Found in Collection

Found in Collection (136)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 19:58

Tinsel Paintings

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There are many styles of decorative arts, but one of the lesser known is tinsel paintings. Done on the back of glass, tinsel paintings use metallic foil to paint decorative designs. When viewed under light, the foil produces a unique shimmer.


folk 10236 image

Photo Credit: American Folk Art Museum


This style of decorative art was popular, particularly among women, in the United States from 1850 to 1890.[1] Some young women even attended classes to learn how to make these intricate pieces of art. Since botanical patterns were easy to obtain, most tinsel paintings depict floral imagery.[2] Some rare works even included photography and collages to make the painting.[3]


folk 10233 image

Photo Credit: American Folk Art Museum


At HSMC, we are fortunate to have a beautiful example of tinsel painting. This tea table was made by Emma Kratz Weinberger in 1860, when she was just seventeen-years-old. Emma attended the Excelsior Normal Institute in Carversville, where she learned how to make paintings like the one on this table. She married Professor John Weinberger and moved to Collegeville circa 1860, where John taught at Ursinus College. It seems likely that Emma continued to make tinsel paintings after her move to Collegeville, but, like so many other tinsel paintings, they have likely been lost or broken over time.


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Emma Kratz Weinberger Tea Table, 1860


This tea table is currently on display in our Made in Montgomery County exhibit, which is free and open to the public. We invite you to come view it for yourselves before the exhibit closes on February 1, 2019.


Take a look at this short video to see more examples of tinsel paintings:


[1]American Folk Art Museum, “Foiled: Tinsel Painting in America,” September 12, 2012,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018 13:19

New Exhibit!

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Tonight we will unveil our new exhibit, Made in Montgomery County. Come learn about the history of various Montgomery County industries and how they evolved into the businesses we love today. From 6PM to 9PM, for $30 a person, visitors can view the exhibit before it opens to the public this Saturday. Food and drinks will be available at this event.




This exhibit will be free and open to the public starting this Saturday and will be on display until February 2019. So bring your friends and family to see this new exhibit!

Thursday, 21 June 2018 19:46


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If you’ve ever come into our library to do some family research or look up some local history you’ve probably used one of the several historical and biographical works by such as Milton Bean, Charles Hunsicker, and Moses Auge. This week’s blog is about Moses Auge, author of Lives of Eminent Dead and Biographical Notices of Prominent Living Citizens of Montgomery County, Pa. As I’ve noted in this blog before, people in the past were not concerned with catchy book titles.

Auge was born in Delaware in 1811 and spent his youth in Chester County. He moved to Norristown after he married. He was a hatter by trade. The 1860 Norristown city directory lists him as:

Auge, Moses, hats clothing and Editor, 178 Egypt Street.

"Egypt Street" is now Main Street. He edited two newspapers in Norristown, the Republican and the True Witness. Both papers were pro-temperance and anti-slavery.


The masthead of the Republican after Ague's time as editor

During his time editing the Republican, 1857-1862, Auge and his co-editor John H. Williams were both sued for libel by Henry L. Acker. We don’t have a copy of the original paper, but luckily for us, the indictment reproduced the article, along with interjections of legalese:

“Aha!!! Our old friend Acker (meaning the said Henry L. Acker) brother of the editor of the Norristown Register, late editor of the Pottsville Democratic Standard, and post-master at that place under Buchanan, was one day this week honored with a visit from the U. S. Marshall which functionary favored him with a free ride to Philadelphia to answer a charge of embezzling six thousand dollars (meaning six thousand dollars of the public monies of the United States of America received by him the said Henry L. Acker as such postmaster) it perhaps be remembered by our readers, was some time ago, much troubled about some people long ears! We told him at the time, that, although not a very graceful appendage, they were not so apt to let their owners into trouble as were long fingers (meaning thereby that the said Henry L. Acker has then and there unlawfully appropriated money to himself which did not justly belong to him), and now, we suppose, he will believe we were about right. Virtuous Acker (meaning said Henry L. Acker) while he presided over the columns of the Standard who so horrified and indignant as he over the frauds and thefts of the government contractors and Republican office holders. Now how have the might fallen. Sic transit gloria mundi.”


A surprising $500 bond was entered for each man and one Jacob Cowden, who is not mentioned in the indictment. Acker himself was ordered to pay a bond of $100 upon condition he appear. We also have the total costs of the trial, which called thirteen witnesses, who each cost the Commonwealth $1.50 (the paper doesn’t say if this was to feed them or transport them or what). Acker himself cost the county $7.17.


