Above: Joseph Lehn's house on Google Maps Street View.
Joseph Lehn (1798-1892) is the Lititz area's most celebrated craftsman and folk artist. The paint-decorated wooden objects he created have become coveted icons of Pennsylvania-German arts. The most sought-after examples of this "Lehnware" have commanded well into the five figures at auction.
Joseph built two adjoining residences for his family on Clay Road, near Hammer Creek Mennonite Church. These buildings survive as brick-and-frame testaments to the creative productivity of Lancaster County.
Above: Woodenware crafted by Joseph Lehn. Images: Pook & Pook Inc.
Joseph was born in Manheim Township, Lancaster County on January 6, 1798. He was the son of Abraham and Maria (Long) Lehn. When Joseph was only two years old, his father died. His mother eventually married a widower, Daniel Erb (1760-1837) of Warwick Township, Lancaster County. On April 4, 1817, Joseph Lehn married Elizabeth Erb (1792-1865), his eldest step-sister.
Elizabeth was a Mennonite, whereas Joseph Lehn's family were members of the United Brethren denomination. Descendants recalled that they attended both churches. Later in life, Joseph Lehn joined the Mennonite Church.
Although Joseph farmed his Elizabeth Township property for many years, he never enjoyed farming. So in the 1850s he decided to change careers, even before his children were grown. Lehn's new career was barrel-making. It is Lehn's brightly painted turned wares that are the best-known products of his wood shop. Lehn's ledger indicates that he had a lathe in his possession by May of 1856. The bulk of his production was from the late 1870s until 1890.
During the last 35 years of his life, Joseph Lehn, a master cooper, turner, and paint decorator, produced a body of distinctive folk objects that continue to inspire craftsmen and collectors to this day.
Above: Joseph Lehn's second house on Google Maps Street View.
Joseph Lehn built the brick house (first house above) as his first house on this property. He later built this second house (white, frame house above), probably after 1875. Joseph attended Hammer Creek Mennonite Church nearby, and is buried there.
Above: Joseph Lehn's two houses on Google Maps. (Left pin: The brick house. Right pin: The frame house. )
Above: Wood cup crafted by Joseph Lehn. Image: Christie's.
Above: Woodenware crafted by Joseph Lehn. Images: Sotheby's.