Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase titles for Hispanic Heritage Month. View our full list of Latino/a Studies and Latin American/Caribbean Studies titles. (Also of interest Studies in Latin American and Caribbean Music series)

Accessible Citizenships shows how disability provides a new perspective on our understanding of the nation and the citizen.

Afro-Caribbean Religions provides a comprehensive introduction to the Caribbean’s African-based religions.

Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music recounts the life and times of one of Cuba’s most important musicians.

The Brazilian Sound is an encyclopedic survey of Brazilian popular music—now updated and expanded.

Caribbean Currents is the classic introduction to the Caribbean’s popular music brought up to date.

Chilean New Song provides an examination of the Chilean New Song movement as an organic part of the struggles for progressive social change, deeper democracy, and social justice in Chile in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The Coolie Speaks offers a remarkable examination of bondage in Cuba that probes questions of slavery, freedom, and race.

Daily Labors examines the vulnerabilities, discrimination, and exploitation—as well as the sense of belonging and community—that day laborers experience on an NYC street corner.

Democratizing Urban Development shows how community organizations fight to prevent displacement and secure affordable housing across cities in the U.S. and Brazil.

Dominican Baseball, from the author of Sugarball, looks at the important and contested relationship between Major League Baseball and Dominican player development.

Fernando Ortiz on Music features selections from the influential Fernando Ortiz’s publications on Afro-diasporic music and dance—now available in English.

From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia is a history of Puerto Rican immigration to Philadelphia.

Globalizing the Caribbean, now in Paperback, illustrates how global capitalism finds new ways to mutate and grow in the Caribbean.

How Did You Get to Be Mexican? is a readable account of a life spent in the borderlands between racial identity.

The International Monetary Fund and Latin America chronicles the sometimes questionable relationship between the International Monetary Fund and Latin America from 1944 to the present.

Latino Mayors is the first book to examine the rise of Latino mayors in the United States.

Latinos and the U.S. Political System is an analysis of American politics from the vantage point of the Latino political condition.

Latinx Environmentalisms puts the environmental humanities into dialogue with Latinx literary and cultural studies.

Liberation Theology asks: How does the church function in Latin America on an everyday, practical, and political level?

Merengue, now available as an ebook, is a fascinating examination of the social history of merengue dance music and its importance as a social and cultural symbol.

Migration and Mortality documents and denounces the violent impacts of restrictive migration policies in the Americas, linking this institutional violence to broader forces of racial capitalism.

Música Norteña is the first history of the music that binds together Mexican immigrant communities.

New Immigrants, Old Unions provides a case study of a successful effort to unionize undocumented immigrant workers.

The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation is a landmark history of the New York Young Lords, and what their activism tells us about contemporary Latino/a politics.

Not from Here, Not from There/No Soy de Aquí ni de Allá is a lively autobiography by Nelson Díaz, a community activist, judge, and public advocate who blazed a trail for Latinos in Philadelphia.

Revolution Around the Corner is the first book-length story of the radical social movement, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party.

Selecting Women, Electing Women offers an analytic framework to show how the process of candidate selection often limits the participation of women in various Latin American countries.

The Sorcery of Color is an examination of how racial and gender hierarchies are intertwined in Brazil.

Sounding Salsa takes readers inside New York City’s vibrant salsa scene.

Terrorizing Latina/o Immigrants is a comprehensive analysis of changes in immigration policy, politics, and enforcement since 9/11.

Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil explains what the rise and fall of Brazil’s first and only female president can teach us about women’s empowerment.

A Q&A with Temple University Press’ new Editorial Assistant, Will Forrest

This week in North Philly Notes, we get to learn more about Temple University Press’s new editorial assistant, Will Forrest, who joined the Temple University Press staff this week.


You are “returning” to the Press having worked here as a student. Can you talk about your experiences at the Press?

I first worked as an intern for TUP during my senior year as an undergraduate, mostly working on rights and contracts. I was amazed at the variety of responsibilities I was handed and their importance. It was not your typical mindless gofer intern busy work. I loved my time as an intern and got a feel for nearly every aspect of what it takes to publish a book. I am overjoyed to return as an editorial assistant!

What book(s) do you like to read/are you currently reading?

I am currently reading By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age by Paul Boyer. History is probably my biggest love, and oddly enough, I have been interested in the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war for most of my life (although the Soviet Union did not exist when I was born). I am also rereading Anthony Heilbut’s The Gospel Sound, his look at the vibrant and often underappreciated world of African-American gospel music. It might be my favorite book on American music.

Has any single book made a particularly strong impression on you? (What and why or how)?

Many of my strongest responses to books came early in my life, and the book that I credit with really sparking my interest in writing and storytelling is Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. It was the first book I remembered reading where I felt like I identified with the character, understood that he was speaking from a unique point of view, and made me feel less isolated. It launched me into reading Blume’s other books as well as other stories about teenagers and young adults. I still find that I especially like reading novels and consuming other media about young people, and my creative ideas are often filled with young people working things out.

You have an interest in playwriting. Can you tell us about that?

I have loved theater for most of my life, and writing has also been a major part of my life, but it wasn’t until around college that the two began to dovetail. I like the freedom and sparseness of writing plays compared to other forms. Most of my play ideas end up being rooted in history one way or another, and often my plays are places to string together seemingly separate interests and ideas I have. I actually have a play I wrote being read online at Temple this fall called Window of Vulnerability about nuclear war planning and its psychological impact on ordinary people during the Cold War.

When and how do you read?

I am a very undisciplined reader. I typically read in the evenings after most of my daily business is done, and read essentially until I get tired or disinterested, whichever comes first. Even if I am very engaged by a book I don’t usually feel the urge to finish it right there and then, and I sometimes then end up reading multiple books at a time. 

