New Exhibit to be Unveiled at 150th Anniversary Kick-Off Celebration Event

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The Berks History Center is pleased to announce the grand opening of 150 Objects of Berks History, a new temporary exhibit that celebrates 150 years of preserving Berks County’s history at the Berks History Center. The exhibit will open during the Berks History Center’s 150th Anniversary kick-off celebration, the Charter Day Jubilee, on July 12, 2019 from 6pm-9pm, located at 940 Centre Avenue, Reading, PA 19601.

Since 1898, the Berks History Center (BHC) has been dedicated to building a groundbreaking collection of artifacts, artwork, manuscripts and library materials. Today, the BHC’s diverse holdings feature more than 20,000 objects related to all facets of Berks County’s rich heritage. Curated by BHC Curator, Bradley K. Smith in honor of the organization’s 150th Anniversary, 150 Objects of Berks History will showcase 150 rarely-seen items from the BHC collection that tell compelling stories of Berks County’s unique past. Thanks to a generous donation by the Focht Family Foundation, the BHC’s Palmer Gallery was newly renovated for the exhibit opening.

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“This exhibit showcases an assortment of obscure artifacts that were discovered during the Collections Management Initiative, along with select items from our library collections,” says exhibit curator, Bradley K. Smith. “Because of the breadth of materials in the BHC collections, it was a challenge to select only 150 objects. However, each object helps to tell an important story about Berks County’s history, including stories about its people, its unique sense of community, its industries and commerce, its notable connections to national events, and of course, its commitment to valuing and preserving history.”

The opening of the new 150th Anniversary exhibit coincides with a historic milestone for the organization: the Charter Day Jubilee marks the anniversary date of when the organization’s charter was first signed in July, 1869. We invite you to join us for the opening of 150 Objects of Berks History at the BHC’s 150th Anniversary kick-off event, the Charter Day Jubilee, which will be held from 6-9pm in the BHC Museum.

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Party like it’s 1869 and enjoy an evening of enchantment and entertainment with BHC’s special “museum theatre” featuring historical characters and storytellers throughout the museum. Berks historical figures such as Widow Finney, Rhea Duryea, and George Durell will come alive and share their Berks history in the 13 galleries and exhibits of the BHC museum. Participants will also enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a champagne toast, a silent auction, special guests, and musical entertainment. A cash bar featuring a specialty “throwback” cocktail menu will be provided by Pollen Consolidated. Participants will also have an opportunity to enjoy BHC’s exclusive 150th Anniversary beer, brewed by Oakbrook Brewing Company.

Tickets to the 150th Anniversary Charter Day Jubilee are $25.00 and can be purchased by calling 610-375-4375 or click here to purchase online. Food, musical entertainment, a champagne toast, admission to the museum theatre and the 150 Objects of Berks History exhibit are included in the cost.

The Berks History Center’s 150th Anniversary is supported by a number of Berks County businesses who recognize the importance and value of historical preservation in Berks County. The Berks History Center would like to thank its 150th Anniversary sponsors:

  • M&T Bank
  • Conrad Weiser Society, C.A.R.
  • Faye & Co
  • Oakbrook Brewing Company
  • The Tillman Team of Remax
  • Stokesay Castle
  • Pagoda Skyline
  • Tom Smith, Retirement & Medicare Specialist
  • Wyndam Advisors
  • White Star Tours
  • Poore Group of Morgan Stanley
  • Tompkins Financial
  • Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission
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Remembering D-Day 75 Years Later

Newsweek Front Page

“Emotions and reactions ran the scale through excitement, apprehension, solemnity and immediate speculation…” as news of the D-Day invasions spread through Reading and Berks County 75 years ago today. D-Day was the start of Operation Overlord, the Allies’ assault on the Germans and the Western Front. Hearing the news of the invasions, many Reading residents (of all faiths) came together to pray for those involved. Today we remember all of the men who landed on those beaches or who were dropped behind enemy lines, not knowing what would happen next. We especially are thinking about the thousands of men who didn’t even make it to solid ground that day.

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This photo and article were published in the June 13, 1944 edition of “Reading Newsweek,” which was published weekly by the Reading Eagle Press and distributed to Berks County service men and women by local industries. The papers were later printed in two bound volumes.

Berks History Center Celebrates Its 150th Anniversary

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The Berks History Center (BHC) invites you to celebrate its 150th Anniversary this year, starting with its kickoff event, the Charter Day Jubilee on July 12, 2019 from 6:00-9:00pm at the Berks History Center Museum, located at 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA.

