Friday, April 20, 2012

The Justice Bell Tour

     On August 18, 1920 the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, granting women the right to vote. The amendment stated “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”  On June 24, 1919 Pennsylvania congress voted to ratify the amendment becoming the 8th state to do so.
     Four years earlier Amendment #1, a women's suffrage referendum, was presented on the November 1915 ballot for approval from the men of Pennsylvania. By this time thirty states of the US had already voted for at least partial rights for women’s suffrage. The Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association kicked off a statewide campaign to convince the male voters to vote for the amendment. The “Justice Bell”, an exact bronze replica of the liberty bell was cast with the words "Establish Justice" in the inscription. The 2000-pound bell required a special truck to transport it. At a cost of $2,000., the bell was a gift from Katherine Wentworth Ruschenberger of Strafford, PA. The clapper was muted by chains with the idea that the bell would not ring until women were granted the right to vote.
     The bell began its 5,000-mile tour of the state of Pennsylvania in Bradford County in May of 1915 then continued on through the rest of the 66 counties. It zigzagged through the state ending in Philadelphia in time for the November election. The bell was escorted by a group of speakers and campaign props. Popular items in demand by local suffragettes were “votes for women” fans, buttons, paper napkins, pennants, note-paper, drinking cups, lanterns, flowers, lead pencils, candy, and children's toys. Yellow was the color adopted by the Association and could be seen displayed prominently at the rallies. The bell arrived in Bethlehem on August 29, 1915.
     In addition to the Justice Bell tour the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association organized open-air speeches from automobiles and county fair booths as well as booking halls for their speakers. Bethlehem turned out in record numbers to hear Dr. Anna Shaw speak at the Broad Theater on October 3, 1915.  Dr. Shaw was the first woman ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church. As a minister, she would not perform a marriage ceremony in which the word "obey" would be used. Dr. Shaw noted that none of the marriage ceremonies she officiated ended in divorce. She was national superintendent of franchise of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and president of the National Woman's Suffrage Association. Of her speech in Bethlehem, she was quoted in the October 4, 1915 edition of the Globe Times as stating, “Being human beings women have the qualities that belong to humanity and having them, should have the right of exercising them.”  She went on to say, “A republic is a form of government conducted by representatives of the people. You never read a definition of a republic which granted the right of one half of the people to vote and elect representatives to govern the other half.” Those who attended roundly applauded Dr. Shaw’s speech.

Celebrating ratification of the women's suffrage amendment, Alice Paul, seated second from left, sews the 36th star on a banner, in August of 1920.  The banner flew in front of headquarters of the Women's Party in Washington of which Miss Paul was national chairperson.  The 36th star represented Tennessee, whose ratification completed the number of states needed to put the amendment in the Constitution.  (AP Photo)
     A local suffrage leader, who attended Dr. Shaw’s speech, was Ruth Frick, the great granddaughter of Asa Packer, great-granddaughter of Robert H. Sayre and daughter of Robert P. Linderman. She was the Lehigh County chairman of the Woman Suffrage Party. Frick offered her car for open-air speeches by several visiting women’s suffrage dignitaries. Frick and others went on to form the Allentown Women’s Club.
     On November 2, 1915 Amendment #1 was soundly defeated in Pennsylvania. The 50,000 votes against the referendum were significantly represented in Berks, Lebanon and Lehigh counties. It was widely known that a majority of Pennsylvania German men were against the amendment because various temperance organizations supported the amendment.
     The women’s suffrage campaign turned its focus on a constitutional amendment with support from President Wilson. The House of Representatives and the Senate passed the amendment. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, the amendment passed its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states and became law.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Old Videos of the Lehigh Valley

Follow these links to go back in time to see old footage of the Lehigh Valley.

Short vintage film clip shows life in 1950's Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania. Features Bethlehem Steel, Hess's department stores.

This adorable story of 'Pip The Mouse' has been around since 1962. One of only two sets made by Creegan Company of Steubenville Ohio, I believe the only one in operation. Outstanding puppeteer performance, original soundtrack. Can be found at Liberty Bell Museum, Allentown, PA. Original owner Max Hess, read the history of how this puppet became an icon.

1950's circa. The Fairgrounds Hotel in Allentown, PA during the 1950's. An italian wedding reception. Backyard scenes during Easter from a farm in nearby Orefield PA.

Relive the bygone era of one of the great landmarks in eastern PA, Hess Department Store by PBS 39.

Check out America's oldest football rivalry as PBS 39 showcases possibly the best known football game in college football, the Lehigh -- Lafayette football game.

Final voicemail left for managers by an Ames VIP the day before the store closed forever. Someone made a video to it.

1914 Trolley from Philadelphia to Allentown

Preview of new (2010) video produced for the Rockhill Trolley Museum from the 1947-1949 films of Gerhard Salomon. This presentation features the Lehigh Valley Transit Company's Easton Line from Allentown to Easton via Bethlehem. Visit for ordering information.

