Happy Birthday, Henry Janssen!

You may recognize the name “Henry Janssen” from recent news surrounding the sale of his former Wyomissing home. At the Berks History Center, Mr. Janssen is the namesake of our Library and Archival facility on Spring Street. Our Library is also the home of many items related to the businesses Janssen founded with Ferdinand Thun–including early ledgers from Textile Machine Works and bound copies of The Yarn Carrier, the magazine published for Wyomissing Industries employees. Henry Janssen was born on February 8, 1866; and, in honor of his birthday, our Library staff wanted to take a moment to remember Mr. Janssen’s contributions to Berks County and share a few tidbits about his life.

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Portrait of Henry Janssen, 1937 by Egon Josef Kossuth

(Painting hangs in the Research Room of the Henry Janssen Library)

Heinrich Janssen was born in Barmen, Germany (then Prussia) in 1866. Barmen became an center for industry in the 19th century. The town was situated between hills and a river–not unlike Janssen’s future hometown–and became known for its textile industry and coal mining. Janssen’s future partner, Ferdinand Thun, was born a few blocks away in Barmen, on February 14, 1866. Both lived and studied in Germany until the late 1880s. Janssen studied manufacturing before coming to New York City to work in a braiding plant in 1889. It was in New York that Janssen met Thun and, after discovering their similar childhoods and textile skills, they decided to go into business together.

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Barmen (1870) by August von Wille

(Source: Wikipedia, Image is in the Public Domain)

Janssen and Thun’s first business venture in Berks County was a small factory on Cedar Street in Reading, which they opened in 1892. This was the beginning of Textile Machines Works. In 1896, they moved their business to Wyomissing. The partners incorporated Narrow Fabrics in 1900, after they began using their own machines to make braids and other items. Six years later, Janssen and Thun added knitting machines to their lineup, which they used to produce their own range of stockings (specifically full-fashioned, which was the trend at the time). This company was incorporated as Berkshire Knitting Mills. According to many accounts, Janssen was a perfectionist. He insisted that the products produced by his companies were of the highest standards and he wanted his employees to maintain that high quality in themselves. The February 1948 edition of The Yarn Carrier (which was dedicated to Janssen following his death) included a quote by Janssen from March 1929. He advised one of his employees in German, of which the English translation is roughly: “Be thorough and accurate in both large and small things. May this always be your guide and success will never fail you.” (The Yarn Carrier vol. 17, no. 11, page 12).

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Henry Janssen (center) with partners Ferdinand Thun (l) and Gustav Oberlaender (r), late 1920s-early 1930s (Image from the collections of the Henry Janssen Library, Berks History Center)

Henry Janssen was one of six children. At the time of his death, Janssen had two surviving siblings. Paul Janssen was also a businessman and later Mayor of Offenbach, Germany; while Johannes served in the German Parliament in the early 1900s. During their childhood, their father, Albert, owned a printing and book shop in Barmen. Henry married Wilhelmina Raeker in Brooklyn in 1890. Their son, Harry Janssen, died during WWI. Janssen’s two son-in-laws continued to work for Wyomissing Industries after his passing. In addition to their role at Wyomissing Industries, Janssen and Thun developed the Borough of Wyomissing. Janssen served on the Borough Council for forty years, while he also served on the Reading Hospital Board (including ten years as President). Janssen became a US citizen less than ten years after immigrating from Germany. His death on January 28, 1948 shocked many–not only in the community, but around the world. From the pages of tributes printed in The Yarn Carrier following his death, it is obvious Janssen’s influence was far-reaching. Here are just a few:

“…He was a driving force in the building of an industrial empire unparalleled in the textile industry, and unique in the entire U.S. industrial force.”

Knit Goods Weekly

 

“He will be missed not only as a pioneer of the hosiery industry but also as an outstanding person of the deepest humanitarian interest.”

–Robert Reiner, Inc.

 

“Every day was too short for this man who rate the title of industrial tycoon, titan of industry, capitalist or whatever the popular terms of the day. He could have rested on his laurels. He didn’t.”