Incorporated in 1869 as the Historical Society of Berks County, the BHC is one of the oldest organizations of its kind in Pennsylvania. For a century and a half the goal of the BHC has remained consistent; to preserve the history and heritage of Berks County and to inform, educate and inspire our community regarding that history.

Today, the BHC welcomes over 6,000 visitors, including students, homeschoolers, senior groups, and more. To maintain the archives and museum collection and provide access to visitors, a small, professional staff is aided by dedicated volunteers who give thousands of hours of assistance simply because they’re passionate about Berks County’s history. In addition to its staff and volunteers, the BHC’s efforts are supported by a committed membership exceeding 1,200.

BHC tells the stories of Berks County’s history through its research library and museum collections, some of which are displayed in 13 newly renovated galleries and exhibits including the Trades to Industry Room, Transportation Room, PA German Room and Building Berks exhibit. The continuing efforts to improve our stewardship of Berks County history were recently recognized by PA Museums, Pennsylvania’s statewide museum association, with an Institutional Achievement Award.

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“The BHC is very proud to have served the citizens of Berks County for 150 years and we excited to celebrate this milestone with our community, says Executive Director, Sime Bertolet. “This year we are hosting several special programs and events to commemorate our anniversary that will educate, entertain and inspire our friends.”

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The first major event celebrating the BHC’s 150th Anniversary will be the Charter Day Jubilee on July 12, 2019 from 6:00-9:00pm at the Berks History Center Museum, located at 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA. The event commemorates the day The Historical Society of Berks County was organized in July 1869 and will serve as the kick-off to the BHC’s anniversary year. The Charter Day Jubilee is a community celebration where participants will enjoy historic reenactors, hors d’oeuvres, live music, a champagne toast, and a cash bar in the BHC Museum. Food and bar service will be provided by Pollen Consolidated. Tickets to the jubilee are $25.00 and can be purchased by calling 610-375-4375 or visiting berkshistory.org/event/jubilee

Also, please join us for the Hidden Treasures of the Oley Valley Tour on October 26, 2019 from 1:00-4:00pm, located at 3098 Friedensburg Rd, Reading, PA 19606. This unique historic house and property tour seeks to recreate the early pilgrimages of the Historical Society. Participants will have the rare opportunity to explore the historic Reiff Farm and the newly renovated Hartman Farm on a special property tour, which includes a visit to Berks County’s oldest tree, the Sacred Oak. Locally produced refreshments will be included. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased by calling 610-375-4375 or visiting berkshistory.org/event/hiddentreasures

The Incorporation Day Birthday Bash, which will be held on December 13, 2019 from 5:30pm-7:30pm, will celebrate the date the Historical Society was incorporated in 1869. Please join us for a good old-fashioned birthday party at the Berks History Center Museum, located at 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA 19601. Enjoy birthday cake and other refreshments with longtime friends and supporters of the BHC. During this event the BHC will be recognized for its contributions to the community. This event is free to the public but reservations are required. Please call 610-375-4375 to RSVP.

The BHC will also hold a special Gala Dinner Fundraiser, to wrap up the organization’s anniversary celebrations in 2020. The details of this event, including location and date, are to be determined.

Other 150th Anniversary activities include:

  • Special 150th-Related Second Saturday Programs
  • Special Membership Offers throughout the Anniversary Year
  • A Special 150th Anniversary Craft Beer Brewed by Oakbrook Brewing Company
  • A New Exhibit Opening in July 2019: 150 Objects of Berks County’s History

Berks History Changed My Life

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Curator, Bradley K. Smith (left) with Volunteer Amber Vroman (right) on the 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour

If someone were to ask me of a specific place that has positively influenced my life, I would not hesitate with my response; that place is the Berks History Center.

Only a few short years ago I had absolutely no idea as to the direction for my life. I had tried different majors in college, and while I watched my friends graduate and start their careers, I still searched for my calling. I had only a few classes left to take when my world was turned upside down; my fiancé was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. At twenty-three years old, I never imagined I would live through something like that with my best friend. Suddenly, my “lost” feeling was buried under sadness, anger, and fear for what we had to face. It was not an easy road, but, after receiving treatments and encountering countless blessings, he has been in remission ever since.

Perhaps the most influential lesson I took away from these two years of illness is that our time is never guaranteed. I found a new appreciation for the simplest things, and wanted to make a difference for myself and the people surrounding me. Knowing how fragile time is, I wanted to be sure I was serving a greater purpose…but how?

