Like many towns on the old North Pennsylvania Railroad line, Perkasie was created as a train town, with life built around the arrival and departure of passenger and freight services. But after World War II, train services steadily faded away during the Baby Boom.
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.
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.
Feb. 18, 1954: Elmer K. Moyer