Artifacts: An Illustrated Treasury of Delaware Valley History
Written and Illustrated by Hal Taylor
Published by Hal Taylor, 2020
Remember that time we went to New Castle (not in South Jersey) with Hal Taylor? He wrote that book that we loved about the early settlement of the Delaware Valley, a book way more entertaining and exciting than I thought a book about the early settlement of the Delaware Valley could ever be? There was tons of history, PANTSLOADS of history (sorry, been reading Dragons Love Tacos too many times).
Well, Hal released his third book back in Summer of 2020. I ordered it right away. I started it the day it came. It disappeared. It reappeared. I took it down the shore to read. It disappeared again. It finally reappeared in December 2020… as my 3 year old sat on the couch reading it. Where did he find it? He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say. His review is that he really likes the pictures.
Anyway, I’m not really sure what to say about Hal’s new book that I didn’t about his last two, because I love it and for many of the same reasons. This book returns to the style of Hal’s first book – An Illustrated History of the Delaware River, as it mixes history and culture in the Delaware Valley with Hal’s own personal travels, adventures, and experiences. It’s written in Hal’s lighthearted fashion that makes history go down easily.
While his last book, Before Penn, had a streamlined theme, this one adventures through a staggering array of topics, all of them with Hal’s usual flair for fleshing people out as humans so that you can identify with them. Want to know how the Penn and Calvert families stopped fighting over where the border with Pennsylvania and Maryland were? You’ll find out. How about really big trees? Hal has you covered. The Black Doctor of the Pines? Dr. Still is in there. From more well know stories like the world’s first major dinosaur discovery and the war it set off to the history of the hoagie to things I have know idea how Hal found out about like Andrew Wyeth’s visit to East Point Lighthouse. While the book is jam packed with 21 entertaining (but completely true) stories, my favorite might be the amazing history of the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia which turned out a staggering 70,000 steam locomotives in its history.
But as fun as Hal’s writings are, it’s his illustrations that always steal the show. Because as good as writer as Hal is, his illustrations are even better. They are so good that your toddler will steal this book from you and hide it somewhere so that he can look at it and you can’t. Thanks dude.
When it comes down to it, if you like history or storytelling without the dryness that often comes with it, and want some wonderful pictures to go with it, buy and enjoy this book. My three year old and I both approve. Maybe he’ll let me reread it some time.
My final recomendation? Go buy this book. And Hal’s other books if you haven’t already. Seriously. What are you waiting for?