homestead and Lattimer in the 1890s, kept Pennsylvania at the forefront of an epic conflict between management and labor. In the same period, progressives such as Gifford Pinchot, J. Horace MacFarland, and Mira Lloyd Dock introduced the concepts of conservation and pushed for public improvements to promote health, recreation, and the scenic beauty of cities.

By the time the Horseshoe Curve near Altoona was completed in 1854, Pennsylvania had emerged as a major hub of transportation and commerce. The roads, canals, bridges, and railroads that crisscrossed the state reflected an engineering daring and genius that literally overpowered its rugged topography. The National Road, the Allegheny Portage, the Rockville Bridge, and the Tunkhannock Viaduct are just a few of the landmarks associated with the transportation revolution that culminated in 1941 in the first limited-access highway—the Pennsylvania Turnpike—and in many of the milestones of early aviation history. The nation’s first modern corporation, the Pennsylvania Railroad, developed into an economic and political force during the latter half of the nineteenth century, employing more than 125,000 workers at its peak. Building and operating the transportation infrastructure required the skills and sacrifice of thousands of workers, many of them immigrants. At one point, nearly every family in Pennsylvania included someone who was “workin’ on the railroad.” The dramatic decline of railroading in the twentieth century became a case study in corporate mismanagement. Only at museums in Altoona, Strasburg, and Scranton can visitors begin to understand the enormous scope and impact of this vital industry.

The Gettysburg Battlefield represents more than the defining moment in the American Civil War. A century before that conflict, Pennsylvania’s strategic importance resulted in decisive military actions that began with the French and Indian War and included major engagements in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Capturing Philadelphia in 1777 became the overarching goal of the British high command and led to battles at Brandywine, Paoli, Fort Mifflin, and Germantown, as well as to George Washington’s winter retreat to Valley Forge. In the War of 1812, control of the Great Lakes was a key objective that encouraged the United States to build a small fleet in the remote town of Erie. The naval victory on September 10, 1813, brought fame to Oliver Hazard Perry and his flagship, the Niagara, and to his victory message: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Monuments and memorials to these events stand throughout Pennsylvania. But nowhere is the glory and pain of battle more poignantly remembered than at Gettysburg, where the nation’s future literally held in the balance and where Abraham Lincoln spoke in November 1863 and gave new meaning to the national experience.

Pennsylvania’s central place in the industrial revolution is evident in so many places, but perhaps Drake Well near Titusville is the most enduring icon of that extraordinary period. The discovery of oil in that Pennsylvania town in 1859, and the commercial exploitation of oil, and later natural gas, triggered a boom that created tremendous wealth—and spectacular failures. An abundance of other natural resources—coal, timber, and iron ore—coupled with entrepreneurial leadership in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and several other cities, made Pennsylvania an industrial behemoth for more than a century. Processing industries like textiles, leather, and food, and fabricating plants for steel rails and bridges, locomotives and railroad cars, metal products, and electrical equipment, flourished, attracting a huge number of workers from southern and eastern Europe and the rural South.

In 1919 Pennsylvania’s major industries employed more than 1.6 million workers. Industry giants like Andrew Carnegie, George Westinghouse, Andrew Mellon, Milton Hershey, and Walter Annenberg amassed some of the nation’s greatest fortunes, and products like Heinz Ketchup, Hershey’s Kisses, Crayola Crayons, Slinkies, and TV Guide became national icons of a consumer society. The legacy of discovery and innovation is evident in the twentieth-century milestones in research and technology—for instance, polio vaccine, artificial intelligence, and the computer—that were reached in Pennsylvania’s laboratories.

As Pennsylvania approached the pinnacle of its prestige and power as a state, President Theodore Roosevelt came to Harrisburg in 1906 to dedicate the State Capitol, a monument to America’s Gilded Age. The art of the Capitol impresses visitors with the significance of Pennsylvania’s history and the importance of the several branches of government that labor under its great dome. Completion of this remarkable public building inspired civic leaders in Harrisburg to undertake a series of public works that made the state’s capital city a center for the national City Beautiful movement. Over the next thirty years, new buildings in the Capitol Complex reinforced the connections between government, art, history, and progress. Notwithstanding epochal scandals and withering partisanship, the Capitol endures as a unique forum of democracy. In a timeless routine that resembles a staged production, advocates on every issue lobby in its corridors and rally in its ornate rotunda with the murals of Edwin Abbey looming overhead and the Moravian tiles of Henry Mercer underfoot. After generations of neglect and careless destruction, a new preservation ethic has saved the artwork of the Capitol and its neighboring buildings. Nearby, an impressive complex housing the State Museum and the State Archives documents and displays the Commonwealth’s past.

If the State Capitol ranks high among Pennsylvania’s most dominant public buildings, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (1937) has earned the status of a modern icon and become among the best-known and most admired American buildings of the twentieth century. Wright designed this summer retreat for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh to coexist in harmony with its natural setting. In the process, he created a new artistic standard. Several other architectural trends also took shape in Pennsylvania, including Nicholas Biddle’s promotion of Greek Revival, Henry Richardson’s Romanesque Allegheny County Courthouse, the rich Victorian gems of Frank Furness, the influential philosophy of Louis Kahn, and the witty and controversial postmodernism of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Pennsylvania’s contribution to the arts extends to literature, painting, and music. Institutions like Carnegie Mellon University, the Curtis School of Music, and the venerable Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts offer superb training for the young. The individual achievements of the Calders, the Wyeths, Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, Violet Oakley, John Updike, John O’Hara, James Michener, August Wilson, Eugene Ormandy, and Andy Warhol demonstrate the state’s remarkable artistic range and diversity.

