Category Archives: Blog

ANNOUNCING: “Back in Time” returns in Oct. and we added 38th IMAGE category

I recently received the note below from my bud, Will Valentino, of Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society.

Hope you had a great summer. ! Attaching a photo for your blog of a MILLSIDE FARMS half pint bottle I dug in my back yard in 2002 when I first moved here. Please let your readers know that BACK IN TIME , will return to THE POSITIVE PRESS in October after a brief summer sabbatical!

millside creamtopThe Millside Farms bottle is featured in the article which discusses historical artifacts found in your backyard and underfoot ! The half pint “cream top ” bottle is date / patented March 3, 1925! Probably not the healthiest of beverages chosen on a summer day to cool off I would think !

Look for the October issue of THE POSITIVE PRESS around October 8th in your mailboxes, at local stores and on line !

Back in Time graphic

Umm… I think autumn has arrived, Will. At least the leaves in Riverton think it has.

Speaking of making plugs for friends, check out the new Delaware River Bridge/ Benjamin Franklin Bridge category on our IMAGES page.

There you will find showcased 30 images related to that familiar span and a heart-warming story by a collector who tells of his connection to the bridge in A Small Metal Object Links Father and Son to an Event and Ignites a Passion for History.

Maybe you have a connection to the bridge, too. – JMc

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Love & Lies at the Library tonight

love and lies graphicEnjoy another delightful and entertaining program of “historical gossip” from America’s colonial period as Dorothy Stanaitis, the popular presenter of 2013’s Scandal, Rumors, & Dirty Rotten Lies, returns in period costume with its sequel, Love & Lies tonight at 7pm at Riverton Free Library.

We can expect her to name names and continue her scandalous reporting on the love lives of the Colonial era’s rich and famous. Light refreshments served. – JMc

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Summer winds down and the Society revs up

201 River Bank

201 River Bank

These remarkable photos from Nancy and Bill Steel’s family album offer a rare glimpse into early 20th century Riverton.

Porch Club (Copy)Do you recognize this Riverton landmark in its earlier days?

Built in 1909 as the clubhouse for an organization celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2015, it has a much different look here than in a later postcard view.

In an August 3rd post called Hot enough for ya? candid shots of the Fitler family of 109 Bank Avenue cavorting in a homemade swimming drew possibly the most traffic ever to this website and rekindled memories of those who later learned to swim in Bay Ruff’s pool. These scans came from that same album.

RYC biplane - no caption
RYC biplane – no caption


This photo had no caption or date, but you can see the Yacht Club in the background. Somewhere I have the name of a pilot who flew passengers around Riverton for a fee. But who is the woman?

We are often asked here what we have on file about the history of a house. Except for a few founders’ homes, we have precious little, I am afraid.

However, the 1999 Riverton National Register Historic District Inventory has short summary descriptions for over 500 structures. Mrs. Patricia Solin, a frequent contributor to the Gaslight News, reports that she will have some helps to publish here later this fall for those wishing to research the history of their home.

212 Thomas 1905

212 Thomas 1905

212 Thomas 1905

212 Thomas 1905

A new homeowner once told me how much they appreciated receiving from their seller a box of documents and old photos about the history of their just purchased house.

These photos taken in 1905 would be invaluable to a person trying to recreate original architectural details.

Note the oil lamp on the post that predates the Welsbach gaslamps. Do you have any photos of your home back in the day you could send in?

In a year in which we have a woman candidate running for president, an intriguing sequence of photos about suffragettes marching to gain the right to vote prompted me google some of the names I read in the captions.

Col. Ida Kraft speaking at Bridgeboro

Col. Ida Kraft speaking at Bridgeboro

I learned Col. Ida Kraft (also spelled Craft) and her army of Pilgrims were actually a real thing and a very big deal. But are the pictures in this album because a family member was involved in the march?

The captions do not say and the Steels do not know.

I couldn’t wait for cold weather to share this next one. I have heard of people walking on the river ice way back when, but a wind powered iceboat must be something to see.

Delving into the Steel family album remind us that there are still some surprises to be found in Riverton history, but sometimes they present more questions than answers.

H. McIlvain Biddle's iceboat

H. McIlvain Biddle’s iceboat

If you have any more surprises to throw into the mix, or can help connect the dots to some of these random bits, please join the conversation here at

Won’t you support the Historical Society of Riverton’s efforts to preserve and promote the history of this “unique” town in the only way that matters with your membership?

The Society gets an earlier than usual start on the season this time with its first event on September 10. Read more about it and other calendar events in our SUMMER EXTRA Gaslight News, a two-page late August summary of upcoming events and recap of summer web posts. – JMc

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103 years old this week!

Boardwalk and Beach, looking North from 8th St., Ocean City, NJ

Boardwalk and Beach, looking North from 8th St., Ocean City, NJ

A lot of people find their way here to look at old postcard images.

This scan of a 103 year old postcard is not the oldest one we display, but it may be one of the most rare.

