Scholla: Infant of the Regiment June 16, 1941

Scholla: The Infant of The Regiment June 16, 1941

Many residents of Reading will remember the towering figure of the one-time chief of police of this city, Mahlon Shaaber. He stood six feet, seven and one-half inches, a giant stature. Early in the trying days of the Civil War Shaaber joined the company of Zouaves officially known as Company B of the 93rd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. This company was recruited in October, 1861, from Reading, Bernville, and Womelsdorf and other sections of Berks County. Mahlon Shaaber was the tallest man in the entire regiment and won for himself the nick name, the “infant of the regiment.”

In January, 1862, the 93rd Pennsylvania Regiment passed in review along Pennsylvania Avenue of the nation’s capitol. Among those who reviewed the troops was Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States. When the Reading Zouaves passed the reviewing stand Lincoln’s attention was attracted by the tall lanky private who towered high above his comrades. A signal from the President to the captain of the Zouaves led to the order to Shaaber to fall out of line and approach Lincoln.

“How tall are you?” asked Lincoln.

“Six feet six and one-half,” replied the Berks volunteer.

“And how old are you?”

“Seventeen and weigh 140 pounds.”

Then, as Shaaber related it years later, Lincoln introduced himself, “I am old Abe,” and then introduced Shaaber to Hannibal Hamlin, the vice president.

The three tall men stood side by side. The unusual picture made an impression upon Lincoln. Two other Pennsylvanians were invited to join the group and then the President made the following notes in a small black notebook:

Mahlon Shaaber, Co.

B, 93rd Rgt. P.V. … 6 ft. 6  ½ inches

Abraham Lincoln

President…… 6 ft. 4 inches

Hannibal Hamlin

Vice President … 6 ft. 0 inches

Andrew Curtin,

Gov. of PA. ….. 6 ft. 2 inches

Simaon Cameron,

General ……. 6 ft. 1 inch

Total heights 31 ft. 1 ½ inches

After the interview Lincoln gave the soldier a pass permitting him to rejoin his regiment and inviting him to visit at the White House.

Several months later Shaaber and Sergeant Fritz of the Zouaves paid a call upon the President in the executive mansion. They were ushered into the Blue Room and there were greeted by the President. Lincoln invited his Berks County guests to dine with him. The young men lost courage and fumbled for excuses. According to Shaaber’s testimony he “preferred bean soup and hard tack better than a reception dinner.” In later years the Reading chief of police expressed regret that he had not accepted the President’s invitation to dine.


Mahlon Shaaber.
Mahlon Shaaber.

Archival Notes: For more information please refer to Norman Gasbarro’s blog,  He does an excellent job of providing a more detailed account of Mahlon Shaaber.

Catch Up

I admit it, I have been a bit neglectful of my blog lately.  So let’s catch up.

We have seen an undocumented number of researchers visiting the HJL this spring.  We have had triple digit numbers in February, March and April and are currently on track for triple digits in May.  In fact, with the two Archival workshops we hosted in February and March, we saw almost 200 people…both months!

We instituted an Archival Workshop series.  January, believe it or not, was snowed out.  It was pretty much the only snow we had this year.  In February, we hosted a Photograph Preservation Workshop.  The 59 attendees learned some basic photograph preservation techniques for their personal collections.  In March, yours truly hosted “Why Archives Matter”.  This was a look at the history of archival institutions and a look at the history of the Historical Society leading to a discussion on why we are focused on preserving our history.  Following that discussion, was an introduction into researching at the HJL, how to locate and request material and the resources we have available.  We are currently planning out next year’s series, which will hopefully be run every year between January and April (with snow dates).  Possible topics of discussion: Funeral Homes, Pennsylvania Governor John Frederick Hartranft (who served over the trial and execution of the Lincoln Conspirators) given by a descendant and possibly a “Tracing Your Roots” a look at some aspect on Genealogical research.

In April, we hosted members of the Berks County Heritage Council and individuals responsible for their organization’s archives.  The workshop was a basic introduction to archives and how to go about organizing, arranging and describing your collections.  We also looked at Collections Management, Disaster Preparedness and How to Create Databases.  We are looking into the possibility of hosting this workshop again in the fall.

In between assisting researchers and running workshops, we have been busily processing collections and have shortened our backlog significantly.  Currently, almost all of the 2011 donations have been processed.  Now, I stress almost, due to budget cuts and time constraints, we have left the bigger multi-cubic feet collections until such time as we have the resources to process them.  Regardless, when we started 2012 we were still processing 2010 donations.  Through a stroke of luck, everything clicked and we are shelving new material as we speak and updating our online databases to reflect these new additions.  I will, at some point, release the donation lists on our website and Facebook page for all to see what has come in since the last update.  While our bigger collections are not processed, they still are available for research.

For some exciting upcoming news…the HSBC and the Kutztown Folk Festival will be hosting the Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show.  This is a multidimensional traveling exhibition in a 53 foot tractor trailer that is traveling the state.  The interactive exhibits help to draw and engage the audience into the Pennsylvania experience during the war.  You are even asked to participate through an online scrapbook and by leaving your story through their video oral history booth.  We ask everyone to tell us your “historic” connection to the Civil War and leave your mark on history.  To learn more about the Road Show please visit  We here at the HSBC are excited to be hosting this exhibit at the Kutztown Folk Festival, where on average 140,000 people come and visit Berks County over the course of two weeks.  In addition to the Road Show, we will be opening our new Civil War Exhibit and hosting a walking tour of Charles Evans Cemetery.

So, while I have missed talking to you all, and I hope you’ve missed me in return, we have been busily working preparing for the summer months ahead.  We here at the HJL hope to see all of you at some point during the summer, while you are in researching.  Don’t forget to stop by and check out our new exhibit and who can resist the Folk Festival?