Not far from the ceaseless traffic of Interstate 81 south of Wilkes-Barre, the Huber Breaker stands as a hulking ruin, a rotting monument to Pennsylvania’s industrial past, and to the coal industry in particular. Abandonment and disinvestment, especially in major industries like coal, steel, railroads, and textiles, are the unpleasant realities of the last quarter of the twentieth century, when Pennsylvania became part of America’s “rust belt.” In the coal mines, the decline was most dramatic. More than 300,000 miners, equally divided in the bituminous and anthracite fields, were at work in 1919, but by the 1980s their numbers had declined by 90 percent. At the Huber Breaker, from 1939 to 1966, as many as 6,000 men processed 700 tons of coal each day. Today, the breaker and dozens of abandoned sites throughout the state form a surreal landscape of iron, steel, and concrete. Occasionally, a plan to recycle these “brownfields” emerges: an industrial park in Homestead; an industrial museum in Bethlehem; offices and apartments in Phoenixville. Whether this massive infrastructure will rise as part of Pennsylvania’s new economy in the twenty-first century remains an unanswered question for the future.

Community-building has been a consistent feature of Pennsylvania’s history from the time Thomas Holme first surveyed and plotted Penn’s “greene country towne” of Philadelphia. The New England–style villages of the northern tier, the Ephrata Cloister and the utopian communities of the Moravians and Harmonists, and model industrial towns like Vandergrift in Westmoreland County reflected a persistent belief in the benefits of planning and order. A very different kind of community emerged in Levittown (1952) in Bucks County, exemplifying the growth of suburbs that became a major trend in the post–World War II era. Attracted by the promise of guaranteed loans, good schools, and low crime rates, thousands of young families left Pennsylvania’s cities. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Pennsylvania developed interstate highways, shopping malls, and residential subdivisions to make suburban life attractive. The urban centers could not replace the people and businesses lured away by the promising prospects of the suburbs. Between 1950 and 2000, Philadelphia’s population declined by nearly 500,000, from more than 2 million, and Pittsburgh had lost almost half its population, from a high of nearly 800,000. The social and economic challenge of urban blight was a dominant issue throughout this period. By the 1990s, Pennsylvania also faced the consequences of suburban “sprawl”—uncontrolled growth that placed an enormous strain on transportation, schools, water resources, and natural habitats.

Like most states in America, Pennsylvania often managed its affairs in reaction to crises and catastrophes. The silent towers of the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg became an international symbol of the human and environmental risks inherent in the promise of technology. Although a nuclear meltdown did not occur, the accident there in 1979 focused attention on the issues of corporate responsibility as well as the regulatory and emergency response role of government. These issues have deep roots in Pennsylvania going back perhaps as far as the Johnstown Flood (1889) and collapses of the Avondale Mine (1869) and the Darr Mine (1907). An estimated 55,000 men lost their lives in the state’s coal mines between 1870 and 1999. The Donora smog of 1948 killed twenty-two people. As a result of the Knox Mine disaster in 1959, more than 10 billion gallons of water from the Susquehanna River permanently closed a large portion of the northern anthracite region, killing twelve miners and putting thousands more out of work. This bleak story of death and desolation spawned an aggressive policy of government regulation in the last decades of the twentieth century that included the environmental rights amendment to the state constitution—the first of its kind in the nation. In Harrisburg, state agencies that regulate and protect the environment and manage the state’s parks and forests work in a building named for Rachel Carson, a Pennsylvanian whose writings, especially The Silent Spring (1962), directly led to the modern environmental movement.

This baker’s dozen of state icons reflects both the wide range and depth of Pennsylvania’s past. The point of this exercise is that we care about the places of Pennsylvania’s past—and the people and events of our past—because they define who we are as residents of this state. Pennsylvania’s history is at once a source of identity and pride as well as a resource in helping us live and understand our lives. Each place connects us to stories that bear witness to the triumphs and failures of extraordinary and ordinary men and women. We must preserve these places and the stories they represent because they are our collective memory. The loss of memory for any of us is catastrophic. For a society or a state, the impact of such a loss is equally devastating.

Writing a history of a state as complex and diverse as Pennsylvania is, by necessity, a highly impressionistic exercise. A trained historian depends on evidence—written, oral, physical—to reach conclusions about the meaning of events and the significance of people and places. However, the context of the times in which this history is written also has a strong influence on the interpretation of this evidence. This is not a scientific or absolutist endeavor. The historian’s authority is constrained by competing opinions of colleagues who also are armed with compelling and often contradictory evidence. Readers of history bring their own collective perspectives and critical faculties to the task of making sense of Pennsylvania’s past. Regardless of the point of view of the historian or of the reader, the best history contains a sense of passion, an emotional charge that provokes a response and inspires further research and writing.

The chapters in this book are not the final word on Pennsylvania’s history. The authors are scholars who study the past with great intensity and who care deeply about their subjects. If their work encourages further thought and passionate debate on the subject, this will be the greatest measure of success, and the value of Pennsylvania history will be established.

Brent D. Glass

Executive Director

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

March 2002