Origins and Growth of the Forks of the Delaware Historical Arms Society (est. 1959)
Over the past half century, our club’s origins and evolution have become more obscure with each passing year. For this reason, I have undertaken the project of documenting our growth from our humble beginnings in 1959.
After much research, I believe the following history is as close to actual fact as possible. I personally conducted many interviews and referred to the “Gun Report Magazine” which thankfully documented our monthly meetings and two-day shows in each issue! I hope to continue to update our growth in the future and help from any member will be appreciated.
In 1958 several of our founding fathers learned of and traveled to a gun show in Harrisburg. Th show was billed as “The Central Penn Antique Arms Assoc.” incorporated in 1956. After what was probably several trips to the club by our fathers, they were able to convince the directors of Central Penn that the ABE area was a hotbed for collecting. Central Penn came to Easton in February 1958 putting on a show in Hotel Bethlehem. And so, it is that there was a show at Bethlehem. But, it was the Central Penn Club, not the Forks that presented it.
It didn’t take long before Mr. John Scheid, Mr.Paul Leaser, Mr. James Hart, and others took the bull by the horns and promoted their own show in 1959 at the YMCA which is where our chronicles in your pamphlet start.
In December 1959 they listed a schedule in “The Gun Report” for a monthly meeting on the 3rd Sunday of each month for 1960.
With this information, we can now appreciate how a hand full of collectors created what today is one of the premier clubs in the state, our club “The Forks”.
Officers were appointed for the beginning of 1960. The first ever being: John Scheid [President], Jim Hart [Vice President], Jack Walters [Secretary], Louis A. Hart [Treasurer], and Paul Colver [Seargeant at Arms]. In May of that year we promoted our first two day show [May 28 & 29].
On May 1st the club incorporated as a non profit organization. The two day show was conducted on May 27 & 28 and held at the YMCA. One week later, a second two day show was held [June 3 & 4] at the Hotel Easton. This marked our move from the YMCA to the Hotel Easton between May and June of 1961.
June 16 and 17, Ed “Kookie” Byrnes [Star of Television Show 77 Sunset Strip] visited our two-day show at the Hotel Easton.
Membership Directory of 1964
Membership Directory of 1967
In November, we had our first meeting at the Moose Lodge in Easton, Pa.
In July we hosted our first two-day show at the George Washington Motor Lodge [260 tables], in Whitehall, PA, the present site of Home Depot.
Howard Hoffman took responsibility of directing a two day show in April, at the Agricultural Hall, on the Allentown Fairgrounds, and was appointed the show chairman. In October we added a second show. As time progressed, with the larger number of tables and public attendance, club membership started to grow at a very fast pace.
Our February show was added at the Agricultural Hall.
We tried to limit the show at the George Washington Motor Lodge to Friday and Saturday and canceled Sunday. Life memberships were offered for $125.00.
A February storm dumped 25 inches of snow during our gun show. The storm started Friday morning and continued until late Friday night. It prevented many table holders from Virginia through the New England area from arriving on Saturday.
In August Howard Hoffman and Connie got married and in December, Connie replaced John Scheid as Club Secretary. Our founding fathers got life membership badges. The George Washington July show was moved back to Saturday and Sunday.
Howard Hoffman was appointed Business Manager from Show Chairman. Life Memberships was raised to $175.00. In November a pistol discharged at the Moose meeting on the lower floor [remember?].
We changed to computers and registered our logo of the Pennsylvania Dutchman carrying antique firearms. The decision was made to not allow children less than 10 years of age into our shows. This was done for insurance purposes. By-Laws were amended and went into effect in 1986. All guns had to be secured [boxed in, tied] in 1986. The February show attracted 6,877 visitors. Our insurance was canceled and there was no October show or November meeting.
We moved from the Moose Lodge to the Eagles Home on June 15th.
Directors/Officers liability act was added. Directors/Officers got suits to wear at our gun shows, effective 1988. The April show was moved to May. (Mother’s Day weekend!)
Our red and white annual badges were retired and new badges were enacted for the May show. Pennsylvania Sales Tax began. The second worst blizzard in our show’s history occurred during our February show.