The only thing we don’t know – the verdict. It’s not among the court papers, nor does the case seem to have been covered in the Times-Herald (although, its publisher, Robert Iredell was called as a witness). Auge’s time at the Republican ended the same year, however. He published his well-used book of local biographies in 1878 and died in 1892.

Thursday, 14 June 2018 17:30

Cheltenham Military Academy

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As I continue to make my way through our school collection, I discovered two interesting catalogs from Cheltenham Military Academy, which was once located on several acres in the Ogontz section of Cheltenham Township.

It was founded in 1871, when Robert Shoemaker and Jay Cooke, business tycoon, approached Dr. Edward Appleton of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church about the need for a military academy in the area. It was located on land purchased from the estate of Gabriella Butler.


Our catalogues are from 1891 and 1892 and were donated to the society in 1950 by Septimus Kriebel. They fall in between the times of the school’s two most famous students. Jesse Grant, youngest son of Ulysses S. Grant attended the school briefly in 1873. Ezra Pound attended the school from 1897 until 1900, sometimes as a boarder though his family lived in nearby Jenkintown.


The school’s catalog explains that the school could accommodate sixty boarders. Tuition for boarding students was $275 per year. Piano lessons were an addition $45. There were additional charges for the boys uniforms, though the catalog notes that the school was not “in the strictest sense a Military School.” Military drills were carried out by all the students.


Parents of the pupils were given many instructions. They were not permitted to send food other than fresh fruit and were urged not to give their students extra pocket money.  Then there is this instruction:


The school had football and baseball teams as well as a drama club. The school also organized a summer excursion in Europe for a small number of pupils.


There were three courses of academic study. The Classical and Latin-Scientific courses prepared students for college or scientific schools, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The English course was for boys intending to go into business and not attend college.



The 1892 catalog has a very interesting enclosure. This table shows the admission requirements to the nation’s top colleges. Interestingly, few of them had any interest in science, and the mathematics requirements are the equivalent of first year high school algebra. A thorough knowledge of Latin and Greek was, however, required.


The school closed in the early twentieth century.

Thursday, 07 June 2018 19:18

Children's portraits

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This week, I processed a collection of papers donated by Jean Brown Hall in 1984. The collection has receipts, genealogical research, and many photographs. There’s something arresting about old portraits – the clothing, the hairstyles, the faces themselves are fascinating.   I thought this week, it would be nice to look at some of the pictures of children from this collection of materials from the Jackson, Rutter, Potts, and allied families.


The award for biggest bow ever goes to Katherine Jackson, seen here with her brother Millard, Jr.  Note that both are wearing high button shoes.  Those must have been a struggle to get on.


This cute baby is Charles Rutter Campbell of Pottstown.  Below is the same boy at 3 years and 3 months.


This dapper lad is Millard Jackson, presumably the father of the children in the first photograph above.


One of the most interesting photographs in the collection is this picture of Mray Iris Campbell, 15, wearing a dress that belonged to her great-grandmother Mary Anna (Potts) Rutter.  The look on her face suggests that 15 year-olds haven't changed much.


My personal favorite from the collection is this portrait of Nina B. Rutter at the age of 17.  It is one of the only photos in the collection that is dated, 1898.


Thursday, 31 May 2018 18:48

Teacher's Monthly Reports

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Among the many school records housed in our lower stacks, are many large ledgers called “Teacher’s Monthly Reports.” Issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Common Schools, the books were used by teachers to record attendance, textbooks used, and other events that might have happened at the school.


Several teachers often appear in the same book suggesting that teaching was a temporary position, held for a few years only. Whatever the teacher, he or she filled out the two page spread for each month. Boys are one side and girls on the other, but otherwise the method of taking attendance is not unlike the way my teachers marked attendance.


The absence rate seems high for some students. It’s possible that some were working on family farms or in family businesses, though in an age before mandatory vaccinations and antibiotics, its possible many students were experiencing what were common childhood diseases. School at this time let out for lunch, and the teachers recorded if the children missed the morning (a horizontal line) or didn’t return after lunch (a vertical line).


The second teacher to use this book from Gwynedd Lower School, James Creighton, recorded the students’ ages, giving us a snapshot of a one room school house with students as young as 7 and as old as 18.

