Moving Beyond Schoolhouse Rock and Understanding Regulatory Processes

This week in North Philly Notes, Sara Rinfret, editor of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, writes about why regulations do matter.

Former President Trump often used slogans on the campaign trail to “end bad regulations” or to halt the “war on coal.” These soundbites assisted the Trump administration’s efforts to rollback more than 100 environmental regulations in the United States during his presidency. But, why? Are regulations bad?

Teaching courses on U.S. government to high school or college students often only covers the Schoolhouse Rock‘s version of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” Unfortunately, we do not spend enough time examining in our curriculum what occurs after a piece of legislation becomes law.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, urges that we must increase our understanding of regulatory processes to document policymaking in the United States less complex, with a myriad of access points for public participation. The book uses illustrative environmental policy case studies to guide the reader through the stages of administrative rulemaking. Unpacking these regulatory stages moves us beyond our Schoolhouse Rock mindset and illustrates how and why Congress delegates its decision-making authority to administrative agencies.

Congress delegates the implementation of policy to administrative agencies because it does not have the time or expertise to do so. This delegation of authority provides administrative agencies the ability to create law through the administrative rulemaking process. The stages of this process can be best understood by learning from the case studies that examine each of the distinct steps, such as rule development, public comment, to post-rulemaking activities. Our regulatory adventure does not stop after the stages of the rulemaking, but it is monitored and carried out by state environmental inspectors who ensure compliance with environmental law. These individuals, for example, ensure a nearby company is not improperly disposing of waste.

Unfortunately, the regulatory process is not discussed enough and often depicted as detrimental to business. Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? dispels this myth by inviting and encouraging the opportunity for students, practitioners and the general public to engage in a clear, step-by-step guide about the stages of the process. Specifically, we argue environmental policymaking is not made in a black hole. Instead, taking the time to understand regulatory processes is another access point for the American public to directly engage in providing input by using electronic platforms such as Regulations.gov.  

Regulations are not bad in general; they protect the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. The heavy lifters of environmental policy are career civil servants, your next-door neighbor who works for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Park Service, to name a few. We just need to do a better job of understanding the process, which is the goal of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? As Regulations.gov clearly states, “Make a difference. Submit your comments, and let your voice be heard!”

Celebrating National Book Lover’s Day

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate National Book Lover’s Day with a collection of Temple University Press titles our staff members cherish.

Bass Line: The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton. Many years ago, in 1988, the Press published a collection of stories and photographs from the “dean of bass players,” Milt Hinton. Through this book I got to view the jazz world from an original source as Hinton played for over 50 years with all of the greats—Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, and my idol Sarah Vaughan, just to name a few. Recall that famous photo of Billie Holliday in the recording studio in 1958? Hinton took it! When the book was published, even Paul McCartney said of all the bass players he played with “…none were better than Milt…”  I treasure this TUP book!!—Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director

I cannot possibly choose a favorite, but I’d like to highlight one recent title I’m particularly proud of, John Kromer’s Philadelphia Battlefields: Disruptive Campaigns and Upset Elections in a Changing City. This book demonstrates something special about the Press. Most people know we have a strong list in scholarly titles focused on social change, as well as a top-notch regional trade list, but Kromer’s book nicely bridges these, with engaging stories and a scholarly backbone to teach us important lessons about politics in the city we love and call home.—Aaron Javsicas, Editor-in-Chief

P is for Philadelphia. I love that we published a children’s book that gives an alphabetical tour of our area, but the fact that it is illustrated by the children of Philadelphia makes it so much more special.—Karen Baker, Associate Director and Financial Manager

A Guide to the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region A beautifully illustrated look at the gardens in the area in a handheld book. What a wonderful way to reminisce of gardens visited or add to your must-see lists! Grab a copy, go outside, and enjoy!—Irene Imperio, Advertising and Promotions Manager

I wouldn’t dare choose between my projects and authors since I arrived at the Press, so I would point to our backlist title The Philosophy of Alain Locke.—Ryan Mulligan, Editor

I love Palestra Pandemonium. Before I came to Temple, or knew anything about TUP, I gifted this book to several Big 5 fans and Penn alums for whom the Palestra is hallowed ground.—Mary Rose Muccie, Director 

Celeste-Marie Bernier’s Suffering and Sunset. His story, and the sketches and paintings included in this book, are very moving and beautiful.—Kate Nichols, Art Director 

