History of the Collection
The Pennsylvania German Broadsides and Fraktur digital project brings together materials from three different collections: the general collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts, acquired over many years through gift and purchase; the Allison-Shelley Collection; and the Ammon Stapleton Collection. The digital site includes images from 148 broadsides, German-language newspapers, and manuscript and printed Pennsylvania German fraktur. The collection is organized in a finding aid (http://www.libraries.psu.edu/speccolls/FindingAids/fraktur.body.html) into series by format. The items themselves are housed by size within their provenance (Allison-Shelley Collection, Ammon Stapleton Collection, and general collections).
Penn State has had a long tradition of German-American relations, beginning with its first president, Evan Pugh, who studied in Germany and received his doctoral degree from the University of Göttingen. Over many years the University has maintained a distinguished record of participation and scholarship in the preservation of the culture of the early German settlers in the state. Librarian Willard P. Lewis collected many books in the 1930s. Also in those years, a group of professors—W. L. Werner, Philip Allison Shelley, Walter Boyer, Maurice Mook, Philip S. Klein, and Albert Buffington—began incorporating German-American studies into the curriculum. In the University Libraries, the late Charles W. Mann Jr., head of Special Collections for over forty years until his death in 1998, oversaw the growth of German-American holdings.
In 1975, Special Collections received the Allison-Shelley Collection as an endowed bequest from the late Philip Allison Shelley, professor of German and comparative literature. The collection documents the influence of German literature and culture in the English-speaking world and contains over 11,000 books and 2,500 manuscripts. The Germans, after the English, were the second largest group to emigrate from Europe to America. The Allison-Shelley Collection documents much of their activity and offers strong research potential for those interested in Pennsylvania's German heritage.
The Ammon Stapleton Collection contains over six hundred volumes printed in Pennsylvania and Europe in the German language in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Included are specimens from the noted press of Christopher Sauer [Sower] in Germantown, books published by Conrad Beissel's Ephrata Community, a good run of early music instruction books, and many examples from the presses of minor printers in small towns and villages across the state. The collection also contains fraktur, broadsides, and German-language newspapers. The Stapleton Collection was a gift in 1982 from Mrs. Georgianna M. Hartzel, the granddaughter of the Reverend Ammon Stapleton, a pastor and bibliographer from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, who died in 1916.