Found in Collection

Found in Collection (271)

Thursday, 26 August 2021 20:06

Mennonites and their books

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An undated cyanotype of the Salford Mennonite Meeting House

A couple of months ago, I talked about some of the old and rare books in the Historical Society’s collection. Well, I’m still working my way through them, and it’s been interesting to see how the books in our collection reflect the history of our county.

This book, Eine Restitution, oder eine Erklarung einiger Haupt-puncten des Gesetzes (A Restitution, or an Explanation of Some Principle Points of Law) was written by Bishop Heinrich Funck of Franconia.


Funck came to Pennsylvania in1717 probably from the Palatine in Germany. He was descended from Swiss Mennonites who had been thrown out of Bern in the previous century. He eventually settled in Franconia Township and was a founding member of the Salford Mennonite Meeting. Funck also owned and operated a mill on Indian Creek. His son, Christian was also a Mennonite bishop, who broke away from the Franconia Mennonite Conference because he was in favor of paying taxes to support the American Revolution.

Funck was also involved in the production of another book in our collection, The Martyr’s Mirror. This was translated from the Dutch at Ephrata. Funck and his colleague Dielman Kolb oversaw the translation, reading each page as it became available.


Frontispiece from our 1748 edition of The Martyr's Mirror

Another interesting book in our collection is Christlish- und erbauliche Betrachtungen (Christian and Uplifting Reflections) by Jakob Denner. This is a large collection of Denner’s sermons. Now, Denner never came to Pennsylvania, he was a Mennonite preacher in Germany. His sermons were widely attended by members of different Protestant sects, and his books were widely read.


Denner died in 1746, but new editions of his work continued to be produced. When the 1792 edition was released, to men from Franconia traveled to Germany to buy copies for their community. Johannes Herstein and Johannes Schmutz brought 500 copies of the book back to Pennsylvania and sold them all quickly. Is this book one of those copies? I don’t know if there’s a way to be sure, but I like to think so.


Thursday, 19 August 2021 18:22

The Audubon Schools

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This week we have a guest blogger: our own trustee and regular volunteer, George Detwiler!


 Jack's School

If you grew up in Audubon you may have attended Audubon Elementary on Egypt Road. This was actually the fourth school to serve the children of Audubon. The first was a one-room schoolhouse built in 1807 on a small plot of land located diagonally across from The Union Chapel on Pawlings Road. The area was known then as “Wetherill’s Corner” because the family owned so much of the surrounding land. This was “Jack’s School”, named after Andrew Jack, a local landowner and first Constable of Lower Providence Township who sold the ¼ acre piece of ground to the township. He was also the owner of “Jack’s Tavern”, later Bud’s Bar. The school was 26’ x 40’ with a round coal stove in the middle of the room with the desks fastened to the walls around the room. In addition to school the community used the building for concerts, lectures and other gatherings and entertainment. There was an active debate society that held their meetings there as well as a Sunday School organized by Mrs. Sarah Rogers. Thomas Highley led the singing.

Audubon Sunday School 1878

Audubon Sunday School, 1878

In the 1850’s, George Corson wrote a poem which he called simply “Jack’s School”. In the Winter of 1872, Howard Rhodes recited it as part of the entertainment during a get together at the school. The first verse was:

Jack’s School is a humble hall

It has no brick or marble wall

No costly bannister or aisles

Bedecked in ornamental style

In all, it contained seven verses but the rest have been lost.

When Jack’s School became too small to accommodate all of the students in the area, a second school, The Beech Tree School, was built in 1852 on land purchased from Albert DeHaven. This property later became part of the Buckwalter Farm on Eagleville Road. It was similar in construction to Jack’s School.


Shannonville Union Public School

These two schools served Shannonville until 1873 when a new two-room schoolhouse replaced them on land purchased from Aaron Weikle. This was called The Shannonville Union Public School and is still standing a short distance off of Pawlings Road behind the David Hagner home. Its first teachers were Miss Sarah Chafin and Miss Elizabeth Gotwals. Chafin spent her first year teaching at Jack’s School. It has been enlarged over the years and eventually became a family residence . Religious services were held here for the Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists until 1878 when the little Baptist chapel on Egypt road near Brewsters Ice Cream was built. This also served as a classroom for overflow students from the school. Miss Cassel, who many of us remember from first grade, taught there early in her career. It served Shannonville and then Audubon until 1929 when the Audubon School on Egypt Road was built.