While I have too many favorites to count, in terms of recent publications I would like to give Q & A: Voices from Queer Asian North America a special mention. Working on this new volume that continues on in the spirit of the landmark Q & A: Queer in Asian America is just the type of opportunity that every editor hopes to find. Moreover, it was truly a pleasure shepherding a volume that has all the makings of a landmark volume in its own right.—Shaun Vigil, Editor

May-lee Chai’s poignant memoir, Hapa Girl, is a beautifully written, heartbreaking memoir about a mixed-race family struggling against racism in South Dakota. Chai proves how deep the bonds of family can be but also about her resilience during difficult times. While her story unfolds in the 1980s, it is, sadly, still timely today.—Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

Animal safety in tumultuous times

This week in North Philly Notes, Sarah DeYoung and Ashley Farmer, authors of All Creatures Safe and Sound, write about animal issues in disasters.

When the Surfside Condo collapsed in Miami, Florida last month, people and animals perished. For days and weeks, some residents anxiously awaited news about their relatives, loved ones, and pets. National news fixated on the fate of the people and their companion animals. In one instance, an animal advocate requested an emergency petition to halt the demolition of the building because of possible remaining pets. Her request was denied, and responders reported that no pets were found when they searched the structure that remained.

Other news stories centered on joyful stories of reunification—such as the one of Binx the cat who lived on the ninth floor of the condo. Binx was found alive by a volunteer and reunited with his family. Meanwhile, throughout all the stories, groups circulated information and pleas for help on social media. Sometimes the social media information about animals in the condo collapse conflicted with official information from responders and emergency managers. All these issues—conflicting information, petitions, search efforts, and emotional appeals are common for animal issues in disasters.

In data from our recent book All Creatures Safe and Sound, we found that many disasters are wrought with some degree of tension between animal welfare organizations and emergency or government response agencies. While some of these tensions are amplified by social media, misinformation, or other aspects of the overall communication in the crisis event—there are also actual differences in the ways animal welfare organizations and emergency management address animal issues. After the devastating 2018 Camp Fire in California, residents and organizations lamented over the confusing information, timeline, and protocols for retrieving animals that were stranded behind the fire line. Many animals survived the fire, and ad hoc volunteers and others worked to make sure that the animals received food and water during the weeks-long prohibitory orders barring residents from re-entering. People were still waiting to reunite with their companion animals weeks after the fire and the search for information was confusing and cumbersome. Many residents had to visit multiple websites or physical locations to gather information about lost pets—all while dealing with displacement, trauma, and seeking disaster assistance.

Similarly, in the Hawaii lava flows of 2018 that prompted the evacuation of approximately 2,000 households, many people felt that the agencies in charge of response did not display empathy or render appropriate levels of assistance for animal welfare and concerns about animals. Of course, safety is paramount. People could be injured or worse if they attempt to retrieve their animals in an active lava flow area—or in the case of the Surfside collapse, a structurally unsound building. However, to assuage the concerns of residents, animal welfare organizations, and others, drone footage, information about location of the physical sweeps, and other details should be made available in one central location. Transparency and communication will build trust with community members and between agencies.

As disasters are becoming more frequent, we urge agencies responding to and managing disasters to view companion animal well-being as linked with human well-being. This means that the goals of keeping people and their pets safe are not competing interests, despite the complexities that may arise in crisis scenarios. We also argue that risk communication can harness the power of attachment that people have with animals to bolster overall community well-being. A few years ago, a meme circulated on social media that read, “Don’t drink and drive, your dog won’t understand why you never came home.” The same approach might be effective for other public health outreach messages. For example, the possibility of a pet losing their human to COVID might very well just be enough cause some hesitant individuals to decide to get the COVID vaccine.

As for the responders, survivors, animals, and others involved in the Surfside Condo collapse, our research also indicates that there will be lasting trauma from this event. People who engaged in body recovery should be screened for PTSD—and this may include volunteers who were also focused on animal rescue. People who lived in the condo who were unable to evacuate with their animals may experience lasting feelings of remorse, guilt, or other emotions. In past disasters, we found this to be a common theme for other disaster survivors who were unable to locate their pet after a fire or flood. While it’s impossible to moderate all news stories and social media posts about the animal angles in this and other events—it is important to consider the nuance that people may have unintentionally left their pets behind because the disaster happened so quickly. Once again, this acknowledgement can reduce shaming or blaming after the event.

We hope these harm reduction approaches through using social and behavioral science will spark new framings, conversations, and possibly even new policies regarding pets in disasters.


Celebrating Pennsylvania Day!

July 20 is National Pennsylvania Day. (Yes, historians, Pennsylvania was admitted to the Union December 12, 1787, the National Day Calendar is honoring each state, in order, each week following July 4). As such, Temple University Press is preparing to celebrate with our books that focus on the Keystone State.

