Jane Peters Estes brought Christmas cheer to the November HSR meeting

Presenter Jane Peters Estes bought her vivacious speaking style and another      spectacular period-design outfit to ease those attending the November Historical Society meeting into the holiday spirit. ARTICLE PHOTOS BY: SUSAN DECHNIK
Presenter Jane Peters Estes bought her vivacious speaking style and another spectacular period-design outfit to ease those attending the November Historical Society meeting into the holiday spirit.

We received our first Christmas greeting of sorts when Jane Peters Estes delivered in person her delightful and informative presentation, “A Christmas Past” to our November Historical Society meeting at Riverton School.

Ms. Estes illustrates her talks with plenty of visual aids, not the least of which is her authentic outfit.
Ms. Estes illustrates her talks with plenty of visual aids, not the least of which is her authentic outfit.

Like a time-traveler from the 19th century attired in authentic holiday apparel of the American Civil War era she explained the origins of dozens of Yuletide customs and traditions and cited various sources to support her findings.

The highly regarded and sought after lecturer has published articles in Civil War Lady Magazine, Citizen’s Companion Magazine, Philadelphia Bride Magazine and People Magazine. Her well-researched stories about the inception of mistletoe, wreaths, Christmas trees, and Santa Claus, of course, proved a welcome diversion for an audience suddenly faced with thinking about the preparations for the holidays that lay ahead.

She frequently illustrated her historical narrative with antiques and collectibles such as vintage greeting cards and postcards, children’s toys, and typical Civil War era Christmas gifts. An audience of historical society types must be a tough crowd to teach new tricks, but Ms. Estes succeeded with such examples as the “church baby”—a handkerchief doll used by little girls during the Civil War which, if dropped during the service, made no noise.


“church baby” handkerchief doll
“church baby” handkerchief doll

Perhaps Ms. Estes’ less well-known holiday references such as the infamous 1826 Eggnog Riot at West Point appeared to elicit the greatest fascination from the audience. All eyes were certainly on her when she agreed to show the room what held up her  hoop skirt.

And, on that note, we end this recap of that most entertaining presentation.

Note to readers: If you see on any Community Calendar an invitation to hear this exceptional speaker, please consider this summary an endorsement to attend. Jane’s other topics include: Civil War Nurses, Fashions of the 1860s, Victorian Mourning Customs, History and Lore of Weddings, Women’s Lifestyles of the 1860’s, Vivandieres, Pets of the Past, and Women at the Battle of Gettysburg.    – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor


This is EPIC… if we say so ourselves

emphatic man, line art from 1925 New Era
emphatic man, line art from 1925 New Era

“All over the country the signs are ominous, and the trend of events are hastening to a period in our immediate future when great calamities are threatening to overtake us. There is a cloud overhanging our whole nation that threatens to burst upon and deluge us in a flood of convulsions which no prophet yet can foresee nor measure the consequences.”

Although this passage sounds like an excerpt from a Senate filibuster about the impending “fiscal cliff,” it speaks to us from the editorial page of the July 21, 1894 issue of The New Era. The concern then (in a very deeply buried lead) was the possession and equitable distribution of the products of capital and labor.

The efficiencies of modern manufacturing and government policies favoring capitalist classes had caused scant-paid wage earners to seek redress and defend their interests with the only means available to them—destructive labor strikes. The editorial forecast more strikes and the end of republican institutions if the masses could not be alerted.

Over a century later, the Nation is still here. And we trust that it will be here next week as well.

The New Era, 1894 logo
The New Era, 1894 logo

The Historical Society of Riverton is pleased to help make available to its readers hundreds of recently digitalized issues of four historic local newspapers—The New Era (1894-1949), The Riverton Journal (1880-1882), The Palmyra Record (1913 – 1918), and The Weekly News (Palmyra) (1887-1922).

These early periodicals contain more than just the local news. Read between the lines and one can imagine what life was like for the area citizenry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Maybe you will even read about someone you know.

A thorough reading of any issue may well pose more questions than for which one gets answers as readers face ideas, people, and places unfamiliar to Riverton’s inhabitants today.

According to amazon.com, Whispering Smith by Frank Spearman was the most popular book of 1906.
Serialized in the 1894 New Era, Whispering Smith by Frank Spearman was the most popular book of 1906, according to amazon.com. Available as a free Kindle e-book today.
Locals, New Era, July 21, 1894
Locals, New Era, July 21, 1894

This particular 1894 New Era issue contains chapters of two serialized novels, as well as household hints, various columns and features of general interest, public notices, business advertisements and classified advertising, community calendar items, sports scores, a lengthy International Press Bible Question Club Contest lesson, factoid column fillers, and lots of local news, large and small.

