Dave Hurst Chronicle of the History Books

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While they might be a bit old-school, books make great inexpensive gifts for history buffs, especially those who enjoy local history. And for local history books on any subject, anywhere in the United States, you don’t need to order from the giant that begins with the letter “A” if you prefer an alternative.

Try Arcadia Publishing, a publisher whose name also begins with the letter “A” but who shares little in common with the behemoth otherwise.

Arcadia is a relatively small, independent company that initially published local and regional stories in the form of pictures, including a series “Pictures of America”. Other “Images” series cover a variety of areas of particular interest.

Over the years, Arcadia has acquired other brands (trade names and specialty book lines) which include America Through Time, Arcadia Children’s Books, Pelican Publishing, The History Press, and Wildsam. All of them offer books focused on local areas that are written by local authors.

The reason this is good information to know is because of the multitude of possibilities it opens up for that story fan on your shopping list – and the insanely easy ways for that person to shop. . All you need to know is that person’s zip code.

Then go to ArcadiaPublishing.com, click on the search icon and type the zip code in the search box that appears.

When I did this for a 25 mile radius of Johnstown, a total of 18 titles came out. There was a full two-volume history of Johnstown as well as shorter community stories; special themed stories covering disasters, industry, wagons and a notorious episode where African Americans were banished from Johnstown; and other local stories focused on Somerset, Ligonier, Vintondale and Northern Cambria.

Extending the search radius to 50 miles brought up 50 titles, including stories from Altoona, Bedford, Connellsville, Delmont, Greensburg, Indiana, Jeanette, Latrobe, Mount Pleasant, Norvelt, Tyrone, and Vandergrift. Special topics include amusement parks, the birthplace of professional football, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, the Bedford Springs Hotel, baseball in Altoona and the Horseshoe Curve.

Now, if your history fan’s interests are more current than local, Arcadia Publishing has books in over 70 areas. Click on general sports, for example, and a story from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh appears among 38 booklist screens, just like the 1960 Winter Olympics.

African Americans and other ethnicities, breweries and wineries, firefighting, music and entertainment, nature and the outdoors, and theaters are just an abridged overview of the topics covered. This publisher also offers 200 city guides for communities across the country, including Pittsburgh. And there’s a Pennsylvania weekend getaway guide.

In total, Arcadia Publishing currently offers 17,998 books. Some are also available in a variety of formats, including e-books, audio CDs, hardback books, hardcover books, paperbacks, mini gift books, and saddlebags.

Longtime readers know that I generally don’t promote business ventures. But in this case, it is difficult to resist.

This is the time of year when we are looking for gift ideas. And when we think of books, we tend to look to several obvious resources that are either online or in big boxes.

Arcadia specializes in local books, adds hundreds of new titles each year, prints them all in the United States, and manages its own sales and distribution. About two-thirds of its books are sold in independent bookstores, libraries, museums, and non-traditional outlets such as history societies.

This column is not intended to denigrate the big booksellers and publishers. It’s more about supporting a book publisher that is dedicated to serving a market segment that is interested in local history.

Much of the uniqueness of the Alleghenies is captured by its local history. And Arcadia Publishing helps keep many of our stories alive.

So sharing that uniqueness with someone is a pretty good gift, don’t you think? But order quickly. This editor probably can’t match the shipping dexterity of the big “A”.

To respond to this column – or read other columns by Dave Hurst – visit www.hurstmediaworks.com.

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