–Herbert C. Kohler, in a Reading Times editorial, January 30, 1948.

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Three photos of Janssen, about middle age.

(Images from the February 1948 edition of The Yarn Carrier, page 9)

Janssen’s philanthropic and industrial contributions live on. The Reading Health System has grown exponentially since Janssen and Thun first made their contributions. Families still flock to the grounds of The Reading Public Museum–another project of the partners. Textile Machine Works products are still in use today. In Wyomissing: An American Dream, the father and son team at Barbett Industries in Reading are shown using Thun and Janssen designed products that are over a hundred years old. They argue that these machines were made to last, unlike many produced today. This is a testament to Janssen’s commitment to perfection. In honor of his industrial expertise and advances, Barmen (now part of Wuppertal, Germany) named a street after Henry Janssen, which intersects with the street named for Ferdinand Thun.

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Heinrich-Janssen-Straße [Street] Sign, Wuppertal, Germany

(Image from GoogleMaps, 2017)

 

If you would like to learn more about Henry Janssen, PBS39 produced a wonderful documentary on Janssen, Thun, and Wyomissing called Wyomissing: An American Dream. It is available to view both on the PBS39 website and on YouTube.

Researched and Written by BHC Archival Assistant Stephanie Mihalik

Sources:

The Yarn Carrier, vol. 17, no. 11. Produced by The Wyomissing Industries: February 1948

Partners: A History of the Development of the Wyomissing Industries. Published by The Wyomissing Industries: 1936.

Wyomissing: An American Dream. Produced by PBS39 WLVT: 2016.

 

New Years Eve Dinner at the Mansion House, 1894

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Over a hundred years ago, New Years Eve Dinner at the Mansion House included boiled Kennebec salmon and “anchovey” sauce, boiled Jersey capon, assorted relishes, prime rib, roast ham with champagne sauce, wild turkey, venison, and Red Head duck. How will you be ringing in 2017? Do you have any memorable New Years stories?

(From the Henry Janssen Library’s Business and Industry Collection, LC 21)

Shop Pomeroy’s 1956 Catalog

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Who has still last minute present shopping to do? We wouldn’t mind running out today and snagging a few of these toys, especially at their 1956 prices!

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Did you find any of these toys under your tree?

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What were the most popular toys when you were a kid?

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Did you shop at the Penn Street Pomeroy’s?

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(From the Henry Janssen Library’s Business and Industry Collection, LC 21).

A Berks County War Hero’s Christmas Story

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Though not a traditional Christmas photo, this artifact still boasts a marvelous Christmas story. The man seated is Sylvester Korejwo, a soldier who fought in World War I. Korejwo was injured in November of 1918 and was sent home in the Spring of 1919. As he had missed the previous year’s Christmas, the family decided to keep their Christmas tree up an extra six months – just for Korejwo to see and enjoy upon his return home. He is seen here sitting in his rocking chair at his local Reading home around 1920.

PA Dutch Christmas Traditions – Lebkuchen Recipe

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Need a last minute recipe? We found this one for lebkuchen (which is very similar to gingerbread, made with molasses or honey) in the December 1952 edition of “The Pennsylvania Dutchman.” Edna Eby Heller, who supplied the recipe, called them “the Old World Favorite” and also wrote that “you must find the top secret place for storing if you want them to last until Christmas!”

75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Remembered through the Reading Eagle – Microfilm Collection

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Today we remember the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though Oahu is over 4,000 miles from Reading, the reporters at the Reading Eagle and Reading Times jumped into action when the news broke. By 5:30pmthat Sunday, the Eagle put out the first of two extra editions reporting on the attack. According to an article published on Monday, December 9th, the reporters had acted so fast they printed the first extra “even before the bombs stopped falling,” beating all the “out-of-town” papers in bringing Berks Countians the information they needed. Many local men were already serving in the Pacific in December 1941, and many parents would have wanted to stay updated on the day’s events.