This book is from a series of Teacher’s Monthly Reports books from Gwynedd Township (Gwynedd was split into Upper and Lower in 1891). The books were originally printed in 1868. The one we’ve looked at here began use in 1871 and is filled throughout, ending in 1876. We have books from other school districts as well.


The inside of the front cover is printed with instructions on what symbols to use and how to calculate the average attendance. It also suggests that teachers keep their attendance on a separate sheet and copy the records in neatly at the end of the month. It notes, “A teacher’s character is in no small degree indicated by the manner in which the monthly report is kept.”


At the end of the month, the book was examined by the secretary of the school district, who signed it and gave the teacher his or her monthly pay. The receipt of the payment was also noted in the report.

Thursday, 24 May 2018 18:20

A Cool Horse Thief

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Among our various collections at the Historical Society are papers from various societies for the recovery of stolen horses.

union horse company

They started as mutual aid societies in different parts of the county. According to the constitution of the Montgomery Union Horse Company for the Recovery of Stolen Horses and Other Property and Detection of the Thieves (19th century people weren’t concerned with coming up with catchy names), members paid one dollar upon joining and twenty-five cents annually in dues. In return, when anything over five dollars in value was stolen from a member, the society would try to recover it.


These societies date back to a time before the county or townships had anything resembling a police force. The Mount Joy Society for the Recovery of Stolen Horses and Detection of Thieves was founded at the King of Prussia Inn in 1774. The first time a member’s horse was stolen was in 1787, when Alexander Henderson’s horse was stolen and recovered at a cost of five pounds. In 1853, Mordicai M. Stephen’s horse was stolen and not recovered, costing the society $249.54. Like the Montgomery Union Horse Company, the original constitution of the Mount Joy Society said that a company of men would ride out in search of the stolen horse. In the 1883 constitution, however, that company had been replaced by a two man committee whose job it was to telegraph local police a description of the horse.

Mount Joy

Some of the societies even lasted into the motor age, though more as social clubs than serious crime detecting rings. The Blue Bell Horse Company discussed adding the protection of automobiles in its annual meetings in 1914 and 1920, but no decision was made. The group still existed as late as 1951.

Blue bell horse company

I’d like to close with an interesting story I came across in an old scrapbook about a horse thief in Eagleville in 1893. The story first appeared in the Norristown Register. John Adam Fisher had been working as a hired man for Daniel W. Longaker for a few weeks when he took off with one of his employer’s horses. Longaker’s neighbor, Taylor Pugh, pursued the thief to Collegeville where he discovered that Fisher had tried to sell the horse for $150 but had been talked down to $50. The buyer, however, perhaps grew suspicious and asked where Fisher lived and wanted to go to his house. Fisher took off on the horse again heading toward Trappe, but he was stopped at a toll gate and not allowed to pass. Taylor caught up with him and ordered a magistrate to arrest Fisher. Fisher offered to give the magistrate the “finest stockings he ever saw” once he got to jail. On the way to the jail, he told the constable that he hoped to get twenty-one years. The article concludes that people who had spoken to Fisher believed him “not quite right.”

Thursday, 17 May 2018 20:06

A flood in Miquon

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Driving to work today, I saw that W. Valley Green Road was closed due to flooding. That put me in mind of a series of photos showing the Schuylkill flooding the Hamilton Paper Mill in Miquon (Whitemarsh Township).

The photos aren’t dated, but are clearly from the twentieth century. They’re black and white, placing them probably before the 1970s. To narrow it down more, I went to the National Weather Service’s website. It lists 65 times the Schuylkill has flooded since 1769. The visible snow in some of the photos, places the flood in the winter. December 1942, January 1945, December 1948, November, 1950, and December 1952 are the best bets. Of those, only the 1950 flood is described as “moderate” while the others are “minor.”


I checked those dates in the Times-Herald. The 1945 and 1952 floods, didn’t make the paper at all. Of the other three none of the articles mention Hamilton Paper or Miquon specifically. In the case of the 1950 “moderate” flood, that could be because there was so much else going on.


