Monroe Fabian in his 1974 Pennsylvania Folklife article “John Daniel Eisenbrown, Frakturist,” introduced a totally unknown artist-scrivener. Fabian enthusiastically hoped that more Fraktur examples would one day come to light, but the years have passed, and, if there is a cache of his illuminated manuscripts, they have remained well hidden among family members. Fortunately, one more can now be added. In May of this year an anonymous donor gifted a New Testament containing a bookplate and birth record to the Goschenhoppen Historians Fraktur collection. Eisenbrown made it in 1824 for his student Joseph Weber of Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
It is signed and dated in the lower corners of the bookplate: [LL corner] “Upper Saucon Township April 10, 1824,” [LR corner] “made by John D. Eisenbrown as a memento for his student.” The main body in the center reads: “This New Testament belongs to Joseph Weber who was born June 27, 1815.”
Joseph Weber has left no footprint, and although John D. Eisenbrown remains obscure as a Frakturist, represented by only four Fraktur pieces done during his early career as a school teacher, he is remembered for his calligraphic skills as a carver of tombstone memorials.
Even today the reputation built by John Daniel, and later his son Penrose Frederick lives on in the P. F. Eisenbrown Memorials Co. in Reading Pennsylvania. Although no longer owned by the Eisenbrown family, the present owner of this marble and granite business continues to retain the P. F. Eisenbrown brand name for the trustworthiness, honesty, and prestige the Eisenbrown family achieved in its principled business transactions. That is a legacy well worth remembering!
Johan Daniel Eisenbraun was born on December 2, 1795 in Adelberg near Stuttgart in the Duchy of Baden-Württemberg. There is no documentation to support Morton L. Montgomery’s statement in his Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County Pennsylvania that Eisenbrown landed in Philadelphia from Germany at age sixteen. However, we know from a birthday Fraktur he made for his future wife Charlotta Wolf (1798-1832) of Egypt, PA—the only Pennsylvania Dutch birthday Fraktur example presently known—that he was in America by the spring of 1817 for Eisenbrown dated and signed his greetings “April 16, 1817, Johan Daniel Eisenbraun.”
Sometime after November 4, 1818, the date Johan Heinrich Wind purchased a family Bible in Philadelphia, Eisenbrown was engaged to create a double-leaf bookplate for the Bible.
The first leaf reads: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. [St. Luke 11:28]; purchased on November 4, 1818 in Philadelphia; made (written) by the former schoolmaster in Upper Saucon, John Daniel Eisenbrown.” The second leaf reads: “Bible for John Henry Wind.” Johann Heinrich Wind (1779-1842) was active in the Friedens Lutheran Church, and is buried in the old churchyard cemetery at Friedensville, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. From this Fraktur we know that Eisenbrown was a teacher in Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County, PA. by 1818. His association with Wind, as suggested by Monroe Fabian, could indicate that Eisenbrown was the schoolmaster for the congregation at Friedensville.
A family Bible register, kept by John Daniel Eisenbrown to note the births and baptisms of his children, records Charlotta’s and his life from 1821-1832.
The following nine children were born to John Daniel and Charlotta Barbara:
- Maria Franziska: born 10/15/1821; Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: grandparents J. George and Anna Maria Wolf; baptized by Rev. Conrad Yeager
- + Constantin Edward: born 9/8/1822; Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: parents; baptized by Rev. Conrad Yeager.
- Charlotte Mathilda: born 8/6/1824; North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: parents; baptized by Rev. [Frederick William] Mendsen.
- Anna Maria: born 11/12/1825; North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: grandparents J. George and Anna Maria Wolf; baptized by Rev. [Frederick William] Mendsen.
- Carolina Lowina: born 1/25/1827; North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: Daniel Rösler and his wife; died in the year 1828.
- Charlotta: born 3/24/1828; North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: parents; baptized by Rev. [Frederick William] Mendsen.
- Wilhelmina: born 6/11/1829; Kutztown, Berks County; sponsors: parents [and] Johann Knoske, Lutheran minister, and his wife; baptized by Rev. [H.] Knoske.
- Friderich Penrose: 4/3/1831; Kutztown, Berks County; sponsors: Friderich Wolf and Elisabeth Knoske, unmarried; baptized by Rev. H. Knoske.
- William Jonas: 10/12/1832; North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County; the mother died from this childbirth; sponsors: Jonas and Sara Troxel took the baby and adopted it.
Charlotta died from complications in childbirth on October 18, 1832, six days after giving birth to William Jonas, who was adopted and raised by his godparents Jonas and Sara Troxel.
John Daniel’s second wife was Mary Troxel with whom he produced an additional eight children, two of whom died in infancy. During this time period, he successfully transferred the tombstone-cutting business he had begun in Minersville, PA in 1844 to Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1855, and located it on the northwest corner of 9th and Hamilton Streets—the later site of the famous Hess’s Department Store! Penrose took up the same business as his father establishing himself first in Minersville, and then Pottsville, and finally in 1874 in Reading. Father and son built up the mutual respect of their customers, were known for prompt service and reasonable prices, and, as already noted, were very successful businessmen. Per St. Pauls Lutheran Church Records in Allentown Pennsylvania John Daniel Eisenbraun died March 16, 1874, aged 73 years, 3 months, and 14 days.
When Monroe Fabian wrote his 1974 article, Paul Eisenbrown, John Daniel’s great grandson, enthusiastically collaborated with the author, and located the birthday Fraktur, a cabinet photo by Hafer Studio, Reading, Pennsylvania reproducing a now lost daguerreotype of John Daniel Eisenbrown ca. 1850, as well as the J. D. Eisenbrown Family Bible Register among his relatives. If anyone knows the present whereabouts of any of these items, I would be very grateful for an email reply to this blog post.
(2) Find a Grave
“Charlotta Eisenbrown, Where Buried,” in Find a Grave. Accessed 4 September 2015. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=62209197&ref=acom
“John Daniel Eisenbraun. Death Entry by Rev. Minnig in St. Pauls Lutheran Church Records, Allentown Pennsylvania,” in Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Record collections, Philadelphia, PA, Reel: 545, 373 of 558.
“John Daniel Eisenbrown,” in Russell D. and Corinne P. Earnest’s Papers for Birth Dayes, Guide to the Fraktur Artists and Scriveners. York, PA: 2nd ed., 1997, vol. 1, 229.
“John Daniel Eisenbrown, Where Buried,” in Find a Grave. Accessed 4 September 2015.
P. F. Eisenbrown Memorials of Reading, PA. Accessed 3 September 2015 http://eisenbrownmemorials.com/about-us/3647772
“Penrose F. Eisenbrown” in Morton L. Montgomery’s Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1909), vol. 1, part 1, p. 82 of 227. Accessed 3 September 2015. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/morton-l-morton-luther-montgomery/historical-and-biographical-annals-of-berks-county-pennsylvania-embracing-a-co-003/page-82-historical-and-biographical-annals-of-berks-county-pennsylvania-embracing-a-co-003.shtml
Monroe Fabian’s “John Daniel Eisenbrown, Frakturist,” in Pennsylvania Folklife,
Winter 1974-1975 vol. XXIV, No. 2, pp. 31-35.
“Johann Heinrich Wind, Where Buried,” in Find a Grave. Accessed 3 September 2015
© Del-Louise Moyer 2015