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Tales, Teasers, and Enticements - Part II

Updated: May 15, 2023

The 85th Anniversary Early American Industries Association Annual Meeting is not far off. Join us in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as we explore the diverse and fascinating history of the Lehigh Valley May 23rd through May 26th, 2018. We guarantee you’ll have a good time, make new friends and learn more about early American industry and the fascinating history of the Moravians.

The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

Figure 1. The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

On Thursday one of our stops will be the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts which is housed in three interconnected mid-1800's homes in Bethlehem. The museum is one of only 15 museums in the United States dedicated to the “decorative arts”. The period rooms, and galleries highlight furniture, paintings, china, clothing, and silver from over three centuries of decorative arts. The museum is named for Annie S. Kemerer who was born in 1865 just south of Bethlehem. Annie married into a prominent Bethlehem family and she and her husband had one son. Annie and her family enjoyed surrounding themselves with beautiful furniture, paintings, and decorative objects. After the untimely deaths of her son and then her husband, Annie became a recluse but continued to be an avid collector of antiques. Through her generous bequest, the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts was established in Bethlehem after her death in 1951. Annie Kemerer’s extensive personal collection includes lovely examples of Pennsylvania German textiles, exquisite furniture, priceless Bohemian glass, and her breathtaking 200-piece wedding china.

The Historic Bethlehem Collection Resource Center was added to the Kemerer Museum in the fall of 2013. This is a two-story environmentally controlled vault that houses all of the most sensitive objects in the collections of Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites. On the interior there are floor to ceiling glass walls making it possible for visitors to see the collections.

Doll House at the Kemmerer Museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Figure 2. Doll House at the Kemerer Museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

The second floor of the vault is home to the distinguished Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse and Toy Collection, forty-four structures and 6,000 pieces, making it one of the largest antique dollhouse collections in the United States. This collection, spanning the period from 1830-1930, recounts 100 years of architectural and decorative arts history. Mrs. Prime was so precise in her collecting that she only put pieces in each house that were period-appropriate, down to the china. Because the collection is so vast, the museum feature select houses throughout the year. During our EAIA Annual Meeting we’ve arranged special “behind the scenes” tours of both the dollhouse collection and the Kemerer’s extensive textile collection.

Martin Guitar Factory Museum

Figure 3. Martin Guitar Factory Museum

On Friday we’ll visit Martin Guitar in nearby Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Established in 1833 by Christian Frederic Martin the company is highly regarded for its steel string guitars and is a leading manufacturer of flat top guitars. The company has been run by the Martin family throughout its history. The current chairman and CEO, C.F. 'Chris' Martin IV, is the great-great-great-grandson of the founder. The firm was the first to introduce many of the characteristic features of the modern flat top, steel-string acoustic guitar. Martin instruments can sell for thousands of dollars, and vintage instruments occasionally command six-figure prices. We’ll take a tour of the factory to see how these world class guitars are made and spend time in the delightful museum that is housed in the factory.

Moravian Historical Society

Figure 4. The Moravian Historical Society

Friday will also allow us an opportunity to visit the Moravian Historical Society in Nazareth. Housed in the George Whitfield house (1740-1743) the Moravian Historical Society museum houses one of the oldest and most distinguished collections of artifacts, art, and architecture related to Moravian history in North America. You’ll see the first violin made in America, early Moravian made organs and an amazing collection of Moravian musical instruments. The eighteenth and nineteenth-century Moravians considered music a necessity, an essential part of their daily lives. Many Moravian clergy and laypeople were trained in music before they came to Pennsylvania by the same composers who influenced Mozart and Haydn. In Moravian life there was no distinction between the "sacred" and the "secular." Each person's gifts were used for the benefit of the entire community. While there was little emphasis given to music as a distinct profession--many of the composers were also teachers and pastors--music was an essential part of everyone's education.

Early Moravian Organ Made in Bethlehem, PA

Figure 5. Early Moravian Organ Made in Bethlehem, PA

Throughout the history of the Moravian Church, instruments have been used consistently in worship as well as entertainment. Instruments came to America early with the Moravians; by 1742 Bethlehem had flutes, violins, violas da braccio, violas da gamba, and horns. Beginning in the early 18th century, Moravian settlements in America used the trombone choir consisting of alto, tenor, and bass trombones as a distinctive part of worship. In 18th century Moravian settlements, the trombone choir, playing from the church tower or from in front of the entrance, served to call the congregation to worship, and served as the congregation's "portable" ensemble for accompanying outdoor services, burial services, and the Easter sunrise service traditionally held in the graveyard adjacent to the church.

