Jacob S. Geller business and estate records
Held at: Lansdale Historical Society [Contact Us]137 Jenkins Ave., Lansdale, Pa., 19446
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Lansdale Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Jacob Stoll Geller (1846-1916), a retail merchant, public official, and prominent Mason, founded and operated Geller's Emporium, a wholesale department store in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. By the late 19th century, the emporium came to serve as the largest retailer in the North Penn area of Montgomery County.
Initially purchasing most of the items for his store from Philadelphia businesses, Geller quickly branched out and conducted business with companies located in the tri-state area and beyond. Through Geller's many dealings, the emporium came to offer a vast array of goods, from silverware, hardware, and apparel to furniture and caskets. For his business, Geller adopted what he called the "Cash System" for customers. All bills were due within thirty days from the date of purchase. After that time, six-percent interest was added to overdue accounts.
Jacob S. Geller was born in Perkiomen Township, Pa., the son of Henry Geller, and Mary Stoll Geller. He worked for his father and held several odd jobs before he purchased a store in Hoppinsville in 1873. Along with this store, Geller also operated a business in Kulpsville. Realizing the strategic value of Lansdale as a business center because of its railroad connections, Geller moved there in 1878. He purchased property owned by John Kindig & Bro., located on Main Street, and subsequently built a three-story emporium which quickly gained success. While running the emporium, Geller was also involved in several other business ventures. He was in the undertaker business for a brief time, and was also involved in the dairy industry. Geller and his brothers bought dairy products in the area and sold them to customers in Philadelphia, including their largest customer, Girard College. Geller was also involved in real estate. In 1887, he and A. C. Godshall purchased farmland which they divvied up into building lots.
Geller served as a public official and was a director of several local businesses. He served as postmaster of Lansdale, as well as of Kulpsville and Hoppinsville. In the early 1880s, Geller was a member of the Borough Council and in 1888 became burgess. He served as Borough treasurer from 1914 until his death. He was an original member and director of the Lansdale Water Works. At the time of his death, he was director and vice president of the First National Bank of Lansdale. He was also a prominent member of several Masonic orders. Geller served as the first High Priest of the Royal Arch Lansdale Chapter. He was also a member of the Hutchinson Commandery of Philadelphia, and of Lu Lu Shrine where he played horn in the famous Lu Lu Band.
After Geller passed away in 1916, his business was carried on by his family, including Geller's son-in-law James M.C. Spiers, though its success diminished considerably. It has since had several owners, including Drissel and Badman and Bill Wilson. As of 2012, the business exists as Wilson's Hardware, and is owned by Joseph Flyzik.
"Death of Jacob S. Geller." The Reporter, February 3, 1916.
Kinsey, Clarence. "A Brief History of Geller's Emporium." 2011.
The bulk of this collection is a sampling of invoices for goods purchased by Jacob S. Geller and, later, the Jacob S. Geller estate. The purchase invoices are organized into five subseries: newspaper and print advertising (alphabetical by business name), Lansdale businesses (alphabetical by business name), Pennsylvania businesses (alphabetical by town and then by business name), Philadelphia businesses (alphabetical by business name), and out-of-state businesses (alphabetical by state, town, and then business name).
There are also estate financial records in the collection: check stubs, cancelled checks, deposit tickets, and bank statements, circa 1915-1925.
Finally, this collection includes a large number of incoming business correspondence to Jacob Geller, 1907-1914.
Gift of Geller estate, circa 1987.
Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.
In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Lansdale Historical Society directly for more information.
Additional Geller invoices currently stored at the Society are destined to be processed or deaccessioned.
- Lansdale Historical Society
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Faith Charlton through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
- This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Access Restrictions
Contact Lansdale Historical Society for information about accessing this collection.