The Ladies of Riverton’s Bezique Club

One of the most intriguing photos of old Riverton I have seen is this cabinet card with the caption, “Bezique Club” on the back.

I say intrigued because I had to look it up.

bezique
bəˈzēk/ noun:
  1. a trick-taking card game for two, played with a double pack of 64 cards, including the seven to ace only in each suit.
  2. the holding of the queen of spades and the jack of diamonds in this game.
antique Bezique set c. 1895 UK

A google search of “bezique” resulted in images of vintage and modern Bezique playing card sets as well as instructions and tutorials for playing variations of the game.

Czar Nicholas II and Alexandra played Bezique.

Winston Churchill, Tolstoy, and the Lord Alfred Duke of Edinburgh played it.

Well, not together.

Gustave Caillebotte, “Game of Bezique,” 1880

Gustave Caillebotte’s painting, Game of Bezique, depicts four 19th-century upper-class French gentlemen crowding around a card table observing two other gentlemen playing the trick-taking card game.

Bezique set box, c1895

We may reasonably conclude from the photo and the following news clippings that some women folk of Riverton also came to enjoy the Royal Game of Bezique during the last years of the 19th century.

a typical society column banner for the Philadelphia Inquirer

The first mention of the Bezique Club in the society columns of the Philadelphia Inquirer appeared on February 14, 1897, when Mrs. Spackman entertained the Bizque Club at her home on the 13th.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 14, 1897, p39

“Mrs. Cowperthwaite entertained the Besique club on Thursday afternoon.” – The Weekly News (Palmyra), Nov 20, 1897, p2

The Weekly News, Nov 20, 1897, p2

The Weekly News reported on December 4, 1897, that “Mrs. Cornelius entertained the Besique Club on Thursday afternoon.”

The Weekly News, Dec 4, 1897, p2

Two weeks later on December 19, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced, “The Misses Cook (presumably sisters L. and J.) entertained the members of the Bezique Club at their home on Main street on Thursday afternoon.

December 19, 1897, Philadelphia Inquirer, p37

(Apparently, the spelling of bezique baffled some journalists of the day.)

Mrs. Frishmuth entertained the Besique Club on Thursday.” – The Weekly News, Jan 15, 1898, p2

The Weekly News, Jan 15, 1898, p2

The Philadelphia Inquirer told of Mrs. Edwin H. Fitler‘s attendance to the Thursday, February 12, 1898 meeting of the Bisque Club. The Weekly News explained that the club had full attendance at Dr. Hall‘s. A Mrs. Hall is pictured in the group photo.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 13, 1898, p37
The Weekly News, Feb 12, 1898, p2

The Inquirer noted the attendance of Mrs. William S. Poulterer, of Philadelphia, to the Thursday, October 22, 1898 meeting of the Besique Club in Riverton. According to The Weekly News, Mrs. Spackman and the Misses Campbell hosted the meeting.

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 23, 1898, p29
The Weekly News, Oct 22,1898, p2

The last news we found of the club was for the winter of 1898-1899.

Mrs. Edwin H. Fitler journeyed again from Philadelphia to Riverton for the card game on December 17.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec 18, 1898, p3

A month later, on January 21, 1899, Mrs. Cowperthwait entertained the club in her home for another Thursday meeting.

Philadelphia, Inquirer, Jan 22, 1899, p11

Names of card players are on the front, but one is illegible. Any guesses?

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We welcome any additional information about the Bezique Club and its members that will further illuminate the everyday life of this borough’s inhabitants over a century ago.
-JMc

Sheet music collector Sandy Marrone struck a chord at January HSR meeting

Cinnaminson resident, Sandy Marrone, shared a sampling from her private collection of 600,00 pieces of American sheet music dating from the 19th century through the present at the HSR meeting January 17, 2018. The program included a wide range of topics, sometimes serious and sometimes humorous.

HSR Board member Susan Dechnik introduced her friend Sandy Marrone

Of special interest is anything historical that focuses on actual events such as elections. One such selection is How Could Washington Be a Married Man And Never Tell A Lie, though this was written in more modern times.

Also of historical interest are disasters such as the sinking of the Titanic, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, and songs about war.

Songs about food are fun and funny; I’ll Make The Pies Like Mother Makes If You’ll Make the Dough Like Dad.

Animal music is full of humor; I’d Rather Stay Home With Mickey Mouse, Than Go Out With A Rat Like You.

Some of the sheet music she displayed is appreciated for its visual design and beauty as well as topic.

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The informative, educational, and thoroughly entertaining Sandy Marrone

Sandy’s comments and telling of anecdotes added sparkle and insight to each piece of sheet music. The famous George M. Cohan song, You’re A Grand Old Flag, was originally titled You’re A Grand Old Rag. He wrote it after seeing a tattered American flag. Controversy and criticism about the title forced the change to the title we all know.