In what we might compare to Facebook status updates of today, the paper published details to let readers know what their neighbors were doing and with whom.

In July 1894, Horace Richmond and George Vandegrift picked 60 quarts of wild blackberries along the Pompeston Creek in two days. Two young ladies took an unexpected trip to Atlantic City one day when, returning from Philadelphia, they boarded the wrong train. Mr. Clark, of Garfield Avenue (Palmyra) and Fourth Street treated his house to a new coat of paint, and Mr. Nichols and family, of Fifth and Garfield Avenue (Palmyra), sojourned at the seashore for two weeks. One needed only to subscribe to the hometown paper for such social gossip.

New Era Clipping, July 1, 1943. See the Riverton Veterans Album for many more newsbits and photos about Riverton's military.
New Era Clipping, July 1, 1943. See the Riverton Veterans Album for many more newsbits and photos about Riverton’s military.

Later, during two world wars, those same social columns helped unify communities with news of local men and women in military service.

Coddington bicycle ad, New Era, July 21, 1894
Coddington bicycle ad, New Era, July 21, 1894

In the age before shopping malls and buying online killed off small town shops, one could purchase virtually all of the goods or services one might need within walking distance of their home. Various Riverton businesses included a fine shoe store, general merchandise store, fish market, a cigar and confectionery store, insurance agent, bicycle store, pharmacist, butcher, green grocer, dressmaker, hardware store, undertaker, and more.

Front page of the Riverton Journal, 11-24-1880
Front page of the Riverton Journal, 11-24-1880

Digitalized issues of The New Era and its less well-known predecessor, The Riverton Journal, along with The Palmyra Record and The Weekly News (Palmyra) shall certainly prove to be valued primary sources for students of local history and casual readers alike.

The publications are a wealth of factual and anecdotal information for the person completing a genealogical record, a history student needing material about the period, or a person just wishing to better understand the past.

Business Directory from Riverton Journal, July 15, 1882
Business Directory from Riverton Journal, July 15, 1882

See how much a simple business directory illuminates our understanding of Riverton’s economy in 1882.

The words and illustrations from these hundreds of papers spanning almost seven decades chronicle the sensational and extraordinary events of the region as well as the mundane and commonplace details of everyday existence.

Bringing these digitalized files to the Internet has taken nearly thirty years and probably has involved scores of people. This is how it happened.

Newspaper Microfilm Project

In August 1983, HSR President and newsletter editor Mrs. Betty B. Hahle reminded readers of The Gaslight News to locate copies of The New Era so that the Society could be get them (micro-) filmed and made available for research. The HSR and Riverton Library cooperated in conducting the Special Project.

Betty explained further in the November 1984 Gaslight News, “For the past several years we have attempted to locate copies of the New Era…so that they can be microfilmed.” By then, they had come up with enough copies of area newspapers to pursue the project in earnest, and Betty summed up the group’s purpose thus, “…our project will be a valuable contribution, making an otherwise soon lost source of area history available for anyone interested in using them, both now and in future years.”

Subsequent newsletters appealed to readers to loan old newspapers for the microfilming project and updated them on its progress. By January 1985, the drive had obtained 37 unique individual issues of The New Era, plus 11 Palmyra issues.

She's looking for yesterday's news, BCT, Feb. 7, 1985
She’s looking for yesterday’s news, BCT, Feb. 7, 1985

A February 1985 article in the Burlington County Times outlining the effort to locate and microfilm surviving copies of The New Era and The Weekly News resulted in several more loans or donations of issues by individuals. Betty Hahle, chairman of the New Era Preservation Project, called the New Era issues “treasures” and “an excellent source of information.”

The New Era count swelled to 67 by November 1985. Mrs. Hahle reported in that month’s Gaslight News that the papers were “…catalogued and awaiting their trip to Trenton for filming.” She included a list of contributors, as follows:

Following is a list of those who have contributed to this project:   The Riverton Library collection; The Historical Society of Riverton collection; Mrs. Jo Metzger; Mrs. Lynn Metzger Pharo; Mrs. Ellen Layton; Mr. Joseph Yearly; Mr. Robert Latch; Mr. and Mrs. Edward Gilmore; Mrs. J. K. Taylor; Mr. Lloyd Griscom; Mr. Harry Paul; Mrs. Alice Cook Costello; Mr. Harris Sacks; Mrs. Betty Hahle; Central Baptist Church archives; Mrs. Bobbi Centanni; Mrs. Cathy Daly; Dr. William Oliver.

