40 years ago the HSR sought to carry out a mission; the work continues

The pages of these nearly four decades old newsletters detail early efforts of Society members to pay homage to local history and geography.

Gaslight News:
May 1980
September 1980
November 1980
February 1981
May 1981

Click here to see more back issues of the Gaslight News.

Incorporation of the Society, its certification as a non-profit, curating engaging historical programs, publishing newsletters, surveying Riverton, combing through period resources, securing a National Register of Historic Places designation, collecting and storing artifacts, images, and documents, and other work of historical preservation have brought us an understanding of what renowned historian David McCullough called “… who we are and why we are the way we are.”

Creating a website, updating it, refreshing the newsletter, and establishing a Facebook page, tasks for another generation of HSR members, would never have occurred without the pioneering endeavors of many who came before.

Who do you recognize among the persons mentioned in these five issues?

Louise Vaughn, “Sister” Probsting, Joan Hartmann, Nell Layton, EllaMay Moore, Ruth Schmierer, Betty Hahle, Carl and Walter McAllister, Harold Zayotti, William Baxter, Alice Myers, Pete Dechnik, Lloyd Griscom, Nancy Hall, John Parry, Betty Lockhart, Marilyn Colozzi…

And who among you will carry on our mission into the 21st century?

Constitution – Article II – Purpose

The purpose of the Society shall be to bring together those people who are interested in history and especially the history of the Borough of Riverton, but not limited thereto. The Society’s major function will be to create an awareness
of our heritage, to discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the history of the area.

Can you support this noble work with your membership or a donation?

Meet Me at the Eagle

by Harlan Radford Jr.

Are you are old enough to remember hearing the words, “Meet me at the Eagle”? I do recall hearing those very words uttered by my own mother. It was quite common for people who were shopping at the John Wanamaker Department Store in Philadelphia to arrange to do so with their family or friends. Moreover, if one were to become lost or even separated from their loved one while shopping, then this phrase took on real significance and became very sound advice!

John Wanamaker Building, Philadelphia, PA

In an age before cell phones and GPS, “Meet me at the Eagle” was the only geographic coordinate needed to arrange a meeting place in any John Wanamaker department stores. The following account along with several accompanying vintage postcard images will serve to illustrate the origin of that signature store symbol.

The Eagle, The Grand Court, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia

The Eagle was the centerpiece of the Grand Court in the John Wanamaker Main Store located in Philadelphia. This prominent symbol would become the meeting place for thousands of Philadelphians since Mr. Wanamaker brought it to the store from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis.

The Eagle, The Grand Court, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia

Separately made parts form the heavy plates of the inner structure and the outer features and other surface parts. The Eagle contains some 6,600 bronze feathers and each individual feather was made and painstakingly placed by hand. Created by the noted German sculptor August Gaul, the dimensions of his creation measured 6’6” in height, 3’3” wide and 9’10” in length. Overall, the Eagle was a spectacular and imposing work of art as well as the store mascot!

Strawbridge and Clothier’s, 8th and Market Sts., Philadelphia, PA 1914
The Gimbel Store, Philadelphia, PA

For many years, the Wanamaker store had to distinguish itself from among the other retail giants as considerable competition was coming from other notable names such as Strawbridge & Clothier, Lit Brothers and Gimbels.

In order to satisfy the demands of competition and to grow its retail business, Wanamaker’s made a strategic decision to open a number of branch locations. During the 1950s and ‘60s, the company built new stores in area communities including Wilmington (Delaware), Wynnewood, Jenkintown, and King of Prussia (all in Pennsylvania) as well as in Moorestown (New Jersey).

Furthermore, every Wanamaker Branch Store had its own large version of the Eagle, prominently displayed for all shoppers to see and enjoy. These Eagle replicas were placed in a relatively new type of merchandising venue, the suburban shopping mall.

The Eagle, Moorestown Mall
The Eagle, Moorestown Mall

Two more postcards depict the famous Eagle at the Moorestown Shopping Mall. Like its Philadelphia cousin, the massive golden Eagle perched high upon a pedestal amid a fountain of dancing waters at the mall entrance to the John Wanamaker store also served as a rendezvous spot.

The Eagle, The Grand Court, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia

In this final postcard, the Wanamaker Eagle sports a celebratory horn to trumpet and announce an upcoming store-wide event. Printed on the address side of this postcard, the message conveys the following information: “120TH / ANNIVERSARY / SALE / OCT. 14-25. We’ve made our 120th Anniversary Sale the most exciting storewide sale ever. Sale starts Wednesday, Oct. 14, in all Wanamaker stores. Doors open 9:00 am sharp! I look forward to seeing you.” Mrs. Fulcanetti, salesperson in the Linen Department at the Moorestown Store, mailed it from Moorestown, N.J. Oct. 8, 1981.