Audubon Elementary, dedication, 1928


Audubon Elementary served the children of Audubon almost continually for 90 years after it’s opening in 1929. It opened with only four classrooms. Entrance was through the large front door facing Egypt Road, and the first thing you saw when you entered was a large Marble bust of John James Audubon sitting on a wooden pedestal. Numerous additions were made over the decades. First were additional classrooms added behind the original building on both the upper and lower levels. Then, in 1955, a wing on the right when facing the school from Egypt Road added several more. In 1958 a new combination cafeteria, auditorium and gym was added out the back along with a new kitchen. More additions followed as the building of housing developments by George Custer, Mr. Middleton and especially Joe D’s Apple Valley neighborhoods greatly increased the student population. It was permanently closed in 2018 with students now attending either Woodland or Arrowhead (K-4) or Skyview (5-6) Elementary.

Thursday, 12 August 2021 19:00

President Hughes?

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Last week I was scrolling through old Times-Herald’s for a research request, and I discovered this interesting headline.

Hmm, I don’t remember a President Hughes.

In 1916, incumbent Woodrow Wilson was running against Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. Since the Civil War, Republicans had dominated the White House, Grover Cleveland’s two terms being the only ones for a Democrat between Abraham Lincoln and Wilson. Wilson was able to win the presidency because of a split in the GOP between the progressives (led by Theodore Roosevelt) and the more traditional Republicans led by President William H. Taft.

Charles Evans Hughes was governor of New York from 1907 to 1910 when President Taft nominated him for the Supreme Court. At the Republican Convention of 1916, Hughes was a compromise candidate between the Roosevelt and Taft contingents. He was highly regarded for his intelligence and moderation. Many believed that if the Republicans could unite behind Hughes, he would defeat Wilson.

The Daily Herald, as the paper was known at the time, was staunchly Republican. Notice on these instructions for voting, not only is the Republican box marked, but the other three parties (Democrats, Progressives, and Socialists don’t even appear!).


It heavily promoted Hughes as well as the local Republican candidates in both its articles and its advertising. This reflected Norristown and Montgomery County’s political tendency. Remember, not even native son and Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock won in Montgomery County.


The paper's gung-ho Republicanism and the general feeling that Republicans would unite behind Hughes led to the Herald’s “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment. It was not the only paper to declare Hughes the winner as he led in the early returns. But Wilson carried the Solid South and a few swing states, including California.


The Herald reported the uncertainly on Thursday, November 9, and a special edition later that day declared Wilson the winner. On Friday, it ran Wilson’s picture (smaller than Hughes).


The Ardmore Chronicle, a weekly, ran a large picture of Hughes in its last issue before Election Day. A week later, it reported the election still up in the air although the Herald had reported Wilson the winner two days before.


ardmore Nov11

Norristown did have a Democratic paper, The Daily Register. It was just as strong in its support of Wilson as the Herald was of Hughes. It endorsed Wilson early and promoted Democratic rallies. The Register is a little more fun than the Herald because it has political cartoons, which were absent from the Herald.




The Register declared Wilson the victor right away and reiterated the claim with more evidence in the following days.


It ran this odd cartoon later in the week.


Losing the election wasn’t the end for Charles E. Hughes. He had resigned from the Supreme Court when he accepted his party’s nomination, so after the election he returned to private practice. He served as Secretary of State under Harding, and in 1930, President Hoover appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Thursday, 05 August 2021 17:34

G. W. Stein

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This week I stumbled upon an odd item in our collection. This watch piece was donated to HSMC in 1956 by a person who just happened upon it while in Florida. On the face, it is inscribed "G. W. Stein, Norristown, No. 4066."

stein 1

There were a few Stein family members in Norristown in the 1800s and early 1900s. They were known for making watches and jewelry. However, none of our documents at HSMC record a G. W. Stein as being a local watchmaker or jeweler.

Further research to try to connect this name to known Stein watchmakers came up with one wall after another. When I finally looked up G. W. Stein on Ancestry, I finally got a hit. However, the George W. Stein listed on all the Norristown directories indicates he was a physician in Norristown from at least 1902 to 1927. George received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical college in 1891. He was born in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania in 1860 and died in 1928. None of the records found have any connection between this George and the other Steins in Norristown at that time.


So now the big question is: Was Norristown physician George W. Stein the same person as this G. W. Stein listed on the watch piece? There are a few possibilities. One, they could be the same person. Perhaps George was related to the other watchmakers and was training to follow in the families' footsteps, but ultimately chose a different career.

Two, they might not be the same person. It is possible we simply have not found documentation for a different G. W. Stein from this era. 

Three, they might be the same person, but George might not be related to the Stein watchmakers. Maybe he asked them to inscribe his name on the piece. This seems less likely as it was generally just the watchmaker's name inscribed on the pieces from that time.

If anyone has information about this, I would love to learn more! Just drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thursday, 29 July 2021 16:51


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Lindenwold winter

Lindenwold in the winter

Last summer we received a collection of photos of Lindenwold, the castle-like home of Dr. Richard Mattison. While we had some photographs of the building, both from its time as an asbestos mogul’s home and as a Catholic orphanage, these pictures were interesting because they showed some details of the building’s exterior, as well as interior photos of Mattison in his office.