Borough Council names Mrs. Betty B. Hahle official Town Historian as Mayor Bruce Gunn looks on, 1985
Borough Council names Mrs. Betty B. Hahle official Town Historian as Mayor Bruce Gunn looks on, 1985

Betty, who was named official Town Historian that year, added, “And your editor would like to add a personal thank-you to each and every person who has helped to make a long-time dream come true, to preserve these small-town weekly newspapers that are such a rich source of local history.”

Mrs. Hahle’s update in the February 1986 Society newsletter recorded that the box of newspapers left for Trenton on February 13, and she added two more names to the list of contributors –Nancy Gorman and Francis Roedig.

Betty reported the project completed in May, having received two microfilm reels and expecting to return borrowed newspapers to lenders shortly.

Jump ahead four more years to February 1990 to find the next mention of preserving newspapers in the Gaslight News.

A significant contribution to preserving Riverton’s history has been made by Freddy DeVece, who has agreed to have his collection of The New Era, which covers a wide span of years, microfilmed. It will be done at the State Archives, under the Rutger’s Grant Project to microfilm local newspapers, and will be scheduled sometime this Spring.

“Significant” was an understatement, for Mr. DeVece’s issues when microfilmed, expanded the collection from two reels to fourteen.

Ultimately, Riverton Free Library, as well as certain other library branches, received 19 reels of microfilmed Riverton and Palmyra newspapers as a direct result of the preservation efforts of the HSR and the RFL. However, difficulty of access and being unable to browse easily for any given topic relegated the microfilm reels to the use of only the most perseverant of local history enthusiasts.

Newspaper Digitalization Project

Mrs. Patricia S. Solin
Mrs. Patricia S. Solin

One of those perseverant persons is Mrs. Patricia Solin, whose articles appearing in the Gaslight News have informed and entertained both our print and online readers. (“Genealogy and Internet Searching,” March and May 2008, “The Fine Grounds of the Riverton Athletic Association,” September 2009, The Lyceum Instructed, Entertained, Cultivated, and Amused Riverton’s Elite, September 2011, and “Special Delivery – Riverton’s USPO,” February 2012)

At some point during her last research project, she wished for the ability to view images and search for topics in our historic newspapers on her computer. She wondered aloud if it would be feasible to digitalize the newspapers, making researching easier.

With the actual newspapers no longer available, that wish sparked the pursuit of a new goal in historic preservation for the Riverton Free Library Association, on whose Board she serves as vice-president, and the Historical Society of Riverton —digitalizing the microfilm reels of newspapers and making them available free online to the public.

Pat consulted experts at the NJ State Library Archives as well as her son, Michael, a Systems Administrator at Penn State to begin her research on the project.  With her initial questions answered, and the enthusiastic support of the Archives, she began to enlist the support of both local organizations in order to move forward with the project.

The April 2012 RFLA Board meeting attended by HSR President Gerald Weaber and Editor John McCormick resulted in a vote endorsing the project and named Mrs. Patricia Solin the chairperson.

In short order, Mrs. Solin found that three of the newspapers are in the public domain—they each stopped publication prior to 1922 – but The New Era copyright was still held by the Burlington County Times. After hearing from Mrs. Solin, Mr. Stanley Ellis, vice-president of the publication, generously granted approval for the digitalization of those files as well.

Knowing almost nothing about the technical aspects of scanning microfilm prior to starting this project meant consulting with vendors, contacting technical and administrative staff at the NJ Digital Highway, and Googling—lots of Googling. Pat had to seek reliable information on how to go about getting microfilmed newspapers scanned and changed into PDF files with OCR—optical character recognition—so that text could be searched.

By September 2012, Pat had sorted out several competing vendors’ solutions and she approached the RFLA Board with her HSR collaborators, Gerald Weaber and John McCormick to ask for funding, which they enthusiastically gave.

We acknowledge the essential and valuable technical expertise of Mr. Isaiah Beard, Digital Data Curator for the Rutgers University Libraries, who advised us on project specifications. There were the inevitable delays and miscommunications, but Royal Imaging delivered two duplicate hard drives containing the files as TIFF, JPEG, and PDF files in early December.

paperboyNow, how would we get the files on to the Historical Society’s website?

