Henry “Hap” Arnold has been honored as one of the most influential generals in the entire military history of the United States. Books and biographies have been written about him, awards given in his name to reflect his honor, and generals today aspire to be like him. So much of this man’s life has been covered extensively by military and American historians, yet one major aspect always seems to fall short of this scrutiny. “Hap” Arnold’s family was a vital part of his rise to military greatness; an untold story that is centered on his father, Herbert Alonso Arnold. Herbert’s life certainly inspired his son; as his father was an incredibly active member of the Ardmore community.
To fully understand Herbert Arnold, we must trace this man as far back as possible, beginning with his father Thomas. Like many men in the rapidly changing world of the post-Civil War America, Thomas Griffith Arnold worked in the industrial sector of the economy. Born on November 23rd, 1831, he had already seen the nation transform from a fledgling state to the strongest nation of the Western Hemisphere, only to witness its bloody war of secession. At age 44 he worked as an engine builder, and together with his eldest son John, who worked at an insurance company, they were able to provide for the entire family. Thomas’ wife, Sophia, was able to stay at home and be a house wife, like many other middle class women of her day. Thomas and Sophia had one other son, a younger boy named Herbert. Born on August 4th, 1857, Herbert lived in a period where the culture and society in the United States would rapidly change, and Herbert would come to do his part in crafting that future.
In 1870, Herbert was only 12 years old, and schooling for the young boy was more important than a meager children’s wage. Through the financial support of his father and brother, Herbert was able to make it through Norristown High School in 1873, and five years later in 1878, he graduated Jefferson Medical College in 1878. By age 20, he was a full scale physician, able to completely support himself. Herbert had moved out of his parent’s house and settled down by the age of 22, marrying Louise Harley on April 22nd, 1880. While the life of a physician would be enough to support the household, Herbert strove to do more. Since the early days of its opening, Dr. Arnold had been one of the leading figures in the Merion Title and Trust Company. Dr. Arnold had been reputedly using part of the second floor of his house as his doctor’s office, a practice not all that uncommon among physicians in the early 20th century. Herbert had moved up into the position of Vice President of the bank in the early 1900’s, and helped lead the bank for decades. In 1913, the Ardmore Chronicle wrote that the company was doing exceptionally well, and that since its opening, it has maintained a “proud record”. He was able to balance two very demanding jobs, which greatly helped with his expanding family. The Arnold family would have five children: Sophie, Thomas, Clifford, Price, and Henry. While five children was not considered a very large family in the standards of early 20th century, the two high status jobs Arnold held were able to support the entire family.
While living on Ardmore Avenue, the Arnold’s lived directly across the street from the Barkers. Charles R. Barker, the son of Charles A Barker, left an extensive record of life in Ardmore in the early 20th century, in a mass of indexed diaries. These personal works serve as a treasure trove of information, not merely about the life of the Barkers, but of Ardmore society as a whole. Unlike information taken from the census, or local newspapers, these diary entries breathe new life into the past, putting somebody like Herbert Arnold into a more accurate perspective. One of the Barker entries, dated March 2nd, 1907, tells of how Charles and Herbert went out to the street with shovels and cleared away the snow and slush. Barker writes of how the snow melt was causing flooding on the sidewalks and roads, so he and Arnold teamed up and cleared away the snow on their street, making divots and channels for the water to drain away with. We learn that the public sanitation not responsible for the clearing of streets and sidewalks, because these two went out and took the matter into their own hands. This sort of ordeal demonstrated the level of community neighborhoods held in the early 20th century. As the world around them modernized, people like Barker and Arnold worked to maintain their communities in ways the public sector failed to do. Arnold was a man who wanted to help out the community, and was not afraid to get his hands dirty in the process. Barker recalls that Arnold and he set out to do the job together, and managed to stave off the winter snow melt from flooding the street. As a physician, who also gave many speeches and held many dinners and conferences across Ardmore, the wellbeing of the community was a top priority for Arnold. Another entry dated Sunday, July 17th, 1910, talks about how Arnold and Barker drove around Delaware County in the Arnold family automobile. Barker mentions that there are “smooth roads” in Radnor, and that he very much enjoyed cruising at high speed down the paved streets. Entries such as these hold enormous amounts of information, despite the modest accounts being recollected. Barker also gives us valuable insight into how leisure times were spent in the early 20th century. When he tells of how he and Herbert drove through the county, it highlights the fact that not only was the automobile industry on the rise by 1910, but demonstrates that they were used as a source of recreation as well. Most importantly, the story of the automobile ride through the country demonstrates Herbert’s personable traits, and helps to portray why he was so well liked among the town.
