Historian finishes final book
George Meiser concludes book series
Eighty-year-old historian George Meiser of Exeter Township plans to put an end to his career as an author following the publication of his 24th and final volume of “The Passing Scene” — his continuing book series that shows Berks County history through old and rare photographs.
“I’m old and nothing goes on forever,” said Meiser. “I’ve reached a point where I have so many photographs, files, and books not put back where they belong. I spend half my time looking for things, and it’s gonna get worse before it gets better.”
“The Passing Scene” came out of a series in the Reading Eagle that he wrote when working for the newspaper from 1977 to 1984. Eventually, Meiser turned the series into books, and released the first official volume of The Passing Scene in 1982. The latest volume includes 320 fully restored photos, including many from Boyertown, Kutztown, Hamburg, and Reading from the turn of the 20th Century.
However as a 55-year member of the Historical Society of Berks County and former history teacher, he has been collecting information and pictures concerning local history since the 1950’s.
“I get information wherever I can get it. I have 28,000 photographs at home and have been collecting newspapers for years. I also read microfilm, so whenever I come across a picture, I’ll type it out and put it in a file,” he said.
Meiser also started photography at age nine, which he notes as one of his greatest advantages. Since then, he has compiled thousands of photos from around Berks County — many he has taken himself.
“When people look at an old picture, they want to know whether it still exists. And if not, what happened to it, and when. They also want to know exactly where it is located.”
He mentions that much of his time however is spent gathering data from all over the county, restoring photos, traveling to sites, and checking on names and dates in order to give as many details as possible in his books.
“The big deal about the ‘Passing Scene’ books is that whenever possible, I give exact locations, when it was built, when it disappeared, whatever is on the site today,” he said. “The focus of each books is what I can lay my hands on that is historically significant and rare.”
Although Meiser may be done writing, his focus still remains on preserving the history of Berks County before it is possibly lost forever.
“My big concern has always been to save it while I could. If I don’t preserve the photos, then they won’t get preserved. There is no one following after me, which is pretty scary,” he said. “But my legacy, I hope, will be to make photos available that would be unavailable anywhere else.”
Copies of “The Passing Scene” Vol. 24 are available at the front office of the Reading Eagle Co., 345 Penn Street, Reading.
Exeter Twp.’s Antietam Farms Barn, Sycamore Drive, (page 187) one of the finest barns in Pa.
Little Oley Hotel, dating from 1841
Local historian and author George Meiser has recently finsihed the final volume of his book series, “The Passing Scene.”