The Fraktur Gallery at the Mennonite Heritage Center is named in honor of Mary Jane Lederach Hershey, first director of the Heritage Center and leading scholar of Pennsylvania Mennonite fraktur. Her administrative and scholarly work have done much to further the mission of the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania. A finding aid for her Fraktur Research Collection is available here.
Mary Jane Lederach Hershey (b. 1930) has deep roots in the Skippack and Salford communities. In 1717 her Lederach ancestors settled at Salford where descendants of the original Lederachs have continued to live to the present day.
Hershey was baptized at the Salford Mennonite Church in 1945. She is an active member of the congregation where she has served as elder and teacher. Currently she is a member of Salford’s Justice and Peace Group and is involved with Salford’s summer Peace Camp.
In 1972 Hershey was one of the founders of the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania. She served as the first director of the Mennonite Heritage Center when it was located in Souderton, Pennsylvania. For many years she was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Mennonite Historians, completing her tenure on the Board by serving four years as President. Currently Hershey is a Trustee Emeritus, a member of the Library and Collections Committee, a consultant on exhibits and acquisitions, and a volunteer archivist for manuscript collections.
For over two decades Hershey researched fraktur created by schoolmasters in Mennonite meetinghouse schools. She has documented more than 1000 pieces of fraktur produced in the Franconia Conference Mennonite area. In 2003 her book This Teaching I Present: Fraktur from the Skippack and Salford Mennonite Meetinghouse Schools, 1747-1835 was published. The book received awards of Excellence and Commendation from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations, and from the American Association for State and Local History. It is No. 41 in the series, Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History.
Hershey’s research articles have been published by Pennsylvania Folklife, The Mennonite Quarterly Review, MHEP Quarterly, the Bucks County Historical Society and the Pennsylvania German Society.
She is a graduate of Goshen College (B.A., 1952) and Drexel Institute of Technology, now Drexel University (M.S., 1957).
Hershey, her husband Hiram, four children and five grandchildren all live in the Upper Salford community.