A compilation of a dozen of his fascinating articles showcasing the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by William Ecenbarger, observes that in the quirky state of Pennsylvania, the town of Mauch Chunk changed its name to Jim Thorpe—even though the famous American-Indian athlete never set foot in it. He goes driving with Pennsylvania native John Updike in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. And he highlights just what makes Pennsylvania both eccentric and great, providing a delightfully intriguing read for natives and curious outsiders alike.

Want to take the state’s temperature before there was COVID? The Health of the Commonwealth:A Brief History of Medicine, Public Health, and Disease in Pennsylvania, by James E. Higgins, provides an overview of medicine and public health in the state. Covering the outbreak of yellow fever in 1793 through the 1976 Legionnaires’ Disease epidemic, and the challenges of the present day, Higgins shows how Pennsylvania has played a central role in humanity’s understanding of—and progress against—disease. The Health of the Commonwealth places Pennsylvania’s unique contribution to the history of public health and medicine in a larger narrative of health and disease throughout the United States and the world.

Pennsylvania Politics and Policy: A Commonwealth Reader, Volume 1, edited by J. Wesley Leckrone and Michelle J. Atherton, contains updated chapters from recent issues of Commonwealth: A Journal of Pennsylvania Politics and Policy on education, health care, public finance, tax policy, environmental policy, alcohol policy and more. Pennsylvania Politics and Policy: A Commonwealth Reader, Volume 2, edited by Michelle J. Atherton and J. Wesley Leckrone, focuses on government institutions, election laws, the judiciary, government finance and budgeting, the opioid crisis, childcare, property taxes, environmental policy, demographics, and more. In both volumes, each chapter is supplemented by discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and forums with arguments in support of or opposed to contested elements of state policy.

The Scots Irish were one of early Pennsylvania’s largest non-English immigrant groups. They were stereotyped as frontier ruffians and Indian haters. In The Scots Irish of Early Pennsylvania, historian Judith Ridner insists that this immigrant group was socio-economically diverse. Servants and free people, individuals and families, and political exiles and refugees from Ulster, they not only pioneered new frontier settlements, but also populated the state’s cities—Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—and its towns, such as Lancaster, Easton, and Carlisle.

Undocumented Fears, by Jamie Longazel shows how the local politics of immigration pit working people against one another. The Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA), passed in the small Rustbelt city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 2006, was a local ordinance that laid out penalties for renting to or hiring undocumented immigrants and declared English the city’s official language. The notorious IIRA gained national prominence and kicked off a parade of local and state-level legislative initiatives designed to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Longazel uses the debate around Hazleton’s controversial ordinance as a case study that reveals the mechanics of contemporary divide and conquer politics. He shows how neoliberal ideology, misconceptions about Latina/o immigrants, and nostalgic imagery of “Small Town, America” led to a racialized account of an undocumented immigrant “invasion,” masking the real story of a city beset by large-scale loss of manufacturing jobs.

And forthcoming this fall, Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, by Beverly Tomek, corrects the long-held notion that slavery in the North was “not so bad” as, or somehow “more humane” than, in the South due to the presence of abolitionists. While the Quaker presence focused on moral and practical opposition to bondage, slavery was ubiquitous. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania was the first state to pass an abolition law in the United States. Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania traces this movement from its beginning to the years immediately following the American Civil War. Discussions of the complexities of the state’s antislavery movement illustrate how different groups of Pennsylvanians followed different paths in an effort to achieve their goal. Tomek also examines the backlash abolitionists and Black Americans faced. In addition, she considers the civil rights movement from the period of state reconstruction through the national reconstruction that occurred after the Civil War.

Announcing Temple University Press’ Fall Catalog

This week in North Philly Notes we showcase the titles forthcoming this Fall from Temple University Press

“Beyond the Law”: The Politics of Ending the Death Penalty for Sodomy in Britain, by Charles Upchurch, provides a major reexamination of the earliest British parliamentary efforts to abolish capital punishment for consensual sex acts between men.

Are You Two Sisters?: The Journey of a Lesbian Couple, by Susan Krieger, authored by one of the most respected figures in the field of personal ethnographic narrative, this book serves as both a memoir and a sociological study, telling the story of one lesbian couple’s lifelong journey together.

Asian American Connective Action in the Age of Social Media: Civic Engagement, Contested Issues, and Emerging Identities, by James S. Lai, examines how social media has changed the way Asian Americans participate in politics.

