In the late 1930s, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was faced with juvenile crime rates approaching an alarming high. The historical Christmas City had become plagued by the “folly of juveniles, [and] the heartaches they caused their parents and guardians” by the year 1938, with many residents pleading and fighting for stronger law enforcement in the area. It was during this period of rampant endemic youth crime that William G. Barthold was elected as Judge to preside over the Northampton area. Within just one year, delinquency showed a significant drop thanks to Barthold’s and law enforcement officials’ “indefatigable efforts” (Bethlehem Globe Times, 1939). Beginning then, and continuing throughout the rest of his time as a judge, Barthold was praised for his successful attempts to reduce crime in Bethlehem. Ultimately, Barthold spent 30 years in service to the community, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by Moravian College for his efforts in “combating juvenile delinquency” and for being a “leading citizen of the community” (Moravian Alumni Bulletin 1948).
However, Barthold did not only serve as a judge in the Bethlehem area–in fact, he spent most of his life in Bethlehem, PA. Graduating from Bethlehem High School in 1914 as valedictorian of his class, he went on to attend Lehigh University. During his time here, he became a founding member of the Alphi Chi Rho fraternity–which lost its place on the hill in 2007 due to a shortage in membership–and took classes such as physics, trigonometry, geology, and economics, along with all of Latin, German, Greek, and French. It’s interesting to note that, unlike today, Lehigh students at the time were required to take physical education and had class schedules running straight from 8am to 4pm almost every single day. It was also a time when the university endorsed “Spring House Party” season, creating memorabilia for fraternities like the photo booklet pictured here, featuring Phi Delta Theta’s 1947 class.
After his time at Lehigh, Barthold went on to graduate from Harvard University in 1922, completing a course in law and receiving the degree that allowed his legal career to begin. He was first a District attorney–starting in 1928 as assistant–then filled various positions in the community such as Solicitor-Sheriff of Northampton County from 1934-1935 and Solicitor of Bethlehem School District from 1934-1938. Right before his election as a judge, he served a brief term as a Pennsylvania State senator from 1937-1938, running a successful campaign but choosing after two years to pursue a career as a judge in his home county. It is, of course, there that Barthold spent the remainder of his active life as a public figure.
William George Barthold Papers contains a wide variety of items that span in subject matter from Lehigh memorabilia to Bethlehem census statistics, and in format from certifications to personal scrapbooks assembled by Barthold Family. Overall, the material within provides vivid historical context for an image of Bethlehem from the ‘30s to the’ 60s, as well as tracing the life and works of a figure who was greatly influential in the city’s development. Alongside the bulk of the collection, those interested in Lehigh University history–or that of Harvard or Moravian–will also find documents concerning these schools, providing insight to a much different time period in education.