My answer came when I made a spontaneous visit to a local museum. While walking through one of the exhibits, I experienced an overwhelming certainty that I was meant to work in a museum; it was a true “calling.” This ultimately led me to the Berks History Center because, unlike other organizations, the BHC provided opportunities for me to experience hands-on collections work.

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I remember vividly my excitement when I first saw the collections storage area. The elevator door opened and I saw row after row of floor-to-ceiling shelves that housed the many wonderful treasures of Berks County! Suddenly, I wanted to know what everything was, who these objects once belonged to, and what that person’s life had been like.

Since that day, the experiences I have gained at the Berks History Center have only assured me that I am where I should be. BHC Curator Brad Smith mentored me on the many facets of what a museum career is all about. He patiently explained various processes, trained me in proper collections care and handling, and included me in research opportunities uncovering the fascinating stories of Berks County.

One such story involved two large and somewhat awkward statues of Mozart and Shakespeare. Brad and I wondered why the BHC had accepted such objects decades earlier, since neither Mozart nor Shakespeare have anything to do with Berks County! Through some detective work and archival research we were able to document that these statues once adorned the exterior balcony of the Grand Opera House on Penn Street. I was delighted to be involved in research that proved these statues were, in fact, wonderful treasures from the county’s history and belonged in the BHC’s collection!

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Grand Opera House Statues. BHC Museum Collection

The Berks History Center has been a place of growth and discovery for me. I have learned my calling and passion in life, and I could not feel more blessed for the opportunities I have been given. Over the course of the past year I have seen how valuable this institution is to others as well. I see the interest and awe on visitors’ faces as they walk through the exhibits, or join us for our many educational programs. The BHC is a place where community members feel welcomed by the helpful staff; where 5,000 local school children can learn many fascinating stories of our county’s past that shaped us into the diverse and enriching community we are today. Truly, it is a place where many different people learn and flourish.

Unfortunately, the Berks History Center receives very little government funding and depends primarily on public support. We operate through donations from members like you. This year, I am donating $50, but gifts of all sizes are needed and greatly appreciated. Please join me today in support of this institution that, throughout its 150-year history, has preserved the rich heritage of Berks County, and means so much to me and our community. Click here to support the Berks History Center today!

With Sincerest Gratitude,

Amber Lynn Vroman

Lilith Martin Wilson: Berks County’s First Female State Politician

“Her life was dedicated to the Common Man.”–These words are inscribed on Lilith Martin Wilson’s tombstone in Aulenbach Cemetery. Wilson was the first woman elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature from Berks County. She also was the first woman to run for Governor of Pennsylvania, in 1922. Arriving in Reading just a few years after women earned the right to vote, Wilson was already well-known member of the Socialist Party in the US.

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Lilith Martin Wilson, as a young woman. (Reading Eagle)

Lilith Browne was born on September 13, 1886 in Dublin, Indiana. Not much is known about her early life in Indiana. From Census records available online, it looks like the Browne family moved around Indiana, before settling in Anderson, Madison County. On September 14, 1903–the day after her 17th birthday–she married George Springer Martin in Anderson. Later, she was educated at The Rand School of Social Science in New York. Formed by members of the Socialist Party of America in 1906, it taught both traditional humanities coursework and served as training center for socialist theory (“Guide to the Rand School…”).

Before coming to Reading, Lilith traveled around the US lecturing on socialism and acting as a party and campaign organizer. According to the Coshocton (Ohio) Morning Tribune, Lilith had been contracted by the Pennsylvania State Socialist Association in May 1915 to lecture around the country. In 1920, she was living in New York and was a speaker at the Indiana State Socialist Convention (Indianapolis Star, May 22, 1920.) Ancestry.com has a number of articles that detail her travels around the US lecturing on Socialism. The Ogden (Utah) Standard Examiner described her as an “earnest, forceful speaker”–obviously, she had made a name for herself as an ardent advocate for Socialist ideals.

She moved to Reading in 1921 to support Socialist campaigns in Reading and Pennsylvania on behalf of the Socialist Party. She had been elected that year to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party (“History of Women in the PA House”). She married L. Birch Wilson, also a Socialist and later Reading City Controller, in October 1921. Even though Lilith Wilson was a  prominent Socialist in her own right, author William C. Pratt proposed that her prominence and successful elections were due in part to being the wife of well-known Socialist (Pratt, 81).