In 2001, the Philadelphia Historical Commission designated the Eagle an historic object. The original Eagle is currently located at what is now Macy’s Department Store at 13th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.

We welcome your recollections and stories and look forward to hearing from you should you wish to tell us about your memories of the classic Wanamaker Eagle.

Amazon offers a lengthy preview of Wanamaker’s: Meet Me at the Eagle (Landmarks) (Paperback) by Michael J. Lisicky.

A terpsichorean performance at Riverton School, June 1938, prompts a look back to past May Days

Riverton School field day, The New Era, June 16, 1938, p2


Now there’s a College Boards vocabulary word – terpsichorean.

I had to look it up.

After recently stumbling across the above newspaper photo while searching our Historical Local Newspaper Collection, I realized there were a few other bits about the same topic in our archive, so I decided to get them all in one place.

But don’t worry – there is still room for more, if you care to contribute, as the women below have done.

Pam Deitz supplied these snapshots showing the ceremony for the crowning of the 1936 May Queen.

1936 May Queen ceremony – photo credit Pam Deitz
1936 RPS May Queen Court
1936 RPS May Queen Court






Cheryl Smekal, 2011 Museum for a Day Curator

Cheryl Smekal, a former HSR Board Member whose family photo album has been a source of inspiration here before, provides these scans of May Day celebrations in the mid-1950s.

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One wonders how much more Riverton history is stored away in basements and attics?

In the November 2009 Gaslight News, Mrs Elsie Showell Waters described the annual Riverton Field Day as it was observed in 1932:

What excitement—Field Day was coming! We got white sneakers for the day. We took flowers to school to decorate the May Poles. We upper-class girls donned our black bloomers, our middy blouses, and our new sneakers. We marched out to the field at Memorial Park to do our exercises with dumbbells and Indian clubs to band music. After that, we went into tents set up at the park to change into our pretty dresses for the May Pole Dance. Such fun dancing around the May Pole, weaving pretty colored ribbons under and over to make a pretty design.

2013 Parade Marshal Elsie Waters

Elsie, who passed in 2018 at age 99, was an active HSR Board Member and a vital part of our Society for many years. Her enthusiasm for history is greatly missed. Casey Foedisch‘s 2013 interview of Elsie reveals the great love she had for her lifelong home.

People ask, “Where do you get this stuff?” and the answer is, we get a lot of it from you, our members, and visitors. We welcome anyone’s photos or recollections that will elaborate on this May Day/ Field Day theme (or anything else, really).

Please the form below to comment or contact us for details on how to submit longer memoirs.

If you find value within these pages, please support this endeavor with your membership or use Paypal (button at left) to contribute to the noble work of preserving local history. -JMc

Thank you to all who volunteered to serve as HRC marshals

Iris Gaughan, Matt Morse, 2017

Iris Gaughan, Marshal Coordinator, sends a sincere thank-you to Michael Gilbert and all others who  helped to get to her goal of having 44 volunteer marshals cover the 7 corners of the race route for one-hour shifts during next Sunday’s Historic Riverton Criterium.  Iris reports that she now has enough volunteers.

And, the Society thanks Iris – the race literally could not go on without marshals.

2019 HRCriterium Commemorative Mugs available

Did you see the ingenious official 2019 HRCriterium poster on Facebook that Lauren West designed? She even included New Jersey’s State Bird, the American goldfinch!

2019 HRC poster by Lauren West

The two mugs below each incorporate her design elements and include a photo of Carlos Rogers, creator of the race, along with descriptive text.

To preorder a LIMITED EDITION 2019 HRCriterium Commemorative Mug, please use the form below, and someone will contact you to work out payment and delivery details.

(Actually, they are limited only to how many people order one.)

Red or blue – $15 each.

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9th Annual HRCriterium needs race marshals next Sunday

Hello, Everyone,

Bill Brown, HRC 2018 marshal

If you can spare just an hour next Sunday to cover one of the seven corners during the Criterium, please contact us thru the form below.

We extend a hearty THANK YOU to Suzanne Cairns Wells and Kevin Harris for responding to our request here on May 8 to serve as race marshals.

Marshal Coordinator, Iris Gaughan, explains more below.

Bill Brown
President, Historical Society of Riverton

If you have read the Special Historic Riverton Criterium Edition of the Gaslight News you know that this year, money raised from this town-wide tradition will benefit the Historical Society of Riverton.

Carlos, Adrienne, & Leo Rogers

On June 9, 2019, Riverton will host the 9th Annual Historic Riverton Criterium. Carlos Rogers, a Riverton resident and civic supporter, has been the promoter of this event since its inception in 2011.  The day is filled with professional bicycle racing and fun-filled activities.  Many community members along the race course have front yard picnics and gatherings.

