The Skies Proclaim the Work of His Hands ~ Carl Friederich Egelmann (1782-1860)

By Del-Louise M. RSS Wed, July 17, 2013

If you have a moment, I’d like to introduce you to Carl Friederich Egelmann, or Charles Frederick Egelmann as he came to be known in America.  He was born in Neuenkirchen, Germany on May 12, 1782  and was only 20 when he arrived in Baltimore in 1802.  There he learned the trade of coachmaker and is also known to have made chairs.  However, we don’t know what aspect of coachmaking he performed, and if you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that not just one man can make a coach.  In order to create a high-class carriage several different trades are actually involved, and skilled men are required who work with materials such as wood, iron, steel, brass, cloth, leather, ivory, hair, etc.  These include body makers, carriage makers, wheelwrights, joiners, fitters, several classes of smiths, painters, and polishers.  Was Egelmann perhaps a painter, or some sort of smith?

After several years in Baltimore, Carl Friederich came to Pennsylvania, and was a school master in Chester, Pennsylvania.  Another move brought him to Heidelberg Township or Wernersville in Berks County, and here he taught German at Hain’s Church, as well as filled the posts of choirmaster and organist.  By 1815 he held similar positions in Alsace Township (Berks County).  Seeking a more urban atmsophere, Egelmann came to Reading  (Berks County) in the 1820s and about 1830 began to work for the German newspaper Der Readinger Democrat.

A man of decidedly many talents, he excelled in scientific enquiry, especially astronomy.  For 43 years Carl Friederich furnished astronomical calculations for the principal almanacs published in America. Egelmann was also a poet, and sometimes his poems focusing on heavenly bodies are found in the almanacs.  As a copper-plate engraver, he produced birth and baptismal certificates, views of local landscapes, and an instructional book Deutsche & Englische Vorschriften für die Jugend to teach children how to write in Fraktur, German script, and Roman script.  It was produced in Reading in 1821.   He was almost 79 when he died at Reading on Nov. 30, 1860.

The Henry Borneman Pennsylvania German Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia has among its manuscripts Egelmann’s Commonplace Book of Formulas Along with Notes on Sundry Mechanical and Scientific Topics (Borneman Ms 98).  He writes in German, and in the German script, recording mainly formulas expressing, for example, how to

·      make silver letters without silver on iron or metal.

·      quickly make copper and brass workable, pliant and malleable.

·      make  glass supple like leather.

·      make steel from iron.

·      prepare iron, steel, copper or other metals for engraving and cutting.

·      make precious stones so soft that one can cut them like cheese.

·      quickly and wisely remove rust from iron and polished steel.

·      stain wood in multiple colors or solid colors.

·      make a mirror.

He may have found these useful as painter or smith in the coachmaking trade, or as a chairmaker.  Certainly, some of them relate directly to his work as an engraver.

There are also entries that are more personal in scope such as how to

    ·      make a hoeing-plow.

    ·      catch birds.

    ·      make gut strings.

    ·      display four elements in a glass.

    ·      make beautiful red coral.

Egelmann must have been very interested in the hoeing-plow for he took the time to do a precise drawing of all its parts and to give detailed instructions on how to construct it.  Simple in design, it may seem today to be very primitive.  Perhaps he favored this particular hoeing-plow because it could be easily adjusted to plow a shallow or deep furrow, certainly a distinct advantage to anyone who had to till a field.

Three birth and baptismal certificates from the Borneman Collection demonstrate Carl Friederich’s skill as an engraver:

   ·      a blank form FLP 130 Birth and Baptismal Certificate (Geburts und Taufschein)

   ·      FLP 556 Birth and Baptismal Certificate (Geburts und Taufschein) for Cyrus Anspach

   ·      FLP 1139 Birth and Baptismal Certificate (Geburts und Taufschein) for 
          Elisabeth Rothenberger

However, the finest example we have at the Free Library of Philadelphia of his ability to engrave is the Deutsche & Englische Vorschriften für die Jugend (FLP 27.41 (P-57)), of which all 12 leaves are copperplate engravings.

