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.

The Republican Invincibles

In the nineteenth century, it was common for political groups to organize marching clubs.  Men would parade in military style uniforms with capes and helmets and carry flaming torches.  In Montgomery County, probably no such group was as large and well known as the Republican Invincibles.  Founded in 1880, the club was primarily interested in presidential and gubernatorial elections.  In between, it was mainly a social club of the kind of which nineteenth-century Americans couldn’t get enough.  It’s annual dinner was required the largest hall in Norristown.

We have two remnants of the Republican Invincibles in our collection.  This is a ribbon that would have been worn by a member at an event like the annual dinner.

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The ribbon below is from the first year of the Invincibles, 1880.  It has photographs of the Republican candidates, James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur.

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Garfield detail

 Until the election of 1880, Montgomery County had been solidly Democratic.  Fans of Montgomery County history will know that the Democratic candidate in 1880 was our own Winfield Scott Hancock.  Despite a highly respected career in the Civil War and a very close popular vote, Hancock lost his home county by one vote.  Perhaps the Republican Invincibles played a role.