Pearl Haines – Reading’s Dancing Star

Pearl Haine 1930s
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”.

Pearl Haines 5_10_1975
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

The Phenomenon of the Liberty Chorus

- 14082 - Bandstand 97-39
Bandshell Pavillion in City Park, c. 1918, BHC Research Library Collection

The Great War was a constant exercise in patriotism for the citizens of Reading and Berks County. Citizens were asked to support the war effort through Liberty Loan drives, which were followed by Red Cross drives and ongoing petitions to purchase War Savings Stamps. Meanwhile, the YMCA and YWCA required more young men and women to do their part in the name of victory for the soldiers fighting overseas. Amidst all these demands for local citizens to fulfill their patriotic duties, leaders in Berks worked tirelessly to keep the spirit of patriotism alive in Berks County. And thus, the Liberty Chorus was born.

On July 17, 1918 a meeting was held in the Chamber of Commerce to organize committees and appoint lieutenants to arrange community sings throughout the summer. The meeting consisted of leading musical representatives from the Reading Rotary, the Penn Wheelmen, the Kiwanis Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and other musical organizations.  The lieutenant’s role was to recruit choir singers and musicians to create a community singing chorus to lead the community in popular war songs. They believed a singing community would never know the burdens of war.

Reading had a reputation for its excellent singers and strong church choirs. Reading also had a prize-winning choral society under the direction of Edward Berg. With this rich history in organized singing, the Liberty Chorus was formed on July 18, 1918 with a membership of 350 men who were ready to keep the fires of patriotism burning in Berks County. The men present at the meeting that night could not have envisioned just how popular the Liberty Chorus would become.

Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania) · 18 Jul 1918, Thu

The Liberty Chorus was headed by “sing leader” George F Eisenbrown. Before the American entry in the Great War, Eisenbrown was busy developing Muhlenberg Park, Illustrious Potentate of the Rajah Temple, and was partnered with his brother Charles in the family business, Eisenbrown Granite Works (P.F. Eisenbrown & Sons).

What began as a summertime experiment became a local phenomenon. Within a few weeks of their first sing at the 7th and Laurel playground on July 23, 1918, the Liberty Chorus had stoked the fires of the Reading’s patriotic spirit, making them a popular attraction in the community. They performed before crowds of 15,000 on Sundays in City Park. This was significant at a time when 19 men could be arrested for violating the Blue Laws for playing baseball.

Whether it was a pre-planned community sing or an impromptu appearance to celebrate good news from the Western Front, the Liberty Chorus made themselves available whenever the need to promote patriotism arose.  One such instance was a Sunday night/Monday morning gathering in front of the Berkshire Hotel. Despite unfortunate timing and weather, the Liberty Chorus sang their hearts out and led a parade of 5,000 citizens in joyous celebration through the rain-soaked streets of Reading (more on this topic in a future article).

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After the war, their popularity didn’t diminish, but their role in the promotion of patriotism drew to a close. Their performances were less frequent but still popular among the community. The Liberty Chorus was scheduled to lead a Christmas Carol sing-a-long on Christmas Eve in Penn Square, only to have it cancelled due to rain. Later they performed to honor the late, former President, Theodore Roosevelt at the Rajah Temple and they set an attendance record at the Colonial Theatre. Their last performance was on June 3, 1919 at the Auditorium on South 5th St to welcome home Company A, a fitting farewell to Reading’s Patriotic Singers.

On November 10, 2018, the Reading Choral Society will be bringing the sound of the Liberty Chorus back to life when our 1918 time capsule will be opened at the Berks History Center. The Reading Choral Society will be performing popular songs sung by the Liberty Chorus during the Great War. Click here for more information on this historic event. (for more on the Liberty Chorus, see the Historical Review of Berks County, Winter 2017-2018).

Richard Polityka is a longtime volunteer at the Berks History Center and project leader of the Berks History Center’s World War I project that commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the Great War. 

WRAW’s Fabulous Forty


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Today, local radio station WRAW, channel 1340 AM, is a Spanish language station that specializes in a range of modern Latin American music. This new format reflects recent demographic changes to the Reading area.

Back in the 1960s, WRAW sounded much different. The station broadcasted in English and played a broad selection of the popular music of the day. What were the popular songs in August? The Berks History Center library houses an extensive series of weekly top forty lists played by the station.

