John George Hohman – The Man, the Myth, the Legend

The author of  The Long-Lost Friend, Johannes Georg (or John George or Georg) Hohman (or Homan or Hohmann), is quite the man of mystery, as the numerous spellings of his name attest.  (It isn’t even possible to determine which is “best,” as Hohman himself used different versions at different times.)

Overall, we have little biographical information on Hohman.  We have no date of birth for him, and a potential date of death has been determined by combining data from a potential obituary of his wife and the cessation of his publications.  When he first appears on the scene in 1802 on a ship from Hamburg, he is already married and has a son.  (Thus, there’s some room for someone who wants to comb the archives in Hamburg for ship records or other biographical material.)  He then took up the life of a redemptioner, an indentured servant who worked off the price of his passage for a farmer for a period.  After that, he moved around for some time before settling near Reading, Pennsylvania, where he made a number of publications, including The Long-Lost Friend.

If you’ve read the introduction to “The Long Hidden Friend”, you’ve already heard most of this early history.  Yet, even though the tale was supposedly told by the son of the man for whom Hohman worked, almost every detail of the story appears to be wrong.  Hohman arrived in the New World in 1802, not 1799, with a son named Philip, not Caspar.   According to Wilbur Oda, he and his wife did not work for Nicholas Buck and Mr. Fretz, respectively, but for Adam Frankenfiehl and Samuel Newbold.  Thus, we should likely take this account with huge chunks of rock salt.

Much of the biographical information on Hohman that I’ve been using comes from Wilbur Oda’s article “John George Homan,” published in the Historical Review of Berks County in 1948.  That work paints quite the interesting picture of the author, and I’ll be sharing some details later.

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Published in: on February 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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