Abner H. Gehman

Yesterday, since the Historical Society was closed, I got to spread out in the reading room and process some long unopened boxes.  A box labeled A. H. Gehman revealed a chaotic collection of papers belonging to Abner H. Gehman and his son, Harry M. Gehman.

Abner H. Gehman was born in 1854 in Franconia Towship.  As as adult, he moved to Norristown.  Going through the box, I found many things familiar from writing this blog.  Mr. Gehman was member of the Republican Invincibles.

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He also briefly worked as a clerk at Adam Scheidt Brewing Company.

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Gehman was an active Republican and served as clerk of the county courts for four years and as a deputy clerk for forty.

For most of his life, Gehman worked in real estate and insurance, but for five years, 1895-1900, he owned a haberdashery shop on West Main Street in Norristown.  That business is connected to this curious document I found.

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Was this an attempt to get husbands and fathers home for dinner on Thursdays or was there something else going on?  I looked through the Times-Herald for the years Gehman had the store, but I didn’t see a notice about the new hours.

When Abner Gehman died in 1939, just after his 85th birthday, his obituary appeared on the front page of the Times-Herald.

Great Local Beer!

Early image of the brewery

Early image of the brewery

The Adam Scheidt Brewing Company was a Norristown institution.  Existing for over 100 years, the brewery produced a variety of beers that many can still remember.  Their story begins in 1870 on the Stony Creek.  Charles Scheidt, a salon owner and brewer, purchased a failing brewery from the Moeshlin brothers.  Once his brother, Adam, arrived from Germany in 1878, the brewery grew and grew.

This building still exists at the corner of West Marshall and Barbadoes Streets

This building still exists at the corner of West Marshall and Barbadoes Streets

The brewery began as a small, one-story building.  Over the years the building was enlarged to a five-story structure.  The brewery housed a laboratory, a bottling department, and, later, an electric plant.  Trains ran right into each building with massive refrigerated cars to transport the beer up and down the East Coast.  Three large artesian wells were drilled in the complex, which were said to be the reason for the superior flavor of Scheidt’s brews.  At its largest, the brewery took up seven and a half acres across the Stony Creek between Marshall and Elm Streets.

Through the years, Adam Scheidt Brewing Company brewed many types of beer.  Some of the most well-known varieties are Lotos Export, Standard, Norristown Porter, Twentieth Century Cream Ale, Old Stock Ale, Brown Stout, and Valley Forge Beer, introduced in 1912.  A market for ale in New England prompted them to create Ram’s Head Ale in the 1930s.

Various beer bottles produced by Adam Scheidt Brewing Company

Various beer bottles produced by Adam Scheidt Brewing Company

 

During Prohibition, from 1920-1933, the company brewed “near-beer,” also called Valley Forge Special Beer, which was brewed as regular beer and then dealcoholized to meet the requirements of the 18th Amendment.  The brewery also sold Mission brand sodas and Caddy ginger ale, along with ice and coal, to stay afloat.  On April 7, 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st, and long lines formed outside the brewery.  Staff worked for over twenty-four hours straight to keep up with the demand for their again-legal product.

Two bottles of Ram's Head Ale from the collection of HSMC.

Two bottles of Ram’s Head Ale from the collection of HSMC.

 

In the end, the large western breweries were too difficult to compete with.  By 1950, the company had quit producing soda, and by 1954, they were purchased by Philadelphia brewery Schmidt’s.  Schmidt’s continued production of a few brews, like Valley Forge Beer and Ram’s Head Ale, but eventually shut the doors in 1974.

Adam Scheidt Brewery for sale in 1975

Adam Scheidt Brewing Company for sale in 1975

 

Source:  The Adam Scheidt Brewing Company by Joseph M. McLaughlin, HSMC Bulletin, Volume XXV, Fall 1986, No. 3