Dr. Mattison in his office

Another interesting photograph is this one. It’s unlabeled, but it’s possible its Mattison’s more retiring partner, Henry G. Keasbey, but we can’t be sure. Do a Google image search for Henry G. Keasbey and you only get a bunch of pictures of Richard Mattison.



Also included were some photos of Bushy Park, Mattison’s summer home in Newport, Rhode Island. Originally built in 1852, Mattison added a carriage house. The original mansion was torn down in 1939, but the carriage house remains according to this post from the Newport Historical Society from 2015.


Bushy Park, Newport, R.I.


The carriage house built in 1924

Keasbey and Mattison began their partnership in 1873 in Philadelphia to sell patent medicines. Mattison was a pharmacist and Keasbey had money. A few years later, Mattison discovered a way to make asbestos stick to pipes, and the focus of the business changed. It moved out of Philly to Ambler, which became the asbestos capital of the world.

Lindenwold summer

Keasbey retired from any direct involvement with running the company in the 1890’s. Mattison continued to expand. In 1912 he remodeled his home to look more like Windsor castle. But, he over extended in the 1920’s and had to sell the company during the depression. Lindenwold, too, was sold to the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. For many decades the house served as an orphanage, and was famously used for the exterior shots for the movie The Trouble with Angels.

blog243 2

Today, what remains of the estate is under development as luxury housing.

Thursday, 01 July 2021 19:25

Timothy Matlack, Free Quaker

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By Charles Willson Peale - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, online database, Public Domain,

In Lower Providence Township, sits the small private Wetherill cemetery, where the man who probably penned the Declaration of Independence is buried.

Timothy Matlack was born in New Jersey to a Quaker family in 1730 and came to Philadelphia as a young man. When war began with Britain, Matlack declared himself a patriot and was read out of meeting. He was a member of the Provincial Congress of Pennsylvania and later secretary to Charles Thompson (of Montgomery County). Because of his excellent penmanship he was tasked with making final copies of important documents. We know for sure that he transcribed George Washington’s commission as Commander-in-Chief, and he is generally credited with writing up the official copy of the Declaration of Independence that was signed by the Continental Congress.


Matlack was also a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia and crossed the Delaware with Washington. Later he was a trustee at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the American Philosophical Society. In 1781 he served a term as Director of the Bank of North America. He later held several different offices in Pennsylvania government.

He was also a founding member of a group known as the Free Quakers, along with Samuel Wetherill.  These were Quakers who had been cast out of their meetings because of their support for the American Revolution. Originally the group met at Wetherill’s home, but in 1783, they built a meeting house at 5th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. Matlack was originally buried there when he died in 1829.

The Free Quakers died out in 1836, either literally dying or being allowed back into other Quaker meetings or joining other denominations. With no active congregation, and the city developing quickly, the land the Free Quakers were buried on became very attractive. In 1895, a Wetherill descendant, Col. Francis D. Wetherill, died and in his will he left land to expand the family’s private cemetery to include the Free Quakers. In 1905, their remains, including those of Timothy Matlack, were reinterned in Lower Providence.

Thursday, 24 June 2021 18:55

A photographic mystery

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A couple of months ago, I received an email from the Hershey History Center about three photographs they had found in their collection.  The photos show a graduating class of a women's school.  We know from the small inscription in the lower left corner that this is the class of 1924.  What we don't know is what school we're looking at.  A nurse appears in two of the three photographs, so perhaps we're looking at the graduates of a nursing program.


Unfortunately, we can see very little of the buildings behind the graduates, but I thought that one of our dozen or so readers might recognize something in the photos.


Henry K. Bussa was a Norristown photographer that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  But, of course, he didn't work exclusively in Montgomery County, so it's possible that this school or hospital is in Philadelphia, Chester, or another nearby county.

If you have an idea of where these photographs were taken, drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thursday, 17 June 2021 17:54

Some of our earliest books

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The oldest of old, printed books are called incunabula and by definition date to before 1501. For reference, Gutenberg printed his first Bible in 1455. The historical society doesn’t have any incunabula, at least I haven’t found any yet, but we have some very old books indeed. Now, if you ever took Western Civ, you might have learned that the printing press was hugely important in the Protestant Reformation. I think the books in our collection demonstrate that.

They are mostly Bibles and mostly in German, but the oldest book that I’ve found so far, is a commentary on the Bible by Caspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig. It was printed in 1566, just 5 years after Schwenkfeld’s death. For a book that is over 450 years old, it’s in pretty good shape. It’s bound in leather with raised bands on the spine, and the two clasps are intact.

Schwenkfeld book


book cover

Another really old biblical commentary in our collection is this 1575 book by Martin Luther. It did not survive the centuries as well as Schwenkfeld’s book, but was rebound in 1855 by a Norristown bookshop. Published in Luther’s adopted city of Wittenberg, it has a woodcut showing Luther and his patron the Elector of Saxony, Frederick III, at the cruxifiction.