This highly collectable philatelic find is one of very few surviving pieces of air mail flown in a Wright Brothers built biplane during a short-lived experiment from August 3-10, 1912 between Ocean City and Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

Postcard with handwritten notation VIA AEROPLANE

Postcard with handwritten notation VIA AEROPLANE

“The First Air Mail Flights in South Jersey – 1912,”  Harlan B. Radford, Jr.’s authoritative 3-page story of those historic pioneer flights of the early “AERIAL U.S. MAIL SERVICE” is liberally illustrated with items from his philatelic collection.

(The printable PDF file here contains links to larger image files.) – JMc

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Hot enough for ya?

First Fitler pool 02

First Fitler swimming pool

In the throes of one of New  Jersey’s infamous humidity drenched August heat waves we have to admire the ingenuity of these Rivertonians of old who found a way to keep cool.

Way before postwar prosperity and innovative construction methods of builders such as Phil Anthony and Herman Silverman, respective founders of Anthony and Sylvan Pools, enabled mainstream America to construct swimming pools in their own backyards, the Fitler family of 109 Bank Avenue made one in theirs.

This may be the “first swimming pool in Riverton” described by Mrs. Barbara Page Bartholomew during an interview conducted by former HSR President Gerald Weaber in when he was researching his feature, “The Fascinating Fitlers,” for the November 2009 Gaslight News. Gerald recorded:

Miss Barbara was fond of her aunt’s husband, Nathan Myers Fitler, whom she affectionately called Uncle Myers and who she said built the first swimming pool in Riverton. Nathan Myers and Mary Biddle Fitler lived in the home known as Graystone at 109 Bank Avenue. The first swimming pool in town was on the same property where the Fitler playhouse once stood. The playhouse, where Miss Barbara played as a youngster, was later the home to Anne Knight-Ruff, author of Ruff Copy, located at 4 Thomas Avenue behind Graystone.

first fitler pool 01 (Copy)

first fitler pool 04 (Copy)

These adorable century-old candid shots of kids at play are from a family album loaned to us for scanning by Mr. and Mrs. William Steel of Cinnaminson.

In it were a number of other photos of historical interest that will be shared here and, since some photos had no captions, we may need your help with names or guessing dates.

first fitler pool 06 (Copy)first fitler pool 03 (Copy)first fitler pool 05 (Copy)





Below is a preview of coming attractions. One wonders how many other glimpses into Riverton’s past lie waiting to be discovered and shudders at the thought of the history that is often discarded. – JMc

undated photo, presumably July 4th

undated photo, presumably July 4th

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Christmas in July at the HSR

image courtesy Moore's Postcard Museum

image courtesy Moore’s Postcard Museum

No, not really, and it’s not a sale at your favorite discount store either.

But I do feel like I just got a big present to open when I find in my email these scans gifted to us by a postcard collector friend and frequent contributor to our archives.

Find nine new additions to our vintage postcard image collection below.

Regular visitors here know that the Society owns very few real postcards and that much of our virtual catalog of vintage postcards consists of scans, or digital files, contributed by collectors who have shared their prized images here.

Perhaps no images have elicited more comments from visitors than the many picture postcards of the Jersey Shore. The views often launch a reverie that compels them to leave a comment like the ones below.

  • Thank you for posting the wonderful (Avalon) images. My very happiest childhood memories are of my family’s two-week vacations to Avalon from 1964 to 1969. – Gregory G.
  • … I worked at the Harbor Theatre for several summers. It was fun to see what it used to look like. Also did not realize that St. Paul’s had such a long history in Stone Harbor. I still attend Mass there. This was a wonderful treat to see these pictures. – Eileen P.
  • I will be 70 in April and for a few hours of looking at your pictures I was a kid again. – Margaret S.
  • I was a lifeguard at Beach Haven in 1958 and 1959….We used to go to the Baldwin (Hotel) in the evenings… – Robert B.
  • Love it! I always featured Lucy (the Elephant Hotel) when teaching about New Jersey in fourth grade. The good old days! – Susan D.
  • Thanks for posting all the pics…My first trip to Stone Harbor was 1959, the last year of the old Shelter Haven. Spent many fun summers working there. McClures gulf, short stop restaurant, hahns…still remember pizza alley and the old wooden freds tavern. Haven’t been in SH since 2000, but think about it alot. agasin, thanks for the memories. stayed at Carolyn hotel and later the Sherwood house, both long gone. – Jim A.

Browse for a while in the many categories of our IMAGES section and see to where and when the pictures transport you. Leave a note if you wish. Please contact us if you have vintage postcards or ephemera of the South Jersey/Delaware Valley region to donate or wish to send us scans. – JMc


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Lucy celebrates her 134th next Saturday

A certain lady we know is celebrating her 134th birthday next Saturday, July 18, and as we have reported on her advancing years before, we thought it time to provide an update.

Lucy_bday-poster2015Lucy is as gorgeous as ever and you may want to attend her party if you’re in the neighborhood.

Find more info about the festivities here  at the Save Lucy Committee website and read about her fascinating history here.

