Pottsville Recollects and Collects
Local Society Adds
O'Hara Artifacts to Collection
By Stephen J. Pytak
In June 1954, noted author John O'Hara sent a thank-you card from his home in Princeton, N.J., to a friend in Times Square, New York.
"Your kind expression of sympathy is gratefully acknowledged and deeply appreciated," O'Hara said. Below the typed words, O'Hara wrote his signature in blue.
George S. Lord, 66, of Pottsville, an antiques collector fascinated with local history, acquired the card and its envelope in his travels. On Friday, he donated it to the Schuylkill County Historical Society, Pottsville.
"I think this is right after his wife died," Lord said.
According to the book "The O'Hara Concern: A Biography of John O'Hara" by Matthew J. Bruccoli, O'Hara's wife, Belle Mulford Wylie O'Hara, died in January 1954.
According to Peter Yasenchak, director of research at the Schuylkill County Historical Society, the card is part of that chapter of O'Hara's life.
"That's exactly what it is," Yasenchak said.
Last month, the society started a collection of artifacts related to O'Hara, the Pottsville native who wrote popular novels including "Appointment in Samarra," published in 1934, and "Butterfield 8," published in 1935.
Born in Pottsville, Jan. 31, 1905, O'Hara moved to New York City in 1928. He died in his home in Princeton, N.J., on April 11, 1970, according to www.ExplorePAHistory.com.
The Schuylkill County Historical Society started its O'Hara collection in March when it received a letter O'Hara typed on the eve of 1961 to an editor at the Allentown Call-Chronicle Newspapers. In that letter, O'Hara offered his memories of a Pottsville native, a pianist named Helen Foley.
It was donated by the Sylvia Fenstermacher Lawler Foundation for the Arts Fund, which is managed by the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation.
That letter has since been framed and now hangs in the Genealogy and Research Room at the society's 305 N. Centre St. headquarters.
On Friday, Lord presented a few more O'Hara collectibles to the society.
They included a photo of O'Hara taken on Oct. 9, 1962, and published by LIFE Magazine, a 1955 hardcover first printing of the O'Hara novel "Ten North Frederick," and a 1960 hardcover first printing of the novel "Sermons and Soda-Water Volume II: Imagine Kissing Pete."
"I always tried to collect first editions," Lord said.
Thomas B. Drogalis, executive director of the Schuylkill County Historical Society, and J. Robert Zane, vice president of the society's board of directors, were also present to accept the donations.
Yasenchak said he'd like to see these O'Hara collectibles, in particular the items that include his signature, put in a display case.
Lord also donated something else to the society not related to O'Hara, a bank note for $600 written out April 6, 1874.
A check printed by the "Miners Trust Company Bank of Pottsville," it was written out to "James W. Nagle." He was the son of one of Pottsville's 19th century military legends, Gen. James A. Nagle, according to Lord.
"He was an advertising agent for Philadelphia Insurance," Lord said of James W. Nagle.
He couldn't recall how he acquired it: "I've been collecting for years, anything historical. I knew who Nagle was. I saw this was his son."
Yasenchak saluted Lord for his efforts to collect historical items.
"When he collects, he knows what he has because he takes the time to have the items labeled," Yasenchak said, pointing to notes Lord made on the back of the framed check.