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I would venture to say that many of my books on the Cold War might surprise some given the event took place before I was born. One that might surprise most people, especially people of a certain age, is Richard Zoglin’s biography HOPE of Bob Hope. It’s natural to wonder why any young person would be interested in the life of a comedian known for being a conservative square who performed well past his prime and toured the world with the USO. But American entertainment history is a major interest of mine, and like him or not (and some of his early movies aren’t bad), there are few entertainers as important to 20th century America as Bob Hope.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?

To be honest, I never really identified much with superheroes or superhero/comic culture in general aside from watching some of the films. I used to wear a Superman t-shirt that I won in a crane machine on the NJ boardwalk when I was much younger, and I suppose I still think he’s pretty cool. I also like Superman because he’s not as omnipresent as the Marvel heroes in today’s culture.

What Temple University Press book has particular meaning to you (and why)?

This is an unusual and obscure choice, but it is a book the Press published in 1974 called Broadcasting in Africa: A Continental Survey of Radio and Television. When my brother, who shares many of the same historical interests I do, found out I worked for the Temple University Press and that they had a library of their catalog, one of the first things he asked me about was this book. He wanted to know if they had it because it is very hard to find and one of the only books written during the era on the topic. It was this experience that made me realize the unique vision of TUP to publish pioneering works on topics that are not often written about, and it crystallized that the books TUP publishes are interesting to many diverse groups, including my brother.

What Temple University Press book would you recommend to someone?

I think Mary Lou Nemanic’s recent Metro Dailies in the Age of Multimedia Journalism is an incredibly important read for anyone who cares about truth. As local newspapers shutter around the country in the face of the digital revolution, especially in smaller communities, local stories and viewpoints slowly start to disappear from the nationwide conversation along with their invaluable investigations. Local dailies are often the first papers to report on what will become major national stories, and when they fall on hard times, things start to fall through the cracks.

What book will you read next?

My backlog of books to read is quite extensive. I have Peter Guralnick’s biography of Sam Cooke entitled Dream Boogie on my shelf, and as a huge fan of Cooke, that era of American music, and Guralnick’s other books, I will devour it. I also just bought Vincent J. Indonti’s African Americans Against the Bomb and am very excited to read it.

What three writers would you invite to a dinner party?

Even though I read largely non-fiction, I think great fiction storytellers might make better dinner party guests because of their natural inclination towards dreaming worlds and listening to their characters. So I would invite Judy Blume and Elena Ferrante, two of my favorite living novelists (I hopefully will have learned Italian to speak with Elena) as well as Sarah Ruhl, a playwright I admire very much. I would pay homage and hopefully we would spend the evening talking about everything other than their work. I’m also not much of a cook, so if any of them have any specialties or feel inclined to provide courses, I would be ecstatic.

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

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!

Listen Up: Temple University Press Podcast Episode 2

This week in North Philly Notes, we debut the latest episode of the Temple University Press Podcast, which features host Sam Cohn interviewing author Jim Murphy about his new book Real Philly History, Real Fast.

The Temple University Press Podcast is where you can hear about all the books you’ll want to read next.

Click here to listen

The Temple University Press Podcast is available wherever you find your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Overcast, among other outlets.


About this episode

Jim Murphy, a certified tour guide, provides a quick and easy way to learn about Philadelphia’s heroes and historic sites in Real Philly History, Real Fast. His book provides an amusing and informative insider’s guide to the Philadelphia history you don’t know. Sure, Philadelphia is known as the home of vibrant colonial history: the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Independence Hall. But the City of Brotherly Love is also home to—and less well known for—having the country’s first quarantine station, and a clock whose face is larger than Big Ben’s in London. And yes, the Rocky statue is the most photographed, but do you know whose statue comes in second? Jim Murphy’s Real Philly History, Real Fast has the answer to these burning questions—and more. This is Philly history in bites that are as digestible as a soft pretzel with mustard.

Real Philly History, Real Fast is available through the Temple University Press website, and your favorite booksellers, both online and local.

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.

Listen UP! The Temple University Press Podcast

This week in North Philly Notes, we announce the new Temple University Press podcast, which features an interview with Ray Didinger about his memoir, Finished Business: My Fifty Years of Headlines, Heroes, and Heartaches.

The Temple University Press Podcast is where you can hear about all the books you’ll want to read next.

Click here to listen

The Temple University Press Podcast is available wherever you find your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Overcast, among other outlets.


About this episode

For our inaugural podcast, we asked Temple University podcast host and producer Sam Cohn to interview Ray Didinger, a man who has become synonymous with Philadelphia sports. He recently published his memoir, Finished Business, which opens immediately following the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory. It is a moment that felt like the entire city of Philadelphia was hoisting the Lombardi trophy in unison. Ray’s writing poetically weaves through his life as a storyteller, capturing his enthusiasm for sports and his affection for Philadelphia fans.

Didinger began rooting for the Eagles as a kid, hanging out in his grandfather’s bar in Southwest Philadelphia. He spent his summers at the team’s training camp in Hershey, PA. It was there he met his idol, flanker Tommy McDonald. He would later write a play, Tommy and Me, about their friendship and his efforts to see McDonald enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Didinger has been covering the Eagles as a newspaper columnist or TV analyst since 1970, working for the Philadelphia Bulletin and the Daily News before transitioning to work at NFL Films, Comcast SportsNet, and WIP Sports Radio. With his memoir, he looks back on his career.


Fini
shed Business is available through the Temple University Press website, and your favorite booksellers, both online and local.

%d bloggers like this: