As a result of the painstaking work of Miss Esther Furry, of Newmanstown, we are able to present to Scholla readers the first biography of Lawrence Ibach, the Blacksmith who calculated eclipses, who was at home in all constellations and who prepared almanacs in four languages and one three continents. Lawrence Ibach, a native of Allentown, a resident of Seidel’s Forge (now Carsonia) in Berks and Newmanstown in Lebanon counties, was born January 17, 1816, and died in Newmanstown October 9, 1888. He was a unique character — such as the air of free enterprise and rugged individualism of America could produce.
The Early Years
As a lad in Allentown Lorenz, as he was known at that time, was fond of sports. He was an expert swimmer and skater. On one occasion he swam to rescue the lives of three men who were drowning in the Lehigh River. Physical prowess was held in high regard during the first half of the 19th century. Young Lorenz learned the art of wrestling and this skill enabled him to triumph over a would be holdup man during the adult years of life.
When Lorenz was 19 years old, in 1835, his family moved in a covered wagon to Neumanstettle, or Newmanstown in Lebanon County. According to family tradition young Lorenz espied a young girl seated upon the doorstep of her home as the wagon passed through the village. He turned to his mother and said: “Some day I’ll marry her,” and he did. For, in 1837, after a courtship which began at a husking bee, Lorenz Ibach and Leah Matthew were married.
The Lawrence Ibach family (still pronounced Ebach by the older members to this day) settled first at Cherington Forge near Newmanstown. There young Lorenz worked at forging iron utensils which the forge company told to butchers and housewives.
To Berks County
Lorenze and Leah lived at Cherington Forge until 1849. During those years four children were born to them. In 1849 the family moved to Seidel’s Forge in Berks County. There Lorenz met the famous Berks astronomer and penman, Carl Edelman (Engleman). Engleman taught Ibach astronomy and almanac calculations during the hours when the blacksmith rested from his toil. Many hours were spent by the candlelight poring over books which Engleman had lent the ambitious blacksmith.
(To Be Continued)
The Blacksmith Astronomer (Continued)
In 1852 Lawrence Ibach and his family moved from Seidel’s Forge (Carsonia) to Newmanstown where Ibach opened his own blacksmith shop. From this time forward he became a manof affairs. For a time he taught in the village school and then became a manufacturer of hardware materials which he sold to the hardware stores in Reading and Philadelphia.
Ibach, the Linquist
Ibach made his first calculations for almanacs in 1863 when he succeeded Engleman as the compiler of Der Neue Reading Kalender. From that time until 1885, when he suffered a paralytic stroke, he was the chief calculator for all American almanacs published in the German language. In the meantime he studied French and Spanish languages, qualifying himself for the tasks of preparing the almanacs issued in Latin America in the Spanish tongue and Roman Church almanac issued in the French language.
Bernstein, the Queer One
During the years 1870-1877 a German immigrant named Bernstein attached himself to the Ibach family and cut some curious capers about Newmanstown and throughout the entire Lebanon Valley. This Bernstein was well educated and helped Ibach a great deal in the mastery of the foreign languages which the astronomer needed to carry on correspondence with the publishers of South American and European almanacs.
But Bernstein had some queer notions about dress. He preferred feminine attire, appearing frequently in ladies hats, laced gaiters, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. On one occasion this Bernstein filched some of Ibach’s private papers and passed on secrets to a rival astronomer in Sinking Spring. He repented and pleaded for Ibach’s forgiveness. Bernstein came to an untimely end in 1877 while swimming in a creek near Wernersville.
William R. Ibach
Lawrence Ibach lived for three years after he suffered the paralytic stroke which incapacitated him. He died in 1888. the work of calculating almanacs was then taken up by his son, William, who made the calculations for the Reading almanacs until 1914.
Image Source: Schultz Gerhard, Elmer “Lorenz Ibach: The Stargazing Blacksmith”, The Historical Review of Berks County. Volume 14, Issue 2, page 45.
Image Source: Schultz Gerhard, Elmer “Lorenz Ibach: The Stargazing Blacksmith”, The Historical Review of Berks County. Volume 14, Issue 2, page 46.