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The Doylestown Intelligencer of June 13, 1889 reported, “A band of gypsies are encamped near the town and several of the women have been going from house to house importuning housewives to buy baskets or have their fortunes told. Two of the women were well dressed and good looking.” In 1894 gypsies camped in Keely’s woods in New Britain. There is a story of hundreds of pleasure seekers from the surrounding area visiting the camp on a Sunday, peering into the weather beaten tents and gaily painted wagons. The camp had 30 or 40 tent dwellers, several highly ornamented wagons and horses and mules. The women wore bright silk handkerchiefs, heavy jewelry and plaited hair. A fortune teller sat on straw on a blanket that covered her tent floor, “and many were the sheckels she gathered in that Sunday afternoon.”

In 1974, Lester Trauch (1906-2001), newspaper reporter and columnist for The Intelligencer, recalled the gypsies of his childhood. “I was maybe five or six and living at my parents’ bakery in Bedminster. Four or five gypsy wagons would descend on the village. The men stayed on the wagons and drove the horses. The women and children jumped off and ran into Keller’s store, the hotel, Hockman’s butchershop, into houses if the doors were open (they would demand that the woman go down into the cellar and bring up the finest jelly or jam she had, or they would put a curse on her and her family) and our bakery. They swarmed into the store. While one or two were ‘bargaining’ for bread or cakes, others with long, wide dresses and skirts opened up showcases and cookie boxes and emptied the contents into their skirts which they used as baskets. Neighbors and farmers telephoned one another ahead of the advancing gypsies. The men could lasso a chicken with their long whips, and someone would jump off the wagon and pick it up and steal it. They would also pick up pigs, geese or anything small enough.”

However, Trauch also adds, “They are perhaps the freest of free men. They have many admirable traits; they will not steal from each other. ‘Always help brothers; never harm brothers; always pay when you owe al-though not necessarily in money; never be afraid,’ sums up their philosophy.”

[The word “gypsy” derives from the mistaken notion that these groups originated in Egypt; they are more correctly known as Romani. These people often traveled regular routes and returned to the same places to set up camps for weeks or months on vacant property at the outskirts of towns.]

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