(“The Reading Eagle,” Sunday, December 7, 1941, Special Extra Edition, from BHC’s Henry Janssen Library Microfilm Collection, reproduced with permission of the Reading Eagle Company)

Why Archives Matter

For the past seven years, I have had the honor and privilege of being the keeper and protector of Berks County’s history.  I’ve held 200 year old documents and catalogued and interpreted thousands of archival material for use by researchers.  I have grown to love and appreciate this community’s long, rich history.  I did not need to be born in Berks County to understand the Berks County way of life.

While we all claim to love history, how many of you really, truly know your own history?  I’ve met my fair share of “history buffs”; a term that usually refers to someone who occasionally watches the History Channel or reads a book.  I’ve also met my fair share of historians, researchers who have spent years digging up documents, trying to absorb as much as they can about a person, event or building and who want to share and engage people in conversation.  History is more than genealogy, the collection of names and dates.  It is the study of how people lived and interacted with each other, their surroundings and events.  Granted, I have an advantage over our community.  I get to come to work in a building full of stories waiting to be uncovered and told.  But as an “outsider” (because I am a New Yorker), I know more about Berks County, than my native husband, and probably some of you.

Why do Archives Matter?

Genealogy is a huge commodity.  According to a recent article in the Colonial Williamsburg Spring 2015 Magazine, Ancestry.com cleared $540.4 million in 2013.  I can’t even fathom that much money.  There are over 100 different genealogical websites for use by researchers, not to mention the websites that will tell you which top 10 or 25 are the best to use.  I ask myself, why when more and more people are joining ancestry and doing genealogy, why are we seeing less and less people at library’s such as the Henry Janssen Library?  The Colonial Williamsburg article goes on to try and entice people to visit their archival holdings, because not all of it is online.

I’m not going to criticize online resources, such as Ancestry.com.  They are a great tool in helping to track ancestors and making government documents, such as pension records and census records, available to the public.  However, it is still just a tool, a database, and many of the records (and family trees) are incomplete, inaccurate, and in many instances wrong.  As an undergrad and graduate student in history, we are taught to seek out sources, leave no stone unturned.  Your best resource is the bibliography, or works cited, pages in the back of secondary resources.  They provide ideas on where to turn next.  They list primary resources and where to find them.  Unfortunately, the new generation of researchers, don’t know how to use indexes in the back of books to find information on a specific page.  Because they only seek out to collect information, and only specific information, they cannot create the story, nor do they see the whole picture.  These researchers tackle their research with the understanding that, if it is not online, it does not exist.

At the Henry Janssen Library, and other research archives across the country, we have a wealth of knowledge that goes beyond names and dates.  The documents kept in our walls tell the stories of the county and the people who forged through the wilderness to make a home.  These same people, helped to alter State and National events.  History does not exist in a bubble.  What happens elsewhere ripples across time and space and influences the course of events.  These resources are not online, not because archival institutions are being mean, or preventing researchers from accessing the information.  This information is in countless boxes and folders and need to be used as a whole.  These collections provide insight into the stories that make history.  Holding a 200 year old document has more impact on learning, then just reading the words on the page.  It reminds us that living, breathing, human beings existed, created, lived and left their legacy for the future to find.  This experience happens when you visit the Henry Janssen Library

Interest in our history is waning, which is surprising when there are always Berks County connections to State and National events.  Our collections are waiting for someone to come and uncover their secrets.   And yes, there will be secrets…good and bad.  Write an article for the Historical Review.  Come in and volunteer.  Record your history, not just names and dates.  History is the story of us; without us, the story stops.

Written by former Archivist, Kim Brown.

Colonial Records – William Penn’s Letter on Vice

While we at the HJL focus on Berks County starting roughly around 1720s.  It is just one piece of a huge history that was taking place in Pennsylvania.  English history in Pennsylvania begins with the signing of the Charter in 1682.  Following the charter an entire system of government is established and people begin populating the area around Philadelphia.  This history is not totally lost to us.  Buried in our stack room, is a series of books titled the Colonial Records. The Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC) references the Colonial Records as such: “A total of sixteen volumes containing the minutes of the Provincial Council, 1683-1775, in Volumes I-X; those of the Council of Safety (and of the Committee of Safety), 1775-1777, in X and XI; and those of the Supreme Executive Council, 1777-1790, in XI-XVI. These were printed directly from the manuscript books with no editing apparent Issued 1838-1853.