In August of 1963 Dean Martin’s ballad “Everybody Loves Somebody” was the number one song. In 1966, Napoleon XIV’s psychedelic “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” occupied the top spot. Cream’s rocker “Sunshine of Your Love” hit number one in WRAW’s Fabulous Forty on August 11, 1968. In the last year of the century, “Soul Deep” by the Box Tops went top. It is clear that from ballads to energetic rock, these end of summer playlists reflected the changing musical landscape of the 1960s. 

Written by guest blogger, Sean Anderson as part of a project funded by the National Endowment for Humanities entitled: Metadata, Marketing, and a Local Archive: Creating Popular Interest from Archival Sources at the Berks History Center Research Library.

Daniel Rose: A Reading Clockmaker

Portrait of Daniel Rose  by Jacob Witman (1769-1795) from the BHC Museum Collection

Born in 1749, Daniel Rose of Reading became a talented watch & clock maker capable of building musical mechanisms that few in America could rival. He also sold and repaired clocks, watches, and jewelry in addition to musical instruments. In 1775, Rose instructed the drummers and fifers of the 1st Battalion of the Berks County militia. The following year, he joined the Committee of Safety in Reading, and in 1777, was appointed a captain in the militia. He served in the State Legislature from 1799 -1804, 1806 – 1808 and 1811-1812. Rose even opened his own museum in Reading in his home on Penn Street. He was also a talented musician. At the time of his death in 1827, Rose owned two organs, a piano, clarinet, hautboy (oboe), bassoon, flute and a French horn.

The Berks History Center Museum is home to several Rose tall case clocks and a full length portrait of the famous clockmaker. In the portrait, Daniel Rose is depicted as a dashing figure wearing his double-breasted coat and red silk vest by Jacob Witman. His hair is cut short and brushed forward in a style that became fashionable in the late 1790s. Rose is wearing an extensive amount of jewelry, which was all in the height of male fashion at the time, including oval knee buckles, steel cut shoe buckles, and a gold ring. Four musical instruments are also included in the portrait: a violin, flute, clarinet, and square piano. Look carefully at the piano to see where the artist, Jacob Whitman, cleverly painted his own name instead of that of the instrument maker.

Sousa’s Signature: A Legend’s Final Note in Reading, PA

Sousa (left) and Eugene Weidner (Director of Ringgold Band) - 3-5-32.jpg

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was a renowned American musician, composer and conductor whose music is celebrated to this day. While he led both the United States Marine Band and the United States Naval Reserve Band, he is probably better known for leading his own “Sousa Band” which he established in 1892. According to his obituary in the New York Times, the Sousa Band “covered an aggregate itinerary of a million and a quarter miles, visiting nearly every city in this country, a great many in Europe and others in all parts of the world”.

On the Saturday afternoon of March 5th, 1932, Sousa’s travels brought him to Reading, Pennsylvania.  He was in the city to conduct the Ringgold Band on the occasion of its eightieth anniversary concert, scheduled for the following afternoon. His busy itinerary began with a three-hour rehearsal at the American Legion Building at 133 North Fourth Street and was followed by an 8pm banquet at the Wyomissing Club. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack, shortly after midnight that evening, in his room at the Abraham Lincoln hotel.

Cropped Sousa Menu.jpg

One of the most interesting artifacts of the visit is a surviving dinner menu from the Wyomissing Club banquet which contains a copy of Sousa’s autograph. The menu belonged to Andrew J. Fisher (1899-1963) of Mohnton, the Ringgold Band’s first trombonist.  Fisher wrote that “ this is the last autograph that Mr. Sousa gave to anyone.  He died about one hour after he obliged me with this signature at the Abraham Lincoln hotel, March, 1932…  He was already feeling bad at this time…  I played under him for the last note he ever conducted (The Stars & Stripes Forever).”

Interestingly, a Reading Times article published on March 7, 1932 reveals how Fisher learned the news of Sousa’s passing. It explains that “Andrew Fisher, Ringgold Band trombone soloist, had just arrived home in Mohnton from the banquet and turned on the radio….  He settled down to listen to a program of Mexican music when the announcer said ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we are deeply grieved to announce the death of John Philip Sousa, in Reading, PA, just two hours after he attended a banquet in his honor there’.”

It was fortuitous that a trombone player from Mohnton was one of the last people to interact with an American musical icon. It was also fortuitous that Fisher’s daughter, Rachel Herb, donated this unique artifact of her father’s encounter with John Philip Sousa.

