Greetings, and welcome to the Historical Society of Riverton's website for our town, founded in 1851, by a group of ten Philadelphians for summer homes for their families. Displayed within its scant square mile area of Victorian-flavored neighborhoods and gaslamp-lined streets are more than 150 years of American architectural styles. More than half of Riverton's buildings are included in the State and National Directories of Historic Places.

Here is the venerable Porch Club, birthplace of the PTA; Riverton Yacht Club, one of the oldest and still active yacht clubs in the country; the beloved Riverton Public School which just turned one hundred; treasured churches and other institutions, as well as businesses and a hometown to almost 3,000 proud Rivertonians.

Our masthead banner, derived from a delightful folk art painting by Riverton author and artist, Anne Knight Ruff, evokes the charm and vitality of our richly historic borough and serves as your invitation to explore it further with us.

Meeting notice – March 2, 2014

Downton publicity graphic 1Animation Downton publicity graphic 3













See the January 2014 Gaslight News for more details.

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Meeting notice – February 12, 7 p.m. at The Bank on Main

Lincoln PublicitySee the January 2014 Gaslight News for more details.

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History Repeats Itself as Ice Jams the Delaware River

As last night’s (Jan. 9) Action News segment explains, the sight of recent ice jams on the Delaware brought out spectators with cameras to record the “once in a lifetime” event. However, for our friend William Hall this makes at least twice, as regular readers of our newsletter will recall (“Adrift on the Icy Delaware,” Gaslight News, January 2013).

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ice jam RYC pier 1920

This stereoview of ice shards clustered up over the pier by the Riverton Yacht Club in January 1920 comes from Elsie Waters. There is another view on a Feb. 2011 post along with a few other images from this rare collection.

Say, doesn’t that pumper in the Feb. 2011 post look like the same one depicted in the photo I bought on eBay, mentioned here Dec. 22? But, I am off topic.

March 8, 1934 Courier Post ice-bound RYC

March 8, 1934 Courier Post ice-bound RYC

Back to the ice conversation.

Here is mention of a close call for some ice skaters rescued from an ice floe in 1900 by Charles Biddle.

Mary Flanagan’s scrapbook continues to be a goldmine of source material for this blog. This newspaper clipping provides another example of the uncommon phenomenon.

Or is it?

Can any reader recall another occurrence of glacial blockage on the Delaware?

If you have an old one or a new one, please send us a scan or donate it for our archives.

River Ice, undated, from Bill & Nancy Hall's family photos

River Ice, undated

Please appreciate the view from a safe distance.

NYT, Feb 11, 1917 Charles Durbonard, possibly Durborow

NYT, Feb 11, 1917 Charles Durbonard, possibly Durborow

This is NOT to suggest that anyone should  actually risk going out on to ice.

Or in it, as evidenced by this clipping from a Feb. 11, 1917 New York Times showing Riverton’s Charles Durbonard taking his usual morning dip in the Delaware prior to going to his office in a Philadelphia bank.

I believe this is the same Charles Durborow referenced in news articles of the 1910s-1920s as being a champion long-distance swimmer associated with the Riverton Yacht Club.

Again, I digress. – John McCormick







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Civil War muster sheets and diaries lend new insight to War’s local impact

THE PALMYRA HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL SOCIETY logo2You ARE in the right place, but our friend Will Valentino of the Palmyra Historical and Cultural Society asked that we remind you of this upcoming presentation. Local history buffs, genealogists, family tree makers, and Civil War fans will not want to miss this timely presentation that compliments our nation’s celebration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial , or its 150th anniversary.


P  R  E  S  S     R  E  L  E  A  S  E


For additional comments /questions /photos

Contact:  JIM MAY, PHCS President  @ 856 829 6725 or  JAY HOWARD @



The Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society and The Palmyra War Memorial Committee invite you to revisit The Civil War and its local impact on society, culture, economics and politics. A recent donation to the Historical Society of Civil War era Muster sheets and diaries by Virginia Harding has sparked renewed interest in Palmyra’s role in America’s only Civil War .

Join Jay Howard of The Palmyra War Memorial Committee and The Palmyra Historical Society’s Genevieve Lumia in this unique free presentation.

The evening will feature Mr. Howard’s presentation on his research on the War’s effect on our local residents, and Genevieve Lumia will  discuss her involvement in transcribing these historical documents that lend greatly to the understanding of Palmyra’s contribution and sacrifice to this struggle. Come discover what we have learned through this important donation to our archives !