Enter, techie Michael Solin, performing another pro bono assignment for his grateful former grade school teacher, now Gaslight News and rivertonhistory.com editor web John McCormick. The Systems Administrator at Penn State University took time from his holiday break at home and went right to work. He uploaded files to our website’s server, made the new menu tab on the homepage, and designed the new page layout for displaying no less than 486 PDF files.

Mike is the master mechanic who has kept this website rolling along, making backups, doing updates and upgrades and generally bringing to reality every vision we have had for it. From the beginning of his involvement with our website’s reboot in late 2010, Mike has made it possible for us to offer more and better content than ever before. He has been extraordinarily generous with donating his expertise, and we are truly grateful.

We especially thank the Riverton Free Library Association, the Riverton Free Library Friends, Carlos and Adrienne Rogers of the Historic Riverton Criterium, the Historical Society of Riverton, and the Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society for their financial support of this endeavor.

Please enjoy using the files on our newly created Historical Local Newspapers page.

Respectfully submitted,
John McCormick. Patricia Solin

“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.” –  John of Salisbury, 12th century theologian and author

A Christmas Eve present with a promise of more to follow, from the HSR

A Merry Christmas - vintage postcard by H.I. Robbins, Boston, 1907
A Merry Christmas – vintage postcard by H.I. Robbins, Boston, 1907

Over the years Santa has made his rounds by zeppelin, bi-plane, hot-air balloon, and even by automobile, as depicted on the vintage postcards shared in these last recent entries, courtesy of collector, Harlan Radford, Jr.

Tonight, Santa reverts to his favorite mode of conveyance, and he has a special present for all Rivertonians, wherever they now call home, for Riverton memories never really leave those who have to move away.

A Merry Christmas - vintage postcard 1909
A Merry Christmas – vintage postcard 1909


Now, I know it’s Christmas Eve, but you don’t have to wait until Christmas Day to open just this one present.


This is a big 83.5MB download, so you might want to fix a cup of tea while you wait.

Reading this scarce 1909 Christmas Issue of the New Era, Riverton’s hometown newspaper from the late 1800s through about 1975, is like opening a window to a bygone age.

1909 New Era Christmas Issue, front cover
1909 New Era Christmas Issue, front cover

Including descriptions of almost every social, civic, economic, religious, and educational institution in Riverton, Cinnaminson, and Palmyra and liberally illustrated, it gives us a glimpse into these river towns of our forebears. (We actually posted this before, in two installments in 2011, but the file available here is for the entire 48 page issue.)

The really huge present will come closer to New Year’s Eve when we post dozens and dozens of recently digitalized vintage issues of The New Era, the Riverton Journal, The Palmyra Weekly News, and The Palmyra Record. More details to follow.

website newspaper mini masthead3

A new tab on the homepage will direct visitors to a new page with the above masthead which shows the four newspaper titles for which PDF files will be available for viewing and downloading.

The Society elves are working on publishing an issue of the Gaslight News shortly after the New Year which will include details about the upcoming presentation at the New Leaf by Alisa DuPuy as she channels Queen Victoria  on January 24 and a form for paying dues.

We wish you a wonderful holiday season and a New Year filled with prosperity, joy and happiness. – Santa’s Helper, John McCormick

Aeronaut Santa postcards arrive behind schedule… cheery nonetheless

1909 Clapsaddle designed Christmas postcard
1909 Clapsaddle designed Christmas postcard

Five weeks ago I invited readers of this column to return in one week for another vintage Yuletide season postcard. However, life intervened and my attention was diverted to other matters.

Santa in a hot-air balloon
Santa in a hot-air balloon

Apologies for the lapse, but with only a week left before Christmas Eve, the Society catches up on lost time and offers these charming early 20th century holiday greeting postcards with an aeronautical theme for your enjoyment.


Above, Santa delivers toys suspended from a basket attached to a zeppelin, or  airship, while at right he dangles beneath a hot-air balloon.

Santa in a bi-plane
Santa in a bi-plane


At left, St. Nick drops presents from what is ostensibly a Wright Brothers era aircraft.

Perhaps the artist did not fully understand the principles of powered air flight since Santa might not complete his rounds without an engine and propeller. No doubt, some sort of secret from Santa’s Workshop kept the craft aloft.

Santa in a bi-plane, John Winsch 1913
Santa in a bi-plane, John Winsch 1913

Ten years after the famous first flight of the Wright Brothers this 1913 design by John Winsch, at right, still has Santa buzzing snow-covered rooftops and dropping presents to children from an unpowered glider. Better not question Santa’s propulsion system too closely, kids.