Iris Gaughan, 2017

I am the marshal coordinator for the race.  This bicycle race cannot happen without a marshal on each of the race corners. 

Dennis DeVries, 2015 HRC Marshal

The marshal’s job is essentially to make sure that no one crosses the street during the race.  Each marshal will be given specific directions and guidelines before the race.  Each marshal will only need to be on duty for 1 hour.  Forty-four marshals are needed to cover the 7 corners for 5 races (some corners need 2 marshals)

It is incumbent upon race beneficiaries to volunteer to help. Please turn to a friend, colleague, and/or neighbor and ask them to marshal. 

Society membership is not a requirement. All I need from you is a list of names and email addresses and I will contact the individuals. Please use the contact form below.

The Historic Riverton Criterium has become a great Riverton tradition with over $35,000 given to local organizations.  Your help is greatly appreciated.

Thank You,
Iris Gaughan


Speaking of women cyclists…

2016 HRC Women’s race

With a mere three weeks to go before the Historic Riverton Criterium returns to the streets of Riverton, we remind readers that a previous post explained that women cyclists first competed in the 2015 Historic Riverton Criterium.

In cycling, as in other areas of sports, women have often been forbidden to compete in major contests. Men had their first Olympic Games cycling race in 1896, but women had to wait until 1984 for the first women’s Olympic road race.

Witnessing the determined women competing in high performance women’s cycling apparel, it may be hard to imagine a time when Victorian attitudes and long skirts made it difficult, if not impractical, for women to enjoy bicycling at all.

The cover of the National Police Gazette, October 28, 1893, shows Angelina Allen from New York, a daring reformer of clothing

Indeed, a popular thesis is that the late 19th century bicycle craze helped liberate women.

The story of Angeline Allen may serve as an example.

In 1893, Angeline Allen of Newark, NJ, created a sensation when she rode a bike through town wearing blue corduroy bloomers.

This brazen act was met with astonishment, derision, and a public scolding in the newspapers.

They were just pants!

But in a world where customs and laws restricting this manner of dress sometimes still criminalized such behavior even into the early 1900s, this was a brave act in reforming women’s fashion.

Today’s women cyclists owe a debt to the legacy of Angeline Allen and Annie Londonderry for moving the ball forward in the struggle for women’s rights.

Susan B Anthony c1855

In 1896, suffragist Susan B. Anthony observed, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Society, and bicycles, may have evolved since then, but to see how far, we will leave it to author Margaret Guroff to tell more about Miss Allen and explain how we got to this point.

In her recent book, The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped America Life, Guroff also examines how the invention of the safety bicycle ignited other changes in society – the development of better roads and changing attitudes of consumers, for example.

The website Longreads provides an excerpt from Guroff’s book entitled, The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped America Life, in a chapter called “The Wheel, the Woman, and the Human Body.

In this interview of the author we learn that finding out the role that bikes played in paving roads got her started, but her book also explores the bike’s influence on many other aspects of American life.

This amazon.com book blurb allows a peek inside other parts of her lively cultural history book.

As you enjoy the races on June 9, remember the history that got us to this moment.


Another installment of Gaslight News back issues

Ok, Kids, time for another installment of old Gaslight News backissues. But first, a little history of the publication.

This clipping from issue #41, Feb. 1886 explains the origin of the Society’s newsletter…

After producing at least 65 issues of the newsletter, Betty Hahle handed the editorial reins to Paul W. Schopp in the fall of 1993.  He ushered in the use of desktop publishing when he composed the layout for the September 1993 issue of the Gaslight News with a word processing program.  By 1995, this innovation made it possible to include black and white photos and graphics with which to illustrate the text.

Then President Dan Campbell assumed editorial duties in September 1996, and essentially continued the same format. Gerald Weaber took charge of the newsletter in September 2003.

Four years later, John McCormick apprenticed under Gerald Weaber for the September issue and then struck off on his own commencing with the November 2007 printing. That issue was the first to include color photos.

McCormick updated the layout template in January 2008, giving it only minor tweaks since then.

1950s mimeograph machine

We have come a long way since that 1974 single-page typewritten and mimeographed newsletter, but there would be no Gaslight News today were it not for those who came before.

(Raise your hand if you remember the fresh smell of dittos in the morning.)

Without further ado, here are the latest scanned and uploaded back-issues of the Gaslight News. Only 20 more issues to go…

Aug 1981, Nov 1981, Feb 1982, May 1982, Sept 1982

The earliest issue we have is #9, Dec. 1977, which must mean that eight issues dated from December 1974 through the fall of 1977 are still missing. Please, if you come across any, let us know.

Historic Riverton Criterium includes women’s races

Carlos Rogers, has quite literally made history in Riverton in more ways than one.