The free event will take place at 7PM on Thursday January 9, 2014 at Palmyra’s Community Center located in the heart of Historic Palmyra at 20 West Broad Street. Light refreshments will be served.

Residents are encouraged to contact Jay Howard at the above email with any information on local veterans and to bring any artifacts or photographs on Palmyra they wish to donate to The Palmyra Historical Society for preservation.  Become a part of Palmyra History…TODAY!

After more than 20 years, the Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society is still going strong vitalizing and instilling pride in our community through free events and the conservation of local history. In addition, every month, join trustee Will Valentino as he journeys “Back In Time” in the pages of THE POSITIVE PRESS exploring our towns unique contributions to the local historical  tapestry.

For more info go to  Help us in making Palmyra a better “Place to live and grow”. Permission is granted to copy , distribute and post the attached flyer on our event. Thank You.
Commemorative Abraham  Lincoln postcard, 1909. courtesy Mary Flanagan

Commemorative Abraham Lincoln postcard, 1909. courtesy Mary Flanagan


Mr. Bob Gleason, a highly regarded historical interpreter associated with the American Historical Theater will visit the HSR in the Bank on Main as he channels one of his most complex and fascinating historical figures on the very anniversary of the Great Emancipator’s birth.

Once a real bank, built in the late 1920s, The Bank on Main is on the United States Federal Register of Historic Places and is a marvelous venue for such an extraordinary Society meeting. More details to follow. – John McCormick

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Snow Day 2014!

Gertrude Wright out for a sleigh ride in Riverton, 1914

Gertrude Wright out for a sleigh ride in Riverton, 1914

Snow day!

When I started working at Riverton School in 1974, I remember the squeals of childish delight that followed that anticipated KYW radio announcement that school was called off on account of snow.

And that was just the teachers.

Later, administrators and PTA members developed complex phone chain networks that started with key people calling two people, who each called two more, and so and so on. screenshot Jan 3, 2014 screenshot Jan 3, 2014

Now, I guess the kids get automated phone calls, text alerts, or check their computer.

I wonder how they got the word out a century ago when Gertrude Wright was a Riverton schoolteacher. Former resident Richard Flach sent this image from Florida of his relative enjoying a sleigh ride near 413-415 Elm Street in Riverton.

Gertrude Wright, undated Riverton School photo

Gertrude Wright, undated Riverton School photo

Gertrude Wright was the mother of Bay Wright Ruff, Riverton author and artist who passed away last year. Her family displayed much of her work along with many photos at her Quaker memorial service, including this remarkable undated Riverton School class photo, which I photographed.

The many characters of the Wrights, Showells, Flachs, and Waters families, like so many other Riverton clans of yesterday and today, have played out their parts on this Riverton stage, and much of it must be recorded in family albums, now even on computer memory and Facebook pages.

Some of the rarest images of old Riverton are probably the backdrops of family portraits stored in attics and drawers all across the nation. If future history buffs are to have any images of today’s ‘good old days’ to look back upon, please let’s try to supplement what seems to live on forever on YouTube.

As Betty Hahle, former Town Historian, told me, be sure to document what is going on today, for this is tomorrow’s history. One of her favorite memories was looking up Elm Terrace lined with gas lamps as the snow fell.

Please send us, or post on Facebook, any photos that show us how you have spent any past or present Riverton snow day.  – John McCormick

REVISED 1/20/2014: While we hardly can be said to go viral, this post engendered more interest than most. Visitor engagement is what every blogger strives for, including me, especially when I hear from people who take the time to respond to our work here. We got 10 “likes” on Facebook for this post, several of whom reminisced at the very thought of those childhood times of getting the day off on account of snow.

Hey, I’m retired now. Every day is like a snow day.

I was especially gratified to hear from Michael Cattell who pointed out a mistake on a caption when this post first ran and proposed an idea for a video with accompanying period music.

I sincerely thank Michael Cattell for correcting an error in the caption. Our conversation started on the Historical Society’s Facebook page and you can also see an exchange of our comments in the “comment” link below. His sharp eyes caught that the backdrop for the Gertrude Wright sleigh picture was actually on Elm Street in Riverton, and not in Palmyra as it was originally captioned.

He produced this short YouTube animated morphing video showing the old and new views dissolving back and forth as evidence. It is amazing how he perfectly duplicated the angle and perspective of the 1914 photo with his own new 2014 photo of the same Elm Street setting.

With some luck, this may develop into a longer video project contrasting his new photos and our vintage views of historic spots in Riverton.

To be continued, I hope… JMc

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