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Pennsylvania's Oldest Festival

Founded in 1883 (Private Event) | Established 1891 (Public Event)




Pictured above states BEAN SOUP ENCAMPMENT Founded July 23, 1883 by Captain Michael Smith Post No. 355 Grand Army of the Republic. Bean Soup was first started as a reunion

at McClure, Pennsylvania Fall of 1891, Dedicated by Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War

When talking about McClure if the Bean Soup is not talked about then...well it is embedded into the local culture and has been attended by people from around the globe. It has even made it's way to the "WHITE HOUSE" during President Eisenhower's term. The McClure Bean Soup and Home-Coming Celebration originated many years ago in the minds of the surviving Civil War veterans then living in the western end of the county (Snyder). Being naturally in a reminiscent frame of mind, the veterans longed for an agency or institution that would help them to perpetuate the more pleasant memories of their army life. Matters began to take form with the organization of the Captain Michael Smith G.A.R. Post at Bannerville, on July 23, 1883, a group of veterans of the Civil War; at its first meeting on the second story of the Joseph Peters Blacksmith Shop in Bannerville, PA for the purpose of organizing a Grand Army of the Republic Post. After several preliminary meetings, the first session of the newly formed post (Post #355) was held on October 20, 1883. This organization from time to time held many reunions and celebrations that took on the nature of a "bean soup festivals", but it was not until 1891 that the affair became an annual public event in the history of the local G.A.R. Post. From this time on the attendance was no longer restricted to the membership of the organization, but the entire community was invited to join the veterans in their celebration. The occasion rapidly developed into a popular event that commanded the interest of thousands of the neighboring counties. In the year of its greatest expansion in 1891, Ner B. Middleswarth a grandson of the Hon. Ner B. Middleswarth and veteran of the Civil War was the chairman of the committee in charge celebration. Records show Comrade Ner B. Middleswarth was in charge of obtaining from the war department "real hard tack" to be served with the bean soup just as it was done in Civil War days. Comrade Henry Kahley, who was a cook in the Civil War, was in charge of the soup, assisted by another veteran, Comrade Aaron Bickel. From 1891 on, the G.A.R. Post managed the celebration until the year 1900, when the increasing age and diminishing numbers of the veterans made it no longer possible for them to continue the work. At this juncture, the Captain Henry K. Ritter Camp, Sons of the Union Veterans, took over the work and responsibility, but the surviving veterans still assisted to the best of their strength to continue the celebration in accord with its original intent and purpose. The veterans were particularly concerned that the bean soup should be prepared and served in the original army fashion. The large crowd from year to year made it necessary to acquire a larger grove to accommodate the people. It was the transferred to a grove at McClure. Some years later in 1925, a standing committee consisted of Sam Bubb, Elder Wagner, and Verne Erb purchased the land of Cold Springs Grove from C.A. Wagner as a permanent location for the Bean Soup Celebration. The McClure Bean Soup Celebration has now become one of the largest outdoor gatherings in Central Pennsylvania. (The Story of Snyder County; 1948) In 1940, it is said that upwards of 50 thirty-five gallon kettles of soup were consumed by more than 35,000 people in attendance. Included in the soup were 1,300 pounds of beans, 1,300 pounds of beef, and 1,600 pounds of crackers. Ner B. Middleswarth was chairman of the first "Bean Soup" Committee in 1891. Records show that he was so busy serving the soup that the supply was exhausted before he had a taste. After that, the Henry K. Ritter Camp #65 Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War and the citizens of McClure from 1937 on the McClure Realty Corporation have put forth the effort to present this novel celebration. This uses tons of beans, a ton of beef, and a ton of crackers to serve the tens of thousands who attend each year. The making of the soup in large iron kettles is done over a wood-fired battery of furnaces capable of handling 16 large, 20 gallon capacity kettles at one time. Each man stirs two of the kettles during a two hour and twenty minute shift.


The Bean Soup continued to grow through the years and in 1915, it was necessary for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company to run special passenger trains to McClure to take care of the overflow of people that couldn’t be accommodated on their regular 6 passenger trains that came into McClure daily. In 1910, the grove was enlarged six times its former size. In 1911, the Bern Soup was starting to take on national interest attracting local Congressmen. From then on various national and state figures attended the Bean Soup from time to time including U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, U. S. Senator Brewster of Maine, U. S. Senator Fergison of Michigan, and U. S. Senators Davis, Martin, Duff, Scott and Clark of Pennsylvania. Every Governor of the state of Pennsylvania from the days of Governor Brumbauch, with the exception of 2, has spent a day at the Bean Soup. Every Congressman this district, beginning with Congressman Focht has attended the Bean Soup. They are Congressmen Beers, Dirsham, Biddle, Simpson, Elliot, Whalley and Schneebeli. Other dignitaries who have attended the Bean Soup include Colonel Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Honorable James M. Laverty, former Secretary to president Hoover; Honorable Ernest I. Jahnke, the assistant secretary to the Navy; honorable Pat Hurley, the assistant secretary of the Army; Honorable Harold Stassen, former governor of Minnesota; Honorable Bernard Shanley, Special Counsel to President Eisenhower, and many others. In 1909, the Henry K. Ritter Camp, Sons of Veterans began promoting the Bean Soup and to use the proceeds to beautify Cold Springs Park. In 1916, train excursions to the Bean Soup were advertised at two cents a mi1e. Soup was raised from 5 cents a bowl to 15 cents in 1916 and 25 cents in 1917. In 1914, an additional field was acquired in order to park cars. By 1916, about 750 cars were parked, and by 1921 there were about 2000 cars bringing people to the Bean Soup, and consequently it was no longer necessary to have special trains. In 1919, the Bean Soup also became a “Homecoming Day” for those who had returned from the First World War. Rev. A. C. Forscht, pastor of Christ's Lutheran Church preached a stirring sermon. The following were honored that first Homecoming Day: Millard Hoffman, Charles C. Middleswarth, Jacob H. Erb, J. L. Snook, Ray Wilt, James F. Romig, C. S. Beaver, O, W. Pheasant, William Kahley, Erie Swanger, Harry L,. Wagner, Roy Haines, Clayton Wagner, Carl Pheasant, Orren Wagner, William Gross, Harry Swanger, Reed Spigelmyer, Ralph Boyer, David Ekman, Marlin Wagner, Isaac Forscht. 19 kettles of bean soup were made and served that day, this being the largest number up until that time.



