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John Daniel Eisenbrown: Fraktur Artist and Grave Monument Engraver

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.

Fig. 1a Weber New Testament Title Page Germantaun: Michael Billmeyer, 1822. Courtesy of (1) Goschenhoppen HIstorians

Fig. 1a Weber New Testament Title Page Germantaun: Michael Billmeyer, 1822. Courtesy of Goschenhoppen Historians

Fig. 1b Book Plate and Birth Record, Weber New Testament. By John D. Eisenbrown, 4/10/1824. Courtesy of Goschenhoppen Historians

Fig. 1b Book Plate and Birth Record, Weber New Testament. By John D. Eisenbrown, 4/10/1824. Courtesy of Goschenhoppen Historians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Fig. 4a Leaf 1 of 2. Wind Bible bookplate by John Danial Eisenbraun sometime after 11/04/1818. Courtesy of (3) The Library Company of Philadelphia

Fig. 4a Leaf 1 of 2. Wind Bible bookplate by John Danial Eisenbraun sometime after 11/04/1818. Courtesy of  The Library Company of Philadelphia

Fig. 4b Leaf 2 of 2 Wind Bible bookplate by John Danial Eisenbraun sometime after 11/04/1818. Courtesy of (3) The Library Company of Philadelphia

Fig. 4b Leaf 2 of 2 Wind Bible bookplate by John Danial Eisenbraun sometime after 11/04/1818. Courtesy of  The Library Company of Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

  1. Maria Franziska: born 10/15/1821; Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: grandparents J. George and Anna Maria Wolf; baptized by Rev. Conrad Yeager
  2. + Constantin Edward: born 9/8/1822; Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: parents; baptized by Rev. Conrad Yeager.
  3. Charlotte Mathilda: born 8/6/1824; North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: parents; baptized by Rev. [Frederick William] Mendsen.
  4. 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.
  5. Carolina Lowina: born 1/25/1827; North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: Daniel Rösler and his wife; died in the year 1828.
  6. Charlotta: born 3/24/1828; North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County; sponsors: parents; baptized by Rev. [Frederick William] Mendsen.
  7. Wilhelmina: born 6/11/1829; Kutztown, Berks County; sponsors: parents [and] Johann Knoske, Lutheran minister, and his wife; baptized by Rev. [H.] Knoske.
  8. Friderich Penrose: 4/3/1831; Kutztown, Berks County; sponsors: Friderich Wolf and Elisabeth Knoske, unmarried; baptized by Rev. H. Knoske.
  9. 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.


Illustration Links

(1)      Find a Grave Photos

(2)       Find a Grave


Sources

“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.
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=76230372&ref=acom

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
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Wind&GSfn=Johann&GSmn=Heinrich&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=79963152&df=all&

© Del-Louise Moyer 2015

When is a Huswif a Huswif?

When is a huswif a huswif?  A house wife living between A. D. 1100 and 1500, when middle English was spoken, was known as a huswif. In the same time period a huswif or more commonly a hussy referred to a mischievous, impudent, or ill-behaved girl.  However, house wives were a frugal lot, and as time progressed, the use of huswif for a penny-wise housekeeper supplanted the less savory meaning of hussy. By the eighteenth century as an extension of feminine thrifty management, sewing rolls containing scissors, thread, needles, and other sewing notions were aptly known as huswifs, a term generally recognized and used by all.

Girls, in anticipation of their duties as wives and mothers, were taught to do plain, as well as sometimes fancy sewing. Once married, they would be expected to make all the clothing, the pillow cases, bed sheets, tablecloths, fancy show towels, butter cloths by hand. By taking odds and ends of different fabric and using basic stitches such as the back stitch, basting stitch, hemming stitch, and blanket stitch, young women created a practical, yet lovely and colorful storage place for their sewing tools.

Pennsylvania Dutch girls and their mothers carried their huswifs in the large tie-on pockets or Taschen they wore under their skirts. During the Civil War women sent their men into battle with huswifs so that they could sew on buttons and mend their uniforms. The sewing roll also reminded the lonely soldier of his sweetheart or wife. It was not unusual for a man to reciprocate, and make a special huswif for his loved one, which he had sent to her as a token of his steadfastness and regard.

We also find literary references to a huswif in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (Chapter 38, 1811): “And for my part, I was all in a fright for fear your sister should ask for the huswifes she had gave us a day or two before….” Women continue to create similar rolls today not only in order to store their sewing/embroidery tools, but also to keep their jewelry or toiletries.

Two examples from the Winterthur Needlework Collection will show the variety and usefulness of the Huswif.  The provenance of the first example (1960.0196) is unknown but was probably created in England; is made of cotton and linen sometime between 1780-1800; and is 19 (H) x 5 (W) inches.

Three of the pockets are block printed, and one plate printed. The latter is a fragment depicting a rider on horseback shooting a gun, and is taken from the “Storming of Quebec” fabric of 1775.

The provenance of the second example (1969.3107) is Henry Francis du Pont/United States; is made of cotton, wool, and silk between 1795-1829; and is 17 (H) x 3.75 (W) inches. There appear to be four pockets done in assorted materials on a common background, along with four semi-round pieces of wool placed at the top of the huswif to store needles.

It is more usual to find  these “needle keepers” at the bottom of the roll than at the top. A tie at the top is used to hang the huswif on a wall when not in use.

Making a huswif is not difficult. Any person who can use a needle and thread can do the following four basic stitches, and cut out the pattern to create a huswif.

Calico, as well as a variety of other fabric and sewing tools can be found at Ladyfingers, a sewing studio owned by Gail Kessler in Oley, PA that caters to quilters.

Wool for the “needle keepers,” a wide choice of materials, including calico, and a large variety of sewing notions can be found at The Wooden Bridge, a dry goods store owned by Paul and Anna Mae Martin in Kutztown, PA that also offers quilting and sewing classes, not to mention a repairman for sewing machines, and a top-notch scissors sharpener!

Both shops maintain a friendly competition, and recommend each other to their customers when unable to supply an item. Their staffs are friendly, and mega-helpful. Should you have a quilting or sewing project—such as a huswif—in mind, it’s worth a trip through gorgeous Berks County to experience the shops’ beautiful settings, ample supply of practically every quilting or sewing need you may have, and a truly knowledgeable and helpful group of salespeople to serve you.

To get a preview of what that means, take a look at the following steps I used to make this huswif. 

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My thanks to Linda Eaton and Roberta Weisberg of Winterthur, Lynne Bassett, and Sandra Highouse of the Goschenhoppen Historians.

© Del-Louise Moyer 2015