Pennsylvania

Posted by Ellen

Bill Haley and the Comets were on stage, and this young man was in the audience during an April 1956 concert at the Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The opening act was LaVern Baker.

Posted by Ellen

The bird looks happy–happy that it's not November?–but it's fattening up nicely.

Posted by Ellen

Both of these Brittany Spaniels–bird dogs, for certain sure–believe they're onto something, here in a Pennsylvania marsh where just a few short months ago, sunflowers were smiling.

Posted by Ellen

Lily wraps one of her custom-created alliterative labels around a naked crayon at Crayola's play park in Easton, PA. Among her names for crayon colors: Lily Lemon, Lily Lollipop, Marvelous Mom, and Naughty Norman.

In the huge Crayola factory just outside of Easton, where all 64 colors are melted and molded and labeled and boxed and shipped out to the world, the wrapping of labels is of course done by machine. But until the wrapping machines came on line in the late 1930s, that part of the process was farmed out to families in the Easton area, who would work at their kitchen tables wrapping labels around each crayon individually for a piecework wage. Each family worked on a single color, and the delivery routes were organized by color: e.g., turn left at the Green house and go up the hill to the Blue place.

Modern crayons first showed up at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, where Crayola exhibited them as "dustless chalk," a healthful innovation for the classroom. The company that made them, Binney & Smith, was getting a little out of its comfort zone, since its main facility in Easton was a slate quarry, which provided slates for schoolrooms utilizing the non-dustless kind of chalk.

Today, Crayola's theme park and factory undergird the economy of Easton, which was once home as well to the headquarters of another corporation manufacturing the stuff American childhood used to be made of: Dixie Cups.

Posted by Ellen

This 1880s-era bridge connecting the Allegheny County courthouse with the jail in downtown Pittsburgh is a fair replica of the seventeenth-century Bridge of Sighs in Venice, which connected the prison with the interrogation chambers in the doge's palace.

In Pittsburgh as in Venice, prisoners being escorted across the bridge were said to catch a final glimpse of life on the outside before disappearing into the labyrinths of judicial inquistion and disposition. In both cities, too, the bridges and buildings survive to this day; the courthouse building at right in this picture is still an active courthouse, though the jail building at left now houses the county Family Services agency.

Modern-day photos, however, reveal an oddity: the bridge now appears to loom much higher above the street than it did back in 1903, when the picture above was taken. An urban-improvement project known as the Hump Cut, completed in 1913, flattened out major downtown streets in Pittsburgh, lowering Fifth Avenue here by several feet.

Posted by Ellen

It does seem like we don't make anything in America any more, but that's not completely true. Right here under this roof in Easton, Pennsylvania, Americans make Crayola crayons and . . . Silly Putty. Not only that, but up the road a few miles they've got a factory outlet store and a Crayola Discovery Center, which is basically a crayon-themed theme park.

Still and all, this factory doesn't look quite right. You can't make a lot of crayons without heating up a lot of wax–shouldn't they have some serious smokestacks here?

Posted by Ellen

At about 9:30 in the morning on September 23, 1999, the Landsat 7 satellite swooped southward over eastern North America and captured this image of Philadelphia and environs.

Three of the Landsat sensors detected energy in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, completely invisible to the human eye. Data from these sensors is displayed here, with each of the three infrared bands assigned to one of the normal red-green-blue color bands so we at least have something to look at, even though the colors have nothing to do with normal vision.

Clicking on the picture brings up a bigger version, which shows much more detail.

We can tell right away that the rivers are black; infrared energy is completely absorbed by water, reflecting back nothing for the sensors to detect. And if we look along the river at lower left, we can make out the airport, with runways that are bright cyan in color. This white-to-bluish hue is also the color of roads, railroads, parking lots, and other paved surfaces.

Infrared data is especially useful for studying vegetation, which shows up in this color scheme as red, orange, or yellow. The brightest red patches represent vigorous herbaceous growth, such as healthy cropland in the midst of the growing season. There's little or no farmland in and around Philly, however, so the red patches we see here, such as in between the airport runways, are probably healthy weeds.

Patches of red coloration with a touch of an orange tint and some texture are forested areas, such as in parks or between the fairways of golf courses. Extremely vigorous grass, such as on the golf course fairways themselves, looks bright yellow in this view.

The brownish-to-grayish-to-bluish areas show mixed land cover: Landsat's sensors are averaging out the infrared signals from house roofs, pavement, lawns, shrubs, and trees in varying concentrations. Brownish areas are suburban, with lots of trees and grass; dark green to gray-blue areas are more urban, with a higher ratio of rooftops and pavement to vegetation.

Philadelphia has changed since this image was captured twelve years ago. Another stadium has been built near where the Schuylkill River empties out into the Delaware. In my neighborhood just south of Center City, the forested patch of land near the Schuylkill, which in 1999 was an abandoned and overgrown Old Sailors' Home is now a heavily developed condo complex. Even though the population of Philadelphia has shrunk dramatically over the past half-century and has just barely started growing again, land use patterns as viewed from outer space show ongoing urbanization.

Posted by Ellen

On a crisp October Saturday, deep in the Loyalsock Canyon of World's End State Park, you have to wait on line for your turn to take pictures of the waterfalls.

Ordinarily, creeks and waterfalls have shriveled to a trivial trickle by this time of year. But after a wet, wet summer and then the floods of Hurricane Irene, waterways throughout Pennsylvania are putting on a show.

Posted by Ellen

Appropriately enough, what you can see from the top of Castle Rock, just outside World's End State Park in the Endless Mountains of Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, are endless trees and endless mountains. Way down below is a tributary of Loyalsock Creek, which spills heedlessly over waterfall after waterfall en route to the west fork of the Susquehanna.

It is definitely the time of year to wear bright orange in these woods.

Posted by Ellen

Friday was the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center's second annual Philly Photo Day. Anyone can submit a digital file for a photo taken anywhere in the city during the twenty-four-hour period of October 28; the Photo Arts Center prints the pictures and offers them for sale at a fund-raising gala. My submission was this snapshot from the checkout line at an ABC store, where Philadelphians were getting ready for the weekend.