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Our History

Here at the law firm of Mogel, Speidel, Bobb & Kershner, we are proud of our rich history. Our founder is George F. Baer, who was the president of Reading Company. We are proud to have roots that reach as far back as 1868 and of our legacy for providing exceptional, trustworthy legal services for our clients. With offices in Reading, Womelsdorf, and Douglassville, PA, our areas of expertise include estate planning, family law, personal injury, real estate and zoning law, and much more.

Berks County Bar Association in PA

Brief History of the Berks County Legal Community

The County of Berks was established in 1752. Justices of the Peace were commissioned by the governor, and Conrad Weiser was one of the first serving from 1752-1760. A Lawyers Register was maintained from 1752-1776, and the earliest recordings of Officers of Berks County, attorneys at law, were made in 1769. The Berks County Bar Association was formed in 1867.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Reading’s population had reached 150,000. This was the era of railway expansion, Robber Barons, J.P. Morgan, and President Teddy Roosevelt. Cable cars ran along Penn Avenue and 5th Street, Neversink Mountain was a popular destination, and business was booming in the exciting City of Reading.

George F. Baer and Baer, Snyder & Zieber

Born on September 26, 1842, in Somerset County, George F. Baer was the leading attorney in Reading for 30 years before becoming the President of the Reading Company in 1901. Admitted to the Berks County Bar Association in 1868, Mr. Baer was distinguished for his public service, and many young lawyers studied under him. One of his students, Jefferson Snyder, became his assistant and later his partner. In 1873, their law office was located at 518 Washington Street, and today the building is still referred to as the Baer Building. It is located across from Trinity Lutheran Church and behind the main Reading Post Office on 5th Street at the corner of Washington and Church Streets. In 1898, the firm of Baer, Snyder and Zieber was established with third partner Philip S. Zieber.

Mr. Baer served as local counsel for many corporations, including the Philadelphia and Reading Railway Company from 1872 until 1901. In addition to his large legal practice, he was the driving force in the creation of a number of important business enterprises. Mr. Baer established the Reading Paper Mills in 1886, and he helped to establish Penn National Bank (1883), the Reading Hospital (1884), the Reading Trust Company (1887), the Wyomissing Club (1890), the Reading Free Library (1898), and the Berkshire Country Club (1899). He remained active in the management of most of these organizations, serving as President of the Reading Paper Mills and Temple Iron Company as well as Vice President of Seyfert, McManus & Company. He was also was the first President of the Reading Iron Company, which was the largest industrial enterprise in Berks County in 1923, and much of its later success was attributed to him. In 1901, Mr. Baer assumed his most famous role and became President of the Reading Company when his close friend, J.P. Morgan, assumed control of the company.

Mr. Baer continued to be involved in the Reading community. He served as President of the Board of Park Commissioners and was on the Board of Trustees for both Charles Evans Cemetery and Franklin & Marshall College.

The Reading Railroad

The Reading Railroad is widely recognized as one of the properties in the game of Monopoly. Even so, most people don’t realize that it was one of the greatest coal haulers in the east and one of the wealthiest companies in the world in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Philadelphia and Reading Railway Company was established in 1833. Commonly referred to as the “P&R,” it became one of America’s first conglomerates. It formed subsidiary P&R Coal and Iron Company, and in the 1890s created the Reading Company. In 1902, J.P. Morgan assumed control of the company, and he appointed his close friend, George F. Baer, as President of the Reading Company. In 1924, P&R Coal and Iron became independent, and the Reading Company became the railroad’s operating name. Generally thought of as the Reading Lines, the Reading Company operated until it filed for bankruptcy in 1971. Conrail took over in 1976, and the current Norfolk Southern Corporation based in Virginia is its successor. It’s interesting to note that Reading Anthracite was a spin-off of the P&R Coal and Iron Company, and it still exists today as one of the largest anthracite-mining companies in the world.

1833

Snyder, Zieber & Snyder

When Mr. Baer became President of the Reading Company, Mr. Snyder assumed the lead in the firm. Snyder & Zieber was formed in 1902, and Jefferson’s son, Thomas Lager Snyder, later joined the office to form Snyder, Zieber & Snyder.

