Dr. Gustavus Ferdinand Theel, Mayor of Ambler

This was considered a surprising discovery. And this research took only 1-2 days!!

I never even expect to find anything like this. It all started with a search I was doing for a future blog post until I suddenly came upon something I never even thought about: who were the earlier mayors of Ambler?

It seems that Dr. Gustavus Ferdinand Theel was one of the earliest mayors of Ambler after the borough was incorporated in 1888.

Gustavus Ferdinand Theel, MD

Dr. Gustavus Ferdinand Theel (1833-1915) was born on February 15 in Cologne, Germany, to Major Charles F. and Marie Theel.

Fun Fact #1: His father Charles received the Cross of the Eagle from Emperor William I for his bravery.

At age 14, Gustavus attended military school in his hometown until moving to the United States a year later. After attending colleges in America, he returned to Germany and took full medical courses at the University of Bonn. After graduation, he became a medical assistant in Berlin for 6 years.

Gustavus then returned to America, and resided in Philadelphia to take full medical courses at Hahnemann College. After graduation, he went to Indianapolis, Indiana, and established a homeopathic college where he conducted for a year. He then returned to Philadelphia, and remained practicing in the city ever since. Even when he was practicing in Philadelphia, he purchased a property in Ambler, in 1885 called "Idlewild," which stood on Bethlehem Pike and Johns Lane.

In his medical career, he specialized in making nervous and spinal diseases and blood poisons.

Clipping ad from the Ambler Gazette (May 6, 1909): Page 3

Transcribed from his 1909 ad above: "Ein Deutscher Artz." Only German Specialist in America. Guarantees to cure also by mail, with his Unsurpassed German Treatment, Private Diseases, Excesses, Abuses, Weaknesses, Blood Poison (others only use Mercury & Potass, suppresses, but never cures) Nervous Debility, Lost Manhood, Hydrocele, Varicocele & Stricture (no cutting) Underdevelopments & Shrunken Organs, Bright's Disease & Diabetes, Losses, Drains, Fresh Cases cured in 4 to 10 days, others can't. 43 years' practical & 6 years' hospital experience in Germany. Send for Sworn Testimonials & Book, tells all, exposes every country & city, medical & electric advertising fraud. Secrecy guaranteed in all cases. Immediate relief. Hours for dangerous cases 10 to 1. General hours, 9 to 4, 6 to 9. Sunday, 9 to 2. If you can't call, visit."

Dr. Theel as Mayor of Ambler

Fun Fact #2: Gustavus played an active part in James A. Garfield's 1880 campaign against Winfield Scott Hancock and James G. Blaine's 1884 campaign against 22nd President Grover Cleveland.

His involvement with politics drove him to become one of the earliest mayors of Ambler in the early 1890s. Gustavus served as Ambler's mayor for 2 terms from 1892 to possibly 1900.

If Gustavus Theel became mayor in 1892, was there someone before him?

There were no indications about Gustavus's mayoral inauguration in the Ambler Gazette, nor any announcement of Gustavus's 2nd term as mayor, and who would take over after him. But based on what I found, it looks like he was a good mayor. The only bad thing that happened to him was the controversy surrounding his Ambler home.

From the "Fire Protection and Water Supply: A Yearly Manual of Statistics of the Water Supply and Fire Department Equipments for the United States and Canada." (1892): 222
Montgomery County 1893, Ambler Borough; J. L. Smith, Publisher
Clipping from Ambler Gazette (August 29, 1895): Page 2
Clipping ad from the Ambler Gazette (November 20, 1902): Page 4
Clipping from Ambler Gazette (May 7, 1903): Page 5
Clipping from Ambler Gazette (October 7, 1909): Page 1
Clipping from Ambler Gazette (May 4, 1911): Page 4
Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., 1916, Plate 27; A. H. Mueller, Publisher

NOTE: The College of Physician's Historical Medical Library has a collection of Gustavus Theel's correspondence. Check it out here!


Fire Protection and Water Supply: A Yearly Manual of Statistics of the Water Supply and Fire Department Equipments for the United States and Canada. (Broadway: Fabric Fire House Company, 1892): 222.

Mueller, A.H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 27, 1916.

Ruoff, Henry Wilson. Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with an Introductory Historical Sketch, Part 2. (Philadelphia: Biographical Publishing Company, 1895): 546-547.

Smith, J.L. Montgomery County 1893, Ambler Borough, 1893.

"The Journal of the American Medical Association." Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association 77, no. 10 (September 3, 1921): 957.

"Wissahickon Valley Public Library's Ambler Gazette Collection." POWER Library: Pennsylvania's Electronic Library. Accessed December 25, 2020. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/wivp-gazett.

#pahistory #ambler #mayor #amblermayor #gftheel #doctor #German #Germany #Prussia #medical #philadelphia #philly #bethlehempike #johnslane #idlewild #military

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