The Civil Rights Lobby: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Second Reconstruction, by Shamira Gelbman, investigates how minority group, labor, religious, and other organizations worked together to lobby for civil rights reform during the 1950s and ’60s.

Elaine Black Yoneda: Jewish Immigration, Labor Activism, and Japanese American Exclusion and Incarceration, by Rachel Schreiber, tells the remarkable story of a Jewish activist who joined her imprisoned Japanese American husband and son in an American concentration camp.

Fitting the Facts of Crime: An Invitation to Biopsychosocial Criminology, by Chad Posick, Michael Rocque, and J.C. Barnes, presents a biopsychosocial perspective to explain the most common findings in criminology—and to guide future research and public policy.

From Improvement to City Planning: Spatial Management in Cincinnati from the Early Republic through the Civil War Decade, by Henry C. Binford, offers a “pre-history” of urban planning in the United States.

Gangs on Trial: Challenging Stereotypes and Demonization in the Courts, by John M. Hagedorn
, exposes biases in trials when the defendant is a gang member.

Invisible People: Stories of Lives at the Margins, by Alex Tizon, now in paperback, an anthology of richly reported and beautifully written stories about marginalized people.

Islam, Justice, and Democracy, by Sabri Ciftci, explores the connection between Muslim conceptions of justice and democratic orientations.

The Italian Legacy in Philadelphia: History, Culture, People, and Ideas, edited by Andrea Canepari and Judith Goode, provides essays and images showcasing the rich contribution of Italians and Italian Americans to Global Philadelphia.

Making a Scene: Urban Landscapes, Gentrification, and Social Movements in Sweden, by Kimberly A. Creasap, examines how autonomous social movements respond to gentrification by creating their own cultural landscape in cities and suburbs.

Making Their Days Happen: Paid Personal Assistance Services Supporting People with Disability Living in Their Homes and Communities, by Lisa I. Iezzoni, explores the complexities of the interpersonal dynamics and policy implications affecting personal assistance service consumers and providers.

The Many Futures of Work: Rethinking Expectations and Breaking Molds, edited by Peter A. Creticos, Larry Bennett, Laura Owen, Costas Spirou, and Maxine Morphis-Riesbeck, reframes the conversation about contemporary workplace experience by providing both “top down” and “bottom up” analyses.

On Gangs, by Scott H. Decker, David C. Pyrooz, and James A. Densley, a comprehensive review of what is known about gangs—from their origins through their evolution and outcomes.

Pack the Court!: A Defense of Supreme Court Expansion, by Stephen M. Feldman, provides a historical and analytical argument for court-packing.

Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities, by erin Khuê Ninh, considers how it feels to be model minority—and why would that drive one to live a lie?

Pedagogies of Woundedness: Illness, Memoir, and the Ends of the Model Minority, by James Kyung-Jin Lee, asks what happens when illness betrays Asian American fantasies of indefinite progress?

Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, by Beverly C. Tomek, highlights the complexities of emancipation and the “First Reconstruction” in the antebellum North.

Vehicles of Decolonization: Public Transit in the Palestinian West Bank, by Maryam S. Griffin, considers collective Palestinian movement via public transportation as a site of social struggle.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?: Creating and Implementing Environmental Rules and Regulations, edited by Sara R. Rinfret, provides a clear understanding of regulatory policy and rulemaking processes, and their centrality in U.S. environmental policymaking.

Summer Reading

It’s Sum-Sum-Summertime, and the reading is Easy! This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase books that you should take on vacation—or that take you on a vacation, immersing you in places far-flung (or around the corner).

Vacations say a lot about individuals. They signal class and economic standing and reveal aspirations and goals. Getting Away from It All: Vacations and Identity, by Karen Stein, insists that vacations are about more than just taking time off to relax and rejuvenate—they are about having some time to work on the person one wants to be. Where to read this book: On a flight somewhere.

In Real Philly History, Real Fast: Fascinating Facts and Interesting Oddities about the City’s Heroes and Historic Sites, Jim Murphy provides an original tour of the city. He highlights artistic gems including the Dream Garden Tiffany mosaic and Isaiah Zagar’s glittering Magic Gardens. He profiles intriguing historical figures from military leader Commodore Barry to civil rights heroes like Lucretia Mott. Murphy also explores neighborhoods from Chinatown to the Italian Market and the unique architectural details of Carpenters’ Hall and the PSFS building. Where to read this book: On SEPTA, or while waiting on line for a soft pretzel.