The law firm continued to represent a number of large corporations as well as handle estate planning for their founding families. Clients included the Reading Company, Reading Trust Company, Thun Investment Company, Provident Savings & Loan, Nolde & Horst Hosiery, Reading Hardware Company, and Ludens. Many of these firms are historically tied to the now well-known companies such as Wachovia Bank, Vanity Fair, and Arrow International.

1902

1965

Snyder, Balmer & Kershner and Balmer, Kershner, Mogel & Speidel

As the firm evolved, it continued to represent local entities such as the Reading Transportation Company and Albright College. The firm attorneys also played a large role in establishing local agencies to promote development in the Reading area, including the Greater Berks Development Fund and the Berks County Industrial Development Authority. Through the mid-1960s, the firm maintained a general legal practice, and its client mix shifted with the acquisition and relocation of many Reading-founded corporations. Sought out for his advice on critical legal and community issues, George Balmer was known for his fine reputation and strong work ethic. George Kershner created a new form of will that enhanced the estate planning process in Berks County.

Having outgrown their original office space in the Baer Building, the law offices relocated to 50 N. 5th Street, the Bank of Pennsylvania building, in 1965. It’s interesting to note that in the early 1960s, there was a shift in the legal community towards focusing on particular areas of the law. For example, prior to that time, specializations in pension law and environmental law did not exist.

Mogel, Speidel, Bobb, and Kershner

The law firm of Mogel, Speidel, Bobb and Kershner has been incorporated since 1985. Founding shareholders were Carl Mogel, Harry Speidel, Donald Bobb, and Edwin Kershner. Edwin Kershner worked with his father, George Kershner, just as Lager Snyder did with his father, Jefferson Snyder. Current senior shareholder Frederick Mogel continues the family tradition, having worked with his father, Carl Mogel.

Maintaining a general practice, the firm offers a broad range of services with highly regarded expertise. With 14 attorneys and their supporting staff, the firm retains an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest possible rating for law firms in the United States. Since 1980, the main office has been located in the former Nolan home at 520 Walnut Street, Reading, PA. Although renovated for business purposes, the building’s charm and architectural integrity remain. Additional county offices are maintained in Womelsdorf and Douglassville.

1985

The Nolan Mansion

1980

In 1980, Mogel, Speidel, Bobb & Kershner purchased the former Nolan family home at 520 Walnut Street between 5th and Church Streets. Built by Nolan & Brothers construction company in 1899, the home was most likely designed by architect A. F. Smith. Mr. Smith is credited with many elegant residences and churches in the Reading area, including Grace Lutheran Church and alterations to the Berks County Courthouse. The site that the house now occupies was originally part of a much larger parcel of land that in 1842 included a “house, outhouse, barns, stables, gardens, orchards, meadows, fields, fences, ways and wood.” The larger property changed hands over the years and at different times included apartment buildings and a garage. The land at what is now 520 Walnut Street came into the Nolan family on June 7, 1890, when James Nolan purchased it from Jerome L. and Susan E. Boyer for $2,500.
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William Nolan, Sr. was born in Queen’s County, Ireland, in 1840. His parents, James and Annie (Bennett) Nolan, brought their family to New York and later relocated to Reading. One of seven children, William Nolan, Sr. started his career as a stonecutter under master mason Henry Jacobs with the Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company. His success led him to organize his own firm, William Nolan & Co., which later became Nolan & Brothers and then Nolan Construction Company. William, Sr. worked with his brothers, Charles and James, and some of the finest roads, viaducts, bridges, and arches in New York City, Port Jervis, Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, and along the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers were designed and constructed by Nolan & Brothers – all great structures that made possible the great transportation industries along the Atlantic seaboard.

In addition to being involved with the family business, James was an attorney and became president of numerous companies including the Reading Trust Company, Reading Electric Light and Power Company, and Reading Academy of Music. He also served on the board of trustees of St. Joseph’s Hospital and was a director for Farmers National Bank. He and his wife, Kate Stewart, had three children, and their son, James Bennett Nolan, was a member of the Berks County Bar Association.

