David Benton Brunner, born March 7, 1835, in Amity Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, was the oldest son of John Brunner (1807-1884) and Elizabeth Catherine (née Bachman) Brunner (1814-1896). He had an older sister and six younger brothers.
Brunner attended the common schools in the area and learned to be a carpenter from his father. Seeking more intellectual pursuits, he taught school from 1853 to 1856 while studying the classics at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1860 with a master’s degree. From 1860 to 1869, he was the principal of Reverend William A. Good’s Reading Classical Academy in Reading, Pennsylvania. From 1869 to 1875, he was twice elected the superintendent of schools in Berks County. He was the first native Berks Countian to be elected to the post. He then established the Reading Business College in 1880.
An avid collector of Native American artifacts, Brunner communicated with numerous other collectors to compile and write his classic book Indians of Berks County. Throughout his life, he also studied minerals and birds extensively and wrote mathematics and business textbooks.
Brunner, a Democrat, was twice elected to the United States House of Representatives from March 4, 1889, until March 3, 1893, serving on the Committee on Education. He did not run for Congress again in 1892, instead returning to Reading, where he taught at the Reading Business College until his death on November 29, 1903, at his residence at 235 South Sixth Street, Reading, Pennsylvania. Brunner was interred at St. Paul’s Church Cemetery in Amityville, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Brunner’s wife, Amanda Lorah (Rhoads) Brunner (born 1841), predeceased him in 1893. The Brunners had six children: Daniel Edwin (1863-1888), Charles Sylvester (1866-1867), Elizabeth R. (1866-1920), Edgar Alfred (1869-1906), Mary R (1871-1952), and Henry Philemon (1881-1842).