Artists of Wyeth Country: Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, and Andrew Wyeth, by W. Barksdale Maynard offers admirers of the Brandywine Tradition a chance to literally follow in these artists’ footsteps. Maynard provides six in-depth walking and driving tours that allow readers to visit the places the Wyeths and Pyle painted in Chadds Ford, PA. As he explains, Andrew Wyeth’s artistic process was influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s nature-worship and by simply walking daily. Maps, aerial photographs, as well as glorious full-color images and artworks of the landscape (many never reproduced before) illustrate the text. Where to read this book: While tracing the artists footsteps.

Using archival materials and interviews with former Negro League players, baseball historian Rich Westcott chronicles the catcher’s life and remarkable career in Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher. He also provides an in-depth look at Philadelphia Negro League history. Westcott traces Mackey’s childhood in Texas as the son of sharecroppers to his success on the baseball diamond where he displayed extraordinary defensive skills and an exceptional ability to hit and to handle pitchers. Where to read this book: In the bleachers during a rain delay.

Intended as a guide for the everyday gardener, The Winterthur Garden Guide: Color for Every Season, by Linda Eirhart offers practical advice—season by season—for achieving the succession of bloom developed by Henry Francis du Pont in his garden. This handy book highlights the design principles that guided du Pont and introduces practical flowers, shrubs, and trees that have stood the test of time—native and non-native, common as well as unusual. Lavishly illustrated, with new color photography, this handbook features close-ups of individual plants as well as sweeping vistas throughout. Where to read this book: In your backyard, or at Winterthur (a worthwhile garden to visit!)

A compilation of a dozen of his fascinating articles showcasing the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by William Ecenbarger, observes that in the quirky state of Pennsylvania, the town of Mauch Chunk changed its name to Jim Thorpe—even though the famous American-Indian athlete never set foot in it. He goes driving with Pennsylvania native John Updike in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. And he highlights just what makes Pennsylvania both eccentric and great, providing a delightfully intriguing read for natives and curious outsiders alike. Where to read this book: During a road trip through the great state of Pennsylvania.

Follow the contemporary path of a historic naturalist with Travels of William Bartram Reconsidered, by Mark Dion, a contemporary artist. Commissioned for the landmark John Bartram house at Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, the “Travels Reconsidered” exhibition and Dion’s 21st-century journey that produced it are evoked in this book filled with copious photographs, drawings, and texts. Combining humor and seriousness, this book beautifully documents an artistic collaboration across more than two centuries. Where to read this book: On the Schuylkill Banks.

Need more ideas? Our website features dozens of our wonderful books, from Boathouse Row, stories of the Schuykill River, and Fishing in the Delaware Valley, to guides to the area’s gardens and Fairmount Park as well as where to go take a hike. We also have books on Archeaology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution, Monument Lab, the Hidden City, and of course, Murals, Murals, Murals.

Happy Reading!

Examining our fraught relationship with food

This week in North Philly Notes, Jeffrey Haydu, author of Upsetting Food, writes about how food is ethically identified—and why that matters.

On May 28, 2021, the New York Times reported a lawsuit against Vital Farms. Plaintiffs charged that Vital Farms misled consumers by advertising its eggs as, “‘delicious, ethical food you don’t have to question.'” Three years earlier, a leading proponent of alternative agriculture, The Cornucopia Institute, rounded up different egg labels (ranging from “All Natural” to “Omega-3”). Of eleven examined, the Institute found five to be meaningless, misleading or “seriously flawed.”

These disputes testify to our fraught relationship with food. Concerns about the safety, nutritional value, and ethical virtues of what we eat are pervasive. Increasingly, consumers rely on third-party programs to certify a food as “good,” whether for body or soul, local community or planet. Upsetting Food: Three Eras of Food Protest in the United States, shows that such doubts about commercial food date back to the early 19th century. But the ways in which conscientious consumers sought to resolve those doubts have changed. Consumers have looked to quite different markers of trustworthy food from one era to another.

In the 1830s, Sylvester Graham warned his followers of the dangers of meat, commercial bread, and spices. What were the hallmarks of trustworthy foods? Those sanctified by the Bible, but also those prepared at home with the loving hands of wives and mothers. Such food, wrapped in piety, family, and tradition, was good for the body. It also met ethical goals by quieting men’s and women’s baser impulses.

Food reformers of the 1890s and 1900s voiced some similar concerns over suspect bread, contaminated meat, “unnatural” preservatives, and adulterated beverages. In this era, however, consumers were told to trust food that had been vetted by the federal government; that conformed to the new science of nutrition; and that had been prepared in modern, “hygienic” factories. Here too, more than health was at stake. The new regulatory and educational regime would restore honesty to markets and expertise to tradition-bound homemakers.

