Today, some people look back at the Roaring Twenties as a simpler wholesome time. But Perkasie Borough and its neighbors had their share of drama involving alcohol and illegal activities.
The Great Experiment of Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933, when the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act banned the sale, manufacture, or transportation of intoxicating spirits, with some exceptions.
Last week, I was lucky enough to find a “treasure” in a Perkasie antique store, a rare copy of an obscure 1877 small-format four-page newspaper that predates the Perkasie Central News and the Sellersville Herald.
The Mercer Museum has eight copies of “The Advertiser,” which was printed on a portable printing press by a teenager in Sellersville. My copy is the July 4, 1877 edition, which is also in the Mercer Museum. What makes “The Advertiser” unusual is that it was never listed in a public directory of newspapers, and its printer was Charles M. Berkemeyer, who would become known regionally for his work with postcards and religious materials.
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.
Perkasie residents and visitors passing by Rams Pint House can’t help but notice the words “Thompson 1922” on the building’s façade. The story behind the “Thompson” in question is an interesting tale indeed.
Gilbert L. Thompson was a man of many talents who led an interesting life before he came to Perkasie in March 1901. Thompson’s Hardware was a vital store in a borough that was booming during the cigar-making era. But Thompson arrived in town just ahead of a disastrous investment in Lansdale, and his business survived for almost three decades in Perkasie.
I was doing research today at the Mercer Museum’s library and came across an election certificate from November 1947. It was that piece of paper that played a crucial role in two of the most-contentious elections in Perkasie Borough history.
Tucked away in Perkasie’s Lenape Park is one of Bucks County’s treasures, a footbridge inspired by the classic designs of John A. Roebling’s Sons & Co. How the two-span suspension bridge came to be involved Perkasie Borough Council, the federal government, and the design skills of a WPA engineer in based in New Britain, Pa.
In February 1954, the Perkasie News-Herald published interviews with Borough residents who were alive in 1879, for the upcoming Perkasie Borough 75th anniversary celebration. Each person remembered Perkasie in its Victorian era. And most grew up in Bridgetown or Benjamin, before it became part of Perkasie in 1899. Here are highlights from those interviews.
On a recent visit to Perkasie’s Treasure Trove, I found a seemingly innocent paper weight with a link to one of Perkasie’s more controversial stories: the brief presence of the Ku Klux Klan’s regional headquarters on Fifth Street.
On May 30, 1892, Perkasie’s new amusement park, Menlo Park, officially opened to the public. Today, its only remaining attraction is the historic Perkasie Carousel. But Menlo Park, in some form, has been a part of Perkasie’s culture since the Victorian era.
The occasion of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was once called, is nearly as old as Perkasie Borough itself. While the holiday as evolved over time, its importance remains with us as a solemn reminder of the price paid for our freedoms.
On May 28, 2022, the 130th Memorial Day parade and service will take place in Perkasie, with the Borough taking a lead role in the event. In past even-numbered years, Perkasie Borough supported the Hartzell-Crouthamel Post #280 of the American Legion. In odd-numbered years, Sellersville Borough and American Legion Post #255 leads the parade program. That tradition started in 1950.
Informal ceremonies to honor the war dead started regionally in America toward the end of the Civil War. Initially called Decoration Day, people made sure the graves of Union and Confederate participants were decorated with flowers on May 30th each year. That was the most-observed date for Memorial Day until 1971, when a federal act moved the federal holiday to the last Monday in May. (Not all states observed the date change and there is still some controversy about it.)
This 1899 photo is likely the annual Decoration Day parade, based on newspaper accounts