William Nolan, Sr. and his wife, Katherine McDonough, had nine children, and sons James, Charles J., Thomas G., Edward C., Bernard J. and William, Jr. all continued the family business. Prior to living at 520 Walnut, early city directories show the extended Nolan family living at 522 Walnut Street. This building was torn down in 1990, and the location is now the law firm’s parking lot. William Nolan, Sr. passed away at the family home on February 3, 1903.

The renovation of the Nolan family home retained many of the fine architectural details that Nolan & Brothers was known for in their work. These include the domed stained glass window at the top of the center stairwell; three fireplaces; and hand-carved wood work on the staircase banisters, windows, and doors. Photographs of the home’s interior in the early 1900s are displayed in the reception area.

James Bennett Nolan, the grandson of the Nolan Mansion’s original owner, was born on December 1, 1877. He studied law and was admitted to the Berks County Bar on November 18, 1901. James served in World War II, enlisting on March 8, 1943 as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Coast Guard Reserve. Promoted to Commander on September 15, 1945, he was awarded a Bronze Star and discharged on October 1, 1945.

Founders & Namesakes

George F. Baer

Born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, September 26, 1842, George F. Baer studied at the Somerset Institute and the Somerset Academy. He attended Franklin & Marshall College until the Civil War broke out, and then with his brother, Henry, he purchased the Somerset Democrat. Mr. Baer edited and published the newspaper until August, 1862, when he served in the army as a Captain in Company E, 133 Pegt., P.V.I. until 1863. He was admitted to practice law in Somerset in 1864, and on January 22, 1868, he was admitted to the Berks County Bar Association. In 1886, Franklin & Marshall College conferred a Doctor of Laws on Mr. Baer. In addition to his legal and business endeavors, Mr. Baer erected the first large, modern, fireproof office building in 1900, adjoining the rear of his law office building at 518 Washington Street. The seven-story building stands at the corner of Court and Church Streets, and originally the Reading Iron Company occupied the first two floors. Mr. Baer and his wife, Emily Kimmel, had five children, and the Baer family home located at 15th Street and Mineral Spring Road is now a nursing home. Mr. Baer died in Philadelphia on April 16, 1914.

Jefferson Snyder

Born in Exeter township on November 16, 1848, Jefferson Snyder graduated from the Freeland Seminary (now Ursinus College) as well as Lafayette College as valedictorian in 1872. He studied under George F. Baer, and later became his assistant and his partner. Mr. Snyder was admitted to practice law on August 9, 1875, and he was recognized by the Supreme and Superior Courts as one of the leading lawyers of the State Bar. Mr. Snyder married Anna Lizzie Lager, and they had three children, Mary, Thomas Lager, and John Kendig. His son, T. Lager, joined the firm in 1902, and Mr. Snyder passed away in the summer of 1926.

Philip S. Zieber

Philip S. Zieber was born in Reading on June 30, 1861. He attended Reading High School and was the 1876 valedictorian. Mr. Zieber graduated from Lafayette College in June, 1881, and he was admitted to the Bar on November 10, 1884. Mr. Zieber married Annie Gillespie Fry, and he died on July 2, 1940.

Thomas Lager Snyder

Born in Reading, T. Lager Snyder attended Princeton University Law School and was admitted to the Berks County Bar Association in 1902. The son of Jefferson Snyder, he was well-respected in the legal community and kept his favorite rocking chair in the firm library. Mr. Snyder married Carrie F. Snyder and died in 1955.

George Balmer

Born in Reading on February 2, 1902, George B. Balmer was a 1919 graduate of Reading Boys High School. He graduated from Muhlenberg College in 1923 and from Harvard Law School in 1926. He was admitted to the Berks County Bar Association on October 13, 1926, and he served as Bar President for the 1949-50 term and Bar Director in 1950-51. Mr. Balmer served as President of the Board of Trustees of Muhlenberg College, and he received an honorary Doctor of Letters of Law from Muhlenberg College in 1950. Mr. Balmer was considered a scholar by his peers, and he was often seen with his favorite pipe. A strong believer in lawyers devoting time to community affairs and projects, Mr. Balmer served 30 consecutive years as President of the Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association of Reading. He also actively served on the boards of the Reading Hospital, Berks History Center, Reading Automobile Club, Charles Evans Cemetery, YMCA and Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading. Mr. Balmer and his wife, Lillian (Lilly), had two children, Mary and George F. Mr. Balmer was an AV-rated attorney, and he died on August 27, 1969.

