Wardecker's Jim Thorpe Archive--Now Closed

Written on 07/29/2020

The haberdashery that served the Carlisle Indian Industrial School student athletes and coaches houses an extensive collection of Thorpe memorabilia and history.  The collection now resides at the Cumberland County Historical Society and in private collections since Wardecker's closing in October of 2020.

When 30 North Hanover Street opened as a men's clothing store at the turn of the 20th century, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS) was located at the Carlisle Barracks on the outskirts of town.  Any sports historian knows the storied legacy of the Indian School's student athletes, including Olympic gold medal winner and NFL founding player, Jim Thorpe.  Mose Blumenthal, the store owner of what was then The Capital, played poker with legendary coach, "Pop" Warner and negotiated a deal, whereby the CIIS student atheletes would come to hime to buy their traveling clothes using the school's line of credit.  This arrangement meant that every famed athlete connected to the Indian School came to see Mose, who formed life-long friendships with them.

Throughout the years, Mose collected memorabilia from those athletes.  When the school closed in 1917, the ledgers where Mose recorded the clothing transactions became artifacts themselves.  The athletes often returned to Carlisle in the decades after the school's closing, and while many things had changed since their time in town, one place that remained and was always visited was Mose's store.  The store tied the student athletes to each other and to Carlisle.  The stories they told of their time at CIIS and their exploits, athletic and otherwise, stand as one of the most important things Mose collected.  That lore was passed along to James Wardecker when he began working for Mose in the 1940s, and along with the archive, passed into James' hands when he bought the store in the mid-sixties.

Fascinated by the stories, photographs, and first-hand interactions he had himself with the CIIS athletes, Wardecker, with the help of his son Fred, began acquiring more.  At estate sales and sometimes by gift, the private collection grew to include photographs, ephemera, and even football shoes, which are all displayed inside the store on the walls and shelves and in showcases.  Any Thorpe or CIIS athletic historian knows about Wardecker's collection and oral history he safeguards, and many have visited.  NFL films, ESPN, and many journalists, authors, and even film makers have come to see the collection and hear the stories that Fred Wardecker continues to tell.  Some scholars have even referred to Wardecker and his repository as a "national treasure".  

You can stop by Wardecker's and look at the collection, which includes local Carlisle history as well, any time it's open.  Fred loves to tell the stories that have been handed down to him about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, and doing business in downtown.

Wardecker's is located at 30 North Hanover Street.  

See our full entry and sources on Wardecker's here.