In the 1960s, some additional concerns emerged: “artificial” foods and pesticides joined fluffy white bread and preservatives on the list of anxieties. But now, food untainted by modern technology and nutritional science—”natural” food—represented the gold standard. And food acquired through alternative institutions like small farms, natural food stores, and neighborhood co-ops was deemed more reliable. By patronizing these alternatives, moreover, consumers were joining a virtuous conspiracy against Big Ag, corporate capital, and a servile state.

These differences among the three eras mostly reflect the larger movement cultures in which food reformers moved. Graham applied to diet a more general evangelical template for social uplift, one already in use to address the problems of slavery, intemperance, and “fallen women.” Proponents of pure food legislation and nutritional science applied to food the standard Progressive playbook: modern science can identify solutions for social ills, and government regulation can implement those solutions. Early organic advocates shared with a wider counterculture a deep suspicion of organized politics and modern technology. They shared, too, its belief that by living our lives differently we could bit by bit build a better society. Nowadays, many activists retain doubts about government as a lever for change. And partly for that reason, we have more faith in our ability to achieve social justice through concerted consumer choices. For a better food system, vote with your fork!

But there is more to the story than that. Upsetting Food also shows how reformers’ ideals of trustworthy food built on—or deliberately repudiated—the efforts of their predecessors. Progressive reformers were deeply skeptical of religion and tradition as guides to social practices, whether in managing factories or cooking food. Early organic advocates, in turn, explicitly rejected modern science and government—the Progressive stalwarts—for being little more than shills for big business. And contemporary food reformers are often guided by the perceived failures of the organic movement. Its eventual embrace of minimalist government standards and its cooptation by large food companies, we hear, doomed organic as a genuinely alternative food system. Hence the appeal both of labels less easily coopted by global corporations (“local”) and of third-party certifiers (Non-GMO Project, Certified C.L.E.A.N.) who, we hope, can themselves be trusted. And thus the outrage (channeled through legal action) when the virtues proclaimed by labels (“delicious, ethical food”) prove illusory.

Exploring Philadelphia’s Rich History

This week in North Philly Notes, Jim Murphy, author of Real Philly History, Real Fast, explains the stories from the city’s past that intrigued him enough to write a book about them.

History is for everyone. Real Philly History, Real Fast, provides more than 50 short chapters that provide a complete story of figures, places, and events in Philadelphia history in mere minutes.

The book answers intriguing and important questions you may never have thought about. Like why did Charles Willson Peale add the second “L” to his middle name? Who stole the first book from the Library Company of Philadelphia? And where was its most famous painting found?

Or what little-known Revolutionary War hero took the fight right to Britain’s front door, terrifying its citizens and driving the British Empire’s insurance costs through the roof? How did the Acadians come to live in Philly and where did they stay? And what special skill saved black businessman James Forten (not his real name) from a life of West Indian servitude?

But wait there’s more! Real Philly History, Real Fast, answers these probing questions: What Philadelphian has over 40 towns named for him? What statue may be the second most photographed in Philly (behind Rocky, of course)? And where did the Liberty Bell receive its last crack?

Real Philly History, Real Fast will make the city feel familiar to you no matter how long you’ve lived here because it presents its history in a new light.

As an amateur general historian and certified member of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides—as well as a constant walker and a lover of Philadelphia—I dig for information in my determination to find great stories wherever I can. I look at each story like a detective with a mystery to solve. I originally spent an average of 25-35 hours on each story in this book, researching facts, checking multiple sources, and then cutting each story down to their very essence.

Of course, no one book can cover all of Philadelphia history. There are more than 300 blue-and-gold Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission signs in Philadelphia alone, not even including the suburban counties. And while this book is geared toward center city, you will find stories on Fort Mifflin, the Lazaretto, Cliveden in Germantown and Taller Puertorriqueño in Fairhill.

One story of particular interest to me was the Mason-Dixon survey. I learned in researching the story that some nationally syndicated publications describe the vista of the Mason-Dixon line as being 3-feet wide. That’s absolutely wrong. The team, which numbered as many as 115 people, cut a vista 24-30 feet wide through dense Pennsylvania forests. Also interesting to me: that survey began on South Street in Philadelphia, a fact many Philadelphians don’t know.

