What is a Quester?
The year 1944 was full of misery for many people. Everyone was so weary of the War, and many had lost loved ones. Morale was slipping, and anything that would give it a boost was needed. This is what Jessie Elizabeth Bardens, who was a Red Cross production chairman, living in Fort Washington, PA, had in mind when she asked a group of her co-workers to come to her home. They were to “bring an antique and a sandwich.” She had purchased a little blue syrup pitcher from a shop near work in October 1943. On her way to and from work, what would be more natural than to stop at an antique shop if you were passing by?
After she showed this pitcher to her co-workers and discussed it, others stopped by her desk and more questions were asked with still more discussion following. This started a whole stream of small antiques being brought to work by her co-workers, just so Mrs. Bardens could give her opinion on them. This convinced her that something was needed. So on April 6, 1944, she invited fourteen people to come to her home for more discussion and study. By the end of that year, there were 35 people meeting to learn more about antiques. At this time, most homes could not accommodate this many people, so Mrs. Bardens encouraged all those wanting to join to form their own study groups. Before long, there were five more groups. In March 1950, Mrs. Bardens organized these six groups into a national organization and in 1953 incorporated it under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a non-profit corporation. Mrs. Bardens was the first National Quester President, serving from 1950 - 1956.
The word soon spread and inquiries came from all over the country about forming chapters, as well as how to affiliate existing antique clubs with this national organization. Mrs. Bardens personally went where she could to organize these groups; the rest she did by mail. She always made it a point to answer all questions. In 1954, she and her husband drove as far west as Iowa, organizing chapters as they went.
In 1991, The Questers earned the right to add “International” to their name. There are nearly 900 chapters in 43 states and two Canadian provinces.
The organization promotes preservation and restoration of memorials, historical buildings, and landmarks, and any money earned must be used for these purposes.
International, State, or Provincial and Chapter Bylaws, with the International Bylaws setting the example, govern the Questers, a non-profit corporation.
When Mrs. Bardens was asked, “What is a Quester?” she gave this answer: “A Quester is a socially well-adjusted, intelligent person who has curiosity, enthusiasm, imagination, and a good memory. For the powers of the mind are memory and imagination, for without memory we have no past; without imagination, no future.” She also said, “A Quester spends time constructively, does research about the history of antiques, and collects knowledge. Sooner or later the ‘bug bites’ and they have acquired a hobby and are collectors.”
For more information on the international organization of The Questers, click here.