Question of the Week
What Philadelphian was famous for dodging the World War I draft?
Answer: Grover C. Bergdoll
Grover Cleveland Bergdoll had a reputation as a “playboy” of early 20th-century Philadelphia. His family had made their fortune in the brewing business. His grandfather, Louis Bergdoll, brought his knowledge of lager beer-making from Germany and established a brewery in Philadelphia in the mid 1800s. The Bergdoll and Sons Brewing Company achieved national success and became a household name among beers. Bergdoll and his siblings lived privileged lives in Philadelphia. He raced cars, flew planes and made national headlines when he dodged the draft during World War I.
Bergdoll fled to Germany and dodged the draft there when German authorities demanded that he join their military. After years in exile, Bergdoll returned to America in 1939, was tried, and sent to prison. After his release from jail in the mid 1940s, Grover spent most of his later years under psychiatric supervision, including treatment at Westbrook Psychiatric Hospital in Virginia. Bergdoll died in 1966 and was buried in Richmond, Virginia.
The Bergdoll Family Papers (MSS021) at HSP contain clippings, correspondence, and legal documents which cover Grover C. Bergdoll's family, his adventures as a pilot and racing car driver, and his years in exile, trial, imprisonment, and later life. An unpublished biography, "The Curse of the Bergdoll Gold," legal and financial papers, and numerous family photographs are also included in the collection.
Image: Clipping showing Bergdoll's "wanted" status, (circa 1918), Philadelphia Record
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.