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The Humble Printer
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2020-04-08

            When we think of early news reporting and journalism in the Upper Perkiomen Valley region, the names of Enos Benner (Bauern Freund) and Charles Q. Hillegass (Town and Country) come to mind quickly.

            Another name that should be added to the early journalists of the Upper Perkiomen Valley region is Albrecht Kneule, a local publisher in the second half of the 19th century.  Kneule began publishing the Pennsburg Demokrat in April of 1857, 42 years before Hillegass published the first Town and Country newspaper. 

            Albrecht was born in Esslinger, Germany in 1822.  He learned the printing trade in his hometown while serving as an apprentice at the Esslinger Zeitung.  Albrecht's early exposure to the publishing trade found him working as a composer for a French newspaper in Berne and later at a large printing-house in Stuttgart.

            He was one of many Germans who left his country as a result of the Revolution of 1848 in Europe.  It was during and subsequent to this period that a popular movement to increase political liberty was growing.  It was a movement that sought to replace autocratic rule with a written constitution.  As a result, armed revolts broke out throughout the region. 

            The revolts were put down swiftly and harshly.  Some referred to these immigrants as "forty eighters."  Unlike the first wave of Germans who were mostly farmers and came to this country looking for freedom in the 18th century, this second wave of travelers was mostly industrial and urban.  They spoke "high" German and had little impact on the earlier German culture here.

            Kneule came to Pennsylvania in 1852 and eventually settled in Skippack.  There he took a job with the weekly newspaper Der Neutralist und Allgemeine Neuigkeit-Bote, published in the German language.

            As he got to know more about the region and his neighbors, he became

Above - Albrecht Kneule bought the Bauern Freund newspaper from Enos Benner in 1858 and combined it with his Pennsburg Demokrat newspaper under the masthead of Bauern Freund und Pennsburg Demokrat.  Both were printed in the German Language.

            Below - With the coming of the railroad to the Upper Perkiomen Valley Albrecht saw the need for a reliable English language newspaper and founded the Perkiomen Valley Press in 1874. 

impressed with the idea of providing a newspaper to the heavily German population in the northern section of the Upper Perkiomen Valley.  With that spark, he founded the Pennsburg Demokrat in 1857.  A year later Kneule purchased the Bauern Freund from Enos Benner and consolidated the two German-language newspapers under the banner Bauern Freund und Pennsburg Demokrat. 

            At one time, the circulation of this newspaper was the largest of all German-language newspapers printed in Montgomery County.  Kneule's publication achieved a success that was credited to his activity in the public affairs of the Upper Perkiomen Valley during and after the Civil War.  The Democrats were the dominant political party in Montgomery County during this period.  Kneule was a strong supporter and the articles he published were reported to have a potent influence in the organization.

            With the coming of the railroad to the Upper Perkiomen Valley, so came a booming local economy.  Albrecht saw the need for a reliable English language newspaper and founded the Perkiomen Valley Press in 1874.  This was a time when many rural newspapers contained "patent outsides."  These were basically half-sheets filled with miscellaneous reading material printed in Philadelphia and New York.  The local publishers then filled up the blank pages with local items and advertisements.  You could subscribe to both of Kneule's papers for only $3.00 a year.  He also offered liberal discounts for those who advertised in both. 

By 1877, the makeup of the upper end of Montgomery County was still indicative of the German roots of most of the people.  That year, the Perkiomen Valley Press reported a circulation of 900 while the Bauren Freund und Pennsurg Demokrat enjoyed a circulation of 2,800.

            Kneule acted as publisher and editor of the Pennsburg papers until 1878.  That was the year he purchased the weekly Norristown Register.  Less than two years after the purchase, he made it a successful daily publication complete with news direct from the telegraph.

            Albrecht moved to Norristown and turned the business of the two upper-end newspapers over to his sons Henry and Edwin.  Publication of the Perkiomen Valley Press continued till about 1899.  However, the Bauern Freund and Pennsburg Demokrat was printed well into 1908.

            Just below the masthead of the Perkiomen Valley Press was printed a phrase that most folks claimed best described Albrecht Kneule's personal belief.  It read: "Let all the ends we aim at be the preservation of our liberty, the glory of our country, and the happiness of our people."


 

 

 

 

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