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"Dead Letters: Delivering Unopened Mail from a Pennsylvania Ghost Town" with Jess Weible

Nov 14, 2021 - Nov 14, 2021 | 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Virtual Event by Heinz History Center

On assignment for a small-town newspaper in rural Pennsylvania, rookie reporter Jessica Weible meets Joan Swigart, a creative fireball and “pioneer in print.” As the two women forge a relationship based on their passion for storytelling, Joan reveals a mystery that she had discovered years ago, but had never solved—a pile of dead letters found in an abandoned general store, just before it was torn down. Joan gives Jessica the letters, each stamped and dated over a hundred years ago, and encourages Jessica to investigate the untold stories of the people and places contained in each one.

What begins as yet another assignment for the reporter, a young millennial who relies happily on email and texting as the primary means of communication, develops into a heartfelt mission to tell the story of the people and places in the letters. The young reporter’s journey takes unexpected twists and turns through the quiet lumber towns of Pennsylvania, the early American settlements in Massachusetts, the bustling crowds at Ellis Island, the violent strikes at the Passaic textile mills, and beyond.

Among the letters is a correspondence in Yiddish, which connects to a web of Jewish stories in Pittsburgh. Attendees in person will get a chance to see the actual letters.

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