The W. C. Hamilton Paper Company goes back to 1858, when Edwin R. Cope hired William C. Hamilton to manage his Riverside Paper Mill. Of course, papermaking in Pennsylvania goes way back to colonial times, and Miquon had been home to paper mills since 1746. This map from the article “Two Centuries of Papermaking at Miquon, Pennsyvlania” by Rudolf P. Hommel (Historical Society of Montgomery County Bulletin, Vol. 5, no. 4, April, 1947), shows the area. Originally part of Springfield Plantation’s corridor to the Schuylkill, it was ceded to Whitemarsh in 1876.

miquon map

But getting back to Hamilton, he bought the mill in 1865, making several improvements. The company was bought and sold a few times over the next century, becoming part of different conglomerates. The mill closed in 1995.

Today the land has been redeveloped into the Riverside I and Riverside II office parks. AIM Academy occupies one of the original mill buildings.

Hamilton mark

Wednesday, 09 May 2018 21:03

Redware Pottery

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Pottery is one of the oldest crafts in Montgomery County. When Germans arrived in the eighteenth century, they brought the redware craft with them.[1]


Medinger 2

Plate, possibly made by Jacob Medinger (1865-1932)

In addition to the use of sgraffito, many potters used tulip designs in their pottery. The use of tulips were common among many crafts created in German culture. According to some historians, the use of tulip designs in German crafts may have been inspired by tulip designs seen in Persian crafts.



Sgraffito Plate made at Mrs. Naaman Keyser’s studio in Plymouth Meeting


In addition to the use of sgraffito, many potters used tulip designs in their pottery. The use of tulips were common among many crafts created in German culture. According to some historians, the use of tulip designs in German crafts may have been inspired by tulip designs seen in Persian crafts.



Some of our redware pieces will be on display in our Made in Montgomery County exhibit. The exhibit will be open to the public on June 30, 2018 and will run through February 2019. We invite you to come see the exhibit, which is free and open to the public!


[1] Helen W. Henderson. The Pennsylvania academy of the Fine Arts and other Collections of Philadelphia, 1911.

Thursday, 03 May 2018 19:29

A Siept family timeline

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This week, we have a guest blogger, our one and own Ed Ziegler.

Because given names in the families were the same from generation to generation, middle initials are used to identify the different generations.

The early German immigrants to Pennsylvania are an example of immigrant communities creating enclaves in their new homeland. The early Germans who came to America to escape religious persecution and moved into the central part and upper parts of Montgomery County, were no exception. The Schwenkfelders, Mennonites and Dunkards all mixed in this area, but settled close to their religious brethren and rarely did they intermarry.

My Seipt ancestors, Schwenkfelders, are a great example of immigrant communities sticking together, living in the same area for 280 years.


The Schwenkfelder Church in Towamencin

David Sepit, the immigrant, came to America in 1734 and bought 140 acres in Towamencin Township, along the Towamencin Creek.

In 1751 David’s son, Casper, bought 135 ½ acres from his father, who died in 1765. He lived on the farm, along with his parents. When he died in 1773, his children were minors living on the farm with his wife and mother.

In 1789 a conveyance was made to his two sons: David Y. received 118 acres and Abraham Y. received 41 acres.

In 1816 David Y. died intestate with no issue, so the farm reverted to his brother and 4 sisters. His brother Abraham Y. bought the rest of the farm from his sisters. In 1852, Abraham Y.’s children, George, Susanna and Joseph, sold 88 acres of the Towamencin farm to their brother Abraham A. In 1853 George A. bought the farm from his brother Abraham A. In 1863 George A. sold the Towamencin farm to his brother-in-law Jacob Erb.


An "A. Seipt" appears at the border of Towamencin and Worcester

The same George A. married Anna Heebner in 1824. In 1831 George A. bought 2 contiguous tracts of land from his father-in-law, Balthaser Heebner, at Trooper and Potshop Roads.

In 1880, George A.’s will had his estate sold and the proceeds divided among his children.

George A.’s son, William H., married Amanda Schultz in 1871. In 1883, William H. bought a farm and 79 acres from his Father-In-Law Samuel Schultz. This farm was on the corner of Skippack Pike and Hollow Road. His son, William S., farmed the land until 1932 when William H. died. Because of the depression William S. could not purchase the farm, and the estate sold it to Blanche Schweiker, William S. Seipt’s cousin.

In 1932, William S. bought the Dr. Meschter farm from the Doctor’s widow. The Meschters were also Schwenkfelders. When William S., my grandfather, moved to a smaller home, they ended the tradition, which lasted for more than 200 years.

This was typical of the German part of Montgomery county because the Mennonites and Brethern did the same.

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