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On shelves on the second floor of the University of Pittsburgh's Hillman Library stand hundreds of master's thesis and doctoral dissertations written for credit towards advanced degrees at the University. Among them are many historical studies, and not a few of these deal specifically with places, events and people prominent in Beaver County history.
Rue Alice Cope's "Ft. McIntosh, 1778-1788," for example, is a survey which sets out "to tell the reasons for the erection of this frontier fort .... the hardships endured at Ft. McIntosh" and "the importance of the Ft. McIntosh treaty." It was submitted as a master's thesis in 1929.
Harry E. Houtz, noting in the 1930's "a singular lack of work done" on Abner Lacock, Beaver County's first United States Senator, produced his master's thesis, entitled "Abner Lacock," in 1937. Utilizing "the journals of the legislature of Pennsylvania, the journals of the United States Congress, the files of many newspapers of the region, and original manuscripts of Lacock ... in the possession of descendants," Houtz wrote what is really a good short biography of Lacock, about whom 11 a singular lack of work" has been done since Houtz's thesis.
Matthew Stanley Quay, the County's second U. S. Senator, is the subject of two studies, Leila H. Rupp's "Matthew Stanley Quay In Pennsylvania State Politics" (1928), and a 1932 thesis by Mary A. Cook, "Matthew Stanley Quay In Pennsylvania Politics As Viewed Through His Home Town Newspapers." Neither actually duplicates the other. Rupp's thesis views Quay from a more strictly political standpoint, while the Cook work adds many interesting personal details gleaned from the newspapers.
Some of the studies combine history and another discipline. Two works on the Harmony Society fit this description. Geneva College's Dr. Stewart Lee wrote the earlier one, his master's thesis called "An Economic History of Old Economy, Pennsylvania, With A Brief On Some Other Experiments In Communist Living In The United States of America " in 1950. While his available sources were limited, Dr. Lee's examination of "the economic aspects of a communal organization as well as its history" is quite interesting. Especially helpful is
his "Comparative Chart" of American communistic experiments, analyzing the founders, dates, locations, nationalities, record memberships, views on marriage, religious or economic basis and common ownership not only of the Harmonists but of groups such as the Shakers, Owen's New Harmony colonists and the Zoar and Amana settlements.
The later of the two Harmonist studies is Richard D. Wetzel's "The Music Of George Rapp's Harmony Society: 1805-1906" (1970). Wetzel's PhD dissertation, 562 pages long with the size and heft of a legal dictionary, results from his explorations of "the eighteen cubic feet of manuscript and printed music which remained of the Harmonists' music library." Having "cataloged the Harmonist music extant at Old Economy," he describes in this dissertation the instruments the Harmonists played, their musicians and singers, and of course, their music itself. Certainly no one writing about the Harmonists who intends to mention their musical talents can afford to overlook Wetzel's contribution.
If any of the works suffer, it is due to gaps in accessible source material, some of which has since been collected and made available to the researcher, Mary A. Cook, for example, relied in her thesis on Quay on two private collections of newspapers, both of which mainly covered the years of Quay's career after the Civil War, with only a few scattered issues being available to her for the pre-war period of Quay's entry into Beaver County politics. She quotes a rather vaguely phrased February, 1861 attack on the Republican Quay by the WESTERN STAR, a Democratic paper. At the time she wrote, the issue of the Republican Beaver ARGUS which followed the STAR'S attack was apparently not available. Now it is on microfilm, and today's researcher can read Quay's very long and very angry rejoinder t6 the STAR which describes the whole matter in detail.
But whatever the gaps in available material (certainly not the fault of the authors), all these works and others not covered by this review treat their subjects in scholarly fashion, with an attempt at accuracy and not at sensationalism. They are well worth the examination by anyone interested in researching Beaver County's history.