These records, which precede the Pennsylvania Archives Series, are full of history tidbits on the founding and running of our province.  Buried in the minutes are Sheriff Appointments, Road Petitions, Accusations of Witchcraft, and the Crafting of Laws.  And yes, while reading government minute books often fall on the “boring side” (have you ever read the Congressional Record?  There are 2 pages of debate on whether to give the congressional janitor a raise, before the debate on the Repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. snore), you never know what gems you may find, when turning the pages.

The Colonial Records are the story of Us.  It is the Us before we became a county and a state.  It tells the story of trying to carve out a civilization in a new world and away from those that govern you.  It tells individual stories and some of those stories are really interesting.

While Luke continues to bring more of Scholla to life, I will try and highlight some of the interesting “goings on” occurring almost 4 centuries ago.  As always, if you would like to learn more about any document or collection we have in the HJL, please visit us!

Att a Council Held att Philadelphia Die Mercury, 9th Febry, 1697-8

The Governor exhibited to the Council a Lettr from the proprietor, directed for him, to be opened only and read in a full Council; Which being through to be as full a Council as could be got in such a season of ye year, It was yrfor Resolved that the sd Lettr should be opened and read which was done.  The contents grof wer as follows, verbatim, viz: “London 5th 7m., 1697.  Friends, The accusaons of one sort, & the reports of another that are come for England agt yor governmnt, not only tent to or ruin, but disgrace.  That you wink at Scotch trade and a Dutch one too, Receiving European goos from the latter, as well as suffering yors, agt the Law & English interest, to goe to the other; Also, that you doe not onlie wink att but Imbrace pirats, Shipps and men.  These are yor accusaons, and one Fra. Jones of philadelphia has Complained of them to Gor Nicholson, becaus it wa not redrest in the governmt.  The Reports are, and a nameless Lettr is come to me besides from Philadelphia, to ye same purpose, that there is no place more overrun with wickednes, Sins so very Scandalous, openly Comitted in defiance of Law and Virtue: facts so foul, I am forbid by Comon modesty to relate ym.  I do yrfore desire and charge you, the Gor & Council for the time being, to issue forth some act or acts of state forthwith to suppress forbidden trade and piracy, and also the growth of vice and Loosness, till some severer Laws be made agt them: And I do hereby charge that no Licence be granted to any to keep publick houses, that do not give great securitie to keep Civil houses, and are not known to be of a sober Conversaon, and that the Courts of Justice in each County have approbaon, if not Licensing of ym, In order to prevent such acts of the Lewdness and Idleness as are too often seen in such places; And that you take Care that Justice be Impartially done upon trangressors, that the wrath and vengeance of God fall not upon you to blast your so very flourishing beginning.  I hasten to you as fast as ye Complaints here agt you will give me leave, that make my presence now but too necessary.  Let neither base gain nor a byast affection mak you partial in these Cases, but for my sake, yor own sakes, and above all for God’s sake, Let not the poor province Longer suffer under such grievous and offensive Imputations; and will oblige him that loves you, prays for you, and prays to be with you, and is with true Love your real friend & affectionate proprietary.                             WM. PENN.”

The Contents whereof, & the Complaints yrin mentioned being strictlie inquired into, The Gor did appoint Samll Carpenter, Joseph Growdon & Wm. Clarke a Committee of Council further to peruse the sd Letter, & to inquire into the sd Complaints, & to make report yrof to the Gor & council next day, by way of ansr to ye sd Letter.

Adjourned to 10th instant.