The Barker diaries are uniquely critical in understanding Herbert Arnold’s life in particular; being that the Barkers lived right across from the Arnolds. One account, dated from September 14th, 1917, goes into great detail regarding Herbert’s life. On this particular day, Charles visited the Arnold house and Herbert received him in his study. Herbert laid out his plans to “beautify” the grounds of the new Free Masons Hall, showing pictures of his potential changes. Then, Barker said that he discussed his recent travels, as Arnold had recently moved through El Paso, New Mexico, Colorado, and California. Mexico in particular, Arnold discussed, was where he was stationed during what he called the Mexican “disturbance”, an event we know today as the Mexican Revolution. He talked about how his son, Henry “Hap” Arnold, had just achieved the rank of Colonel, and was in “full charge of all aviation work in the United States”. To this effect, Arnold portrayed his most recent (and final) promotion in the army, that of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, an award given in February by a Governor Brumbaugh. This account gave major insights about Herbert’s life; Herbert’s personal wealth was great enough for him to have a study, he was a practicing member of the Free Mason society, he traveled across the country, had an incredibly powerful son in the army (his son was in charge of all aviation during the first World War), and he himself had achieved high status in the Armed Forces. It demonstrates the sheer volume of organizations and the number of high level positions he has. It also shows that he plans thoroughly, and always has the upkeep of the community in mind, especially considering his plans to beautify the Free Masons hall.
Louise Arnold was a very active woman in her day. Many records show her distinction as president of the Women’s Literacy Club in Ardmore, while hosting many of the club’s meetings at the Arnold residence. The Philadelphia Inquirer frequently mentions Mrs. Arnold in its articles, siting on June 7th, 1896, that “The Ladies Literary Club of Montgomery County met at the home of Mrs. Herbert A. Arnold, on Lancaster Avenue, yesterday afternoon.” Louise was a woman who was frequently making the news in articles such as these, hosting large gatherings of women in an era that predates women suffrage. According to the Barker diaries, Mrs. Arnold was highly involved in societal construction by 1917. He writes that on the 4th of July, Louise came over to the Barker house along with her husband, and brought with her the blueprints of the new Women’s Club House and Ardmore Library to be built right next door to the Barker’s house. While she may not have been an engineer involved in the actual building process, the fact that she had the blueprints to the building demonstrates her level of involvement and her influence in such areas.
This point also demonstrates the progressive nature, as well as the activeness, of both Louise and Herbert Arnold; they would host many parties and gather people together from all across society. For example, when “Hap” graduated from West Point in 1907, Herbert gave a large dinner reception for West Point graduates, including his son. The Arnold house became a frequent meeting-place of women’s activists, army officers, medical professionals, and of course, neighbors. Barker noted that on June 10th, 1911, Herbert held a memorial dinner for the deceased Dr. Weaver, the Surgeon General, at his house. In a rather average diary entry, Barker writes upon going to the Arnold house for dinner, Dr. Arnold entertained the Barkers in his “usual thorough manner.” Herbert was a man who knew not only how to entertain people, but who to entertain, and he made sure that he maintained a close relationship with the community he strove so hard to shape.
The American military was a very large part of the Arnold family household, an institution that seemed almost omnipresent throughout the generations. One reputable ancestor of Herbert was none other than Benedict Arnold, the traitor of the American Revolution. The Arnold line in the continental United States dates all the way back to the Revolutionary era, way back to Herbert’s Great Grandfather Peter Arnold. Born in circa 1739, in Palatinate, Germany, Peter moved to the English Colonies and served as a Private in the 1st Company, 7th Battalion of the Plymouth Township Philadelphia County Militia under Captain Andrew Norney. Service to the country was no knew thing to the Arnold family by the time “Hap” had risen to military greatness; it had in fact been a staple of the Arnolds since the earliest days of this country’s founding.
Herbert Arnold combined this dedication to the military with his career as a physician, and served his country in the Spanish American War near the turn of the 19th century. Arnold enlisted as an assistant surgeon for his squadron, and went into combat as a First Lieutenant of the US Army. After his service, he continued with his military career and became a part of the National Guard, a role which he kept until becoming a Lieutenant Colonel. To Arnold, military service was a sacrosanct part of his life, and he instilled his love of the military into his son “Hap”. Barker noted in his diary entry, on the day of the party for the West Point graduates, that Herbert was taking his entire family on a trip to Valley Forge, to visit the old battlefields of the Revolutionary War. The visit to Valley Forge demonstrates Herbert’s desire to impress the military unto his family; it is also repudiated that “Hap” did not truly want to go to West Point, but that Herbert earnestly wanted his sons to go there.
Herbert strove for excellence in many different arenas outside of the medical profession, and succeeded in landing several high ranking positions outside of his practice. The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Arnold was the Superintendent of the Baptist Church School in his home town, and was also a member of the Ardmore Free Masons, located just a few houses down from his own place. In fact, the article in the paper states that he was in fact a high priest of the Free Masons at one point. Dr. Arnold would frequently make speeches at the Title and Trust Company Building as well as the Dirigio Club, making speeches ranging from his trip to Puerto Rico, to a Republican political statement involving protective tariffs and the race for the Presidency in 1892. Finally, remember that Arnold was the Vice President of the Merion Title and Trust Company, the largest bank in Ardmore.