Philadelphia had two superstars who jump-started this city: Penn and Ben. Or William Penn and Ben Franklin. And although they missed meeting each other by about 20 years, they helped make this the fastest growing city in the country. In 1770, Philly passed New York and Boston to become the largest, most important city in the Colonies. That growth was due to William Penn’s unique grid system, his five public squares, his well-regulated market and his ability to attract people here to his City of Brotherly Love. Penn’s attitude toward the Lenni Lenape, his system of government and his religious tolerance were all unique.

These are just a few of the tidbits you will discover in the book, which meant to whet your appetite for more Philadelphia history. As I said, there are countless stories to be told…

Walking in the Footsteps of Andrew Wyeth

This week in North Philly Notes, W. Barksdale Maynard, author of Artists of Wyeth Country, offers his tips on taking a trip to Chadds Ford, PA to see where Andrew Wyeth and other artists of the Brandywine Tradition lived and painted.

Even with pandemic restrictions, you can still enjoy a trip to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, to see where Andrew Wyeth painted. That scenic village on the banks of Brandywine Creek lies just 23 miles from Center City, Philadelphia, and always makes for an enjoyable excursion.

Before now, no guidebook existed to the artistic history of Chadds Ford. Artists of Wyeth Country is the very first. It is filled with historic photographs, color reproductions of artwork, and two maps commissioned especially for this volume. At last you can delve deeply into the art and history of this remarkable American place.  

Why was there no previous guidebook? Partly because Andrew Wyeth was so extremely secretive. Along with his wife, Betsy, he discouraged close investigation of his artistic habits and daily routine, trying to keep his painting locales ultra-private. One well-meaning journalist seeking an interview with Andrew Wyeth was forced to wait thirty-five years.

Artists of Wyeth Country followed Andrew Wyeth’s death at age 91 in 2009, at last shedding light on exactly where the artist painted and what his motivations were, both artistic and personal. The book is a rare unauthorized biography of Andrew Wyeth, full of new discoveries and candid insights.

In a sense, it is a biography of Chadds Ford as well, a place notoriously difficult for the tourist to grasp, full of twisting roads and obscure corners. Adding to the confusion is the much-altered landscape. Where Andrew Wyeth saw rolling fields, today the views are swallowed up by young forests and tangles of invasive shrubs. This complicated place really does require a guidebook.

Trips to Chadds Ford usually include a visit to the Brandywine River Museum of Art, home to the world’s largest collection of Wyeth art, but it is closed until June 2021 for refurbishment on its fiftieth anniversary. 

Instead, follow the six driving tours in Artists of Wyeth Country and explore the countryside on your own. No longer do you need to pester reluctant waitresses at Hank’s Restaurant for directions to the Barns-Brinton House or Mother Archie’s Church—it’s all in the guidebook.

Of course, many of the locations are privately owned, so you will want to observe from your car—unless you visit Brandywine Battlefield Park or other public places listed in the book, where you can get out and walk. (Some remain closed due to the pandemic; others are open by appointment, such as the quirky, engrossing Christian Sanderson Museum.)

To an extraordinary degree, Andrew Wyeth limited his painting activities to a couple of miles of territory, from his meticulously restored colonial estate, Brinton’s Mill, at the foot of Brinton’s Bridge Road (private) to Little Africa, a former black enclave not far from the Delaware line. For seventy years he painted virtually nowhere else, except for summers in Maine. Maynard places his origins in the 1930s Regionalist Movement in painting but dubs him America’s unique Micro-Regionalist.

Andrew Wyeth’s fondness for Kuerner Farm is famous, if somewhat inexplicable. As early as the 1920s, he dreamed of painting this hardscrabble farm a short walk from his childhood home, today’s N. C. Wyeth House & Studio. Betsy assembled the famous coffee-table book Wyeth at Kuerners (1976) to solve the mystery—what did her husband see in this entirely ordinary place that sustained his artistic interest not for a week or two but for much of the twentieth century?

When the Brandywine River Museum is open, it offers tours of the Kuerner farmhouse, along with tours of the N. C. Wyeth House & Studio and Andrew Wyeth Studio. For now you can drive past Kuerner Farm, its fence lines grown scruffier lately, noting the famous Kuerner Hill that rises above it to the west. Here Andrew Wyeth tobogganed as a child, later immortalizing it in such famous paintings as Winter 1946 and Snow Hill

The latter painting shows all his favorite models, including Helga Testorf, improbably dancing around a maypole. It was at Kuerner Farm that Andrew Wyeth first met Helga, a nurse to the sickly farmer Karl Kuerner. Artists of Wyeth Country contains many insights into these famous models: in real life, Helga has a radiant smile never seen in Wyeth’s somber paintings of her, and Karl seems to have been far less cruel and frightening than Wyeth claimed. 

