Thursday, April 22, 2010

Naming Your Hometown (Sort of)

Have you ever wondered how that little patch of Delaware County that you call home got its name?

(For purposes of this article, it would be best if you answered “yes” to that.)

Well, so have I. And it would be easy enough to go to my local library or legitimate Internet reference site to find that out, but I have another idea. In the tradition of “you can't really believe everything you see on the Internet,” I thought I'd guess.

This seems like a lot more fun (and frankly much less taxing on my brain).

And so I give you the fictional origins of a sampling of the boroughs of Delaware County, in no particular order. Remember any brush up against truth in these shot-in-the-dark histories is completely accidental and unintentional. And boys and girls, please don't try this at homework:


Today is not the first time in American history that the two major political parties seem entrenched in their ideologies and unwilling to compromise. Back in 1843 the Whig Party had gotten a reputation that the Republican Party is trying to avoid today … that is, they were becoming known as “the party of nay.” Ever since they had been voted out of power, Whig candidates had blocked legislature meant to encourage many popular activities, including friendship, Italian food and cat ownership. In 1845 a group of Whigs gathered in protest shouting “No more nay, we say yea!” and right on the spot the Delaware County Neo-Colonial Council, moved by their passion, awarded them the land on which they stood, renaming it “Yeadon.”


In the early years of the 20th century (and forever before that) women's “unmentionables” were quite a cumbersome undertaking. Bloomers, bustles, knickers, petticoats, chemises, pantalettes, corsets and on and on. By the second decade of the century there was a movement to simplify the contraptions built for supporting the female form. You might call it a movement to restrict movement of certain feminine parts. As part of that trend, Shhh, a ladies underwear company based in this small Delco borough leaped to the forefront and created a small, easily manipulated “girl's first bra.” Soon the new product came to be known as the “trainer bra,” and was so wildly successful that the town adopted that as its name, dropping the “bra” part some years later.


You might think that this borough was named by either optimists or people who enjoyed living on the higher ground, but that is not the case. Back in 1654, a man named Uriah Pendragon was unjustly convicted of stealing. To be more accurate, he was convicted of stealing glances at his neighbor's wife, a capital crime at the time. So he was hanged. Three days after the hanging a physician who could not make it to Uriah's trial in time informed the court that Mr. Pendragon had an eye condition which caused him to appear to be leering. Of course, this was highly embarrassing. To make things right the surviving family was given real estate, now renamed Uriahpendragonland, later shortened to Upland.


There are times in history when people believe that anything is possible. Such a time was the early 19th century, when railroads, canals, steam engines and factories changed the way that men and women lived their lives. These were giant ideas which resulted in giant changes in the human condition. Not every new idea was that ambitious, however. In 1819 three good friends, Dan Wheeler, Dan Fletcher and Dan Anderson, came to the conclusion (in the back of Duffy's Pub) that their great friendship was the result of their all being named Dan. They contacted Regional Governor Dan Albright and before they even sobered up the borough of “Alldan” was born. The next day Dan Fletcher suggested they come up with a more traditional founding story and “get the L out of there,” and so today we have the borough of Aldan.


For decades and decades there had been senseless bigotry throughout the early American colonies aimed at women named Brook. (In those days, “Brook shields” were actually homemade wooden barriers used to taunt these women in conjunction with hurtful sayings and jingles detailing the horrors of Brook cooties, which is what the common cold was known as in some circles.) Finally, in the late 17th century, one man had seen enough. Joseph Haven purchased a small plot of land, declared it safe from Brook bigotry and named it “Welcometown.” Minutes later it was renamed the borough that we know today.


Although it had been around for over a billion years, the borough that is today known as Folcroft remained unnamed until Native Americans of the Shawnee tribe called it “Mahalla,” which has been loosely translated as “Delmar Village.” When English settlers arrived they decided that the place needed to sound more like home for them, and so they renamed it after the Earl of Folcroft, who had recently won a famous duel with the Duke of Darby. Today you can still find descendants of the Earl living in Folcroft, acting like they're the boss of everyone and apparently thinking that their waste material has no odor.

Prospect Park

Before the 1820s, salesmen were generally thought to come in one of two varieties … fast-talking city slickers or snake oil-pushing charlatans. The idea that someone might suggest a product that could actually benefit a person was poo-pooed (if you'll excuse my language here) by respectable people everywhere. In those days you went to a store to get what you needed and anyone trying to convince you to buy something could actually be legally bludgeoned. But that all changed in 1826 when Robert “Honest Bob” Robertson gathered a group of families who had an almost religious commitment to a new concept: Sell us stuff. Soon a community of receptive “prospects” formed and salesmen came from far (but oddly enough, not wide) to service them, forming today's Prospect Park. Ironically, soliciting is forbidden through most of the borough today.


Okay, the real legend about this one is too good NOT to share. According to a sign on Morton Avenue that Wikipedia shows on its site, Rutledge was named after the one true love of Abraham Lincoln, Ann Rutledge. Abe stole her from her fiance, but she tragically died of typhoid fever at age 22, throwing the future president into a major, years-long depression. This borough-naming story is probably no truer than the others here … but how many myths get an official-looking sign to perpetuate them?

Sharon Hill

To this day many people will tell you that there was an actual person named Sharon Hill. I'm sure there are many around the world, but none of them is related to this town. The truth is that in William Penn's time the Quakers named every hill and valley in Pennsylvania. This was a way to keep busy and avoid impure thoughts. Most places got new names when people less particular about their thoughts moved in, but Sharon is one of the very few remaining Quaker-named hills. I have heard there is a Bambi Hill in Western Pennsylvania that has been attributed to the Quakers, but that seems unlikely.


Old English was a funny little language. “Fullsome” meant plentiful, “prithee” meant please and “swarth” meant bacon. And so it's easy to imagine a patron at the olden times version of IHOP asking, “Prithee, good sir, may I partake of a fullsome portion of swarth?” It turns out that bacon was the yogurt of its day. It was thought to promote good health, the reasoning being that since bacon already contains so much pig fat it would not be converted to human fat. After all, pigs could not be converted to humans, right? With this in mind, “vittles entrepreneur” Oscar Mayer managed to corner the swarth market. He cornered it right at the very location of the borough that is today still known by Mayer's famous slogan, “Swarth More! Swarth More to Live Longer!”

So there you have it. Let me know if I've omitted your hometown and you'd like to see a faux history … but don't get me started on the townships.


  1. I always wondered where the trainer bra came from. Thanks.

  2. What about the Darby's? Upper, Township and that other one

  3. If you worked at Disneyworld, your job would be:

    A) the guy who airbrushes Annette's cleavage;
    B) the guy holding Goofy's slobber towel;
    C) much easier to explain to the folks at unemployment!

    Greetings from a former colleague!

  4. Greetings back atcha, Jacqui ... that sounds kind of familiar ...

  5. It holds a place of honor in the archives.