In Sandy’s words, “I try to educate and inform about the variety of topics and history found in sheet music.” She dipped into her collection and shared a sample that was informative and entertaining.  – Mrs. Susan Dechnik

Early 1900s works of a Riverton artist still endure a century later

HSR Board member Roger Prichard saw this eBay auction for a scrapbook compiled by Jane Hovey Allen Boyer (1875-1940), a former Riverton resident.

Boyer was a book illustrator, prize-winning artist, and served twice as Porch Club president (1921).

The New Era, Aug 8, 1940, p4

She and her husband Murray C. Boyer lived for decades at 304 8th Street and played active roles in Riverton’s social and civic life.

Despite earning a reputation as a children’s book illustrator and teaching art classes at the Porch Club, her 1940 obituary makes no mention of her artistic achievements.

I think Roger is concerned that some ancestor might wish to get this scrapbook because there are many family photos and genealogical information in it.

I suspect that the Easthampton, MA-based eBay seller obtained it from an estate sale or home cleanout. I doubt any living descendant would discard such a unique record noting births, marriages, and deaths in a family tree going back to the 1600s. Perhaps the family line just played out and there is no one left to tend to memories of the family.

Jane Allen Boyer illustration from Mary Frances Cookbook

What is kind of incredible is that Jane Allen Boyer is not just some obscure and forgotten artist, but her works still enjoy an audience almost eighty years after her passing.

The Internet Archive has several books she illustrated available for viewing. Jane Eayre Fryer authored a series of Mary Frances books for children during the early 1900s, and Jane Allen Boyer illustrated most of them.

The preface for Mary Frances First Aid Book, published in 1916, states, “This book is for every boy and girl who hopes to render first-aid to the sick or injured — in time of peace — in time of war — at all times in the service of our country.”

A facsimile reprint of The Mary Frances Sewing Book (1913 Edition) is preserved on Open Library.

Incredibly, a 100th Anniversary Edition Story-Instruction Sewing Book with Doll Clothes Patterns for American Girl and Other 18-inch Dolls is available for sale on Amazon over a century since its original publication.

The Quaker Boy on the Farm and at School, also available on the Internet Archive, published in 1908, looks at the social life, customs, and education experienced by a typical young member of the Society of Friends in the 19th century.

Project Gutenberg displays two books, The Mary Frances Cook Book and The Mary Frances Knitting and Crocheting Book, in several formats, including a free Kindle version.

Walmart today sells poster-size prints of one of Boyer’s illustrations for The Mary Frances Cook Book. Etsy sellers get in on the renewed interest in the use of Jane Allen Boyer’s vintage images as digital clipart.

If you own any art by Jane Allen Boyer or have more information on her, please leave a comment or contact us by email.  -JMc

 

Flu outbreaks then and now 2

Trenton Evening Times, Feb 2, 1920, p4

Following up on our post of January 20, Pat Solin sent in this comment. Readers will recall her illuminating three-part series of articles on Riverton and the Great War published last year (GN Jan 2017, GN March 2017GN May 2017 ).

Of the six World War I Riverton Gold Star boys who died serving their country, two contracted influenza and died after a short but deadly outbreak in 1918 — Raymond Pratt and Charles Kelly. Still a terrible disease.

Recently a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently stated that the disease had not yet peaked and warns that the virus will be around for several more weeks.

We can’t predict what tomorrow’s headlines will bring, but it would be awesome if you were not the subject of a future news report about 2018 influenza mortality statistics.  It is not too late to vaccinate now.  -JMc


 

Memories of a global business still making powdered metallurgy products in our backyard

Hoeganaes Christmas Charms

Last summer I received an email from Ginny Wierski with this message:

I formerly worked at the Hoeganaes Corp. and have some pins from the company that they handed out each year to their employees. I was wondering if you would want them for your society? 

Would I??? I wrote back:

Yes, Ginny, we would like to take you up on your offer. Those items would be a great reminder of a business that was once such a big part of life here for so long. When I was teaching at Riverton School, I recall a few kids having parents who worked there.

In November I posted the above photo on Facebook and asked if anyone knew what they are.

Click on the image at left to see a 20-second animation that shows each charm along with the card that accompanied it.

Brief History of Hoeganaes

Among the items Ginny donated were this 1982 Brief History of Hoeganaes and several company newsletters from Dorothy Armstrong, a forty-year employee of the company.

Aerial View of Hoeganaes Sponge Iron Corp. 1963

The sprawling Taylors Lane plant still manufactures sponge iron powders and is listed as “Headquarters” on the corporate website.

