by Cate Murway
“What astonishes me in the United States is not so much the marvelous grandeur of some undertakings as the innumerable multitude of small ones." Alexis De Tocqueville 1835 “Democracy in America”
It took many entrepreneurs and lots of hard workers to build historic Bristol on the Delaware. The small independently owned and operated businesses have been integral to the economic, political, and cultural development.
Ancker Upholstery Company was a single-unit enterprise, originally established in 1891, producing high end workmanship. The owner, Navy veteran/ Burgess Henry Edward Ancker [1872-1927], (wife- Mary Wood [Maule] Ancker (1877 – 1959), was also president of The Anchor Yacht Club.
His nephew, Henry Edward Ancker II, continued this work in a building he constructed himself on Otter and Locust Streets. “Hennie” continued crafting for local rather than national or international markets.
His one son, USN 3rd Class Petty Officer Mark Christian recalled, “Dad did work for Senator Grundy at his summer home”, called Walnut Grove, on the Neshaminy Creek.
An archived advertisement from the Bristol Daily Courier, November 12, 1949 read,
In addition to a wide selection of colorful fabric, ANCKER UPHOLSTERY CO. reupholstering assures you the equally important care, quality and craftsmanship in the hidden parts . . . reupholstering built to last, and at a modest price. Prompt Service.
Hennie married Jane Chapin. The Chapin family came over on the Mayflower.
Samuel Chapin [1598 –1675] was a prominent early settler of Springfield, MA. He served the town as selectman, magistrate and deacon and is best known today as the subject of the Augustus Saint-Gaudens sculpture entitled Deacon Samuel Chapin [also known as The Puritan].
Emily Jane “Jane” [Chapin] Ancker currently resides in Farmington, ME. She was born in Phoenixville. Her family relocated to Harriman to be nearer to her father’s work at the Railroad. Her memories are of a “good life and good childhood” growing up in Bristol.
Jane was an avid reader. [Pearl] Zane Grey [1872 –1939] was her favorite author, best known for his popular adventure novels and stories that presented an idealized image of the American frontier. She recalls her shopping treks to Wanamaker's, the first department store in Philadelphia. The large bronze eagle, salvaged from the St. Louis Fair, the symbol of the store, was a favorite meeting place in the Grand Court. “All one had to say was ‘Meet You at The Eagle’ and everyone knew where to go.
Her Grandmother Amelia Wahl, who lived in Trenton, took her over to the 300-acre Burlington Island Amusement Park on a ferry and they sang songs together.
Jane is the eldest and last surviving of the 4 children born to WWI Army veteran Henry “Harry” and Jane [Wahl] Chapin. “We knew it was the depression. Things were tight, but it didn’t affect us.”
Her sister, Army veteran Virginia, called “Ginger Snap”, participated in the all –girl color guard of the Robert W. Bracken Cavaliers Junior Drum and Bugle Corps with Jane. Virginia worked in the O.R. in the Tokyo Army Hospital during the war.
Jane considered her brother, Henry III “Harry” ‘mischievous’. “He was interested in the band and played the bugle in the Brackens.” He died at the age of 14 in a horseback riding accident in Fallsington.
Navy veteran Bentley played the drums for the Brackens. Bentley was under fire in Italy and Jane remembers horrific stories that he shared of he and his company huddled under a cliff during WWII.
Jane met Henry Edward “Hennie” Ancker on a blind date, arranged by his friend, Elwood F. Goslin and their first date was in an “old barn made into a club on the mainline.” Hennie was in the reserves before being called to the Pacific.
The couple communicated by letters.
“My husband was unique…a sweet person with personality. He was a very good friend and a very good father and dependable. He was a perfect person.”
Their three sons are Marine Lance Corporal Henry Edward “Harry” III, Mark Christian and Jon William.
A farmhouse in Glen Ashton Farms in Bensalem, originally the home of a family friend, Dr. Howard A. Leister was their home before they relocated to Bristol.