Article Researched & Written by Curator Bradley K. Smith

Julia Nagel Shanaman Elmer: A Berks County Musician

Julia Shanaman_LC01_Box1_Folder1_Item9

Julia Nagel Shanaman Elmer (1900-1986) was a Berks County woman of many talents. Many may not know her by name, but her legacy carries inspiration far beyond what anyone would expect from a small town music teacher. Julia Nagel Shanaman started the Shanaman Studio of Music in Reading, Pa around 1924 after receiving her teacher’s diploma. In 1927 she received her diploma in music theory and in 1929 she received her Piano Soloist Diploma. She later attended the Philadelphia Music Academy, receiving her Artist Diploma in 1935, in addition to gracefully achieving her Bachelors in Music in 1937 just after her marriage to Jasper Elmer in 1936.

Music Theory Diploma 1927

Despite adopting a new surname, Julia kept moving above and beyond in the music world. She was a skilled pianist and music teacher. She received her Graduate Certificate in Piano from Ornstein School of Music in Philadelphia in 1951, and served with them for the next five years. Afterwards she served the Combs College of Music for the next ten years.  Elmer became involved with the Community School of Music and the Arts in Reading as a piano and theory instructor in 1966, overlapping with her time serviced to the Music Club of Reading as their president for two consecutive terms. In addition to all of her glowing achievements, Julia was elected to the American College Musicians Hall of Fame in 1968.

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Her legacy as a profound musical educator and instrumentalist was honored with the establishment of the Julia N. Shanaman Elmer Piano Scholarship in 1987 by the Music Club of Reading, just after her passing. She was a marvelous teacher, musician and friend who had an unsurpassable enthusiasm for her craft. Her legacy lives on through her only son, Cedric Nagel Elmer, whose donation of concert recordings, programs and photographs to the Berks History Center has made all of this information and acknowledgement possible for the late and great Julia Nagel Shanaman Elmer.

Researched & Written by Mackenzie Tansey

The Women’s Club of Reading


Since its inception in 1896, the Women’s Club of Reading has given to the community in multiple ways. In their early days, they helped organize the Humane Society and created the first public playgrounds within Reading. During the First World War, members participated in the Red Cross, helped with surgical dressings, and even raised money for tobacco for the soldiers.  The club opened its doors to the public in 2004 as the WCR Center for the Arts, both in an effort to save their historic building and to present unique performances and exhibitions for the community.

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Shown here are a few of the club’s artifacts within our collection including: a stamp with the WCR seal, a program from March 1930, and the “Official Song of Berks County Federation of Women’s Clubs and Allied Organizations.” The cartoon depicted is from the March 22, 1930 issue of the Reading Eagle and illustrates the Reading traffic issue that the WCR describes as “literally terrible.”

Researched & Written by Erin Benz

Scholla: Bull Bands 3/27/1943

Bull Bands 3/27/1943

The custom of serenading newly married couples goes back to the antiquity, and it may be that the Pipes of Pan were used for mythological newlyweds. To the English the serenaders were known as a Calithumpian band, to the French the serenade was a charivari and to the Pennsylvanian Dutch it was a Bull-band. In earlier days no wedding was considered complete until the serenade had taken place. Couples that were separated also were entertained when they became reunited.

Several days after the wedding the concert would take place wherever the couple was living.

The players assembled quietly after dark and then suddenly the stillness of the night would be blasted by the sound of the band. There was nothing sweet or melodious about the music of the Bull-band. The main instrument was the “sei-geig” and the sounds that came from this can only be described as “farrischderlich!”

According to Charles “Butch” Schoener and “Cal: Grimes of Womelsdorf, the “sei-geig” gets its name from the fact that thte trough used for scalding hogs (briedrog) furnished the body of the geig or fiddle and hence the name sei-geig or pig fiddle. Wires were stretched from one end of the trough to the other and as the ends were higher than the sides the wires, which acted as the fiddle strings were elevated and could be played upon. When a scalding trough could not be obtained a strongly-made box, such as a tobacco case was used as a substitute.

A piece of two-by-four or narrow board one side covered with rosin was the bow and was drawn across the wires. It required a man on each end of this to operate the geig and the noises produced were indescribable. Squeals, groans, moans, roars, rumbling howls and just plain noise came forth.

Along with the “sei-geig” were all kinds of noise-makers, cowbells and dinner bells were rung, tin horns and conch shells were blown, dishpans were beat upon – anything and everything to make a racket. This uproar continued until the groom either invited the serenaders into the house for refreshments or took them to a hotel for a treat.

