The mystery of Perkasie’s long-lost newspaper

The Perkasie Central News, founded in 1881, played an important role in the Upper Bucks region’s early development. But it wasn’t Perkasie first newspaper. Its smaller rival, the Banner, had a brief but controversial existence.

A Perkasie Banner story in a Washington newspaper, 1881

On May 1, 1879, the Philadelphia Times reported that the village of Perkasie had its first newspaper. The Banner was printed “half in English and half in German.” The publisher was “an aged German printer,” Charles Kolbe.

While Kolbe was born in Germany, he served in the Ringgold Regiment from Doylestown, for three years during the Civil War, and he lived in Doylestown until the time of his death. Kolbe also worked at the Doylestown Empress und Reformed, a German-language newspaper, in 1866.

In the 1880 census, the Banner was listed as the only newspaper north of Doylestown in Bucks County with at least some of its pages printed in English. That year, the Banner claimed its circulation was under 500 newspapers per week. It was published on Saturdays and printed in a room over Abraham Benner’s stable (the current location of Perkasie’s Borough Hall). The four-page weekly paper cost $1.00 for an annual subscription.

In June 1881, Perkasie got its second newspaper, the Central News, published by Mahlon Sellers and Henry G. Moyer. It most likely was printed in the same location as the Banner at Seventh and Chestnut Street and published on Thursdays. According to Alden’s American Newspaper Catalog in 1882, the Banner claimed a circulation number of 1,000 compared with 1,200 for the Central News.

There are few examples of the Banner readily available today. Some of its stories were picked up nationally in German-language newspapers. During the decade, circulation numbers published in directories put the Central News’ circulation at 1,700 versus 800 for the Banner.

That didn’t stop Kolbe and the Banner from promoting their newspaper. In one advertisement run in Alden’s catalog in 1884, it was called “the leading Local Paper in this part of the state, and offers the best means of reaching the German population.”

Perkasie Banner

Rare example of the Banner’s front page

However, the Central News became upset that the Banner was getting lucrative contracts from the Bucks County Commissioners to publish local election results as a newspaper of record. The Central News’s editor, S.R. “Dick” Kramer, formally wrote to Souderton’s postmaster in February 1887. (The Banner had moved to a printing press there, while keeping its Perkasie name.)

Ambler Gazette Questions The County Commissioners

Kramer accused the Bucks County Commissioners of spending the outrageous sum of $29.50 to publish a county sheriff’s election result, in a newspaper based in Montgomery County. Kramer asked Postmaster Shellenberger about the weight of the Banner’s weekly press run, which in fact amounted to 88 newspapers—not the 500-1,000 paper circulation claimed by the Banner. Soon, the Ambler Gazette called out the commissioners for advertising official financial statements “in an unknown sheet.”

In October 1887, N.W. Ayer, an advertising agency, asked Bucks County newspaper publishers to testify under oath to their circulation numbers. The Central News, the Doylestown Intelligencer and Newtown Advance accepted the offer. The Perkasie Banner declined.

The Banner existed in some form until September 1893, when Charles H. Kolbe passed away at the age of 67. The Central News remained a sole entity until 1943, when it merged with the Sellersville Herald. The combined newspaper remains in print today.

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