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Book Review: John Hays: Civil War Soldier, Lawyer, Businessman

Raphael S. Hays II, John Hays: Civil War Soldier; Lawyer; Businessman. (Carlisle 250th Anniversary Committee, 2000). Illustrated. Paperback $10.00

Civic commemoration, while a mainstay of the ship of state, can be hazardous to history. The facts of life and death and the commerce between remain the same, bur interpretation based on the pride of a town or a family sometimes whitewashes a colorful reality. This is a genuine mess when it happens, not only for later historians who must peel off such nonsense, but also for the town or family who thought they were doing a good job in putting together something nice and leaving it at that. An attempt at real history, with its mud and sweat and laughter and yelling, is far more interesting and lasting than any featureless cover-up.

Book Review: Pages of History: Essays on Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

Pages of History: Essays on Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Carlisle: The New Loudon Press, 97 pp. $9.95. 

This relatively short volume consists of a highly personalized preface and six chapters dealing with various aspects of the history and development of our county from the mid-eighteenth century until 1931. The author provides a well-written narrative, sprinkled with delightful anecdotes and tantalizing pieces from his wide reading and learning. An excellent example of his classical knowledge is reflected in the citation of a quote from Juvenal to reflect on the fact that the narrative ends in 1931. Mr. Heisey observes that "this side of the horizon" should be a focus oflocal history, but with wit he escapes the implication by quoting the Roman satirist, who wrote that "it saves a lot of bother to write only of men now in the cemeteries along the roadside."

Book Review: Pennsylvania Caves & Other Rocky Roadside Wonders

Kevin Patrick, Pennsylvania Caves & Other Rocky Roadside Wonders. Stackpole Books, 2004. Photographs, maps, diagrams, visitor information, bibliography, index, 248 pages, paperback $19.9 5.

Who could ever forget a cave tour that began in a souvenir store where admission was paid and assurance was given by the clerk that the guide would join the couple at the cave entrance, and then the couple was met by the same clerk sporting a jacket and introducing himself as their guide for the tour? He confidently and professionally ignored the possibility that the couple had met him only moments before in another incarnation. That was only the beginning of the special charm of Woodward Cave at the eastern end of Penns Valley in the center of Pennsylvania. The great appeal of visiting caves in the state is that not only can you be awestruck by geology, but also you can be entertained by the Americana of their operators. This guide by a professor of geography at Indiana University of Pennsylvania perfectly captures such a dual appeal.

Book Review: Pennsylvania Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff

Clark DeLeon, Pennsylvania Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff, Second Edition. The Globe Pequot Press, 2004. Photographs, index, 242 pages, paperback $13.95 (ISBN 1548- 2987; 0-7627-3039-0).

The writer is billed as a "popular humor columnist" and a long-rime contributor to two Philadelphia newspapers. The book is a collection of short pieces about Pennsylvania, and it may indeed be a gathering together of some of his columns.

Book Review: Pennsylvania Overlooks-A Guide for Sightseers and Outdoor People

Art Michaels, Pennsylvania Overlooks-A Guide For Sightseers And Outdoor People. State College, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003. Maps, photos, 240 pp., $15.95.

The book's goal challenges the reader to travel throughout Pennsylvania to experience significant overlooks. The author writes, "A majestic overlook will leave you breathless, enveloping you in delight, wonder, and hope." However, he may have crafted the book a little too well. Some of us may find the book so engaging that we find no need to actually go outside. Mr. Michaels endeavors to ensure that readers who do venture to the overlooks have a very enjoyable time. He has a large number of black and white photographs (all taken by himself), excellent driving directions, and tips that will help to make the adventure a success.

Book Review: Pictorial History: Shippensburg Area, Big Spring Area, Carlisle Area, Mechanicsburg Area and West Shore Area

Merri Lou Schaumann, ed., Pictorial History: Shippensburg Area, Big Spring Area, Cm-lisle Area, Mechanicsburg Area and West Shore Area (Carlisle: Cumberland County 250'" Anniversary Committee, 2000). 5 volumes, 96 pp. each. Photographs, maps. $16.95 each volume, $75.00 set. 

This series is a treasure trove of images that reveal our county's rich history during the age of photography, as well as before. It is not an attempt to expose in depth any particular subject or place, but rather offers a broad, sweeping overview of scenes, both remarkable and mundane, that one might have seen about the county in decades and centuries gone by. In these days when we are so inundated by written information at work and home that many people forego reading as a pastime in favor of television and the like, what a splendid way to make the past easily and visually accessible to all age groups and to encourage interest therein! 

Book Review: Plank Bottom Chairs and Chairmakers: South Central Pennsylvania 1800-1880

Merri Lou Schaumann, Plank Bottom Chairs and Chairmakers: South Central Pennsylvania 1800-1880. Carlisle, PA: The Cumberland County Historical Society, 2009. Photos, 136 pgs., $29.95.

In Plank Bottom Chairs and Chairmakers: South Central Pennsylvania 1800-1880, Merri Lou Schaumann presents a thorough analysis of this prolific furniture form, with an emphasis on the Cumberland Valley. The book's five chapters include a history of the chairmaking business, styles and construction of the chair form, methods of painting and decoration, design motifs, and a directory of known nineteenth-century local makers. 

Book Review: Railroads of Pennsylvania: Fragments of the Past in the Keystone Landscape

Lorett Treese, Railroads of Pennsylvania: Fragments of the Past in the Keystone Landscape. Mechanicsburg PA: Stackpole Books, 2003. Photos, 256 pps., $18.95.

This book is described by its writer as "part history and part travel guide, intended to place many of the Commonwealth's railroad artifacts, or fragments, in historical context." It is organized into eight chapters based on regional tourism promotional districts. Each chapter then follows a standard format to discuss the major railroads, rail stories, historic figures, existing artifacts and rail trails. Cumberland County is included in the Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country section.

Book Review: Rockville Bridge: Rails Across the Susquehanna

Dan Cupper, Rockville Bridge: Rails Across The Susquehanna (Halifax, Pa.: Withers Publishing, 2002) 112pp., illustrated (some col.), maps, plans, $29.95.

More than a century after it was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Rockville Bridge continues to carry mainline rail traffic over the Susquehanna River. This stone and concrete structure, the third bridge to stand at this site, has weathered ice and flood, corporate bankruptcy and merger, and changes in usage, yet it remains a monument to American railroading.