Hoeganaes is actually now GKN Hoeganaes, part of GKN Group, which is a global engineering business with locations in over thirty countries and has more than 58,000 employees. The company was formerly known as Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds and can trace its origins back to 1759 and the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

After browsing the GKN website I have a new appreciation of the amazing applications of powdered metallurgy. GKN Hoeganaes’ customers include GM, VW, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Borg-Warner, Bosch, and many others. There is a good chance you have a smartphone, lawn mower, refrigerator, HVAC system, vehicle, electronic device, or another such consumer item that utilizes powdered metal components.

Coincidentally, GKN is in the news this week because the British registered company is fighting off a hostile takeover bid.

The Society strives to uncover such things to help connect members to their past experiences. Our memories and records of people, events, institutions, businesses, community groups, and traditions ultimately comprise our history.

Please contact us if you have a comment or something to add.  -JMc

 

 

 

 

Flu outbreaks then and now

It is known by many names: la grippe, grip, grippe, plague, influenza, or informally, the “flu.” Since ancient times influenza has struck human populations. Thought then to be spread more by celestial influence than by inhaling flu viruses as we know today, the word influenza comes the Latin influentia, meaning “influence of the stars.”

Jan 2018 Flu Map

The flu strain this year seems to have involved most of the country, according to the Center for Disease Control’s Weekly US Map: Influenza Summary Update.

The severity of flu seasons varies, but certainly one of the worst was the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. History.com describes the outbreak as:

… the deadliest in modern history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide–about one-third of the planet’s population at the time–and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims.

Palmyra Record, March 29, 1918, p1
Palmyra Record, March 22, 1918, p1

A century ago, when the flu laid low inhabitants of Riverton and Palmyra, news of their plight spread in the local newspapers.

Years earlier, Palmyra’s Weekly News reported in February 1897, at least nine instances of influenza, grip, or pneumonia.

Bridgeton Evening News, January 21, 1901 Bridgeton, NJ, p.3

In 1901, a Bridgeton paper reported, “One-third of the population of Riverton and Palmyra are suffering from the effects or just recovering from the grip.”

Weekly News, April 3, 1897, p4

Long before the invention of a flu vaccine in 1938, some folks around here depended upon sarsaparilla or Dr. Bull’s Cough Syrup for symptom relief.

Business Block North Broad, Palmyra, NJ

Palmyra Rexall Pharmacy sold its own proprietary remedy, Creighton’s Grippe Capsule.

 

Palmyra Record, Oct 6, 1916, p1

During the flu season of 1916, Riverton Free Library remained closed for six weeks to cut the spread of the disease.

(More recently, Riverton Public School shut down for a few days in January 1985 because of the flu.)

Last January’s post on phillyvoice.com, Philadelphia was epicenter of a deadly worldwide flu epidemic 99 years ago, pins part of the blame for what made the flu so devastating, especially in Philadelphia, on a September 28, 1918 event when sailors and soldiers returning from overseas mixed among citizens who turned out for a Liberty Loan Drive parade on Broad Street.

Perhaps it was during the later outbreak that Mrs. James T. Weart of Palmyra volunteered to serve with the Red Cross as a nurse at Ft. Dix.

Possibly, more family stories can tell of a local connection to the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic.  -JMc

For more perspective on the 1918 flu epidemic, see:

https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journal-plague-year-180965222/
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140428-1918-flu-avian-swine-science-health-science/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/influenza/

Riverton Led Riverfront With First Telephone

Riverton led riverfront with first telephone

Following up on a January 4, 2018 post about telephone numbers, here is a scan of a New Era article, possibly from the 1939 Anniversary Issue,  which explains the early days of telecommunication in Riverton.  -JMc

1909 Christmas Issue, The New Era, p23.

rev. 2/4/2018: Rummaging through our records, I found this history of Riverton’s telephone service from The New Era.

Well, ya got trouble, my friend, …right here in River City*

An ordinance adopted by the Borough Council in December permits a “limited brewery” as an acceptable use in the borough’s business districts.

“You’ve come a long way, Baby,” springs to mind.

In 1851, ten Philadelphia merchants seeking a place to build their summer homes away from the City’s problems, yet close enough to commute to their Center City places of businesses, founded Riverton.

In 1852, the State Legislature granted a charter to  The Riverton Improvement Company in 1852 which, among other things, issued deeds that included a clause restricting the sale or manufacture of liquor, which read as follows:

Shall not at any time hereafter manufacture or cause to be manufactured, sell or cause, or knowingly permit to be sold, directly or indirectly, in or upon the premises hereby conveyed, or any part thereof, any spiritous, vinous, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors, except as a medicine, or for medicinal purposes in case of sickness

Thirty years later, a  column in the Riverton Journal reinforced that decision with this opinion:

…the wise restriction of the Riverton Improvement Company… has saved us much of the intemperance, ill-feeling and brutality, which are the inseparable companions of the tavern and saloon. A drunkard is rather a curiosity on our streets.