As the manufacture of the “sei-geig” represented quite a bit of labor the band was allowed to play for a half hour or more before the groom appeared. Sometimes the new husband was contrary and refused to act as host, then the noise continued until the neighbors put a stop to it.


Scholla: A Virtuoso In Overalls

A Virtuoso in Overalls

The following account is adapted from an article entitled a “Photographic Ramble in the Millbach Valley,” published in “The American Journal of Photography,” September, 1896. The article was written by Dr. Julius F. Sachse, the eminent historian. Doctor Sachse was a member of the party touring the Lebanon Valley to obtain photographs of historic scenes. In the course of their journey they came upon Fort Zeller on the Mill Creek, near present-day Newmanstown.

The old colonial blockhouse caught the fancy of the men who were capturing pictures for posterity. While they stood admiring the antiquity of the structure and a reflecting upon the legends which center around it, the owner of the Zeller farm approached them. He was Monroe Zeller, the eight generation of the family of that name to live on the banks of the Mill Creek. We will allow Doctor Sachse to describe him:

“He appeared the typical Pennsylvania German farmer who had just returned from the harvest field. His home-spun clothing and cowhide boots, wide-brimmed straw hat, horny hands, bronzed face and heated brow seemed to verify the old Biblical injunction that, “one should earn his bread by the sweat of his brown. Cordial was the greeting; the sun, now at meridian, was exerting its full force, and the invitation to enter the cool stone mansion was cheerfully accepted.”

Adorning the walls of the living room of the Zeller home there were portraits of the great masters of music – Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Weber and an autographed portrait of the great Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt. Surprised to find this array in a farmhouse the members of Sachse’s party were even more astonished when the farmer in homespun overalls seated himself at the piano, and without any flourish, played an etude of Cramer. This was followed by selections from Bach and Beethoven and Gottschalk, ending with a rendition of the Faust valse by Liszt. A master was playing and his guests were charmed.

It was an ideal setting for a photograph – the blending of music – culture and agriculture. Would Zeller pose for a photograph? No, kindly but firmly, no! Some treasures are too precious for the eyes of a scoffing world bent only upon sensations and untutored in the finer impulses which come from the freshening well-springs of the soul.

But why hide your light under a bushel, Mr. Zeller? After all there are a few of your fellow men who could find rapture in your gifts.

And then the photographers learned something which caused them to exclaim in wonderment. Their host was the world-famous professor, Monroe Zeller, concert pianist, well known in all of the musical centers of the old world, entertaining admiring audiences in all of the major cities from Paris to Moscow! But that was his winter employment. During the summer months the great virtuoso returned to his farm in Millbach and attuned his ear to the song of the birds, the sighing of the winds through his willows and the liquid gurgling of the Mill Creek as it spilled its way through his farm to join the Tulpehocken.

Archival Notes: A cursory search of information on Monroe Zeller provided scant returns. A Reading Eagle article from January 23, 1896 page 2, provides a brief description of one of Professor Monroe Zeller’s European tours.,4322202&hl=en

Fort Zeller, Millcreek Township, Lebanon County, PA. Jerrye and Roy Klotz Photographers.
Fort Zeller, Millcreek Township, Lebanon County, PA. Jerrye and Roy Klotz Photographers.

Scholla: David Tannenberg, Organ Builder

David Tannenberg, Organ Builder

Berks Countians generally are acquainted with the name of Dieffenbach as an expert builder of church organs and many of his creations still are serving the purpose which they were constructed. But the name of David Tannenberg is not so well known because he built organs in the colonial churches of Eastern Pennsylvania. In most cases both church and organ have been superceded by more modern structures. And yet in his day, Tannenberg was regarded as the best organ builder in America and according to some of his contemporaries Europe itself could boast of none better than he.

Tannenberg came to America from Moravia in 1749. After a stay in Bethlehem, as a member of the Moravian colony there, he moved to Lititz in Lancaster County and helped to build the second great Moravian settlement.

Music was Tannenberg’s forte. He sang an excellent tenor, played a violin and participated in the many forms of musical worship which even now are characteristic of the Moravian brethren. He was a patriot. In spite of the prohibition against the taking of oaths imposed upon the followers of the Unitas Fratum, Tannenberg took the oath of allegiance to the new government of the United States in the year 1778 when the British occupation of Philadelphia forced that colony to count its friends.