In 1922, Wilson was nominated to be the Socialist Party’s candidate for Pennsylvania Governor. According to the Pennsylvania Manual, 1921-1922, Wilson lived at 521 S. 15th Street in Reading. She was one of fifty women running on major Pennsylvania tickets in the 1922 election. She won more than 30,000 votes, and came in third after Gifford Pinchot (the winner) and John A. McSparran (who won Berks County). The next year she ran for Reading School Board and lost (Pratt, 80).

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521 S. 15th Street (as it looked in 2011): Wilson lived in this home when she ran for Governor of Pennsylvania in 1922 (Google Maps)

According to William C. Pratt, by the late 1920s, the Socialist Party in Reading was having trouble getting both men and women to vote. A special effort was made, though, to appeal to working-class women. A tax assessment and increase in 1927 hit a nerve with Reading women and attendance at the regular meetings of the Women’s Socialist League increased (Pratt, 74). In 1928, Lilith Wilson was named the chair of the Socialist Party’s new National Women’s Committee.

After unsuccessful local elections, Wilson ran for the State Legislature in 1930 and won. She was the first woman elected to a state office from Berks County, as well as the first Socialist woman elected to any legislative body in the United States. She was reelected in 1932 and 1934. Various sources site her causes as women and children’s rights, workman’s compensation, a minimum wage, health care, and pensions.

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Lilith Martin Wilson, ca. 1930s (Pennsylvania House of Representatives)

Lilith Martin Wilson died in the Wernersville State Hospital on July 8, 1937. She was unable to finish her third term, due to poor health. It is hard to know what Wilson’s political career would have been like in the late 1930s. According to William C. Pratt, the local Socialist movement faced a fight between the “Old Guard” Socialists and the new “Militant” members. Other Socialist groups seemed to break up or dissolve by then. The Women’s Socialist League actually reorganized amid the Party’s chaos in 1941; however, Socialist women in Berks County and nationwide were relegated to support positions and few were actually elected to higher office.

Researched and Written by BHC Curator, Stephanie Mihalik

Sources:

  1. Berks County Women in History: Profiles, Volume 1,” edited by Irene Reed, pages 314-315, Tudor Gate Press, 2005.
  2. The Socialist Movement in Reading, Pennsylvania, 1896-1936: A Study in Social Change, Henry G. Stetler, 1943.
  3. Guide to the Rand School of Social Science Records TAM.007,” Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive at New York University, http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/tam_007/.
  4. “Woman To Talk on Socialism,” Coshocton Morning Tribune, May 28, 1915.
  5. “Socialists Open State Convention Here Today,” The Indianapolis Star, May 22, 1920.
  6. “Miss Lilith Martin Will Speak Friday,” Ogden Standard Examiner, April 14, 1921.
  7. “History of Women in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1923-2005,” written by Jeanne H. Schmedlen, Office of the Speaker of the House John M. Perzel, 2005.
  8. Berks County Marriages, Book 63, page 43.
  9. William C. Pratt, “Women and American Socialism: The Reading Experience,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 99, no. 1, January 1975, pages 72-91.
  10. “Miller is victor for 129th seat with a 54% tally” Peter L. DeCoursey, Reading Eagle, Wednesday, November 4, 1992.
  11. “Accomplished Women of Berks County,” Reading Eagle, March 17, 2002.
  12. “A woman’s place: Lilith M. Wilson,” Reading Eagle, March 16, 2003.
  13. Pennsylvania Politics Today and Yesterday: A Tolerable Accommodation, Paul B. Beers, The Pennsylvania University Press, 1980.
  14. “The Socialist Administration in Reading, Pennsylvania: Part I, 1927-1931,” Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr., Pennsylvania History vol. 39, no. 4, October 1972.
  15. “Triumph and Disaster: The Reading Socialists in Power and Decline, 1932-1939–Part II,” Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr., Pennsylvania History vol. 40, no. 4, October 1973.

 

Pearl Haines – Reading’s Dancing Star

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BHC Research Library Collection

By her own admission, Pearl Haines never worked a day in her life. She was born to entertain and share her joy of performing with young people willing to follow in her footsteps of dance and entertainment. The work she did was more than a source of income; it was her passion. She was a long-time dance instructor for 54 years, with most of that time spent at her dance studio at 108 South 6th Street. She touched the lives of many with her dance instruction and became a name that all in Reading knew well.

