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Reader Letters

Tracking History
Jim Waltzer deserves high praise for his well written and researched piece on the R5 [“Where the Tracks Lie,” January 2008]. And Hobart Rowland’s enjoyable editorial [“Rail Life”] about his days of travel to and from Episcopal Academy made the treatment of the subject even more delightful.

Your readers might enjoy a couple of tidbits Waltzer missed—though he didn’t miss much. First, the Main Line resulted from a business plan worthy of any modern Wall Streeter, developed by railroad engineer Alexander Cassatt. The plan was to buy up the land near the tracks, then establish a commuter line. Once rapid commuting became practical, land values had risen many times, and the land could be sold at a large profit. The railroad had, in the process, guaranteed itself a captive audience of commuters to support the line.

Also, any discussion of the subject should mention those wonderful underpasses the Pennsylvania Railroad built to avoid grade crossings. Originally there to speed freight trains and save fuel, they now guarantee us safe passage across the rails when driving—a benefit almost unknown in other parts of the country.

John Baxter
Newtown Square

Understanding Eakins
In reference to “Eakins Comes Out,” Retrospect, January 2008:

There were many facts regarding Eakins that blew me away. As a teacher and an aspiring artist, I try to find articles that give me a chance to find out more about artists and perspectives—partially for my students and partially for my own understanding and reflection. I try to challenge my students each day in class with the information I gather outside the classroom.

That said, Mark E. Dixon’s article offered the right questions to ponder.

Brian K. Hearns
Downingtown

I enjoyed your article in Main Line Today. I’ve read Sidney D. Kirkpatrick’s biography and also the more controversial book by Henry Adams, Eakins Revealed. Despite Adams’ almost incomprehensible portrayal of the artist, I believe he comes closer to the truth about Eakins’ sexuality than does Kirkpatrick, who, as you point out in your article, leaves the matter unsettled.

As an openly gay man and amateur gay historian, I can personally attest that retrieving gay personalities from history is never a straightforward matter (pun intended). Marginalized groups must fight extra hard for legitimacy in the present, and no less in the past. As for Swimming, there are some things that can never be captured in art critique or historical analysis. Again, regardless of the era, I can say, as a gay person, that no heterosexual man would portray himself the way Eakins does, seductively glaring at his naked comrades. This painting is indeed the artist’s “coming out.”

Joseph Dorazio
St. Davids

Sweet Recollection
“Ice Cream Man” [Profile, July 2007] brought back memories of my childhood in Shamokin, enjoying a Saturday afternoon treat with my mother at Tharp’s Ice Cream parlor on Independence Street.
Christine McBride
Morton


Comments? Kudos? Criticisms?
Send them to: Post, Main Line Today, 4699 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, PA 19073
E-mail:
hrowland@mainlinetoday.com

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