Finally, the Pennsylvania German Collection has some excellent examples of the astronomical calculations he made to one or more issues of 76 American almanacs during his lifetime, as well as some of his published poetry:

Astronomical Calculations

Egelmann’s name is listed as calculator of all the astronomical data on the title page of  the North American Calender for the Year 1845:

New Calender for North America for the Year of Our Lord, 1845, a Normal Year of 365 Days, and Which after July 4th the 68th [sic] Year of American Independence.  Contains the Rising, Setting  and Eclipses of the Sun and Moon; the Phases, Signs and Southing of the Moon; the Aspects of the Planets, with the Rising, and Southing of the Most Conspicuous Planets and Fixed Stars; the Equation of Time, and other Miscellanies, etc. Calculated for the Latitude and Meridian of  Pennsylvania and Bordering States by Carl F. Egelmann, Philadelphia, published by Mentz and Rovoudt, No. 53, North Third Street.

Published Poetry

His poem  “An Astronomer’s Impressions” is found in The New Reading Calender of 1822.

   In the beginning with what almighty all-encompassing force
   were the heavenly bodies of eternal space, plantets and suns,
   brought forth into their orbits from the bleak night!

   Who maintains the order of the  luminous stars?
   Who rules the Suns so amazingly far away?
   Who keeps the rotations of the laughing moon in check?
   If your presence almighty  Creator doesn’t dwell there?

   Who restrains the raging seas?
   Who provides sustenance, who provides bread for all?
   Who is there to preserve us from all manner of deprivation?

   Who gives men the capacity to think?
   From whom comes reason, and who can guide it?
   And who holds the scales of all in balance?
   You do, o Creator! Thy kingdom come.

Carl F. Egelmann 

Please be sure to visit our Facebook gallery for more images pertaining to Egelmann's Commonplace Book of Formulas Along with Notes on Sundry Mechanical and Scientific Topics (Borneman Ms 98).

Blog post and Facebook transcriptions/translations by Del-Louise Moyer

Preservation of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Pennsylvania German manuscript collection has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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Ms. Moyer performs a great service for us in bringing "to life" once again the persons that were these very interesting craftsmen, artists, and tradesmen. And she does it in such an ingratiating way! I will look forward to more! Thanks, FLP.
Martin Stepper - Elkins Park, Pa
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In 1803, in Baltimore, Md. he worked as an apprentice coachmaker notably on a coach for Jerome Bonaparte. Around 1809/10 he made Greek Revival chair frames as a subcontractor to Finlay and Co. who then decorated the chairs for Dolly Madison's White House. His father Charles had been Subordinate Officer of the Crown (Governor)in England's Kingdom of Hanover. He was educated at the Ritterakadamie in Luneburg as a school master. His penmanship got him employment as secretary to the Chamberlain to the Court of Denmark until the bottom fell out of his world.
david hafer - reading, pa.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The present is imbued with the past. It is my great privilege to bring the people, who penned the manuscripts presently housed in the Borneman Pennsylvania German Collection, forward in time for a visit now and then. If I in any way succeed...solo Deo gloria!
Del Moyer - Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I'd like to thank David Hafer, great-great-great grandson of Carl Friederich Egelmann, for the additional information he's shared with us under "Comments." Mr. Hafer descends from Egelmann's daughter Charlotte and her husband Daniel Hafer--Daniel to Charles to Edward to Earl to David. I look forward to doing an additional blog post based on the information, and wonderful photos Mr. Hafer has sent on to us at FLP. Thank you again Mr. Hafer!
Del Moyer - Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I'm most interested in this collection and look forward to its preservation and translation. As an amateur genealogist, I know that these are the places we're mostly likely to find a seeming bit of trivia that opens up new areas of research and answers questions that have resisted our efforts for years. Thank you, Ms. Moyer! S. (Moyer) Oakley
S. Oakley - Vermont
Saturday, September 28, 2013

Many thanks for your comment and appreciation for the Henry Stauffer Borneman Pennsylvania German Collection. I hope you will continue to check in on the Pennsylvania German Collection blog posts. You're quite right about the seemingly small and insignificant pieces of information. They often pop up in the most unexpected places. That's what makes it so much fun. There is nothing unrelated, and eventually the pieces do fall in place.
Del Moyer - Philadelphia
Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hello, I was wondering if you or Mr. Hafer can tell me what work Egelmann did for Ritter and the "Adler" as opposed to the work he performed for Christian and Meyer's "Democrat?" Between your blog, the holdings at FLP, and a couple of almanacs I've seen recently, I've found articles written for Ritter's almanac by Egelmann. If anyone is aware of the connection between Ritter and Egelmann, I would be curious (and much obliged). Thanks! P. Earnest Dover, Delaware
Pat Earnest - Dover
Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Charles Frederick Egelman is my great-great-great-great grandfather and it's wonderful to see his works displayed!
Patrick Murray - Belfast, Pennsylvania
Monday, January 11, 2021