RADNOR â€” Those Earle family members and friends celebrating the dedication of a historic marker for former Pennsylvania Gov. George Earle III did not let a little rain dampen their spirits Friday morning.
Although Gov. Earleâ€™s rather amazing life has not been well-known in recent years, his namesake and grandson, George Earle V, hopes the marker will spark renewed interest in his ancestor, who served as governor from 1935 to 1939.
Gov. Earle, a friend and supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was a colorful character in his own right.
As governor, Earle, whose administration was known as the â€śLittle New Dealâ€ť created the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and some 200,000 new jobs to build the countryâ€™s first superhighway. He also sent the state legislature some 3,500 bills, championing laws for civil rights, labor, unemployment compensation, said Earle V, of West Chester.
Earle III was raised on what was once a 1,000-acre estate, Broadacres, that spanned Newtown Square and Radnor. Earle III had served in the First and Second World Wars. Roosevelt appointed him an ambassador to Austria and Bulgaria.
His daughter by his second wife, Jacqueline Earle-Cruickshanks, spoke of her fatherâ€™s rollicking personality, recounting that while a diplomat in Bulgaria when it was about to fall to the Nazis, he went to a bar with two foreign correspondents. He asked the band to play an American song from World War I, â€śIt’s a Long Way to Tipperary.â€ť
A German officer, who was in the bar with other Nazi soldiers, was offended and called the song an insult. The Nazi grabbed a bottle of Champagne and began swinging it at Earle and broke Earleâ€™s wrist as he but up his arm to block it. Earle then grabbed a bottle of wineÂ with his other hand and decked the officer. Later Roosevelt called the incident, â€śThe Battle of bottles in the Balkans.â€ť
Roosevelt also had Earle commissioned as a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve and sent him to Turkey as an attachĂ© during WWII, where he was befriended by some German generals who wanted to overthrow Hitler. When Earle asked Roosevelt to support this coup, the president declined, said Earle-Cruickshanks. Also, while in Turkey, Earle fed misinformation to German spies in Istanbul, she said.
Her father kept a pet cheetah, hunted, took her deep sea fishing, played polo and kept his polo ponies at Broadacres. He also caught turtles for snapper soup at Earleâ€™s Lake, showed his â€śbeloved Manchester Terriersâ€ť at dog shows and kept â€śquite a menagerieâ€ť of other pets, including birds and a monkey, she said.
Douglas Humes, of the Newtown Square Historical Society, spoke about other prominent members of the Earle family that came to America on the Mayflower. Thomas Earle, a prominent journalist and abolitionist, came to Philadelphia from Massachusetts, said Humes.
Humes called the Earle family, â€śa very impressive cast of characters. They should be better remembered in their home state.â€ť
George Earle V ended his remarks with an update about Earleâ€™s Lake that formed when Earle III built a dam in 1910 to keep runoff from a stream from flooding his house. Earle and some area residents are fighting to keep the dam intact and the lake, which is the home of numerous birds and other wildlife.
Ashley Wilson, whose house abuts the lake and permitted the historic marker to be installed in her front yard, was pleased with her new lawn ornament.
â€śI love it,â€ť said Wilson. â€śIâ€™m just really happy to have this opportunity to preserve the history. Often times history is lost generation to generation.â€ť