We had our first December show at the Agricultural Hall, with the idea of replacing the summer show in July, however, we still kept the July show for that year.
After 24 years we had our last show at the George Washington Motor Lodge. We elected to continue to have our December show at the Agricultural Hall to replace it. Even though we would eventually move to the Fort Washington Expo Center in 1995, we kept the December show.
George Washington Motor Lodge was torn down. There was a February snow storm. There was no summer show in July. We considered the possibility to conducting a show at Fort Washington in August.
The first Fort Washington Show occurred in July at the Expo Center, a very large Air Conditioning facility. (The lack of air conditioning was the main factor that prevented the club from running summer shows at the Agricultural Hall).
The Fort Washington Show’s date was changed to August.
We amended our By-Laws to allow anything legal in Pennsylvania to be allowed at our events.
In June the club had its first web site created. It was a very basic web site consisting of 4 pages. The original site used the following domain, which is no longer active: www.theallentownshow.com. A few years later the domain will be changed.
After 7 years we conducted our last summer gun show at the Fort Washington Expo Center. After the tragedy of 9/11, the Fort Washington Expo Center owners banned many types of events, including gun shows.
We moved the summer show back to the Agricultural Hall, in July, with rented portable air conditioners. Sergent Bill Guarnere (Band of Brothers) attended our show for the first time. Sergeant Bill Guarnere, one of the servicemen whose WWII history made up the Home Box Office series Band of Brothers, first attended our show as a guest. “Wild Bill” was happy to discuss WWII with teenagers, provide autographs, and pose for pictures with the public. Sadly Sgt. Bill Guarnere passed away in March 2014
Portable Air Conditioning was again brought in for our July show. In the fall the new annex was opened at the Agricultural Hall, providing more room for more tables at our October show. With the ability to provide more tables for members, the club eliminated the old “3 table limit” rule. This resulted in members having the ability to get as many tables as they needed / desired. The name of the new facility, which was known as Agricultural Hall, was changed to the Agri-plex, which included the new annex and the older but newly air conditioned Agricultural Hall.
In June the club web site was changed to the current domain: www.allentownshow.net. In December the club web site was expanded to include more pages geared to both the general public and members.
We moved from the Eagles Home to the Moose Lodge in March, and were asked to leave of the Moose in October, after 5 meetings. [The Moose Heart Corporate Office is Anti-Second Amendment]. The November meeting was canceled.
In appreciation of Mothers Day our May show allowed ladies of all ages to enter Free on Sunday. This will remain in effect for all future gun shows occurring on Mothers Day.
By mid year the club’s web site was starting to be the first return on a Google Search of Forks of the Delaware. By December the club was the first return on a Google Search of The Allentown Gun Show. It remains number one as of this writing.
In August the club adopted a second trade mark. As the club grew in membership, more members had interest in modern collectibles. To try to counter act the false reputation that we were strictly and antique club, we had a form club member draw up a 101st Airborne Paratrooper. This logo replaced a different paratrooper we had been using. This one is our property. You will find both logos in our printed ads, our web site, and our letterhead.
We moved to the Palmer Township Fire Company to hold our Monthly Meetings, the first one being our “January Free Breakfast for Members”. The facility is well lit, has a friendly staff, has full kitchen capacity and remains our location of choice.
On May 14th Howard Hoffman, the Club Business Manager, passed away from a long illness. The club has a memorial page dedicated to Howard Hoffman.
The Board of Directors eliminated a previous rule and all children of all ages were allowed to attend our events. No Strollers, Children in Backpacks, Roller Skates, Roller Blades, or Heelies allowed.
The Board of Directors appointed John Lawson as Show Manager, effective January 1, 2009.
John Lawson started in the position of Show Manager. The club rented an office for use by Board Members and now has one address for all mailings, and one phone number for all calls.
Another 50 years of great members and great fun and militaria shows.
A Note to Members or Relatives of Deceased Members
If you have any written information about dates, locations, or events that can be added to our history, please contact the club historian, Bill Klotz.
To Mail Information:
50 Wayne Avenue
Tamaqua, Pa. 18252
To Send Bill an Email: