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Book Review: Woodrow Wilson

Louis Auchincloss, Woodrow Wilson. (New York: Viking, 2000) 128pp, hardback, $19.95 (ISBN 0-670-88904-0)

Inspired editorial decisions, like directors casting against type, have led to brilliant but unlikely choices for the new series called Penguin Lives, of which this book is one. Sir John Keegan, whose genius is for putting the reader in the shoes of the common soldier, has been asked to write on Sir Winston Churchill; Garry Wills, liberal Catholic and American historian, writes about Saint Augustine of Hippo, whose Confessions, says Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, would join the Bible as his desert island reading. Louis Auchincloss, retired Wall Street attorney and life-long Republican, was assigned the biography of President Woodrow Wilson. Auchincloss as historical essayist has addressed the world of Henry James and Edith Wharton; his collection The Vanderbilt Era, including sketches of Henry Adams and J. P. Morgan, should be read for style as well as substance. This brieflife ofWilson is a sympathetic but not sycophantic introduction to a man whose political career often intersected the life of Cumberland County.

Book Review: World War II in Their Own Words

Brian Lockman, World War II in Their Own Words. Stackpole Books, 2005. Photographs, timeline, maps, bibliography, index, 251 pages, paperback $19.95.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, oral history is something everyone talks about, but no one does anything about. Only after a participant or an eyewitness of what is later considered history passes beyond deposition does everyone say, "Someone really should have written his (or her) stories down." Rarely are there exceptions to this Barn Door rule of historiography. The Pennsylvania Cable Network, led by producer Jolene Risser and president Brian Lockman, is one of the sterling exceptions.

Book Reviews: A Short History of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1751 to 1936

A Short History of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1751 to 1936. By Daniel J. Heisey. 58 pp. Carlisle, Pa. The New Loudon Press, 1997. 

The "fair town" off Carlisle and its surrounding area has been favored by the presence of several excellent historians from the classic work of the Flowers in 1944 through current exemplars like Lewis D. Gobrecht and Daniel]. Heisey. Heisey's earlier gem, Pages of Histmy Essays on Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, has been followed by another brief work, centered on the evolution of Carlisle from "provincial outpost" in the 1750s to the last train roaring down High Street on 16 October 1936. As in his earlier works we find a well-written narrative containing anecdotes about the famous and less well-known residents of Carlisle-from James Wilson, co-author of the executive article in the Constitution of 1787, to Marianne Moore, the poet and writer, to Bessie Jones, granddaughter of a former slave, who ran an infamous institution in town until her dramatic death in 1972. Only one famed person is demoted ("sent packing") from her pedestal-" Molly Pitcher." 

Book Reviews: Guide to the Homes of Famous Pennsylvanians and The Best Places You've Never Seen

Arthur P. Miller, Jr., and Marjorie L. Miller, Guide to the Homes of Famous Pennsylvanians: Houses, Museums, and Landmarks. Mechanicsburg PA: Stackpole Books, 2003. Photos, 224pp., $18.95.

Therese Boyd, The Best Places You've Never Seen: Pennsylvania's Small Museums: A Traveler's Guide. University Park PA: Penn State Press, 2003. Maps, photos, 209 pp., $18.95.

The old question never goes away: why go? Don't you have enough to do at home? Would you want complete strangers to visit your home, to ogle your furnishings, to tramp about on your lawn? And horror of horrors, would you want someone to dress up in your old clothes and "re-enact" you for these strangers?

Book Review: Of Thee I Sing and Lower Allen Township

OF THEE I SING by George L. Jackson. (65 p-illust.-soft covers)

 Interesting and generally unknown incidents and personalities involved in the history of Pennsylvania and the Nation are revealed in this professionally written booklet by George L. Jackson, a resident of Dillsburg.

The author, retired Chief of Nuclear Medicine at the Harrisburg Hospital, is now pursuing his long-time interest in historical research not only by writing, but by visiting the places involved in his various subjects. He supplements his text with descriptions of his various joumeys.

Building on a Legacy

Being one of the oldest surviving county historical society in Pennsylvania, the Cumberland County Historical Society (CCHS) has cause for celebration during its 125th anniversary year. Founded in 1874 as the Hamilton Library Association, the Society's first century is recalled by Milton E. Flower in the publication "The First One Hundred Years". It concludes with the Society undertaking a 4,128 square foot addition that opened September 24, 1975 in time for America's Bicentennial. Almost like a matching bookend, CCHS burned the mortgage for its 1998 addition in 1999 in time to celebrate Cumberland County's 250th anniversary and the start of the new millennium in the year 2000. The two expansions bracket twenty-five years of the extraordinary growth and transition from a small historical society to a professional organization.

As the accompanying chart reflects, CCHS growth in the last twenty-five years has been incredible, but the impetus for this growth started long before 1975. It can be traced to the 1960s when Robert G. Crist, Milton E. Flower, Pierson K. Miller, Roger K. Todd, and Jonas S. Warrell crystallized their desire to realize the Society's mission of preserving and sharing Cumberland County history and heritage with others. Aggressively lead and inspired by Dr. Flower, their combined advocacy of CCHS and dedication to pursue the goals of increasing collections, offering more programs, and initiating substantive historical projects resulted time and again in the need for additional space. First came the 1964 expansion plans to the original 1881 building that added what are now the central office, Rupley Room, and kitchen. Taking advantage of an opportunity provided by the weakened south wall caused by the 1972 fire next door, the 1975 addition followed with a new entrance foyer, the multi-purpose Todd Hall, and the expansion of the second floor museum galleries. Within twenty years, Ann Kramer Hoffer would again describe the need for more space that resulted in the latest and largest of additions in 1998. "We are literally at a loss for space. Researchers are lined up at computers beside book stacks. Volunteers vie for seats with library users. School children cram through the reading room to the museum upstairs. Manuscripts and photographs are crowded into small vault space storage has become a critical problem overflowing to a rented off-sire location. A program/exhibit hall (Todd Hall) on the first floor can no longer serve dual purposes."

Canals, Railroads, Philadelphia, and the Struggle for Internal Improvement in the Cumberland Valley, 1825-1837

In April 1825, the Pennsylvania General Assembly authorized the construction of the "Public Works," a state-built system of canals and railroads designed to provide improved transportation throughout the Commonwealth.  The most vital portion of the Public Works was the "Main Line," a 395-mile long series of canals and railroads built to link the state's largest city, Philadelphia, with the important western city of Pittsburgh.

The 1825 act also authorized a survey for a canal through the Cumberland Valley connecting the Susquehanna River with the Potomac River. The survey was completed and submitted to the commissioners on 6 December 1827. The state did not, however, act on the survey; the proposed canal was never constructed.