Mr. Barker’s diaries reveal another distinct way that Herbert sought to shape society in Ardmore. At the time, the Barker family was moving to Florida, and Herbert talked with the Barkers about buying their property when they left Ardmore. However, his reason for buying the property was not for his own personal use, as he wanted to simply keep the vacant house out of the hands of “Negroes and Italians”. This sort of neighborhood engineering may seem absolutely atrocious in our modern bias, but in Arnold’s day, he was acting within the parameters of society’s existing culture. This act was no cheap endeavor, costing Arnold $2,500 up front and an additional $6,000 to be paid over time. Arnold’s pricey move to keep what he saw as the integrity of his neighborhood, however racist it appears today, still proves that he is willing to go to great lengths to protect the community as he sees it, and is an active builder of society as well.
On the evening of Friday, the 27th of October, 1933, Herbert Alonso Arnold passed away. He left behind many things; he had two properties on Simpson Avenue at the time, not to mention the long list of household supplies. He left behind his 14 badges from his long military service, the contents of his house, and several hundred dollars in two different banks. More important than any tangible item, he left his mark on society, as his active spirit and workhorse attitude made him a near celebrity in almost every aspect of society in Ardmore. As a matter of fact, Herbert’s life was characterized by the way he actively worked for the society he lived in. As a physician, his calling was in the service of the people. As the superintendent and president of many different organizations, he put his mark in almost every part of Ardmore. He influenced the Baptist school system, the Title and Trust Company, the Free Masons, the medical practice… all the way down to shoveling snow for the betterment and convenience of the neighborhood. He served the United States in time of peace and time of war, as an officer on the battlegrounds of the Spanish American War and as a member of the Unites States National Guard. This level of service in all aspects of society were the values and ideals that would trickle down into the military genius of “Hap” Arnold, a man who will always be remembered as one of the greatest generals in American history.
Ancestry.com. U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Ardmore Chronicle, 3 may 1913. Page 1, Column 3.
Hartman, Galon C. Who’s Who in Pennsylvania: a biographical dictionary of contemporaries. L.R. Hamersly & Company. New York. Second Edition, 1908.
Map of Ardmore, 1920
Montgomery County Historical Society [Norristown], Charles Reed Barker Diaries, 8 May 1919.
Montgomery County Record Office [Norristown], RW 49650, 1933
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990; Archive Collection Number: Series 1-1; Folder Number: 12.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 27 November 1904. Page 14, Column 2.
US Bureau of the Census, 9th Census (1870), Pennsylvania, Montgomery County, Norristown, Sheet 71.
U.S., Spanish American War Volunteers, 1898. National Archives of Washington. (Ancestry.com)
 US Bureau of the Census, 9th Census (1870), Pennsylvania, Montgomery County, Norristown, Sheet 71.
 Ibid. Sheet 71.
 Hartman, Galon C. Who’s Who in Pennsylvania: a biographical dictionary of contemporaries. L.R. Hamersly & Company. New York. Second Edition, 1908.
 Ardmore Chronicle, 10 May 1913. Page 2, Column 4.
 Ardmore Chronicle, 3 May 1913. Page 1, Column 3.
 Montgomery County Record Office [Norristown], RW 49650, 1933.
 Montgomery County Historical Society [Norristown], Charles Reed Barker Diaries.
 Ibid. 3/2/1907
 Ibid. 7/17/1910
 Ibid. 9/14/1917
 Hartman, Galon C. Who’s Who in Pennsylvania: a biographical dictionary of contemporaries. L.R. Hamersly & Company. New York. Second Edition, 1908.
 Philadelphia Inquirer, 6 July 1896, Page 38, Column 6.
 Montgomery County Historical Society [Norristown], Charles Reed Barker Diaries. 17 June 1907.
 Ibid. 10 June 1911.
 Ibid. 19 August 1910.
 U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA.
 U.S., Spanish American War Volunteers, 1898. National Archives of Washington. (Ancestry.com)
 Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990; Archive Collection Number: Series 1-1; Folder Number: 12. AND The Philadelphia Inquirer, 27 November 1904. Page 14, Column 2.
 Montgomery County Historical Society [Norristown], Charles Reed Barker Diaries. 17 June 1907
 Map of Ardmore, 1920
 Philadelphia Inquirer, 9 October 1892, Page 4.
 Montgomery County Historical Society [Norristown], Charles Reed Barker Diaries, 8 May 1919.
 Ibid. 8 May 1919
 Montgomery County Record Office [Norristown], RW 49650, 1933
Lt. Col. Herbert A. Arnold (Ancestry.com)