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  • Charles H. Glatfelter (1924-2013)
  • Michael J. Birkner

Charles H. Glatfelter, former president of the Pennsylvania Historical Association (1986-1988), died on February 6, 2013. He was eighty-eight years old. A lifelong Pennsylvanian, born and raised in the village of Glen Rock in York County, Glatfelter was as rooted in York and Adams county history as it is humanly possible to be. He began haunting the York County archives while still a high school student and wrote his senior thesis on a York County topic at Gettysburg College. After graduating as valedictorian of the class of 1946, Glatfelter entered the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with such notables as Sidney Painter and C. Vann Woodward. He completed his doctoral dissertation, on German Lutheran and Reformed clergy in the Pennsylvania field, under Charles Barker. At Johns Hopkins Glatfelter roomed with Henry J. Young, with whom he had become acquainted at the York County Historical Society where Young was the first director. With Henry Young he forged a lifelong friendship that [End Page 451] carried through Young's various roles as a public historian and ultimately as a professor of history at Dickinson College.

While still a doctoral candidate Glatfelter accepted an appointment in the Department of Economics at his alma mater. At Gettysburg Charlie pioneered instruction in economic history before accepting appointment in the History Department in 1954.

Charlie had joined the Pennsylvania Historical Association while still a teenager, barely a decade after the Association's founding. He remained a member in good standing for the next seven decades. Charlie's mentor at Gettysburg College, Robert Fortenbaugh, was one of the founders of the Association and later served as its president (1945-48). It meant much to Charlie that Gettysburg College sustained meaningful connections with the PHA through Professor Fortenbaugh and also through his colleague Robert L. Bloom (who served as PHA president from 1969 to 1972), and on into this writer's editorship of Pennsylvania History from 1987 to 1994. For his part Charlie was deeply invested in the affairs of the PHA, serving on its executive council for many years in various capacities. In a reflection piece for the seventy-fifth anniversary issue of this journal, John Frantz of the Pennsylvania State University called Charlie one of the "Alexander Hamiltons" of the PHA for his work putting the Association's finances on a more stable basis during his tenure as the Association's treasurer.

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Charles H. Glatfelter, 1924-2013.

[End Page 452]

Despite a heavy teaching load and subsequent service as dean of Gettysburg College (1960-66) at a critical point in his career, Charlie pursued an active scholarly agenda. Although keenly interested in public affairs, with an extraordinary grasp of facts about American presidents and presidencies, Charlie's focus on York and Adams county histories was the gravamen of his scholarly enterprise.

During the 1960s and beyond Charlie produced a steady stream of publications, most of them focused on York and Adams county history. He knew this particular postage stamp of soil better than anyone ever has or likely ever will, his expertise and recall of facts running the gamut from land and estate records to social history, religious history, education, politics, and governance. Several of Glatfelter's articles appeared in this journal. One of his significant publications, on the Pennsylvania Germans, was published as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Association's History Studies series. It is still in print.

Beyond this corpus one must take account of two robust two-volume histories published in the 1980s, one the history Gettysburg College. The second was a substantially revised and expanded version of his doctoral dissertation at Hopkins. Pastors and People: German Lutheran and Reformed Churches in the Pennsylvania Field appeared in 1980 and 1981, respectively, through the auspices of the Pennsylvania German Society. In these volumes Glatfelter presented biographies of 250 Lutheran and Reformed pastors, histories of more than 500 congregations, and a narrative history from the origins of the two churches to their establishment as independent organizations.

Reviewers found Pastors and People remarkable for the deep research it represented and the sound arguments it made. Writing in Pennsylvania...


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