Humidity And Your Documents

The most frequent question I get is: How can I preserve and save my family documents.  I will often ask questions to try and figure out the current condition to make recommendations.  My basic recommendations are:  1. Unfold the documents and store flat.  Documents tear along fold lines.  Unfolding these documents, will take the stress off of the fold.  2. Do not store archival material in direct sunlight.  The UV light will cause the documents and photographs to fade.  3.  Do not store artwork, documents or photographs on outside walls.  Outside walls have the most contact with outdoor temperature fluctuations and will expand and contract depending on the weather conditions, causing your material to expand and contract.   4.  Do not store your documents in attics or basements, because of the lack of control over temperature and humidity and risk of flooding.  Too much humidity can cause mold growth and too little humidity can make archival material brittle.  Both accelerate the deterioration of archival material.   5.  If your documents are rolled and maintain their tube-like shape, do not unroll them.  Unrolling them will cause them to break at stress points along the roll.  The documents will need to be humidified and once relaxed, can then be viewed.

Rolled Document
This is a rolled document before humidification.  You can see where the document has started to tear along the roll.  You can also see where the donor, at one point, tried to tape the tears to keep the document from breaking.  Please do not tape your documents.  The adhesive will add to the deterioration of the document.
Broken Photograph
This photograph has broken apart along the fold and is now in multiple pieces.  Curiosity got the best of the donor of this image.  When the first section broke off, he continued to unroll the image to see it in its entirety.  As a result, the image is in multiple pieces and cannot be put back together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I started working here, I made the recommendation that documents could be humidified in a steamy bathroom.  After a couple of long hot showers, the documents would begin to relax and then could be better handled.  I made that recommendation, because I had tested it in my bathroom when I was living in New York.  It worked great; until this past winter.  The Henry Janssen Library is climate controlled, up to a certain point.  During the winter the boiler is turned on and, in theory, I should be able to build up humidity in our humidifier.  We use the double garbage can method, with distilled water.  However, this past winter, nothing I did could get enough humidity into the chamber to humidify some tightly rolled documents.  As a last resort, I took them home to use my trusty bathroom method.  The bathroom humidification chamber didn’t work and I ended up bring the HJL’s humidification system home and finished the project.

I learned that the effectiveness of building up enough humidity in a bathroom, in order to hydrate documents is determined by the size of the bathroom.  My bathroom in Gibraltar is twice the size of my old one in New York and has a window.  Since the room is larger, it takes more steam to fill and less time for that steam to dissipate than in a smaller more compact space.   The documents were not getting enough time to soak in the moisture.   I forgot history preservation is also about physics.

In an ideal setting, including the Henry Janssen Library, all archival material would be stored in an area lower than 68 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity between 30-50% with very little fluctuation.  Unfortunately, the recommended storage conditions are not the ideal living (or researching) conditions.  Fortunately for the “Do-It-Yourselfers” following the recommendations above will set you on the track toward preservation.

For more information on how you can humidify your documents, please check out this article “Practical Considerations for Humidifying and Flattening Paper” by Stephanie Watkins, found at: http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/sg/bpg/annual/v21/bp21-15.pdf, or other resources through Google.

Written by former BHC Archivist, Kim Brown.

The Northeast Document Conservation Center states that temperature and humidity control is vital to the preservation of archival material because unacceptable levels cause the deterioration of the material.… Heat accelerates deterioration: the rate of most chemical reactions, including deterioration, is approximately doubled with each increase in temperature of 18°F (10°C). High relative humidity provides the moisture necessary to promote harmful chemical reactions in materials and, in combination with high temperature, encourages mold growth and insect activity. Extremely low relative humidity, which can occur in winter in centrally heated buildings, may lead to desiccation and embrittlement of some materials.  …Fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity are also damaging [because] …they respond to diurnal and seasonal changes…by expanding and contracting. Dimensional changes accelerate deterioration and lead to such visible damage as cockling paper, flaking ink, warped covers on books, and cracked emulsion on photographs. – www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/2.-the-environment/2.1-temperature,-relative-humidity,-light,-and-air-quality-basic-guidelines-for-preservation