The Welsh were also early settlers of Montgomery County, and we have two examples of Welsh books in our collection. This Welsh Bible is missing its title page, but is marked as having been published in 1654.

welsh bible2

You can see how it was passed down through a family.

welsh bible

We also have a Welsh language catechism from 1719.



Sometimes, the most interesting part of the book is not the text itself, but what readers have added to it. Books were expensive, and a Bible might be the only book an individual owned for his or her entire lifetime. This German Bible was owned by Maria Kolb, who illuminated the front end papers.


This German Bible has no title page or publication data, but a piece of embroidered punched paper tells us it was owned by Maryann Snider in 1856.


Thursday, 10 June 2021 15:15

June Fete Horse and Pony Show

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A few years ago HSMC received a small sterling stirrup cup. It was given to Henry A. Bonynge, MD (1883 - 1956) for participating as a judge at the June Fete Horse and Pony Show in 1954. The cup was made by J. E. Caldwell Co. of Philadelphia.

stirrup   cup

2018.232.001 - Stirrup Cup, HSMC Collection

June Fete started in 1912 when women in the Abington area wanted to raise funds for a local hospital. Three of the main founders are listed as: Mrs. Charles Kruger (first president of the Women's Board), Natalie Fox Elkins (wife of Abington Memorial Hospital's first President), and Louis Elkins Sinkler (daughter of Abington Memorial Hospital founder George Elkins, Sr.). These three ladies, among others, successfully organized fundraisers to open Abington Memorial Hospital in May 1914.


Henry A. Boynge, MD, Judge for the 1954 Horse and Pony Show

The original fundraisers were organized as street fairs, lawn fetes, and holiday bazaars. In 1913 the Women's Auxiliary decided to create a large annual fundraising event for the hospital. The Elkins family offered the use of their estate for the event which was then known as the Garden Party Fair. In 1918, Mrs. George Horace Lorimer, wife of the Satruday Evening Post editor, started to take an active role in the event. She promoted the idea for having a different theme every year. She is also credited with giving the event the name "June Fete," as the event is always held in June.


Henry A. Bonynge, MD riding a horse

The Pony Show and the Horse Show were added to the event in 1922 and 1923 respectively. Since then, these events have become major staples for the June Fete. People like Henry A. Bonygne came, and continue to come, from the surrounding areas to participate in the annual event.

The June Fete has moved among several local estates throughout the years. In 1955, the Pitcairn family donated land in Huntingdon Valley to serve as a permanent home for the event. To date, the June Fete remains one of the county's earliest continuously-running fairs.



Thursday, 03 June 2021 19:02


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Rockledge, from the 100 block of Jarrett Ave., taken by David Lemul, c. 1940's

We recently received an interesting collection of family photographs from the Lemul family of Rockledge, a corner of the county from which we don't receive many items. This small borough is surrounded on three sides by Abington Township and borders the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia on its remaining side. The majority of the papers belonged to David Lemul, who attended the Rockledge School in the 1930’s. 


David Lemul's signed graduation program

Rockledge broke away from Abington Township in 1893. According Montgomery County: The Second Hundred Years, residents of the area felt the township government was too far away to adequately serve them. Soon after the founding of the borough (though the exact date is unknown), it started a local school called the Rockledge School. The original building burned down in 1902, and students were taught for a time at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity and then the Opera House.

doc05551620210603153055 001

Rockledge School, class of 1938, David Lemul is the first student on the left end of the back row

Interestingly, the Rockledge School served grades 1 through 10. If students wished to continue their education, they could attend Cheltenham High School, as David Lemul did. The graduating class of 1938 produced this graduation issue of the Rocktonian.


Rockledge is, according to The Second Hundred Years, the only part of Montgomery County that ever attempted to join (or more accurately, rejoin) Philadelphia County. In 1923 the majority of residents signed a petition to do just that. According to the Times-Herald, most of the residents worked in Philadelphia and the trains and trolleys connected better to the city than to other parts of Montgomery County. These ads from a 1922 Rockledge School Review show many businesses in Fox Chase.

rockledge school review

At first, Philadelphia wasn’t interested in annexing the borough, but later the city council changed its mind and voted in favor. But the petition was thrown out on technical grounds by a Montgomery County judge. A further attempt was made in 1926, but soon objections to the proposal came out. The volunteer fire department in particular objected because it would be disbanded if Rockledge joined Philadelphia. Others pointed out that taxes would be higher, and high school students would have to travel farther to the nearest Philadelphia high school. By 1929, the secession idea was dead.

Rockledge map

Rockledge in the 1893 atlas by J. L. Smith

Although the Rockledge school district merged with Abington’s in the 1960’s, the Rockledge School remained open until 1977.

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