Fred H. Shihadeh and Fredelka Formula
Fred Harris Shihadeh, an internationally-respected custom bookbinder, was born in East Orange, New Jersey, in 1925. He graduated from Penn State University after serving in the army during World War II. After the war he was stationed near Munich, Germany, where he met his wife, Elka Nissen. A voracious reader and book collector, Mr. Shihadeh met an old German hand bookbinder who desperately needed an apprentice. Mr. Shihadeh had always liked books and was curious as to how they were put together, so he accepted the position. “I did all the dirty work, anything he said, I did – swept the floors, sewed the books, all the tough jobs. But I learned everything else from him, too.” Later, Mr. Shihadeh travelled extensively throughout Europe to acquire the unique skills and archaic tools of his craft. In 1961, with his wife and now partner, Elka, he brought his craft to America and opened a hand bookbindery in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Shihadeh also was an inventor. The profession of restoring rare leather bindings demands a natural product. One of the primary leather restorative and preservation formulas widely used at that time had been developed by the British Library. Mr. Shihadeh was dissatisfied with this product as he felt it was difficult to apply, was not smooth to the touch and had a disagreeable odor. After a good deal of experimentation, he was able to utilize varied proportions of its primary ingredients to create a totally new product which he called FredElka Formula, a combination of his and his wife’s names. FredElka Formula was easy to apply, brought old leather back to life and provided a firm protective coating with a smooth feel. In addition to utilizing the product himself Mr. Shihadeh soon developed a customer network of other book restorers, libraries and book collectors. FredElka Formula also proved of great value when applied to rugged outdoor leather products, automobile interiors, and the like.
In 2000 Mr. Shihadeh sold FredElka Formula and its full marketing rights to Accessible Archives, Inc. The name was changed to Triple Crown to coincide with the change in ownership, but has been re-named Accessible Preservatives to better reflect its relationship to the parent company.
Fred H. Shihadeh passed away February 13, 2004. Elka Shihadeh continues to work on occasional restoration and preservation projects.