December 31, 1885: Frederick Steltz Succumbs to “Mania a Potu"


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

December 31, 1885: A three-day attack of “mania a potu” has ended in the death of Frederick Steltz, age about 53 years. The popular groom at the Union House, Steltz was well-known and well-liked by all of his patrons, to whom he always had a pleasant word and frequently cracked a joke.

Before finding his niche at the inn, he had unsuccessfully tried butchering, and later mining. When the previous groom, Fritz Weber, committed a sensational suicide by hanging himself in the Union House stable in full view of the busy street, Steltz succeeded him.

He did well in that position but, unfortunately, he became a slave to alcohol, which ruined him bodily and he died a terrible death. (Webster defines mania a potu as “insanity arising from the use of spirituous liquors,” today more commonly called delirium tremens [DT’s]).

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