Condensed History of Red Lion
From the 1924 Homecoming Souvenir Booklet
Those of us who have lived here before the incorporation of our borough are justly proud of the splendid progress made in every worth-while direction. When we compare the little hamlet of 200 inhabitants at the time of incorporation, just forty-four years ago, with the present thriving town of four thousand, we feel more than justified in sending out invitations to all former residents urging them to share glory with us at our first Homecoming celebration. We know they will be interested and pleased to learn something about the progress made by the citizens of their old home town, and for this reason, this little souvenir program has been compiled.
The fame of Red Lion as a cigar town has been carried to all parts of our country, but we want friend and stranger alike to know that Red Lion has earned a place on the map because of the business push and energy of many of our people; because of the unselfish interest in all civic movements; because of the Christian spirit shown by nearly everyone who has made a home in Red Lion.
In years the history of Red Lion is very brief. Until 1874 there was not even indication of a hamlet, only a few homes scattered along the public roads on which the town was later built. That year the York and Peach Bottom Railroad was completed to this place and a depot established. Although the railroad did not cause an immediate boom, it did establish a center here, and a few houses were erected, and by and by the place took on the appearance of a village. In 1880, there was a population of about 200 and the village was incorporated. The first borough officers were: Chief Burgess, Henry Wagman; Councilmen, Dr. J. M. Hyson, Nathaniel Neiman, Daniel Spotz, James Smith, William Algire and Jacob W Young. Immediately after the town was incorporated, quite a number of persons became interested and built homes, a cigar factory was opened and a store established. From this humble beginning, the town grew to its present size and beauty, with its beautiful and costly bank buildings, its large cigar and furniture factories, its churches, its schools, its costly paved streets, its prosperous fraternal organizations, its efficient fire department, its large opera house its modern stores, its garages, its bakeries, its ice plants, its box factories, its printing offices, its newspapers, its excellent water supply, its park, etc., etc.
Nothing will better show the business enterprise and prosperity of the town than a few comparisons: In 1880 there was but one cigar factory, employing three or four persons. Today our cigar factories give employment to two thousand men and women. These workers receive almost three million dollars in wages annually. They produce over two hundred million cigars each year. The express business in 1892 was approximately $100 per month; at present the express business amounts to over $4,000 per month. The freight business in 1892 was a little more than $300 per month. The M & P alone at this place at present does a freight business of approximately $7,000 per month. In 1892 the largest engine in service on the local railroad could haul only eight cars of ten tons each. At present the largest engine easily hauls 650 to 700 tons from York to Red Lion.
In 1880 the town had two stores. Today we have 16 general stores, two hardware stores, three drug stores, three gents’ furnishing stores, three millinery stores, three chain stores, two green grocery stores, three cigar stores, five meat stores, four coal dealers, four restaurants, six automobile dealers, two dealers in farming implements. The town also has two ice plants, four barber shops, five furniture factories, three banks, three box factories, three print shops, four plumbing establishments, two jewelers, mill, ice cream factory, laundry, canning factory, lumber yards, stock yards, livery stables, etc.
As late as 1890 the town had only one public school, in charge of one teacher. Today there are nine instructors in the high school alone and 16 teachers in the grades. The town has four churches, organized in the order named: Reformed, United Brethren, Evangelical and Lutheran. We have three banks, all prosperous and doing business in their own buildings. Just recently one of the banks completed one of the finest bank buildings in Pennsylvania, at a cost of approximately $300,000. Real estate is very valuable in Red Lion, some building lots selling as high as $25,000 for a forty-foot front. Twenty-five years ago, lots were purchased for $50 that now sell for $1,800.
In 1907 the first furniture factory was established. The town now boasts of five large prosperous factories, which give employment to several hundred men. Some of the finest furniture in the world is made in Red Lion and goes to all parts of the United States and Mexico and Cuba. More than $2,000,000 worth of furniture is shipped from the Red Lion factories annually.
At a cost of more than half a million dollars almost six miles of streets were paved during 1923-24. In addition to this amount, $18,000 was spent to build a new concrete bridge on Charles Street, across the tracks of the M&P RR. All this improvement was made without any increased tax rate to the citizens of the town.
Until 1900 Red Lion had a fourth-class post office, with an annual business of less than $5,000. Although mail for a number of Star Routes passed through the Red Lion office, the daily mail was small, usually all contained in one locked pouch. At present the town boasts of a second-class office, which handles from 60 to 80 sacks of mail each day. The annual receipts for sale of stamps amounts to more than $15,000, while the Money Order business amounts to nearly $100,000.
The town has ten fraternal and beneficial organizations, a Board of Trade, a Lions’ Club, American Legion Post, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls and private clubs.
Nearly all the residents own their homes and nearly each family owns one or more automobiles.
The present officers of the borough are: Chief Burgess, Harry L Haines; Borough Clerk, J B Herrman; Borough Treasurer, Dr. J M Hyson; Councilmen, Jacob Streavig, Charles Roseman, William Fruitiger, Jacob Winter, Robert Glenn, Thomas Miller, M C Holtzinger; Chief of the Fire Department, Charles Fishel; Chief of Police, Edward H Myers; Board of Public School Control, C E Smith, W M Gemmill, Dr. G N Yeagle, Dr. J C Atkins, D F Kaltreider; Borough Attorney, S S Laucks.