High school graduations were a big deal in Victorian Perkasie

On May 29, 1903, the Philadelphia Inquirer featured the graduating class of Perkasie High School – all six students. Despite the small class size, about 1,000 people attended graduation at the Perkasie Park camp-meeting auditorium.

At the 1903 commencement, Addie Maurer gave the valedictorian address. In the back row in this rare picture are, left to right: Gertrude Cressman, Richard Harr, and Addie Mauer. The front row: Alice Rae Thompson, Flora Rickert, and Nora Pfleiger.

In general, public education was a tremendous source of public pride in the growing community, as the booming cigar and clothing businesses saw families decide to make Perkasie, Benjamin, Sellersville, Blooming Glen, and Silverdale their home.

The Perkasie High School had been in existence for about a decade prior to its 1903 commencement. The prior year saw a large class of graduating students, nine, and the Perkasie Opera House hosted the event. There were complaints about the seating arrangements and the temperatures inside the building. Previously, commencement was held at St. Stephen’s Reformed Church in Perkasie, which could only seat 400 guests. The Perkasie Park outdoor pavilion could hold up to 1,500 people, with plenty of parking for horse-driven carriages.

In 1903, the high school students and the lower grades not in South Perkasie attended the Arch Street school, the magnificent structure designed by local architect Milton Bean. (The new high school, designed by Oscar Martin) would open two years later.

A male quartette of teachers sang during the proceedings. County Commissioner Adam Martin hoped future classes of Perkasie High School would have more graduating students.

Gertrude Cressman gave the Class Prophecy speech, where she predicted she would be a traveler in the future. However, Cressman was the first member of the Class of 1903 to pass away. Two years later, Cressman became afflicted with pernicious anemia just after she was hired to work at a Lansdale business firm. She succumbed to the disease at the age of 20.

The last surviving member of the Class of 1903 was Addie Maurer Hager. Hager passed away at the age of 98 in 1985 and she was the oldest member of St. Stephen’s UCC at the time.

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