Henry Factory in Jacobsburg, PA

Figure 6. An Early Painting of the Henry Gun Factory in Jacobsburg, PA

On Friday afternoon we’ll have lunch at the Jacobsburg Historical Society (just 4 miles north of Nazareth) home of the Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum. The Pennsylvania Longrifle Museum features more than 100 historic arms on either permanent display or in rotating, topical exhibits. Displays feature Henry firearms dating from the American Fur Trade, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the American West, and the early twentieth century. Most of the firearms were made by the Henrys of Bolton, but the collection also contains arms made by Abraham Henry (1768-1807), who apprenticed in Nazareth under his brother William Henry II (1757-1821) but returned to Lancaster to practice his trade. The Bolton area itself produced guns for more than 100 years. Here are a few tidbits about Jacobsburg and the Henry family.

  1. Around 1750, William Henry I began making and repairing rifles in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He repaired arms for the Pennsylvania troops building Fort Augusta on the Susquehanna in 1756 and served as an armorer for the Forbes Expedition of 1758.

  2. Robert Fulton, a Lancaster native, was an early inventor of practical steam applications. As a young boy, he visited William Henry, who had been experimenting with steam-powered boats on the Conestoga River.

  3. William Henry I served during the Revolutionary War as superintendent of arms and military accoutrements for the Continental army. Both continental and state authorities gave him enormous responsibilities for procuring a wide range of materiel — including shoes and guns — that kept American troops in the field.

  4. The Henry Family not only produced or repaired firearms for all our nation’s major conflicts from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, but they were also the primary suppliers of rifles for one of the largest American business enterprises of the early nineteenth century, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. The Henry firearm became the most prominent weapon of the western frontier due to its durability, accuracy, and relatively low-cost.

  5. William Henry II, who lived and worked in Nazareth after 1780, was appointed an associate judge of Northampton County’s Court of Common Pleas in 1788 and a presidential elector in 1792. In 1799 he served as a judge in the trials that followed the 1798 Fries Rebellion, during which several hundred farmers marched on Bethlehem to force the release of tax resisters that federal marshals had imprisoned in the Sun Inn.

  6. Mathew S. Henry (son of William Henry II) built the first iron furnace in Northampton County at Jacobsburg, which he named Catherine Furnace after his wife. The furnace produced its first ton of pig iron on May 10, 1825.

  7. William Henry III was a founder of the city of Scranton, PA.

  8. James Henry drafted the first legislation protecting Pennsylvania’s wetlands and waterways.


Figure 7, A Photo of the Henry Gun Factory

And of course, we’ll have our Whatsit’s session on Thursday night, so don’t forget to bring that tool you just can’t quite figure out and we’ll see if we can collectively give you an answer.

There’s a lot to do in the Lehigh Valley in and around Bethlehem. You may want to come a day or two early or extend your stay for a day or two just to spend some more time in this fascinating part of Pennsylvania. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Lost River Caverns: Head to Hellertown and take a guided walking tour lasting 30 to 45 minutes. You'll see natural cave formations including stalactites and stalagmites. Pack a jacket because it's always 52 degrees in the cave.

  2. America on Wheels: Anyone who admires classic Pierce Arrows and Packards should visit this Allentown museum. Highlights include major exhibits like one on performance (fast and comfortable) cars, car memorabilia and a great gallery of trucks produced for 68 years by Mack Trucks.

  3. Pennsylvania is fortunate to still have almost 200 covered bridges, and there are seven in Lehigh and Northampton counties. A great way to see them is to take a self-guided driving tour. It's a 50-mile journey that takes you through some of the most picturesque parts of the Lehigh Valley on your way to seeing the Valley's covered bridges.

  4. The Asa Packer Mansion: It's a short drive from the Lehigh Valley to the beautiful town called Jim Thorpe. One of the best places to visit there is the Asa Packer Mansion. Built in 1861, it was the home of philanthropist, railroad magnate and founder of Lehigh University, Asa Packer. One unique aspect: The interior of the Victorian mansion is virtually unchanged, with the same furniture and furnishings as when the Packer family lived there from 1861 to 1912.

  5. Did you know that Just Born is the ninth largest candy company in the country and all of their candy is proudly produced in the USA? Their largest factory is in Bethlehem and is the home of PEEPS®, MIKE AND IKE® and HOT TAMALES® You can’t tour the factory, but you might want to indulge while you’re at the meeting!

  6. Antique stores and malls – lots and lots of them, from Bethlehem to Allentown to Kutztown.

  7. And there's more. This part of Pennsylvania is full of historic sites, small museums, wonderful architecture wonderful small towns and beautiful farmland. We'll be there at the end of May, so things should be in bloom!

It’s not to late to sign up! Do it today! Don't forget to bring your "Whatsit" and please think about bringing something you've made or an item you want to donate to our Silent Auction. It's scheduled to take place right before our Saturday night banquet. All the money raised helps support EAIA! Come and join us as we celebrate the Early American Industries Association’s 85th anniversary in the Lehigh Valley!

by Paul Van Pernis


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