A Young Soldier's Sacrifice

Three Wounded WWI Soldiers (George Lehr on the left.)
Tomorrow is the 94th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting in World War I.  A year later President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as Armistice Day.  In 1954, to do justice to the millions of Americans who served in military during World War II, the day was rechristened Veterans' Day.  Now the day is set aside as a time to honor the millions of Americans who served in their country's armed forces from that date on.  This post is meant to pay homage to all of them.

This poignant photo shows the injuries of three young men who fought in the American Army in France in World War I.  Each man lost his left leg.  The man on the left is George Lehr Jr.  Born in Pottstown in 1898, Lehr was the president of his high school class and captain of the football team.  When the United States entered the war he was studying engineering at Penn State.  Lehr enlisted in April 1918 and was wounded in the leg five months later in the Argonne Forest. The wound became infected and because there were no antibiotics to treat it, the leg had to come off to save his life.

While Lehr was recovering in a military hospital in New Jersey, his close friend, Luther Shaner also from Pottstown, paid him a visit and took this photograph.

Lehr didn't let his injury stop him from living.  He married Miss Minnie Brendlinger, a talented pianist and organist, from Limerick Township.  They later moved to Harrisburg, Pa. where he worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Lehr died in Harrisburg on January 20, 1978.

PHS Offers Art by David Elinger, Nationally Known Artist


The officers and board of directors of the Pottstown Historical have voted to offer the society’s collection of paintings and theorems by three local artists for sale at a silent auction to be held at the society’s building 568 High Street, Sunday, November 18 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.  All items will be offered with a reserve.  The art works were donated to PHS in 2008 by Mrs. Betsy Harte of Geneva, Illinois.  They were acquired by her parents William A. and Betty (Lee) Skoglund of Batavia, Illinois.
  The artists are David Y. Ellinger (1913-2003), William Rank (1921-2000), and Garrett B. French.  All three specialized in American folk art themes, especially of the Pennsylvania Germans.
Below is a short biographical sketch of Ellinger along with photos of some the works that be offered for sale.

The following obituary for David Y. Ellinger was published in the May, 2003 issue of the Maine Antique Digest, page 4-A.

David Y. Elllinger photo courtesy of Betsy Harte
“David Ellinger wanted to be remembered as an antiques dealer first, then as a painter,” said Charlie Steinberg, the Abington, Pennsylvania antiques dealer. “He was a very good picker. He found many things now in the Geesey Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and he turned up three paintings by Edward Hicks. Among his clients were Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman, the Marx Brothers, and Ilka Chase. Ellinger had taste.”

Peacock by David Ellinger

Multicolored Rooster: theorem on velvet 13 3/4"x14 1/4" decorated Ellinger Frame
David Ellinger was born in Philadelphia. His mother died when he was five, and when his father remarried, he did not get along with his stepmother. Before he was a teenager he ran away to the country. Mary Law, a farm woman in Graterford, took him in and encouraged his artistic talent. When he was ten he filled a copybook with drawings of birds and made a large drawing of Mary Law, which he titled A Glorious Day. Several years later he drew a picture of Mary mending on the reverse. After he graduated from Schwenksville High School, he continued to work as a farmhand and painted in his free time.

Ellinger will be remembered as a prolific painter in the Pennsylvania Dutch style. His paintings and theorems are owned by 14 museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. Collectors compete for his work at auction, though, according to Steinberg, Ellinger never made much money from selling his work until he consigned a few to auction in recent years.

“He made his living as an antiques dealer and painted pictures to pay for what he needed. He made pictures in every price range. If someone wanted a small picture, he would make one and charge thirty-five dollars. He got hundreds for a large one. Now these large paintings sell for as much as fifteen thousand to thirty-five thousand.”

Tulips by David Ellinger
Ellinger had 21 one-man shows during his career: the most recent was a retrospective at the Berman Museum at Ursinus College in 1992. He was inspired by Pennsylvania German fraktur and is known for his charming theorems and painted scenes of farm sales, schoolyards, and quilting bees. He often repeated his compositions, but some of his works are unique. He studied at the Barnes Foundation and was a personal friend of the late Albert Barnes, who bought some of his paintings for his country house KerFeal in Chester County.

In the 1980′s and 1990′s Ellinger continued to paint pictures to pay for his needs, but did not paint much in the last six or seven years. “His methods were time-consuming and exacting, and his eyes were failing,” said Steinberg. “For the theorems, he would age the velvet and cut the stencils out of stiff paper. The stencils just gave him the outline, the rest he painted freehand. He painted with a pointed brush in a kind of pointillist technique, with the best paints, and sometimes he would use egg whites to give his paints a gloss.”

David Ellinger died of heart failure at Phoenixville Hospital on March 24, 2003. He was 89.

Below is an enlargement of a portion of Ellinger's "Rooster." Note the detail: the shading of color in the rooster's comb and the edges of his hackle feather's. The brilliant contrast in the his bright color scheme



Rooster by David Ellinger