Pearl Haines was born on July 17, 1899 in Reading, PA to William and Catherine (Yoder) Haines. By an early age it was clear that entertaining people was in Miss Pearl’s blood. At age 3, she made her first public appearance when she recited a poem at a Sunday school rally at St. Marks UCC on 211 Greenwich St. Dance lessons soon followed at the age of 6 with Professor (Pappy) Drexel at his studio in the rear of 1144 Perkiomen Avenue. Her early years were formative in her development in theatre -First as the lead in “Alice in Wonderland,” which was performed at the Orpheum Theatre on August 28, 1908. Miss Haines performed as Alice many times in her early career at both the Orpheum and Academy of Music, which prompted children to call out “Hello Alice” when they saw her riding on an open trolley car.

Later, she was cast as the lead in “Dream of Mysticland” as “Little Miss Nobody” to highly favorable reviews. More performances followed in the ensuing years at the Rajah Temple at Pearl and Franklin Streets, The Orioles Home on South 9th Street, Redmen Hall on Walnut Street and the Hippodrome on Penn Street. By 1914, she was a shining star on the theatre and recital scene in Reading, where she was the featured attraction to the delight of audiences citywide. Theatre-goers simply could not get enough of the charismatic young Haines, as she performed with her Juvenile Minstrels as the featured attraction, gaining headlines for the reviews that followed in the daily paper. By 1915, everybody in the city knew of Pearl Haines.

Pearl opened her first dance studio at the Moss and Marion Fire Hall in 1915 at the age of 16. For a young girl who was still in school, she kept an active social schedule performing in theatres and halls to large audiences and taught dance to young children, who emulated her with the desire to follow in her footsteps. It was at this time she met a young Irene Burkhart, who would accompany Miss Haines as her pianist for 35 years. As the popularity of her dance classes increased, Haines dance studio was moved to its long-time location at 108 South 6th Street. This was the location behind her home that Pearl Haines established herself as a dance instructor to thousands of young children.

Pearl continued to work as a dance instructor and entertainer into the 1920’s, when she was cast as Fi-Fi in the comedy “Fi-Fi of the Toy Shop” in a Rogers Company of New York production.  The production was performed to a large crowd at the Rajah Theatre for the benefit of St Mary’s Episcopal Church, which had been damaged by fire.

By 1927, a great adventure awaited Miss Pearl Haines. She hired an agent, George Hamid, and proceeded on a 14-year summer tour of county fairs up and down the Eastern Seaboard as the Pearl Haines Revue. Her dance revue was known as “Polly and her Polly-Anns” and they performed as part of the price of admission in front of the grandstand. Newspapers advertising their local county fairs consistently listed the “Pearl Haines Revue” as one of the featured acts in their promotions. They started with a rented truck, which eventually grew to a 5-ton truck, to carry props, scenery, floodlights, and  a tent with a kitchen, dining room and dressing room. Accompanying the troupe was Pearl’s mother Catherine, who cooked meals and made all the costumes. Five girls in the company took turns assisting Catherine. Mr. Hamid dubbed them the “Biggest Little Show on Earth.”

 

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In 1934, Pearl’s troupe sailed to San Juan Puerto Rico to perform at the Gran Feria Exposition de Puerto Rico, making the revue the first dance group from Reading, Pa to travel overseas. During this trip Pearl and “Polly Ann” Marie Shalter were invited be on a radio program to sing a duet while Pearl played a marimba solo. They also saw President Roosevelt as his parade passed by their hotel balcony! Pearl and the Polly-Anns greeted him with a “Hi Frank!” He looked up and waved and gave a big smile. Another memorable moment was in 1938, when a young photographer asked if he could take a photo of the girls relaxing between acts. Later they discovered he was a photographer from Life Magazine and they made the September 26th edition.

During her travels, Pearl Haines was very well-known in Reading. Between the success of her dance studio, her adventures working county fairs from Canada to Florida, and her performances in the theaters of Reading, Pearl Haines was a local celebrity. Her picture appeared as a feature act in the daily entertainment news next to a photo of Cary Grant and her name was mentioned in the same articles as John Barrymore and Myrna Loy, as she continued to perform around town. From 1936 to 1949, Pearl returned to the scene of her first lead roll when her revue danced in the Civic Opera at the Orpheum Theater. The county fair tour ended in 1941, although the Reading Fair still saw the Poly- Anns. The group even helped Reading celebrate its Bi-centennial with a revue at the City Park Bandshell.

Life changed for Pearl Haines when she married George Horton of Afton, New York in 1952. She met George at the county fair in Afton, where she later started a dance studio. Unfortunately, George passed away in 1958. Following his death, Pearl returned to Reading to live with her mother Catherine. Pearl then began teaching dance at Micky Norton’s School of Dance in Laureldale. Two of her pupils opened their own dance studios and one student aspired to higher success. Robin Miller opened a dance studio and performed in the Court of Ballet at Radio City Music Hall and served as an understudy to the lead dancer in Broadways “West Side Story”.