Palmyra Weekly News, May 15, 1897

News of temperance movement meetings, conferences, and sermons, fictional stories with a temperance theme, and appeals to pledge abstinence peppered pages of the local periodicals of the day.

Today, over 160 years later, Riverton remains one of only three dry towns in Burlington County (Delanco and Pemberton are also dry towns in the county.)

Those Quaker founders must have thought the language was iron-clad and unbreakable.

As reported last October and November in the Burlington County Times, Courier-Post, and patch.com, that longstanding restriction of Riverton’s founders was about to give way as Borough  Council considered amending its zoning laws to allow a limited brewery to be a permitted use in the neighborhood business zoning district.

Now, that truly would turn a new page in Riverton’s history.

*lyric from “Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man Soundtrack

By late December 2017, Borough Council did indeed adopt an ordinance which permits a “limited brewery” as an acceptable use in the borough’s business districts.

While the Borough has not yet granted a liquor license, the door is now open to allow a brewery as a potential use.

In a January 14 philly.com piece, columnist Kevin Riordan says he expects Riverton will embrace the idea.

What do you think, Riverton?

Will allowing a brewery bring trouble and ruin to our River City or will it bring enjoyment and an economic shot in the arm?   -JMc

Riverton Free Library still a treasured asset for 118 years

R Bowden Shepherd c1882 Christ Church Rector 1894-1911

The genesis for the formation of the Riverton Free Library Association originated at a meeting in January 1899, called for by the rector of Christ Church, Rev. R. Bowden Shepherd, for the purpose of forming a free library for local residents.

Within months, a group formally organized, adopted a constitution and bylaws, chose a board, elected officers, and opened in May 1899, in the Parish House with 800 books donated by Christ Church.

Riverton Free Library

The permanent home at 306 Main Street came in 1908, a gift from Mrs. Sarah Ogden in memory of her husband, Edward H. Ogden.

Riverton Free Library, now housed in the Victorian cottage on Main Street, has survived and flourished for more than a century due to the devotion of scores of people who have acted as its stewards, including board members, officers and staff, volunteers, and supporters.

Riverton Free Library October 2017

In researching to prepare for a historical marker commemorating the landmark, Patricia Solin and Roger Prichard have written a feature article for the January 2018 Gaslight News chronicling the history of the RFLA and the building that now serves as its home.

I revisited the building last week and met with Nancy Fort, the new Director. After getting a fresh exterior paint scheme last fall, workers had turned to paint the Library’s altered interior. The spirited conversation of adult card players enjoying a game filtered in from the next room.

Fine Box

Nancy Fort placed this antique wooden box on an old round oak table displaying the worn patina of decades of use. I had to wonder. What changes – not only to the building but also in its operation – had it witnessed over the years?

Please tell us about your memory of Riverton Free Library.    -JMc

 

 

Frozen again

 

Hey, I saw that movie Frozen. I just didn’t expect to experience it. What “act of true love” will break this icy spell and thaw our magic kingdom?

Popular Science explains here the weather phenomenon with the scary name bombogenesis, or “bomb cyclone” that put us in its grip. Winter Storm Grayson pounded us with high winds, coastal flooding, and punishing low wind-chill temperatures. In its wake, the jet stream aligned to deliver even more numbing frigid air from the area encircling the North Pole known as the polar vortex.

News accounts of yesteryear found in our Historical Local Newspapers remind us that Riverton has frozen and eventually thawed many times.

On New Year’s Day 1881, as Philadelphia recorded a low temperature of 4 degrees, no doubt Riverton residents suffered a similar condition. The January 15 Riverton Journal reported “snow ploughs have rendered sufficient service these past weeks” and “heavy snowfalls and the intensely cold weather” had suspended building activity in the developing town. The monthly periodical advised “the  sloop Addie C. Horner… is fast in the ice at Riverton pier” and that “sleighing promises to be in demand for some time to come.”

Business District of Palmyra, N.J., Broadway Theater marquee at left

Another cold spell occurred in early 1918. Philadelphia recorded 2 degrees on January 4. The January 11, 1911 issue of The Palmyra Record told citizens that a bad fall on ice caused Miss Emma Johnson to sustain a broken arm. Trains resumed a normal schedule after two weeks of “abnormal activity.” Mr. Powell Thatcher rendered assistance when Frank E. Chambers received a “cold plunge” as he was skating on the Delaware River. Water pipes had frozen in Palmyra’s Broadway Palace Theater and management advised: “repairs have been completed.”

Here is hoping that you and yours have been bearing up in this cold. If you have any pix of the recent storm, please send to rivertonhistory@gmail.com.  Look in our Historical Local Newspapers for more old news from the past and let us know what you uncover. -JMc

rev. 1-8-2018: Added photo. Click here for full view of the historical marker.

frozen Delaware River, RYC historical marker in foreground by Susan Dechnik 1-7-2018