Not only was Andrew Wyeth secretive, he enveloped himself in a protective thicket of tall tales, some of which his authorized biographer reported as fact. Among them was the claim that the key to his art and personality lay in his undying love of Halloween. Countless books repeat this fable in lieu of deeper exploration.

Far more important than Halloween was the Battle of the Brandywine. All his life, Andrew Wyeth was engrossed by the story of the largest land battle of the Revolution, fought in and around Chadds Ford on September 11th, 1777.  

British forces surged across the Brandywine at the Wyeth estate, Brinton’s Mill. And cannon thundered from the hilltop above his childhood home. Cannonballs have been unearthed at Kuerner Farm. George Washington was nearly killed by Redcoat artillery fire near today’s Chadds Ford Historical Society

Next time you visit Brandywine Battlefield Park (currently closed due to the pandemic), don’t miss Lafayette’s Headquarters, which has unfortunately been renamed the Gideon Gilpin House by recent park administrators, blurring its key historical significance. The centuries-old sycamore tree that shades it appears in Wyeth’s early masterpiece, Pennsylvania Landscape of 1942, and was recently cloned by Longwood Gardens.

To the east, note the mansion called Painter’s Folly. It was a favorite haunt of Andrew Wyeth in his later years, partly as a hideaway from his wife Betsy and his life-companion, Helga, three corners of a vexing emotional triangle. To the startled owners of Painter’s Folly, Andrew Wyeth seemed a kind of Cat in the Hat, suddenly materializing out of nowhere, playfully disrupting their lives through long painting sessions that consumed much of their time and splattered their furniture with pigment—then disappearing without warning for weeks. Happily, Painter’s Folly has recently come into public ownership. 

Chadds Ford is filled with such interesting places as these. For the first time, Artists of Wyeth Country allows you to follow in the exact footsteps of Andrew Wyeth. Take it along with you and begin exploring.

Celebrating the Magic of Children’s Gardens

This week in North Philly Notes, Lolly Tai, author of The Magic of Children’s Gardens, explains why spring is a great time to visit Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library and the Magic of Enchanted Woods.

Great news! Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is open during the pandemic. It is a gorgeous garden to visit year-round, but springtime is particularly spectacular. Children and families have the opportunity to come visit and enjoy the beautiful landscape filled with vast breathtaking swaths of colorful plantings. The splendor of seasonal color, texture, and fragrance is part of the experience while strolling through the garden.

Every year, I look forward to visiting Winterthur and exploring Enchanted Woods, the fairy tale children’s garden there. It is my favorite children’s garden and is featured in The Magic of Children’s Gardens. At Enchanted Woods, children can have fun discovering the enchantment in the landscape while engaging in creative and active play. The Faerie Cottage, Acorn Tearoom, Tulip Tree House, Bird’s Nest, Fairy Flower Labyrinth, Forbidden Fairy Ring, Story Stones, Gathering Green, Watering Trough and Frog Hollow are some of the elements of enchantment!  

Something new is always happening at Enchanted Woods! The Bird’s Nest has been refreshed and rewoven with new branches and vines and its wooden eggs are ready to be discovered inside. The Faerie Cottage, Tulip Tree House, and Acorn Tea Room are adorned with charming children’s furniture with whimsical squirrel- and acorn motif perfect for playing make believe. Under the Troll Bridge are hidden “treasures” that are waiting to be found. Behind the Rhododendron shrubs is a giant-sized Green Man’s Lair to be discovered. 

Visitors can enjoy a skip along the Fairy Flower Labyrinth with terrific views of the magnolias in the Sundial Garden.  They can step into the Forbidden Fairy Ring and experience the surprise of the fog filled mushroom ring. They can swing on the Gathering Green benches or dance around the Maypole among the tiny daffodils planted there. 


Spring ephemerals such as daffodils (Narcissus species), Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), and glory of the snow (Chionodoxa species) are blooming in Enchanted Woods, as well as hellebores. In the adjacent Sundial Garden, the magnolias and flowering quince are blooming. In the greater garden, Italian windflowers and bloodroot are carpeting the woodland floors in blue and white while hellebores, winterhazels, cherries, forsythia, and pieris, are blooming. The daffodils are starting with peak flowering a few weeks away. There are over 500,000 daffodils. It is really a great time to visit!

Check out the bloom reports for Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library at http://gardenblog.winterthur.org/

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm. It is located at 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, DE 19735. For more information, visit http://www.winterthur.org/.

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