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Found in Collection

Found in Collection (282)

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."

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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.

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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

Lindenwold

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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.

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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.

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Keasbey?

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.

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Bushy Park, Newport, R.I.

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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.

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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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4023540

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.

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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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unknown001

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.

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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.

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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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books

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.

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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.

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

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We also have a Welsh language catechism from 1719.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Source: 

Thursday, 03 June 2021 19:02

Rockledge

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thursday, 27 May 2021 17:12

The Polio Vaccine

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Polio

Although poliomyelitis has been around for thousands of years (images of polio victims appear in ancient Egyptian carvings), in the early 20th century it took on new urgency. In the early 1950’s the US averaged about 25,000 cases each year, spiking at 58,000 in 1952. Most people infected recovered, but about 1% of cases led to some paralysis . The chances of paralysis increased with the age of the patient.

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Montgomery Hospital Collection

Polio was common enough in the early 20th century that Montgomery County had a Polio Parents' Club. According to this 1948 article in the Times-Herald, they held a special once a week summer camp for child paralyzed by polio which included arts and crafts as well as a trip to the YMCA pool.

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The county rallied around its youngsters in other ways. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (better known as the March of Dimes) paid medical expenses for families that couldn’t afford them. They concentrated the children in the polio ward of Montgomery Hospital (children whose families could afford to pay for treatment were treated at other local hospitals). Many county clubs, such as the Lions and Kiwanis clubs, and Women’s Clubs from around the county helped the March of Dimes raise money. These clubs also donated equipment such as glass domes and sponge mattresses for iron lungs.

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Montgomery Hospital Collection

Sharp Dohme

TImes-Herald, April 12, 1955

So when the announcement came on April 12, 1955 that a successful polio vaccine had been developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, Montgomery County was ready to jump into the action. Both Wyeth Laboratories and Sharp & Dohme in West Point produced the vaccine. Montgomery county schools rolled out the vaccine for all first and second graders in public, private, and parochial schools in the county.

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Undated photo of polio vaccine at Conshohocken High School, Review Archive Collection

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Recently we accessioned an interesting album of photographs of a company called Norristown Concrete. The photographs were taken by Henry K. Bussa, a local photographer who was active for over 50 years.

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Bussa was born in Honesdale, Pa. in 1881, and his first photography job was in Wilkes-Barre, according to obituary in the Times-Herald from 1957. The article describes a little of what that job was like:

“All of the work of the photographer in those days had to be done in daylight as the facilities for making pictures by artificial light were not yet developed. The printing room was on the roof, with glass on all four sides. In the small room all the negatives were printed. In the Summertime [sic] the temperature reached 110 degrees or more.”

In 1905 he opened his studio in Norristown, where he was mainly a portrait photographer. He expanded into commercial photography in the 1920’s and later added framing.

We have many examples of his photographs, easily identified by his signature in the lower right hand corner. The majority of our photographs are of local civic groups and schools, usually graduating classes and sports teams. These are the first photographs of an industrial site I’ve seen by Bussa.

Even though they are photographs of an industrial plant, I think they show life at a slower pace. Norristown Concrete, according to the 1925 City Directory, was located at the foot of Barbadoes Street, right on the Schuylkill River. In this photo a rowboat sits lazily on the bank.

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Here, there’s some laundry drying on a line next to piles of concrete blocks.

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There are two interior photos in the book that show some of the equipment used in manufacturing concrete in the 1920’s as well as two of the plant’s employees.

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Norristown concrete seems to have gone out of business in the mid-1930’s. Bussa died in 1957.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 15:50

Burgess Rev. J. Elmer Saul

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We recently received some digital pictures depicting former Norristown Buress, Rev. John Elmer Saul. He was born on November 2, 1872 in Maidencreek, Berks County. He was a reverend at the First Baptist Church of Pottstown prior to coming to Norristown. 

J Elmer Saul with wife Eleanor Nellie Saul, L to R   Ruth Saul, Frances Saul ,Raymond Saul (2)

From left to right - J. Elmer Saul, wife Eleanor "Nellie" Saul, Ruth Saul, Frances Saul, Raymond Saul.

Saul was elected Burgess in a close, three-way race in 1913. He narrowly won election by 23 votes! Saul was the Washington Party candidate. This was a progressive third party that split from the Republican Party around 1912. Outside of Pennsylvania it is referred to as the Progressive Party or Bull Moose Party. Saul's competitors were Republican Abraham D. Hallman and Democrat T. J. Baker.

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Philadelphia Inquirer, November 6, 1913

Saul's term as Burgess occurred just before Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933. Saul was known for his support of Prohibition and thus frequently pushed for anti-alcohol policies in the borough. He remained Burgess until 1918. Based on an article in the Evening Public Ledger, it seems Saul chose not to run again for office. Samuel D. Crawford was elected as his replacement.

Eureka Printing Press on Barbadoes St Norristown (1)

Eureka Printing Press Advertisement

In addition to being Burgess, Saul was an assistant pastor at First Baptist Church in Norristown. He was often credited for his superb speaking abilities. In addition to his religious work, Saul founded the Eureka Printing Press Company in 1902. This company was located on Barbadoes St. in Norristown.

Back row Ruth Saul, Raymond Saul. First row J Elmer Saul, Helen Saul in lap, Eleanor Saul, Frances Saul (1)

Back Row - Ruth Saul and Raymond Saul. Front Row - J. Elmer Saul, Helen Saul (in lap), Eleanor Saul, Frances Saul.

Thank you Susan Weidner Novak for sending us these digital images and information about Burgess Saul!

 

Sources:

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 6, 1913. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/44632687/phila-inquirer-6-nov-1913/

 

Evening public ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]) 1914-1942, November 07, 1917, Final, Page 10, Image 10 “Wets and Drys” https://panewsarchive.psu.edu/lccn/sn83045211/1917-11-07/ed-1/seq-10/ocr.txt

The Bankers Encyclopedia, Volume 47,

Industrial Directory of Pennsylvania, Volume 2

 

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