Gettysburg-based conservator Maria Pukownik has finished her meticulous restoration of the 300-year-old Eisenhauer family Bible, with the exceptional artifact now safely back in the archives of the Lebanon County Historical Society.

The Bible was printed in 1717 by Johann Andreä Endters of Nuremberg. As LebTown chronicled in our in-depth 2021 story, when the conservation effort was just beginning, the Bible was transported to America in 1741 by Hans Nicholas Eisenhauer, who landed in Delaware with his wife, Anna Margreta, and several children, before making his way to the soon-to-be-founded community of Fredericksburg in what was then Lancaster County.

Read More: Bible of the Eisenhauer family – ancestors of President Eisenhower – is undergoing conservation

A land warrant was granted in 1753 to “Nicholas Ironcutter,” which is an approximate translation of the German name, covering 168 acres in today’s Bethel Township, situated to the northwest of the town center.

A draft of the first settlements in the Fredericksburg area. Note the plot of Nicholas Ironcutter in the upper left and the note of “Eisenhauer” next to it. (“The Founding of Fredericksburg,” B. Morris Strause)

Lebanon County Historical Society archivist Bruce Bomberger said this Bible has “everything going for it.”

Lebanon County Historical Society archivist Bruce Bomberger unboxes the Eisenhauer Bible for LebTown during a recent visit. The Historical Society is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are by appointment only. (LebTown)

To start with the most obvious historical appeal, the Bible is directly linked to President Dwight David Eisenhower, a sixth-generation descendant of Nicholas Eisenhauer.

Bomberger remarked that Eisenhower’s name is “internationally known,” while also still being a characteristically local moniker.

Read More: The long history of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s family in Lebanon County

The Bible is also remarkably intact – from the title page, to the five pages of family records, to the approximately 1,500 other pages, the book astounds for the amount of history crammed into a tome just 9 x 6½ x 4½ inches.

At nearly 1,500 pages in length and with its wooden plates, metal bands, and clasps, the Eisenhaur Bible measures up at 9 x 6½ x 4½ inches. (LebTown)
The spine of the Eisenhauer Bible. The Bible was printed in Germany in 1717. (LebTown)
The cover of the Bible is made with beveled boards, likely oak, along with brass hasps (the slotted hinge for the straps). The additional brass pieces at the top and bottom of the Bible are not thought to be original, but it’s not known when they were added. Although they strengthen the Bible’s edges, they also put more stress on the spine, Bomberger said. (LebTown)
The Bible contains 1,528 pages, including five pages of Eisenhauer family records. The straps are original, although the leather is thought to have been replaced at some point before the Lebanon County Historical Society took possession of the Bible. (LebTown)

Bomberger said the use of a Bible for family records is not unusual, but to have so many pages of them, and still intact, makes it a truly special item.

Record pages often get separated from family Bibles, Bomberger said – maybe when it’s passed down or changes hands, maybe because someone wants to display the family genealogy some other way. You may have seen such papers (or the remnants of such paper) on the undersides of blanket chests, a common practice with birth and baptism records in particular.

“I don’t know how it happened, and it didn’t always happen the same way, but we’re lucky because all these pages stayed in the Bible,” he said.

Bomberger, himself a distant relative of the Eisenhauers (seventh-cousins to the President, or thereabouts) who also happens to call Fredericksburg home today, said that in his 35 years of curating, he doesn’t remember ever seeing a Bible that has more family record written in it than this one.

Read More: Local historian Bruce Bomberger on documenting the history of today

“So you have a famous person, you have a high level of preservation, and you have a lot of preserved information in it,” he said of the Bible’s trifecta in historical noteworthiness.

Pukownik’s work as a trained conservator is meticulous. The Eisenhauer Bible was placed in a book cradle and cleaned by hand to remove dirt and stains, and where pages were ripped or missing, a highly precise process involving a paper paste was used to fill in the paper. Pages can be cleaned with a specific type of soft bristle brush for fine particular cleaning as well as with archival-quality erasers or vinyl sponges. Pukownik’s conservation work did not involve the recreation of any lost text or images.

An engraved illustration in the Bible, before and after conservation. (LCHS)
The title page, before and after conservation. (LCHS)
The first manuscript record page, before and after conservation. “Johannes Eisenhauer was born…” (LCHS)

Remarkable as the Eisenhauer Bible is, it’s not actually the oldest Bible in the Lebanon County Historical Society’s collection. That would be a 1500s-era Froschauer Bible, printed in Switzerland, which passed down through the Mohn family. That Bible was likely already two centuries old when it was brought here, Bomberger said, and it also could spend some time with a conservator in the future.

The Bible is also not the only Eisenhauer family artifact in the collection. The society’s Stoy Museum has on display an “infamous” door, circa 1741, from the house of John Nicholas Eisenhauer … infamous due to the possible involvement of this “John Ironcutter” in the 1768 massacre (PDF) of about 10 Native Americans near Carlisle along with Frederick Stump, who may or may not have been the same Frederick Stump to found Fredericksburg.

The wooden door of the Eisenhauer ancestors, the other major family artifact possessed by LCHS, is believed to have been crafted around 1741. (LebTown)

As for the Eisenhauer Bible, it ended up at the Lebanon County Historical Society through the unwritten will of Paul A. Bear of York County, a descendant of the Eisenhauer family, who died in 1952, just months before then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president. Bear came to possess the Bible thanks to Dr. Milton Eisenhower, who was president of Pennsylvania State University from 1950 to 1956.

Dr. Eisenhower had been offered the Bible by Dr. John M. Keichline of Huntingdon, who told reporters at the time that he had discovered the Bible in his grandfather’s library where he said it had been for “some time.” It is not recorded how the Keichline family originally came to possess it. After Keichline offered to donate the Bible to Milton Eisenhower in the early 1950s, the Penn State president instead encouraged him to donate it to Bear because he had spent years compiling a family history, according to contemporary news reports.

According to a Patriot-News story from 1953, Bear’s wife Lottie Bear and his sons said he had wanted the Bible to go to the Historical Society because its members had been helpful in his research, and because the Eisenhauers had originally settled in Lebanon County.

Patriot-News coverage of the Eisenhauer family Bible in January 1953. (LebTown)

The Bible was offered to President-elect Eisenhower for use in his inauguration, but he chose instead to use the George Washington inaugural Bible. Perhaps, from the local perspective, that’s for the best, as if the Eisenhauer Bible had been used in the inauguration, it might not have ended up back in Lebanon County.

To dig deeper into this local history, read our 2021 story on the Eisenhauer Bible and the family’s roots in Lebanon County or contact the Lebanon County Historical Society by calling (717) 272-1473 or emailing

Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using this contact form and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

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Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.


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