George A. Kershner

Born in Reading on October 27, 1907, George A. Kershner was a 1925 graduate of Reading Boys High School. He graduated from Lafayette College and received an LL.B. from The University of Pennsylvania Law School. Mr. Kershner was registered with the Bar in 1932, and he joined the firm of Zieber and Snyder as an associate that same year. Mr. Kershner served as Bar Secretary for the 1935-36 term, and he also served as President of the Endlich Law Club. Mr. Kershner concentrated in the business field of the law, and he was described by partner George Balmer as the “best draftsman I ever knew.” He married Ina Taylor High, and they had three children, Edwin H., Carolyn L., and David H. His son Edwin later joined the firm in 1961. Mr. Kershner was an AV-rated attorney, and he died on December 8, 1969.

Carl F. Mogel

Carl F. Mogel was born in Reading on July 16, 1919, and he attended Wyomissing Area High School. He graduated from Albright College with a B.S. in Economics and received an LL.B from The University of Pennsylvania Law School. Mr. Mogel was admitted to the Berks County Bar Association in 1944. He served in many positions on the Bar including Bar President in 1975. He married Kass Betz and they had three children, Peter, David, and Frederick R. His son Frederick joined the firm in 1980. Mr. Mogel served on many non-profit boards, and he was a Sunday School teacher at Atonement Lutheran Church for over 60 years. Mr. Mogel practiced law for 50 years, passing away on June 21, 1994.

Harry W. Speidel

Born in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, March 30, 1920, Mr. Speidel attended public schools in Muhlenberg Township and graduated in 1938. He received an A.B. from Dickinson College in 1942 and an LL.B. from The Dickinson School of Law in 1947. During World War II, Mr. Speidel served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in China, Burma, and India as a Navigator/Co-Pilot with the 1st Troop Carrier Squadron, 10th Air Force. Upon his discharge from USAAF in 1945, he accepted a commission in the USAAF (later USAF) Reserve from which he retired with the rank of Colonel in 1974 after 32 years of service. Mr. Speidel has been associated with the firm since his admission to the Bar in 1948. During that time, he served as director of several local business and non-profit corporations including Eastern Radio Corporation (WHUM), Orr & Sembower, Reading Merchant Oil Co., The Wyomissing Club, and the Board of Censors of the Berks County Bar Association. Mr. Speidel practiced in the areas of business, probate, and real property. He resides with his wife in Wernersville.

Donald K. Bobb

Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, August 15, 1929, Mr. Bobb is a 1947 graduate of Reading High School. He was awarded an A.B. in 1951 by Lafayette College and an LL.B. in 1956 by The University of Pennsylvania. He was admitted to the Berks County Bar Association in 1957. Mr. Bobb served as an infantry communications officer in Korea (1952-53). A past president of the Berks County Bar Association, he sat as a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association House of Delegates for eight years. Elected a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel in 1983, Mr. Bobb practiced in the areas of probate, trust, and estate planning, and he was an AV-rated attorney. Mr. Bobb resides with his wife in Wyomissing.

Edwin H. Kershner

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, October 17, 1936, Mr. Kershner is a lifelong resident of Berks County, having graduated in 1954 from Womelsdorf High School. He was awarded a B.A. in 1958 by Wesleyan University and an LL.B. in 1961 by the University of Virginia. He was admitted to the Bar in 1961.

He is a past president of the Berks County Bar Association. Mr. Kershner maintained a Womelsdorf office on Wednesday afternoons and evenings, and he practiced primarily in the areas of estate and trust administration and planning, business, and real estate law. Mr. Kershner was an AV-rated attorney and resides in Wyomissing.

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