A remarkable volume of nearly 200 pages, this special issue of Pennsylvania History is rich with original research concerning topics not limited to regional significance. A special grant enabled the Pennsylvania Historical Association to use better quality paper enabling excellent reproductions of numerous photographs.
The volume contains four major articles and seven shorter features. The major articles are "Recasting the Unalterable Order of Nature: Photography and the First Oil Boom," by Brian Black; "'Dangerous Opportunity:' Glenalvin J. Goodridge and Early Photography in York, Pennsylvania," by John V. Jezierski; "Elias Goldensky: Wizard of Photography," by Gary D. Saretzky; and "Francis L. Cooper, Avocational Photographer," by Jay Ruby. Briefer articles concern well known figures such as Marcus Aurelius Root, Thomas Eakins, Morris Engle, and Julius Sachse, as well as other topics.
The scope of this review does not permit an in depth discussion, but I would like to indicate why at least the major articles are well worth the attention of those interested in the history of photography.
Black's article on the first oil boom after the discovery in 1859 near Titusville, Pennsylvania, is a fascinating analysis of the impact of oil on the American physical and cultural landscape. The author, who teaches both history and environmental studies, uses the unprecedented industrial photographic documentation by John Mather as a springboard for an innovative demonstration of how photographs can be used as evidence for cultural change.
Jezierski's article is the result of a major research effort using previously untapped archival materials. His discoveries concerning the life of Glenalvin J. Goodridge, one of the first successful Black photographers in the United States, completely refutes a previously published hypothesis (in the Daguerreian Annual) concerning Goodridge's sudden disappearance. (I won't give it away here -- read it and be amazed!)
Saretzky's detailed account of the life and work of Elias Goldensky (1868-1943) seeks to restore the reputation of a Russian immigrant who, by 1910, was considered one of the top portrait photographers in America. Using Goldensky's archive at the George Eastman House, numerous journal articles published during his subject's lifetime, and interviews with Goldensky's family, Saretzky documents Goldensky's rise to prominence as a Pictorialist photographer during the Arts and Crafts era who specialized in the gum bichromate print. The article is an extension of an unpublished lecture given at the George Eastman House in connection with a one-man Goldensky exhibition there in 1994.
Jay Ruby's subject, the amateur Francis L. Cooper, forms an interesting comparison to Goldensky. Cooper, like Goldensky, was active in art photography around the turn of the century but never sought to make a living at it. He was one of a number of amateurs in the Philadelphia area who practiced "naturalistic photography," as popularized by Peter Henry Emerson. Ruby's article, based on "an extensive archive of his work compiled by the author," helps us understand not only the particulars about Cooper but the Pictorialist movement of which he was a part.
Note: All copies of this issue have been sold by the Pennsylvania Historical Association but signed copies are available from Gary Saretzky Photo Books. Some copies may be available from the Pennsylvania Historical Association, contact Linda Ries firstname.lastname@example.org.
The special issue of Pennsylvania History on 'History of Photography in Pennsylvania' (Spring 1997) which I edited, has won the 1997 Arline Custer Memorial Award, given annually by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference. The award is bestowed in honor of Custer, an archivist and a MARAC founding mother, for excellence in a publication utilizing archival resources. The Custer Committee felt that "this issue makes an outstanding contribution to the history of photography, interweaving archives, history, and imagery." Thanks to all who helped!! -- Linda A. Ries, email@example.com (PhotoHst, May 1998).