The Official McClure Bean Soup Band - The McClure Sons of Union Veterans Band was the official music organizati​on for the annual McClure Bean Soup Festival and Homecoming Celebratio​n in the early 1900's . The Band was organized in 1904 under the leadership of J.M. Rauch. Front row from left to right - John Hendricks, C A Baker, Charles Stimely, Keemer Stuck, Charles Heeter and John Gill. Second Row - Erie Stuck, John Heeter, Calvin Knepp, J.M. Rauch, John Wagner, George Fisher, Edgar Treaster. Back Row - Clarence S. Goss, Emroy Heeter.

Rauch's famous band was first mentioned as playing at the Bean Soup in 1920, and it continued to play each year for many years. 1922 saw the beginning of agriculture exhibits, which continued for about 5 years. In 1925, it was decided to have 2 days for the Bean Soup and in that same year extensive improvements were made. New eating stand tables, seats, large grandstand were erected and other improvements made. This was the year in which the showing of automobiles began a feature of the Bean Soup which continued for several years, Exhibits of various kinds, including the state game exhibit, were initiated in 1927. From 1928 to 1932 airplane rides at a cent a pound were popular at the celebration. Balloon ascension by Louis Raymond, Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1931 and a parachute jump by Jackie Sommer in 1932 were extra attractions at the Bean Soup. Mention of the McClure Drum Corp as an attraction at the Bean Soup was made for the first time in 1929. A public address system was put into operation in 1931. It is interesting to note that in 1933 Bean Soup was postponed because of rain for the first time in 42 years. In 1934 people were able to see the entire process from butchering the beef to the serving of the finished product. New additions and improvements go on from year to year. In 1948, the large building 44 x 28 feet beside the spring, was, erected. In 1949, the seating capacity was increased 33%, a new eating stand was erected and a new furnace installed. In spring of 1967, the large wooden building, once a store, but recently an apartment building, was removed by the owner, C. C. Wagner, thus making more room for the Bean Soup and giving a better view to the buildings used in the making and serving of the soup. Through the years the Bean Soup celebration has gained nation-wide recognition in various ways including magazine write-ups, newspaper stories and radio and television, In 1966, it marked its 75th anniversary. The Michigan Bean Growers Association donated a ton of beans which were used for this anniversary occasion. Many interesting and entertaining programs have been presented through the years. Today’s celebration offers, in addition to the main attraction of making and serving the Civil War Bean Soup, band concerts, exhibits of craftsmanship, television and radio stars, shows, rides, concessions, and all kinds of entertainment you would find at a County Fair except livestock exhibits. In 1956, McClure bean soup was delivered to the White House, Washington, D.C. and it was October 8, 1956 to be exact. It was flown to Washington in a plane chartered by the Tri-County National Bank. (The honorary members that had the privilege were Wilmer Hackenberg, James Thompson, Samuel Bubb, and the following people from the Presidents staff Bernard M. Shanley, Exec. Secretary to the President and Congressional Representative Richard M. Simpson) In 1967, the Committee in charge was Samuel H. Bubb, C. S. Klinger and Elder S. Wagner. On June 2, 1961 all of the McClure Bean Soup records and a great deal of memorabilia were destroyed by fire. Then in 1971, TV stations out of Philadelphia (KYW-TV) and from Pittsburgh (KDKA-TV) were in town to tape the news segments concerning the doings at the McClure Bean Soup. In addition to the TV stations, the Ford Times, a national magazine had an article in its September issue. In 1966, The Tampa Tribune in Florida had some nice things to say about the Bean Soup. The Cincinnati Enquirer and The New York Times also ran large articles on the Bean Soup. This year marked the 75th anniversary of the McClure Bean Soup Festival since it became public; one items that was for sale that year was a commemorative white bowl with gold trim around the top lip with inscription stating McClure Bean Soup 75th Annual 1891-1966 McClure, PA. In the August 28, 1974, Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) ran a large article entitled the Town Celebrating with GI Bean Soup. During the 1976 McClure Bean Soup Festival the Harrisburg Patriot’s coverage of the Bean Soup was quite extensive. In addition, senior citizens were treated to free soup and free rides. This being the 200th birthday of our nation, the town was once again patriotically decorated. In 1980, prior to that year’s Bean Soup Festival the Chicago Tribune ran an article extolling the uniqueness of the affair. Then in 1981, the Philadelphia Inquirer did an extensive article on that year’s Bean Soup Festival.

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