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Susquehanna Life

By the Book [Winter 2020]


Pennhurst and the Struggle for Disability Rights

Edited by Dennis B. Downey, James W. Conroy

$35, Penn State Press

Conceived as a solution to what was termed the “problem of the feeble-minded,” state-operated institutions subjected people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to a life of compulsory incarceration. One of nearly 300 such facilities in the United States, Pennhurst State School and Hospital was initially hailed as a “model institution” but was later revealed to be a nightmare, where medical experimentation and physical and psychological abuse were rampant. Using a blended narrative of essays and first-person accounts, this book examines the institution from its founding to its present-day exploitation as a controversial Halloween attraction.

Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America’s Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster

By Al Roker

$23, Harper Collins

New York Times bestselling author, NBC host and weather authority Al Roker follows a cast of characters whose fates converged that day, including John Parke, the engineer whose heroic efforts failed to save the dam; the robber barons whose sport fishing resort was responsible for modifications that weakened the dam; and Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, who spent five months in Johnstown leading one of the first organized disaster relief efforts in the U.S. The book is a testament to the power of the human spirit in times of tragedy and a timely warning about the dangers of greed, inequality, neglected infrastructure and the uncontrollable power of nature.

Steamtown National Historic Site

By Margo L. Azzarelli

$21.99, Arcadia Publishing

In 1984, the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad yard became the home to a millionaire’s train collection. Nine years and many improvements later, the Steamtown National Historic Site opened its door to welcome over 100,000 visitors annually. Steamtown occupies an estimated 65 acres of the old Scranton railroad yard with several of its original structures remaining on the site. It also includes a visitor’s center, two museums, a restored roundhouse, and many exhibits and locomotives. This concise history chronicles the role of Steamtown National Historic Site in the preservation of railroad history.

Abolitionists of South Central Pennsylvania

By Cooper H. Wingert

$21.99, Arcadia Publishing

An overview of the history of the antislavery movement in South Central Pennsylvania, a hotspot for both slave catchers and abolitionists. Influenced by religion and empathy, local abolitionists risked their reputations, fortunes and lives in the pursuit of what they believed was right. Among the highlights: The sister of Benjamin Lundy, one of America's most famous abolitionists, married into an Adams County family and spent decades helping runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. National figures such as Frederick Douglass toured the region, delivering antislavery orations to mixed receptions. In 1859, John Brown planned his Harpers Ferry raid from Chambersburg while local abolitionists concealed his identity. 

Misc. Picks 

60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Harrisburg

By Matt Willen

$14, Menasha Ridge Press

The southern portion of Pennsylvania is rich with history, but also is home to breathtaking natural beauty. From rolling hills in Lancaster and York counties to steep ravines along the Susquehanna River, this region offers hikers a wide array of outdoor experiences. This guide is one of the first comprehensive hiking tours of the region, and its accessible format brings this diverse natural area closer to hikers.

Working Horses of Lancaster County

By Beth Oberholtzer; Photographs by John Herr

$34.99, Schiffer Publishing (available May 2021)

Every day in Lancaster County, thousands of Plain-sect farm families hitch up draft horses to work their fields, and carriage horses to take them from place to place. These animals are foundational to a faith community that bans automobiles and tractors in a desire to live simple, agrarian-based lives. Stories and interviews accompany over 240 candid photos depicting the most common horses at work and play in Lancaster County.

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