Photos of these legendary 20th century figures are among the 230 images featured in The Morning Call's new book, "Looking Back Volume II: 1910 to 2013."
The 178-page book is a photographic journey of the Lehigh Valley through the decades, from the 1910s through the present day. It showcases national events through a local lens, including wars, presidential campaigns and the energy crisis of 1979, as well as quintessential Lehigh Valley places such as Dorney Park, Yocco's and Bethlehem Steel.
It is a sequel to The Morning Call's 1998 book, "Looking Back: A pictorial view of the Lehigh Valley and surrounding counties, 1850 to 1920," which recently sold out.
"The first book was very popular, so we thought, 'Why not do another one?'" says Morning Call Deputy Editor Terry Rang, the project manager.
"It's preserving and sharing history. Decade by decade, we captured what was going on in the Lehigh Valley and beyond — from fun photos like those of the Allentown Fair, Hess's Department Store and visits by celebrities to more serious photos like those depicting war eras and tragedies such as fires and floods."
The book is the latest installment in an ongoing effort by the newspaper to chronicle the area's rich history. It follows "Forging America," about how Bethlehem Steel changed the face of America; "War Stories," a collection of stories as told by Pennsylvanians who served in the armed forces; and "The President Was Here! Facts and artifacts from more than 200 years on the Lehigh Valley campaign trail."
As with the other books, the second installment of "Looking Back," which retails for $19.95, is available for purchase through The Morning Call Store (morningcallstore.com, 610-508-1517).
Conceived primarily as a picture book, it opens with an introduction by Morning Call Editor/Vice President David M. Erdman and an essay by reporter Daniel Patrick Sheehan. In the essay, "Capturing everyday life and extraordinary events," the story of Morning Call darkroom technician Lester S. Kraft Jr. is eloquently told, encapsulating the book's mission.
Twenty-nine-year-old Kraft, who had been hoping to make the jump from film developer to photographer, was killed by an explosion as he tried to document a fire near the former Mountainville Inn in south Allentown in 1958. While Kraft didn't survive the blast, the film inside his camera did, and the newspaper won a prize for his photos.
"I was wondering how to reflect something of what the book was supposed to be," Sheehan says. "The story of Lester Kraft, which I only learned about this year, seemed to be just the thing. He took a risk to capture a news event for the sake of the public and died as a result. He just seemed to exemplify the calling of journalists, to witness life and tell the story."
The explosion, which killed five other men, is one of many Lehigh Valley tragedies documented in "Looking Back Volume II." Other deadly events included are Hurricane Diane in 1955, the Blizzard of 1996 and other blasts such as those at Hanover Township, Lehigh County's Concept Sciences plant in 1999 and Allentown's 500 block of 13th Street in 2011.
Producing the book was an arduous six-month process with photo editors and researchers scouring through piles of old photos, mostly from The Morning Call archives, but also from the Lehigh County Historical Society and hard-copy archival prints from former staff photographers.
"I met three to four times at the home of Ken Clauser, who became one of my personal favorite resources of past staff photographers," says Morning Call photo editor Monica Cabrera. "He gave boxes of images he shot from his days at the Call Chronicle/The Morning Call. It was amazing to see 11-by-14-inch well-preserved prints from the past."
Digital folders were set up for each decade and a small team of people dropped photos into them during the gathering process. The hard part came in narrowing down the thousands of photos to just a couple hundred.
"Churches and buildings are great, but people are what bring life to most photographs," Cabrera says of the majority of photos she chose to use. "Their facial expressions and attire both help illustrate moments in time. In the 1960s chapter, for example, I knew that I had to include a photo of a lady in her go-go boots and mink coat."
Sheehan and reporter Bill Landauer wrote introductions to each decade, summarizing what was happening locally and nationally.
"So much happened in each 10-year span, and you had to somehow break major events that sometimes required weeks, months or even years of coverage into a sentence," Landauer recalls.
Another major hurdle arose from older photos that were undated, captionless or both. Rang and fellow Morning Call editors Mike Miorelli, Katherine Reinhard and Will Scheihing used visual clues and their knowledge of the Lehigh Valley to help them describe many images.
"The real challenge was for the editors who hunted down all these photos and often had to determine when they were taken, who took them and who or what was in them," Sheehan says. "We had some big gaps in our archives, things that simply got lost over the years. It was a tremendous labor on their part."
Making sure captions contained enough information for readers to understand the historical context of each photo also proved challenging.
"Our goal was to have readers look at a photo, read its caption and come away knowing exactly what it was about," Rang says. "The caption was critical because you couldn't, for example, just say this is Gen. Harry Trexler. You had to say who he is and why he's important."
The book's authors label their favorite photos as those of Babe Ruth with Allentown Mayor Malcom W. Gross in 1923 (Sheehan); and a boy kneeling in agony over his younger brother, who had just been hit by a car, in 2010 (Landauer).
Rang and Cabrera, more diplomatic than their colleagues, say there are just too many great photos to single out a top pick.
Among Rang's favorites is the book's cover shot featuring George Reeves, better known as TV's Superman, serving salad to waitresses at Hess's in the 1950s, as well as old sports team photos, if only to observe the ever-changing fashions.
Cabrera is especially fond of photos hailing from the 1970s, including one of children riding Big Wheels, as she "remembers that decade well." And like Rang, she also enjoys the old sports team photos, but for a different reason.
"The poses back then were much different than today, which make them look so awkward and just bizarre," she says. "An old photo of a basketball team from the 1940s, for example, looks more like 'A Chorus Line' than a sports team."
While the authors and editors differ on their preferred photos, they all agree some of the most moving images are those of Bethlehem Steel which, after 130 years, stopped making steel locally in 1995.
"Some of the photos gain their power through correlation with earlier ones," Sheehan says. "For example, there is an early photo of a bond drive at Bethlehem Steel during World War I — a gathering of hundreds of workers. Much later, in the 1990s chapter, is a photo of the last day of production at Steel, showing just a handful of workers. It struck me that some of those men could well have been descendants of men in the earlier photo."
"The photos of Bethlehem Steel are sobering," Landauer says. "It was so huge, so much a part of the landscape, and now it's all gone.
"It's just chilling," Cabrera adds. "The people were filled with such promise."
Rang and Sheehan hope readers will take away a greater understanding of the Lehigh Valley, and the role its people and industries played in building the nation.
"Some photos will make people smile and others will make them think, but all will foster a better understanding of the Lehigh Valley, past and present," Rang says.
"I hope readers take away a renewed appreciation for the area we live in, and also for journalism," Sheehan says. "People always say today's newspaper is tomorrow's fish wrap, but I think books like this show the opposite — that journalism is history and part of our common inheritance."
'LOOKING BACK VOLUME II: 1910 to 2013'
•What: A book published by The Morning Call offering a photographic journey of the Lehigh Valley through the decades, from the 1910s through the present day.
•Details: 178 pages, $19.95. Includes 237 photos and text written by reporters Daniel Patrick Sheehan and Bill Landauer.
•Info: Go to morningcallstore.com or call 610-508-1517 to purchase.