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Pearl Haines on May 10, 1975 as she welcomes you to the women’s club for the “Day to Remember” – BHC Research Library Collection

Pearl Haines retired from teaching dance in 1970, but she remained an active individual. She became president of the Women’s Club of Reading from 1974-1976 and again from 1982-1984. During her first term Pearl presided over the Women’s Clubs celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Second Continental Congress on May 10, 1975. The event was billed as “A Day to Remember” as the club held a tea dressed in colonial attire to mark the event.

 “Your life is God’s gift to you – what you do with your life is your gift to God.” – Pearl Haines in the December 1974 Women’s Club Bulletin

Pearl was an individual who gave her all to the people in her life, especially when she taught and entertained. Pearl Haines passed away at the age of 96 on January 18, 1996. As famous as she was in her time, she never became wealthy, but in her own words she had everything she wanted:

“You could say I’m a millionaire with friends.”

Researched and written by Richard Polityka

Man of Dirt: A BHC Member Profile

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BHC Member Richard Peal showing off his glass collection.

Meet Richard Peal – a new member to the Berks History Center. Richard has dug up an unusual way of connecting with the past! He calls himself “Man of Dirt.”

It all started back in the 70’s when Richard worked as a lineman for what was then, N.J. Bell. He was setting poles with a crew along the railroad in Metuchen, NJ when out of the hole popped a fully-intact bottle, which was inscribed: Thomas A. Edison Special Battery Fluid. This was the first bottle that Richard took home and put on a shelf in his garage. Over the years, while working for the telephone company, quite a few more bottles came home and were put on the shelf in the garage.

In the late 90’s Richard was still working for the phone company, which is now Bell Atlantic. He had a different job at the company when he was working on a road widening project on Route 9 in Lakewood, NJ. One of the contractors was digging up the road and bottles just started flowing out of the ground! It turns out that Route 9 went right through what used to be part of an old Lakewood dump site. Knowing that Richard kept the bottles, the contractor gave him the “go-ahead” and Richard began bringing home truck loads of glass bottles every day. What started as an accidental bottle collection suddenly became serious business!  With his first born son in tow, Richard began digging for bottles regularly and in 1999 he went to his first bottle show in Toms River, NJ.

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Later Richard became a member of the Jersey Shore Bottle Collectors Club, and by 2002, he was running the bottle show. Richard ran the show for 10 years until he moved to Exeter Township in 2013. And that’s when his interest in Berks County’s history began.

“There’s no sense in collecting Jersey bottles out here, so I changed it up and I now collect Reading Glass,” says Richard. “Currently, I do 10-12 bottle shows a year and I am always looking for something new to add to the collection.”

When it comes to local history, Richard’s glass collecting hobby has led him down a number of rabbit holes, so to speak. Richard recently visited the BHC Research Library to dig further into the history of Reading Glass Works. He discovered that there were 2 companies. The first, Reading Artistic Glass Works, operated in the 1880s and specialized in art glass. The other business, which manufactured bottles and jars, ran from about 1889 to the 1920’s along the canal at Franklin Street and River Road in Reading.

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BHC Members Touring Behind the Scenes in the BHC Museum at the January 2018 Members Happy Hour Event

At the Berks History Center, we have members of all types – Some members love the Revolution, Civil War and other American history, while others are avid genealogists and enthusiastic collectors. Some of our members favor the history of their borough or township and others simply enjoy reminiscing about Berks County’s extraordinary past. While your reasons for being a member to the BHC are as varied as the artifacts in our collections, we all share one common passion: a love for Berks County’s history.

That’s why we think it’s so important to share YOUR Berks history. This year, we would like to change things up a bit! We would like to create more opportunities for you, the members, to share your stories with one another. Instead of writing about what WE are doing at the Berks History Center in this column, we hope to share YOUR stories about YOUR Berks County history.

If you are a member of the Berks History Center and would like to share a bit about your particular passion for Berks County’s history in The Historical Review of Berks County, please contact me, Alexis Campbell, at publicity@berkshistory.org. Whether it’s a hobby of collecting, an interesting family history or just your enthusiasm for a particular subject, we want to share your Berks history!

Written by Communications Director, Alexis Campbell. Originally published in Spring 2019 Issue of The Historical Review of Berks County