“I wish I’d taken that.” When Mrs. Pat Solin included this photo in an email to me, that is exactly what I thought.
Photographer Dick Paladino tells us, “On the afternoon of December 10th, I took my daily drive along Bank Street and was smitten by the ‘other-worldly’ sight of the yacht club, ‘floating’ in the fog. I immediately rushed home to get my camera, with the hope that I’d return in time to capture the image.”
If you have a photograph, new or old, that has captivated you, please allow us to display it here.
But, I digress.
See the PowerPoint about the past issues of two Riverton and two Palmyra newspapers that are now available
Pat’s main reason for emailing me was to follow up on the meeting of the Board of the Riverton Free Library Association of the night before where I made a Show and Tell presentation explaining how the Newspaper Digitalization Project developed and some of what is in it.
It was basically my Thank You note to the RFLA in the form of a PowerPoint for my new toy – the digitalized files of the old newspapers. I wanted to communicate to our benefactors what a treasure-house of information they have made available to the public and to explain that the project just completed weeks ago actually started in the 1980s.
You can view the slide show with Microsoft’s PowerPoint program or the free Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer. As always, please advise if you find any errors or omissions. If you have a question or can add any facts or reminisces about anything you see in the slides please leave a comment. And please let us know what you find of interest in the newspaper files. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
If you read this from a distance and are not able to attend meetings, you may still partner in achieving our education and preservation goals with the favor of sending a donation to help fund the cost of operations or by earmarking an amount for one of the Society’s special projects.
I finished the layout for an eight page expanded issue of the Gaslight News and 51 copies into our usual run of 230 copies our second-hand laser printer broke down, I think for the last time.
That used printer that I paid $100 for in 2009, sure doesn’t owe us anything, but paying retail prices for the type of homemade color editions that I had been cranking out of my own desktop publishing house just isn’t sustainable.
So I pared down the newsletter to four pages after I found out that getting the eight page issue printed in all color would cost over $500. A commercial print service will provide a downsized half color/half black+white issue. Look for it in the mail possibly by late next week.
Meanwhile, here is the digital version of the four-page January 2013 issue of the Gaslight News. A slip for your use in paying 2013 membership dues will be sent with the newsletter as soon I can get it out.
Alisa DuPuy, the creative first-person historical interpreter with the remarkably authentic gorgeous gowns returns to the HSR in the guise of Queen Victoria Thursday, January 31, 2013, at 7:00 p.m. $10 admission.
The longest reigning British monarch whose name defined an era will visit the New Leaf Tearoom at 606 Main Street to enjoy tea and dessert with us as she dishes about the inside stories of her family, her life at court, and her romance with Albert with whom she had nine children.
After an assassination attempt this “Grandmother of Europe” once quipped, “It is worth being shot at to see how much one is loved.”
Regular attendees of such performances are well-familiar with the historical interpreter’s convention of staying in character and referring to the past in the present tense while employing inventive dramatic techniques and often encouraging audience interaction.
The New Leaf’s genteel decor is a fitting setting for this special visitation of Her Highness that includes tea and light refreshments served on the Tearoom’s beautiful china .
$10 per person. Seating is limited for this reserved seating event with Queen Victoria . Please call Gerald Weaber at 856-786-6961, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Find out more about Ms. DuPuy’s repertoire of real and fictional characters and see some amazing gowns and dresses from time periods spanning the 18th through 20th centuries at historicalteas.com. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
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.
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.
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
“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 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.
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.
Later, during two world wars, those same social columns helped unify communities with news of local men and women in military service.
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.
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.
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 TheGaslight 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.
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.
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
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.
Now, 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.
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
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.
Now, I know it’s Christmas Eve, but you don’t have to wait until Christmas Day to open just this one present.
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 ofThe New Era, the Riverton Journal, The Palmyra Weekly News, and The Palmyra Record. More details to follow.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.*
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Come back next week to see more vintage Santa postcards with an aeronautical theme courtesy of collector, Harlan Radford, Jr.