Tannenber constructed organs in churches in Albany, New York; Salem, North Carolina; Hagerstown, MD; Madison, VA, and in most of the towns in Pennsylvania . In 1770 he built the organ for Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading and shortly before that in the Maxatawny Lutheran Church. His greatest single achievement  was the building of the organ of Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia in 1790.

In a letter to a friend Tannenberg wrote of his progress in Philadelphia as follows:

“On the main manual seven stops are now in place, and pedal is now complete with the exception of five pipes in the trombone bass. The echo is in place. On the Upper manual, one stop, the principal is finished. When all is drawn out on the lower manual, with pedal, the church is well filled with the volume of sound and to every one’s astonishment.”

On October 2, 1790, the Philadelphia newspaper the Neue Correspondenz commented upon the brilliant achievement which had been wrought in Zion’s Church declaring that European organ builders could not do any better than Tannenberg had done and the newspaper exulted in the statement: “It was done by an American.”

Archival Notes: The oldest surviving organ built in colonial America resides in Berks County, below is an excerpt on that particular Tannenberg Organ.

Tannenberg built an organ for Zion Lutheran Church near the town of Moselem Springs in Richmond Township in Berks County in 1770. This was one of Tannenberg’s earliest organs; quite possibly his opus 8. It is interesting to note that this is not only the oldest surviving Tannenberg organ, but also the oldest surviving organ built in the colonies. Tannenberg provided a case constructed from black walnut and is the only extant Tannenberg case made from this wood. The organ was dedicated by the pastor, John Helfrich Schaum in 1770 and was located in the west gallery of the church’s 1761 stone building. An old photo of the organ in this building can be seen hanging in the present church (see below).

The organ remained in the old church for 124 years. Then, in 1894, the old church was torn down and the present brick building was erected. At this time, the Tannenberg was extensively rebuilt by Samuel Bohler of Reading. Bohler removed the Terz and Mixtur and replaced them with string stops. In addition, he installed “ears” on the front pipes. He also completely rebuilt the key and stop actions and in the process, also replaced the old recessed keydesk with a typical late 19th century design. The reversed color keyboard was also replaced. The entire winding system was discarded in favor of a single rise bellows installed within the case. Finally, the case was grain-painted a dark brown. When the organ was installed in the new church, only the chest, the case, parts of the stop action and six ranks of pipes remained from 1770.

After becoming unplayable in the 1950’s, the organ was again reworked in 1974 by Joseph Chapline. The 19th century pipe work was removed and modern, factory-made ranks were installed to replace the missing Terz and Mixtur stops. A recessed console was reconstructed and the case was painted an off-white. All other alterations by Bohler were left in place, however, including the 19th century winding system. The six original ranks, however, still produce a very beautiful articulate and antique sonority.

The organ was completely restored by the shop of R. J. Brunner & Co. from 2010-2011. All the missing Tannenberg parts were replicated to match the originals, including the 18th century style winding system. The shop of Paul Fritts in Tacoma, Washington provided the missing Terz and Mixtur ranks. These were made to match the original Tannenberg pipes. Bill Ross provided parts of an old Pennsylvania-German winding system — possibly from an old Dieffenbach organ. In addition, the case was restored to once again reveal the beautiful black walnut.

The organ is pitched rather high — in the old “Chorton” (a= 458.2Hz), which was common in central Germany in the 18th century. It was decided to tune the Tannenberg in one of the temperaments designed by Georg Andreas Sorge and given in a table in his treatise that he sent to Tannenberg. This particular temperament gives the various keys wonderfully different characters and qualities.

In September of 2011, after a little more than a year, the organ was returned to the church. The service of rededication and recital took place on Sunday October 2, 2011 with the author as recitalist.


Photo is stone church 1892.
Photo is stone church 1892.
Zion Lutheran Church Moselem, Springs. (Stone Church). Courtesy of Berks County Historical Society
Zion Lutheran Church Moselem, Springs. (Stone Church). Courtesy of Berks County Historical Society
Zion Lutheran Church Moselem Springs (Brick Church) Built in 1894. Courtesy of Berks County Historical Society
Zion Lutheran Church Moselem Springs (Brick Church) Built in 1894. Courtesy of Berks County Historical Society
Tannenberg organ in Brick Church.
Tannenberg organ in Brick Church.
Tannenberg Organ June 2009.
Tannenberg Organ June 2009.
Tannenberg Organ after 2010-2011 restoration.
Tannenberg Organ after 2010-2011 restoration.