The penned message found on the other side of this card reads:   “Little niece,  Hope he spills his pack over your house like this, don’t you?  Love, Aunt Blanche”  Mailed from Canastota (sic), NY and addressed to Baby Margurite Flick, RD No. 2, Box 59, in Pawnee Rock, Kansas.

Up to Date X'mas Greetings, 1909 E.H. Conwell
Up to Date X’mas Greetings, 1909 E.H. Conwell

Even if the artists did not depict quite accurately what was then the cutting-edge science of the day, their intention was clear — to show that St. Nick was a thoroughly modern guy and to capture some of the public’s enthusiasm for such emerging technology and have it translate to greater postcard sales.


Apparently, it worked, for according to US Post Office figures, in 1913, the number of postcards sent in the US alone was 968,000,000, more than 7 per person.*

Santa in an airship, 1915
Santa in an airship, 1915


We close with this 1915 holiday greeting which reads: “Now I use my airship / On my annual Xmas trip / It’s full of Toys and Candy too / And I’m flying straight to you.”

What does a modern 21st century Santa use for transportation in 2012?  Does he travel by space shuttle, airbus, or will he subcontract the job out to a common carrier?

The Historical Society of Riverton wishes you the Warmest Greetings of the Season and Best Wishes for Happiness in the New Year.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor


P.S. The next edition of the Gaslight News, expected out shortly after the first of the year, will have a dues renewal form in it for the convenience of members as well as details of the next meeting scheduled for January 24th.

Thanksgiving Day Greetings from the HSR

This holiday is often a time for homecomings, parades,  football games, and possibly planning one’s shopping for Black Friday. At some point between commercial breaks and dessert some family member is sure to start reminiscing about a childhood event, a family ritual, or a missing loved one.  Remember that these will be the good ‘ol days some day and the stuff of historical societies in the future.

Thanksgiving Day Greetings 1909, scan courtesy of Mary Yearly Flanagan
We spend no small amount of effort on these pages trying to determine who lived in a house a century ago,  where our several post offices were and when, or examining lives of past citizens. The people living here and the way of life experienced in this borough – the ancestry and culture of Riverton, if you will – seem still worth preserving and documenting over 160 years after its founding.

Just a thought… if anyone is in a position to record for posterity these present-day tales of ancestry or any one of so many everyday vignettes that are part of what we will all want people to know of Riverton 30, 40, or 50 years hence, please help chronicle, record, and illustrate these future olden times.

– John McCormick, Gaslight News editor



Age of Flight resulted in transportation upgrade for Santa Claus

Santa on a biplane – Merry Christmas – vintage postcard


My aerophilatelist friend, Harlan Radford, Jr., sends us three more scans of vintage postcards as we anticipate the approaching holiday season.


In twelve seconds that changed the world in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first successful powered airplane flight and soon seized the public’s imagination with the new technology that gave birth to the Age of Aviation.



John Winsch designed Christmas postcard 1912


The homepage of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum says it best:

“The decade after the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903 witnessed a wide range of reactions to the new technology… The airplane had meaning for everyone—from popular enthusiasm for the pilots and their aerial exhibitions, to the commercial and military potential of aviation, to the broad cultural implications of flight, to the artistic expression it inspired.”

Why, even St. Nick would soon eschew his traditional sleigh with its eight flying reindeer and embrace the new powered flying machine as depicted on these early 20th century postcards. The mechanical powered flight by the two bicycle mechanics from Ohio inspired a public fascination with aviation, flight, and modern technologies which postcard artists of the era exploited to appeal to buyers.

John Winsch designed Joyful Christmas postcard 1913


Suddenly, postcard artists mixed the technological marvels of the day – dirigibles, hot-air balloons, and aeroplanes –  with traditional holiday iconography and Santa’s transportation choice received an instant upgrade.

On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright successfully flew their powered aircraft for 12 seconds above the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, NC. IMAGE CREDIT: nasa.gov


Come back next week to see more vintage Santa postcards with an aeronautical theme courtesy of collector, Harlan Radford, Jr.

– John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

Sunday, Nov. 11 ceremony to install more names to Riverton’s Honor Roll

US Department of Veterans Affairs poster for 2012

The Borough of Riverton will hold a Veteran’s Day ceremony at the Riverton War Memorial on Sunday, November 11, 2012, at 11 a.m.

The Riverton Military & Veterans Affairs Committee will add the following names of veterans to the memorial: Elton Catoe, Donald D’Amato, Alfred W. DeVece, Paul M. Hoad, William Ulrich, Anthony R. Wellens and George J.Mack.

