Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Abraham Harley Cassel - Dunkard Bibliophile
"The largest private collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century Pennsylvania Germaniana during the last century was Abraham Harley Cassel's... For more than fifty years, historians interested in Pennsylvania 's early roots wended their way to the modest two-story brick farmhouse along the Indian Creek, near the village of Harleysville in Lower Salford Township , Montgomery County, to see the famous A. H. Cassel library and to chat with its interesting and learned owner." The previous quotation is from Roy C. Kulp's article "Abraham Harley Cassel – Dunkard Bibliophile" which appeared in the Spring 1960 issue of Pennsylvania Folklife. The word "Dunkard" refers to a member of the Church of the Brethren. I was motivated to look into the life of Cassel after acquiring the envelope shown above. It was mailed to Cassel from London, England on April 17, 1878. According to Kulp's article, Cassel was a self educated farmer and teacher who acquired a collection of over 50,000 volumes by traveling thousands of miles often on foot. A contemporary newspaper article about Cassel indicated that among his collections were 15,000 to 20,000 letters sent to him from all over the world. It would be interesting to know where all the envelopes for those letters (other than mine) ended up. When Cassel died the bulk of his collection went to the Beeghly Library at Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania. Parts of it went to the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Cassel was born in 1820 and died in 1908. Another article about Cassel and his library by Donald F. Durnbaugh appeared in the October, 1959 issue of Pennsylvania History.