Besides bringing back a new era of competitive bicycling to Riverton after more than a century’s absence, perhaps no other individual in Borough history has proven to be a more generous donor to worthy local causes than he has – over $35,000 so far.

Another way has more to do with the level of professionalism with which he has promoted and managed the Historic Riverton Criterium since 2011.

Start of the Women’s Race, HRC 2015

Some followers of Carlos Rogers may not be aware of his efforts to champion the promotion of women’s racing. As the CAWES Cycling Team observed in 2015, “…he made a decision that many promoters are not willing to make: he added a women’s field!!!”

Women’s races have been part of the Historic Riverton Criterium ever since.

2018 Women’s race, HRC Facebook photo

One can sense their teamwork and passion for the sport that the women of RIPTIDE-CAWES Cycling Team have from their vivid descriptions of the 2018 Historic Riverton Criterium races.

Their website post added,” A special thanks to the race organizer and sponsors for not only including a Women’s 4/5 category, but also increasing the 1/2/3 prize money.”

The performance of today’s trailblazing women cyclists reminds us of Abbie Rollins, the pioneering New York cyclist who competed in the 1895 NYC-Riverton relay race and became the first woman relay rider.

Sporting Life, June 15, 1895, p32

Weak segue? Maybe… Find out more about women cyclists discussed here in previous posts:

Annie Londonderry, around the world cyclist, 1895
Abbie Rollins, first woman relay race rider, 1895

In his 2016 address during a ceremony marking the arrival of Historic Riverton Century riders, Borough Historian Mr. Paul W. Schopp described the 1895 Tri-State Relay Race which inspired Rob Gusky to create the ride in 2014. Paul acknowledged that “…women have always maintained a keen interest in cycling and the mix of riders in today’s Riverton Century uphold the long legacy of female cyclists.” See an excerpt below.

If you think the first Tri-State Relay Race was an all-male event, you would be wrong! Twenty-two-year-old Abbie Rollins resided in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and worked as a stenographer and typist for the city’s Parson & Blish architectural firm.

Born in New Jersey, Abbie represented her home state in the first leg of the relay race, riding with two men from the Times building to the ferry and then on to Little Falls. She was reportedly the first woman cyclist to ever take part in a race of this type.

Evening Star (Washington, DC) August 7, 1895. Page 3

Abbie obviously loved cycling, for a brief newspaper article mentioned that she was with a group of riders traveling between New Brunswick and Plainfield about two months after the relay race. Approximately five miles from Plainfield, she suffered a burst pneumatic tire. Another cyclist attempted to perfect a repair with chewing gum, the only substance readily available, but it did not hold.

George K. Parsell, an architect working in the same office as Abbie, offered her a seat on his bicycle handlebars. She accepted the offer and deposited herself there. She found the ride quite comfortable and, as the would-be couple entered Plainfield, people flocked to the sidewalks with their mouths open as Parsell and Abbie rode by.

Abbie left the cycling world in November 1901, when she married the Rev. Howard Rutsen Furbeck, who had received his pastoral training at the Reformed Theological Seminary in New Brunswick. The couple had one son and four daughters. Abbie accompanied her husband to the various churches he served until his death on October 16, 1917. She continued to care for her children and then lived for many years with her son, Howard Rollins Furbeck Sr., until she died on March 12, 1961.

Find the complete text file of Schopp’s address here.

Annie Londonderry, around the world cyclist, 1895

Tell us about the HRCriterium from your perspective as a competitor or spectator. Click below to leave a comment.

Iris Gaughan is still seeking race marshals for the HRCriterium on June 9. Please contact us if you can spare an hour.


The 9th Annual HRC is just a month away

Riverton bicycle speed limit, Springfield Republican, July 2, 1899

During the height of the late 1800s bicycling craze, Riverton decided to crack down on speeding cyclists, or scorchers, as they were known.

 An 1897 Borough ordinance limited the speed of bicyclists to 5 miles per hour, or an even slower speed of 3 mph when passing other vehicles or pedestrians. A journalist suggested that a trick rider would have difficulty going that slow. 

Luckily, the athletes competing in the upcoming Historical Riverton Criterium on June 9 will not be so constrained. There will definitely be scorching.

Come to Riverton on the second Sunday in June for an afternoon of amateur and professional bicycle races set on the Borough’s closed off streets. Live music, vendors, food trucks, and Wade’s Snoooo Train lend a house party flavor to the event.

HRC Facebook page, June 12, 2018

Races take place over a 0.8 mile, 6 turn, technical flat and fast course through residential streets in the center of Riverton. 

The first of 5 races begins at 1 pm. All races to follow. In-between the adult races, kids 8-10 yrs. can race in separate boys/girls races.