I’ve been putting together more notes on the infamous John George Hohman as I work on the introduction. I’ve already made one or two minor discoveries that I can share with you.
First, assuming that Hohman did die in 1846, as Heindel and others have suggested, I think I’ve narrowed down his date of birth. One newspaper lists a Hohman as passing away on April 19, 1846, at the age of 67 years. When I was at the Berks County Historical Society, I checked another local paper on a hunch and found his age given there as 66 years, 6 months, and some days. This likely moves his date of birth back to late September or early October of 1778.
I’ve also come across some indicators of Hohman’s own religious background. I’ve seen some debate as to his professed faith, with one author citing traditional stories of his attendance at a Catholic church, while another cites the large number of local Hohmans who were Protestant as an indicator. What I found was a record of Hohman’s sponsorship of a christening ceremony at a local Catholic church, which would seem to place him in that particular camp. Nonetheless, it’s clear from his list of publications that he had no trouble selling them to his Protestant neighbors.
Speaking of publications, if you’re interesting in Hohman or Pennsylvania history you should really check out the Penn State Press local history sale, which is going on until the 15th. My personal prize was The Pennsylvania German Broadside by Don Yoder, which went for 75% off. Broadsides were one-page publications used as advertisements or sold cheaply that cover all manner of topics. Though the book doesn’t cover The Long-Lost Friend, it does show some interesting samples of medicinal and magical items, including facsimiles of examples of the Himmelsbrief, or Heaven’s Letter, intended to protect the home from fire and disaster. In addition, it includes a short ballad that Hohman wrote regarding a friend who committed suicide, a touching piece. Quite the interesting man, Hohman was.