Video slideshow of Allentown and Bethlehem Steel set to Billy Joel's Allentown. Long Live Bethlehem Steel; Hail Steel!

Bill McLane "Railroad Memories"
Bill McLane is interviewed by Max Carroll of WNCY-24's Unique New York on February 14, 2000. Bill shares memories of working on the Lehigh Valley Railroad and shows rare 8mm footage he filmed.

A film about the state of Pennsylvania in the 1950s. To license footage from this subject, go to:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lehigh Hook and Ladder Company

The Grand Opera House and the Union Hall on 4th Street burned to ground in the middle of the night of October 7. 1884. The cause of the fire was never determined. There was no Hook and Ladder apparatus available in South Bethlehem at the time of the fire. The residents of the South Side decided it was time to remedy this problem and organized the Lehigh Hook and Ladder Company on November 24, 1884. They were ready for fire emergencies by December 10, 1884, when they acquired a hand-drawn hook and ladder truck. Temporarily the fire equipment was stored at the stable of H.C. Bachmans First Ward Hotel and then it was moved briefly to Lewis Levy’s store, on Broadway. Finally Bethlehem Borough council built the fire company a permanent fire hall at 217 Broadway in 1885. They remained at that location until the city phased out the company in the early 1970s.

The good citizens who formed the Lehigh Hook and Ladder Company were R.H. Sayre, Jr., President; William H. Rudolph, Vice-president; Milton S. Grim, Secretary; W.A. Wilbur, Treasurer; Frank Wynkoop, Fire Recorder; Milton H. Miller, Frank O. Lear and George O. Weaver, Trustees; Morris H. Schaffer, Foreman; William F. Anderson, Assistant Foreman; Charles H. Groman and Tillermen; Clinton H. Weiss.

The equipment known as a hook was a steel crook at the end of a wooden handle, six to twenty feet long. It was used to rip down ceilings to reach fire areas and to pull down burning structures. Hooks were also used to pull down houses the flames had not yet reached in order to create a fire-break.

In August of 1886, the Company received a horse-drawn hook and ladder wagon. Twelve leather water buckets hung from the bottom of the wagon. On November 5, 1895 Council supplied a new horse-drawn 75-foot Hayes Aerial Extension Ladder Truck. This truck had an aerial ladder that could extend as much as 85 feet in height. Four to six men could fully raise the telescopic ladder in less than 40 seconds by turning a crank. The aerial was mounted on a turntable, so the ladder could be swung around to the desired direction. It seemed that whoever could supply the horses became the driver. L.J. Bachman was the first driver who furnished two horses then Lewis Felker became the driver as he provided three horses. Typically, when a horse drawn wagon or truck reached the fire, the firemen released the horses to get them out of harms way. It was the firehouse dog’s responsibility to guide the horses to a safe place to wait until the fire was out.

The South Bethlehem community showed their support in various ways for the brave men of the Lehigh Hook and Ladder Company. In 1887, the Bethlehem Iron Company presented the Company with a safe. Johnson A. Yerkes, a local artist and member of the Company donated his painting of the burning of the coke works to the firehouse, which he had painted in 1855. The 1854 destruction of the coke works may have been the first recorded fire in South Bethlehem. The painting was displayed in the fire hall until the Company was dissolved. The Kemerer Museum, at 427 N. New Street has the painting in their collection, along with a helmet, badges, and an elaborate 4-by-6-foot wooden frame that holds 54 photographs of members of the Lehigh Hook and Ladder Company in 1887.

In 1891 the borough installed a Gamewell Fire Alarm System. It utilized the South Bethlehem telegraph system to pinpoint the location of a fire alarm. Alarm stations were set up through out South Bethlehem, which could trigger a 2075-pound bell that was hung in the tower of the Liberty Company’s fire hall on Vine Street. The Borough also maintained a supplementary alarm of a large whistle located at the South Bethlehem Brewery. Gamewell still manufactures fire alarm systems today but with more sophisticated technology such as fiber-optic cable.

In 2004 the South Bethlehem Historic Commission approved plans presented by George Kline for the renovation of the old Lehigh Hook & Ladder Company’s 2-½ story building. Kline owned the old fire hall that his company, Bethlehem Sporting Goods, used as a warehouse. With this approval, Kline cleaned and repointed the bricks, restored the windows, replaced the roof and recreated the old fire hall doors. Kline received a $30,000 BEAR grant (Blight Elimination and Abatement Response) and a $60,000 facade loan from the city of Bethlehem to complete the work on the 8,000-square-foot building. Kline did such a fine job at restoring the old fire hall that as you pass the building you expect the bell to ring and the doors to swing open for a horse powered hook and ladder wagon to exit the building. You look for fire fighters with axes and bullhorn-like trumpets all wearing wool Civil War-style uniforms with red wool shirts, rubber slickers, leather helmets and knee-high leather boots. The building is now the site of The Firehouse, a bar and restaurant.