Henry Ancker “loved cars”. They owned a “pre-war years” black Desoto, a car fitted with powered pop-up headlights, and a convertible they “couldn’t use because Mark would climb out the back”.
The family traveled up and down the coast sightseeing and vacationed at Long Beach Island.
They owned a sailboat “Avado” and Hennie and his sons often boated on the river to the 489-acre Newbold Island off Burlington County to camp.
Jane worked at Fleetwings and then for awhile in their 329 Otter Street office before they hired May.
[Willie] May Daughtrey, BHS ’51, had spoken fondly of her employment at Ancker Upholstery and she was appreciated as well. Jane shared, “May was a lovely girl. She was my husband’s secretary.”
When their children were grown, Jane did volunteer work at Lower Bucks Hospital.
In the early 60’s, the Ancker family purchased a “fix me up” house in Kennebunkport, ME, historically a shipbuilding and fishing village. They spent summers there.
Anckers away…..Mrs. Ancker and her sons all reside in Maine now.
Wrestler “Harry” participated in Boy Scouts and worked at the O’Boyle’s plant making water ice for two summers earning $1.00 an hour while he was in BHS. English teacher, Mrs. Madelyn Darrow was his favorite and he talked her into going to dinner at King George II.
He served in the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, NC, maintaining the C-130 turboprops equipment. When he returned, he worked with his father from ‘72-’76 and then started upholstery work at A. Pomerantz & Co. before beginning his career at U.S. Steel as an overhead train operator.
He has three children, Christian, Henry and Michelle.
Mark’s favorite memory is playing in the 3rd ward field. He was chairman of the Bucks County “Youths for Barry Goldwater” and recalls singing doo wop in the doorway of Sidney W. Popkin’s shoe store.
His jobs as a youth included making chocolate covered popsicles for O’Boyle’s ice cream as well as working for his dad in his shop.
“It had a nice office and showroom with cabinetry and built in closets”.
His father’s myna bird would call “Mark, Mark” to get him to come downstairs to work.
“Dad was well respected, a consummate gentleman.” His recollections of his father’s “fine automobiles” included a 1955 MG TF, a 1959 Magnette and a 1966 British Rover sedan.
They sailed and fished on a 26’ foot sloop that Mr. Ancker ripped down to the hull and totally rebuilt.
He started his military career at the Naval Training Station/Center at Great Lakes as Communications Technician and then was shipped to Pensacola, FL.
The youngest, saxophone musician Jon, was a Boy Scout and participated in the BHS band program for Ken Bachman who was named 'Person of the Year' at the 2012 Bristol Fall Classic. He auditioned for county bands in an orchestral setting and discovered jazz. “It’s a passion.”
He helped his father transport furniture and remembers “ripping apart old sofas and any change I found was mine”.
Jon is currently a truck driver delivering electrical supplies throughout coastal Maine.
“A- Belated- Happy Birthday to my Dad Henry Edward Ancker II, who was born on December 5, 1912...101 years ago.... My Original Role Model (and I've had plenty), I can Thank this man for many of my Positive Attributes!”
Mark stated, “I have an abiding love for Bristol. It was a true community.”
They all agree. Cesare’s for tomato pie and the Delaware River were the best parts.
And Mill Street. “It was really good to shop on friendly Mill Street.”
Recommend a “Spotlight”. E-mail email@example.com
Howard A. Leister, M.D. of Doylestown, PA died on Sunday, March 4, 2012, at Doylestown Hospital. He was 78.
He was the beloved husband of Irene E. Lickman Leister for 49 years.
Born in Bristol, PA, he was the son of the late Howard I. and Edith M. Green Leister of Glen Ashton Farms, Bensalem, PA.
Dr. Leister was a resident of Doylestown for the past 4 years and formerly lived in Newtown for 40 years. Howard graduated from Bensalem High School and earned his undergraduate degree at the College of Wooster in Wooster, OH, Class of 1955.
