Martin Brechall


(c. 1757–1831)
was a fraktur artist who made many baptismal certificates from his home on the Berks-Lehigh county line between Allentown and Reading, Pennsylvania, from the1790s to the 1810s. Born in Europe, Brechall was a schoolmaster in Weisenberg Township, Pennsylvania. The baptismal certificates he drew were for children wholived in about a dozen townships near the area where he resided, with the exception of a few made in Penn Township, Northumberland County, which has since become part of Center County, suggesting that he had a teaching job for a term or two there as well.An extremely typical artist, Brechall produced baptismal forms listing the names of the child and its parents, the place and date of birth, the date of baptism and thenames of the sponsors, and the officiating clergyman. He had some certificates of his own design printed to expedite the work, and frequently signed them, becomingone of the first fraktur artists to be identified by name. His colors were restricted to red and black, for the most part, and his designs to hearts and rectangles.Occasionally, he added an angel’s head or an eagle, and sometimes a crown with the alphabet in it. He also designed a house blessing, a child’s prayer, and presentation frakturs for the little children in his schoolroom. Like most Pennsylvania German schoolmasters, he lived a quiet and withdrawn life, and would probablyhave been forgotten but for the records of baptism he produced and signed. Because he lived in an area inhabited almost entirely by Lutherans and ReformedProtestants, he prepared certificates for children of both faiths. His work is known in Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, and Schuylkill counties in Pennsylvania, as well as inthe central part of the state.Brechall served in the American Revolutionary War. On July 3, 1818, in a pension application, Brechall stated that he enlisted in “April 1777 in the CongressRegiment” for three years. He then reenlisted until 1783, and fought at Short Hills, Brandywine, Monmouth, and other places, and was present at the capture of theBritish general Cornwallis.
See also
Fraktur; German American Folk Art;

Pennsylvania German Folk Art; Religious Folk Art.