The Historical Society of Riverton thanks all veterans for their service and is proud to exhibit the Riverton Veterans Honor Roll Album, a 55-page virtual scrapbook full of veterans’ service photos, news clippings from the hometown New Era newspaper, period advertisements,  wartime posters, ration stamps, etc. We ask for the help of our readers in getting more photos of veterans for this online tribute to our hometown heroes.

This poster comes from the extensive website of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Have your kids ever asked you what the difference is between Veterans Day and Memorial Day? Or how either one started? Do they get mixed up about the different conflicts in which America has been involved – WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Gulf War, Global War on Terror?

screenshots of various pages from the USDVA Teacher Resource

Do not assume that this USDVA Teacher Resource Guide is only for schools. There is plenty in it that may help a parent explain the legacy of Veterans Day, why we celebrate it, and how to properly thank our Nation’s servicemen and women for their sacrifices. Over twenty Student Resource pages include topics about flag etiquette, America’s wars, essay contests and scholarships, and for younger children, a play, coloring pages, and a maze.

There is probably some material in there for which we adults might learn or perhaps need some refreshing as well. The Veterans History Project  on page 11 which features oral histories of veterans intrigued me.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Riverton Military & Veterans Affairs Committee should contact Mayor Wm. C. Brown, Jr. or Robert E. Smyth through contact info you can find on the Riverton Borough webpage. Visit our Riverton Veterans page for past posts about our veterans.

We hope to see you on Sunday. Is there any doubt whatsoever that the freedom we enjoy today is the direct result of the sacrifice of generations of veterans throughout our Nation’s history? – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

Frankenstorm ravages Riverton and postpones Halloween

This Clapsaddle card of a scared little boy that was reading ghost stories was postmarked on Halloween of 1912.

The century old postcard at left, courtesy of Moore’s Postcard Museum, is one reminder of how children of 1912 viewed All Hallows’ Eve and its still relatively new tradition of knocking on doors and asking for food or money that became known as “trick or treating.”

Kids of today will remember 2012, if for nothing else, as the year that Hurricane Sandy hijacked Halloween. Or at least, derailed it for a couple of days.

Governor Chris Christie signed an executive order on Wednesday, October 31, postponing Halloween until Monday, November 5.

The Governor’s order notwithstanding, the Palmyra Halloween Parade facebook page says that the parade will start today, Thursday, and the Riverton Borough facebook page has trick-or-treating slated for tomorrow, Friday.

Riding out Hurricane Sandy – Monday, 10/29/12 at 3 pm

After hearing from friends in Riverton and trading stories about how we weathered the storm, I post the following images, more for the benefit of those expatriated Rivertonians who wonder how their old hometown fared.

The image at right, from Riverton Yacht Club’s website, shows white-capped waves slamming against the dock leading to the historic Club House on the Delaware River. Note the debris on the grass above the river wall. If any reader knows the greatest water level that Sandy caused here, please advise. It must be historic.

View from the RYC Club House by Mark Horger
Mark Horger: This is when I was leaving, Harry and I were upstairs for an hour. 10/29/2012 3:51PM
View from upper level of RYC by Mark Horger

RYC member, Mark Horger, took some remarkable photos and posted them on facebook as the storm bore down on the riverbank, eliciting several “likes” and one expression of being lucky to have come out of it well.

According nj.com, the state climatologist at Rutgers University, David Robinson, called Sandy the worst storm New Jersey has seen.


We welcome any sailor’s observations or comments on the effects of the storm on Riverton in general, or specifically on the Yacht Club and the boat fleet.


Paul May on Cedar Street 10-30-2012 by Susan Dechnik
The treees missed the cars and our house! – Susan Dechnik
uprooted trees at riverbank by Susan Dechnik
aftermath of Sandy by Susan Dechnik
near Tenth and Main by Susan Dechnik
near Tenth and Main by Susan Dechnik
Sandy’s aftermath by Susan Dechnik
uprooted tree by Susan Dechnik

Judging by these images sent in by Mrs. Susan Dechnik, Sandy diminished Riverton’s  2,474 tree census figure a bit.


She reported that a large tree fell near Tenth and Main and she lost a favorite weeping cherry tree in her own back yard on Cedar Street.



She counts herself lucky that it fell away from the house and downed trees on Cedar missed her parked cars.

All told, that is enough scariness for 2012.  If this week simply goes down in history as the week that Halloween got postponed, then we can surely can count ourselves fortunate.