After graduating from Jefferson Medical School he served as the commanding officer of a MASH Hospital in Korea from 1960 to 1962. Dr. Leister was a family physician for more than 40 years in Newtown, PA.
He was a long time member and past president of the Newtown Rotary Club. He was also a member of the American Medical Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Bucks County Medical Society and the Newtown Reliance Company.
Howard loved his family and friends and had an active social life. He was an avid traveler, gardener, sailor and art collector. He truly loved life and helped so many throughout his community. He will be sadly missed as a devoted husband, brother, and friend to all who knew him.
In addition to his beloved wife, he is survived by his sister, Grace Stetson and her husband, Dr. Harold Stetson, of Newtown, PA and his two brothers-in law, Rev. Peter D. Lickman of Miami, FL and John M. Lickman of New Philadelphia, PA. He is also survived by his niece, Edith, and his two nephews, Rob and Harold.
Relatives and friends are invited to call on Thursday, March 8, 2012, from 9:30 AM until his Funeral Service 11:00 AM at the Joseph A. Fluehr III Funeral Home, 800 Newtown-Richboro Road (at Holland Road) Richboro, PA 18954. His interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to the Parvee Foundation, C/O Pine Run Community, 777 Ferry Road, Doylestown, PA 18901
NECESSARY CORRECTIONS TO THE ANCKER FAMILY STORY.
from Jon Ancker 12.17.13
Cate... It was a pleasure to assist you with the article... I think the biggest assistance given was to facilitate your speaking to my Mom and older brothers... They all enjoyed their conversations with you! I read the article and found it to be VERY, VERY good! I love your writing style and you told a wonderful history!
HOWEVER ....There ARE a few discrepancies that should be cleared up so that the article can be considered EXCELLENT...
1)... The ONLY pertinent connection Henry E Ancker I has to my Dad was as his namesake and Uncle.... My Dad was named for him Because HIS older brother was named for their Dad, Charles, who also started the original upholstery business in 1891...
2)..I t was my brother Mark, NOT Henry, who had a wonderful friendship with Mrs. Darrow, which lasted until her passing...
3).. Brother Henry work as an overhead Crane operator soon after the Marines , in the sixties... BEFORE honing his upholstery skills in the early '70's...
THANK YOU for your efforts in bringing this story to life! Next time I'm in Bristol, I'll look you up! Joy fo the Season to You and Yours!! Be WELL!!!
note from historians/ authors Harold and Carol Mitchener
I have a copy of the article you sent about the Ancker Family and their upholstery business in Bristol since 1891. We found in the library an obituary of the relative (Harry Chapin, Jr.) who died as a result of a fall from a horse in Fallsington. Your article lists Harry as being 14 years of age. His obituary from May 4, 1942 lists his age as being 18.
We looked in the Bristol High School yearbook from 1942 and found that the class had included a tribute to him and condolences to his parents. He was also a member of the football team.
We thought you would be interested in learning about the age correction.
Thanks for the interesting information in your articles.
To see a picture of Burgess Henry Edward Ancker, he is pictured on page 325 in History of Bristol Pennsylvania by Doron Green 1911. I found that in the reprinted issues of the same book, some do not have p.325 with his picture.
FARMINGTON - Emily Jane Chapin Ancker, 93, of Industry,
passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 at Edgewood Manor in Farmington,
while in the company of her son, Mark, and granddaughter, Marsya.
She was born on April 14, 1921, in Phoenixville, Penn.
Jane lived most of her life in Bristol, Penn. with her husband Henry, to whom she was devoted.
Jane and Henry had three sons: Henry, Mark and Jon;
five grandchildren: Michele, Marsya, Henry, Christian, and Avery; and five great grandchildren.
She was much loved and will be sorely missed.
Arrangements are under the care and direction of Dan & Scott’s Cremation & Funeral Service,
488 Farmington Falls Rd., Farmington, ME 04938.