The slideshow below consolidates Lucy images seen elsewhere on

Do you have another? There’s always room for one more! Please contact us by email ( to arrange to send a scan. – JMc

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Riverton’s 118th July 4th Parade is history now; HSR Archives & Museum underway

HSR propagandists Bill Hall, Susan Dechnik

HSR propagandists Bill Hall, Susan Dechnik

2015 palm card A

click on image to view other side

HSR member Susan Dechnik shares these photos below she took July 4th.

She and Bill Hall and several other proselytizers were passing out our Glorious Fourth Palm Cards among the revelers bearing bits of borough history on one side and a pitch to become a member on the other.

Although recently retired as HSR treasurer, our goodwill ambassador Paul Daly also distributed the cards as he has for many years. The practice seems to have been started around 1987, possibly by Dan Campbell.

I have cards from 1987 thru this year except for 1992 and 1996. Maybe they were skipped for those years, but if any still survive in a kitchen drawer somewhere, please advise.

You’re thinking, “Shouldn’t you guys know? You are the historical society.”

HSR wants you1 (Copy)Uh…no. And you would be surprised how often our capability is over estimated. But we would like to improve that and, in numbers there is strength.

Kindly consider adding your name to our number.

HSR archives and museum logo (Copy)These are heady times indeed for the Society as renovations in the Library basement will soon enable us for the first time to set up a physical museum of sorts.

The Historical Society of Riverton invites you to join in our effort to make Riverton history more accessible by helping to underwrite the expense of this worthwhile project with your membership.

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Find the complete Riverton 4th of July Committee’s 2015 Program booklet here.

Find waaaay more pix and some video on the Riverton 4th of July Committee’s Facebook page.

Find Christian Hochenberger’s photos here, but know that the display is not permanent. Enjoy while you can. – JMc

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Mayor Brown fashions a new July 4th parade baton

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

The July 3rd, 1865 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer announced “The Democratic citizens of the beautiful and flourishing town of Riverton… intend celebrating the Fourth of July in grand style.”

Children's Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

Children’s Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

As the Great Day approaches, some may wonder how some of our July Fourth traditions started. Here is a sequel to the origin story of the mayor’s parade staff.

The subject of the parade baton that the mayor wields as the July Fourth Parade traverses Main Street has been touched on in these pages before.

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth, July 2011

We reprinted here the findings of former Town Historian Betty Hahle and learned there were not one, but two staffs.

And it seems she reached a different conclusion from what been reached earlier in the 1965 Riverton Yacht Club Centennial Booklet – that the staffs had come from India. Admitting that history is not static, and the discovery of new materials can change the our interpretation of events, she reasoned that they instead originated from Switzerland.

Whatever the ancestry of those first two staffs, we can be certain of the provenance of the most recent addition to the Borough’s collection of parade batons.

This past November, I was talking about the parade baton with Mayor William C. Brown and he mentioned in passing that he had to fashion a new staff himself for the 2014 July 4th promenade.


That is the very definition of Riverton history so I pressed the former marine for details of the news that was already several months old.

Mayor Brown explains:

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

The Mayor of Riverton’s tradition of carrying a staff during the Annual Fourth of July Parade, was started by Mayor E.C. Stroughton in 1897.

So that every year since then, a metal plate was added with the current mayor’s name, the year, and the number of children that marched in the parade.

There are three staffs in the Borough office, and legend has it that they came from trees located in Riverton. I’ve not found anything written about the first two, however I can state that the current staff did come from a Riverton tree.

I searched the wooded area along the park till I found a tree floating in the Pompeston Creek. I cut it loose, trimmed it out, and took it home, where I stripped, sanded, stained and applied two coats of varnish to preserve it.

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

One has to admire Mayor Brown’s unpretentious and no-nonsense account of how he humbly came to add another page to Riverton lore. And to think that we would have missed it if I had not brought it up.

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

This column from a June 28, 1934 New Era outlines the history of the Flag Parade Staff and lists the number of children participation from 1897 through 1933.

The  loss of those old hometown newspapers left such a gap in our historical record. If you have not yet explored them, browse though some pages. You might find someone mentioned you know.

If you have any issues we do not have, please donate them or allow us to scan the pages.

July 4th Parade batons

July 4th Parade batons

While Riverton history of old is worth preserving, so too, it is worth recording events of today. The approach of our Glorious Fourth is sure to cause much reminiscing and retelling of family tales.

Leave one below in the comments box, or let us know what draws so many to return to this “unique” place each July Fourth.

Have a great holiday! – JMc

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Many hands contribute to the success of the fifth Historic Riverton Criterium

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Under the sweltering heat of today’s sun, the fifth running of the Historic Riverton Criterium was exciting for spectators, punishing for competitors, and all the excuse many needed to throw a porch or backyard party. Those arriving just in time for such events may have missed this.  Below, a crew erects the framework that holds the photo finish camera. It’s just one of the many heavy lifting jobs, literally and figuratively, that get done before the first race starts. – JMc

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