Trees can be replaced, broken roofs and windshields repaired, but keep mindful of the many who have suffered devastating losses to homes, business, and lives as a result of this history making storm. The hurricane that some called Frankenstorm turned out to be quite a monster, indeed.

The American Red Cross has a huge relief response underway to Sandy, providing thousands of people across several states with shelter, food, and comfort during this difficult time. You can make a financial donation by visiting www.redcross.org, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

We welcome your observations and comments and appreciate any note of an error made here.

– John McCormick, Gaslight News editor




A Riverton Fall Foliage Tour while waiting out the Frankenstorm

My friend, former teaching partner at Riverton School, and current stringer for the Gaslight News, Mrs. Susan Dechnik, sends us these recently snapped photos of Riverton just in case some of you out there forget how magnificent your favorite Tree City looks in the fall.

Retired now, but ever the creative writer, she includes this rhyme:

Fall comes to Riverton
wearing autumn’s hues.
The lens of a camera
offers up these views.

Here is an even dozen photos which may have to substitute for your Fall Foliage Tour of Riverton since it seems that Hurricane Sandy is going to keep us housebound for a couple of days.

The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Riverton as a “TREE CITY USA” for the past 24 years. Visit the Shade Tree Commission’s page on the Borough website to find out about the work of Chairman, Mr. Barry Emens, and the Shade Tree Commission.

If for no other reason, Hurricane Sandy should prove memorable (shall I say historic?) for the school age children of Riverton since classes have been already cancelled for Monday and Tuesday “due to inclement weather conditions.”

After a few days of being housebound, the kids will be ready to riot if there is no Halloween. The Palmyra Halloween Parade facebook page reports that the parade scheduled for Tuesday, October 30 (Halloween Eve), has been postponed until Thursday, November 1st.

Surely the Riverton parents’ phone lines will be busy tomorrow planning what to do and when to do it for Halloween.

When Hurricane Irene struck here in August 2011, I posted a column with some photos supplied by Susan and  Ivrie Myhre of cinnaminson.patch.com. I can pass along any photos or reports on how Riverton weathers the approaching Frankenstorm as long as my Comcast Cable and electricity hold out here in Delran.

– John McCormick, Gaslight News editor


Like Christmas in July

“Greetings to One and All” Christmas postcard designed by Ellen Clapsaddle, 1909, scan provided by Harlan Radford, Jr.

To a historian, getting another vintage postcard scan and seeing these photographs of old Riverton is like getting an early Christmas present.


A frequent contributor of many classic postcard scans to our virtual museum here at rivertonhistory.com, Mr. Harlan Radford, Jr. wired a handful of these holiday confections over the miles to us, and we will share one or two with you each week as we countdown toward the Yuletide season.

Last March, Henry Parrish Hackett, a website visitor in North Carolina wrote:

“Hi. I just discovered the Riverton History blog and I’ve been having a ball going through it finding family photos.”

Thanks to his incredible memory, he even advised us of an error we made in identifying a person in an old family photo belonging to Mrs. Nancy Hall. The man that she thought was her grandfather, Ezra Lippincott, was actually Ezra’s father-in-law. See the photo here with the corrected caption.

When Henry was in this area on business in July, he visited his cousin Mrs. Nancy Hall (their grandmothers were daughters of Ezra Lippincott), at the home in Riverton she shares with husband Bill. Henry had offered that I meet with them to discuss some photos that he sent ahead to me by mail so that I could scan them for the Society.

Henry, or Hank as he is known by family and friends, carefully chronicled the people, places, and things in each photo, often elaborating with an anecdote or a family tale that gave context to these century old images.


“The Chocolate Cake” – address unknown

Hank’s grandparents, Bertha Lippincott Parrish and Henry C. Parrish, started married life in this house they called “The Chocolate Cake.” Hank doesn’t know the address. Can someone help?




901 Thomas Avenue, corner of Shrewsbury



Ezra Lippincott built the house at 901 Thomas Avenue for them in 1904, and it was there that Bertha gave birth to three of their four children. Their first child, Dillwyn, was born at her father’s on the river bank.





The photos below include captions that came from Hank’s memories of his Riverton ancestors and relatives.

Best friends at Swarthmore



Hank’s grandfather is pictured in this old metal tintype. The caption on the envelope in which it was stored reads, “Best friends at Swarthmore” Walter Clothier, (L); Henry Parrish, (R). wearing boaters





Front porch of 901 Thomas, 1914
Bertha Lippincott Parrish, Henry C. Parrish, and daughter, Alice Parrish (Hank’s mother), on front porch at 901 Thomas Avenue, Sept. 1914.

