Only in York County

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Cindy Roach of Washington Township shared the front and back images of a 1908 York Fair (or Ye Grand Old York Fair, as it was called at the time) postcard from her extensive postcard collection. The Fair was held in October during the early part of the 20th century.

A postcard celebration in honor of the York Fair’s coming date change

Now that the 2019 York Fair has come and gone, it’s official: Our Fair is no longer a September event. The 2020 York State Fair – don’t forget we added the “State” part now, too – will be July 24 through Aug. 2.

I can’t say whether the move will increase attendance as organizers hope. I just know that for my entire life, it’s been a September certainty, so my “Yorker” is showing in that I’ve had some knee-jerk resistance to the change.

But a letter I’ve been saving for a while now has reminded me that this is by no means the first time that the Fair is not just the York Fair, nor just a September event. Thanks to a letter from Cindy Roach of Washington Township, today, we get to look at Ye Grand Old (or Olde) York Fair, which took place in October in the early part of the 1900s.

If you’re applying for a job as the official Ask Joan archivist, you might remember that Cindy shared a request in 2015 for more information about a postcard that depicted “President’s Escort, 13th U.S. Cavalry, York County Fair,” and that had a handwritten date of Oct. 11, 1906, on the bottom. Cindy was hoping for more information on that card, trying to find out whether it truly was from our fair, and we were never able to help. (So if anyone knows anything about a “President’s Escort” around 1906… let us know.)

Anyway, a couple of years after that, I shared another York Fair postcard – this one from Gloria J. Anderson of Hopewell Township. Upon seeing it, Cindy wrote, “I also have in my collection, the very same postcard… which is postmarked with the same date.”

That card, the 1908 one you see with today’s column, was printed in Germany and featured a basic image of the racetrack at the fairgrounds; what made it interesting was its role as an early mass mailing, inviting county Democrats to “Call at Democratic Headquarters on the Fair Ground Oct. 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9.” Signed by the party chairman, it apparently made the rounds (as I had also received an image of the front of the same card from Steve Miller of Red Lion.

Well, back when Gloria shared the card, I could not make out the signature on the back with much detail, though the addressee was discernable as Benjamin (“Benj.”) Snyder of Route 1, Red Lion, on hers.

In Cindy’s, however, I was mostly at a loss on the recipient’s name or even town. J… something Bloehler? S… something, Pa.? Well, enterprising Only in York County assistant Chris Otto, the former YDR sports editor who writes the ephemera blog Papergreat, has much experience with handwriting translation and he sent me in the direction of “Jacob” as the first name, which I’m totally on board with. That led me to thinking the last name might have been Wehler, and while we still have absolutely nothing on that town, I did find an obituary for a Jacob Wehler who lived in the Hanover/Penn Township area, who was born in 1853 and died in 1923. Maybe that’s our recipient!

I had a much easier time with the other name on Cindy’s card. I was able to take a pretty good guess and try “S.D. Wareheim” for the party chairman, and that turned up a great excerpt from the well-known Prowell’s History of York County, Pennsylvania, written in 1907, as follows:

“Spencer Doyle Wareheim is a native of Glen Rock, Pa., and was born Oct. 6, 1877. His paternal grandparents, George Wareheim and Abie (Armacost) Wareheim, lived on a farm in Carroll County, Md., where his father, Edward A. Wareheim, was born.”

It goes on to describe his great-grandfather’s service in the War of 1812, his father’s work as an osteopathic physician in Glen Rock, and his maternal grandparents’ residence in Shrewsbury Township and Glen Rock. The biographical sketch also notes that Spencer was one of five children, two of whom – Carroll and Abie – died in infancy. The others were Guernsey, a dentist in Baltimore, and Grover, then a student at or recent graduate of Franklin and Marshall College.

Prowell’s bio continued, “Spencer Doyle Wareheim received his preliminary education in the public schools of Glen Rock and the York Collegiate Institute at York, Pa., later attending Franklin and Marshall College, at Lancaster, Pa. He graduated from the latter institution as one of the ten honor men, in the class of 1899. He then attended the Harvard Law School, and later read with Joseph R. Strawbridge, at York, Pa. He was admitted to practice on Jan. 18, 1904.”

The Prowell bio concludes, “In politics our subject is a Democrat. Of fraternal orders he affiliates with the Masons. His religious persuasion is Lutheran.” And, our current research finds, he was an active member of his party who didn’t mind spending time signing a number of postcards to get people to gather at the 1908 Fair.

Cindy also shared another York Fair postcard with me – this one from 1914 – as well as some details on her love of postcards. That will be coming in next week’s column, allowing us to finish off Fair stuff in September and roll on to a fall filled with more York stories.

Have questions or memories to share? Email me at or write to Ask Joan, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any phone calls with questions or information.

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