Gathered around the Halls’ dining room table inspecting the photos that summer afternoon, we were all wondering about that item with the big cross on it.

Hank confirmed that the family was indeed devoutly Quaker and we wondered if they were involved in a war relief effort. They may well have been, but we cannot confirm it from this photo.

Red Cross Ad – The Westfield Leader, Weds Sept 16, 1914, p9

A subsequent google search of the phrase,”Neutrality in War – Humanity in Suffering” resulted in my conclusion that the item on the table is probably a newspaper advertisement with the headline,”Wanamaker Store is Closed Today – Labor Day” above the logo for the Red Cross with the slogan, apparently coined by John Wanamaker, used to appeal to the American people to contribute humanitarian aid for war ravaged Europe.

In 1914, America was still three years away from a formal declaration of war on Germany, but Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker launched bold plans to help secure subscriptions and supplies from the public at official stations in his stores. The title of the publication on the table in the photo cannot be determined, but here is a similar ad that appeared in the September 16, 1914 issue of The Westfield Leader.



FOR SALE – 15 rms w/ river view – 303 Bank – Ezra Lippincott residence – note structures at rear of home that are not there today

Ezra Lippincott gave homes to each of his children in Riverton. His own home at 303 Bank later became the Baptist Home, or Riverview Estates, as it is known today.

Hank supplied this rare photo of his great-grandfather’s home when it was put up for sale after Ezra’s death in 1908. On the back it enumerated a long list of the estate’s features.

    • huge property which extended all the way back to Second Street
    • 15 large rooms
    • two bathrooms
    • butler’s pantry
    • 3 porches
    • conservatory
    • stables
    • tenant house
    • garden, fruit trees
    • beautiful outlook over Delaware River 
Baptist Home, undated chrome postcard


The Baptist Home, now Riverview Estates, as depicted on a an undated chrome postcard.




Kate McLyndon, Lippincot family cook
Hank explained that Ezra Lippincott built a cottage built on his property for Kate McLyndon, the household cook, and her husband, the coachman for the estate. A couple of family tales survive about the colorful Irish domestic. Mrs. Nancy Hall recounted one about Kate and some faulty Strike Anywhere Matches in the March 2010 Gaslight News.

Hank told us another about how Kate admonished the local priest who came to visit because he hooked his heels over the rungs of her brand new wood settee.

A caption on the back reads: “Kate McLindon, Cook at Ezra Lippincott’s family from around 1878? until 1902 or even longer as I don’t know year she came. BLP”




This gathering of possibly preteen girls with their doll babies took place on the porch of Ezra Lippincott’s home at 303 Bank Avenue. Left to right: Edith Coale, Alice Lippincott (Booth), Mary Lippincott (Griscom), Nannie Biddle, Anna Lippincott



Riverton Tea Party – Elsie Biddle, Frishmuth Twins, Bertha Lippincott


Hank guessed that this playhouse was probably located either at Ezra Lippincott’s, Frishmuth’s, or Biddle’s. Can any reader confirm?





Icebergs on the Delaware – Feb. 1900 – Bertha Lippincott, her dog Bevis, and her nieces Anna and Betty Miller

Few people today can recall seeing the Delaware River frozen over to the extent shown in this photo, captioned, “Icebergs on the Delaware.”




Chickens on 901 Thomas Avenue, Alice and Henry Parrish


Speaking of things of which today’s children might be skeptical, here is a photo showing chickens being raised at 901 Thomas Avenue with young Alice and Henry Parrish looking on.




901 Thomas Avenue
901 Thomas Ave. as photographed August 1936 by utility company

Two more pics of the Parrish homestead.





Finally, here are some more “recent” photos from 1945.

July 4, 1945 – Main Street Parade
July 4, 1945 Children at the riverbank
July 4, 1945 – Jimmy Hackett is in the sailor suit






A Merry Christmas – by H.I. Robbins, 1907

Like I said, it was like getting a Christmas present in July. Thank you, Henry Parrish Hackett, for this peek into your family photo album and the glimpses into Riverton’s past. And thank you to postcard collector Harlan Radford for these first two vintage Christmas postcard images in our weekly Countdown to Christmas.

As families gather and reminisce during the days ahead, see if your own family albums don’t have some views of old Riverton to share with your neighbors here at rivertonhistory.com.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, contributions, and appreciate  receiving corrections to anything that we have posted in error.

– John McCormick, Gaslight News editor