Birch Street, West of 9th St., Camden, NJ – Then & Now

Birch Street West of 9th St., Camden, NJ, 1908

The title for this card is “BIRCH ST. WEST OF 9th ST. / CAMDEN, N.J.” Here are three persons, perhaps including the proprietors of the corner store behind them.

3 Bros and Havana Ribbon cigars

Most prominent is the signage advertising “TAHOMA Cigars,” but note also the advertisements for Fring’s Havana Ribbon cigars and 3 Bros. 5¢ cigars affixed to the corner awning support.

What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.

I hear “5¢ cigar” and that old saying comes to mind about this country’s need for a good 5-cent cigar.

Despite the accomplishments of former governor of Indiana and Vice-President (1913-1921) Thomas R. Marshall, his most widespread fame is attributed to that remark. Although he popularized the sentiment, it was not original with him, having appeared in the press as early as 1875.

Obviously, providing 5¢ smokes to the cigar connoisseurs of this Camden neighborhood was the goal for the proprietors of this store in 1908.

Down the street in the distance are two horse-drawn wagons. Typical row houses are shown here and the card is postmarked in Camden in December 1908 and addressed to a recipient on Bordentown Ave. in Burlington, N.J. Produced by Wm. B. Cooper, Photographer – Medford, N.J.

This google maps link shows the same approximate location at Birch Street West of 9th St., Camden, NJ, 1908 today. The old store is gone now, just like the nickel cigar.

Closer to home, clippings from our own newspaper archive testify to the existence of several area cigar stores over the years:

They have all vanished now, except for one. That is if you still count it even though it moved a few doors and changed hands several times since 1926. This 2009 Courier-Post article shows it as it looked in the late 1990s and tells more about it.

We welcome comments, corrections, and especially hope that someone can share more old photos of some of the local businesses named above. -JMc

Just posted – 24 Ocean City, Riverside, Riverton postcard scans

Posted 24 postcard scans yesterday on our IMAGES pages:

Revised 11/23/2019: Didn’t think you’d mind one more postcard.

  1. City Hall and Court House, Riverside, NJ eBay
  2. Moravian Church Riverside, NJ 1908 eBay
  3. Northwestern Section of Riverside, NJ, 9-1-11,1908 eBay
  4. Heulings Ave., Riverside, NJ eBay
  5. Riverside News Agency Scott & Pavilion Ave. Riverside, NJ eBay c1920
  6. Birdseye View NW Riverside, NJ, undated eBay
  7. Along the Delaware, Riverside, NJ, undated eBay
  8. A View of River Drive, Riverside, New Jersey NJ eBay
  9. A Quiet Day On Bridgeboro Street, Riverside, NJ eBay
  10. 1906 RPPC Stores Pike’s Pharmacy Street to Factory Riverside, NJ eBay
  11. Taubel Conservatory, Riverside, NJ undated eBay
  12. Riverside National Bank, Turngemeinde Hall, Riverside, NJ eBay
  13. Rt 130 Buttonwood Cabins eBay
  14. Columbia at Riverton Yacht Club 1908 eBay
  15. Riverton Yacht Club, Riverton, NJ 7-17-1939
  16. Moonlight on the Delaware River, Riverton, NJ 4-5-1910
  17. View from Riverton Yacht Club, River, Riverton, NJ
  18. 9th Street Bridge and Boulevard, Ocean City, NJ
  19. Music Pier and Concert Hall, Ocean City, NJ
  20. Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
  21. Atlantic City Race Course, Club House Flower Display
  22. Haddon Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
  23. Ventnor Pier, Atlantic City, NJ 8-8-1944
  24. In the Stretch at Atlantic City Race Track, NJ
  25. Company Street, Fort Dix, NJ 7-18-1941

See many more images on these specific pages:

Atlantic City, NJ Images

Ocean City, NJ images

Riverton Yacht Club & River

Riverside, NJ Images

We welcome comments, donated items, submissions of images, and information about local history topics. -JMc



Large screen TV on sale at Schwering’s – back in 1948

Motorola VT-105 ad, Schwering, The New Era, Dec 16, 1948

Do you recall your first TV? Bonus points if it was black and white.

Here is the must-have holiday present – a big-screen Motorola VT-105 television set available from The Schwering Store, as advertised in The New Era, Dec 16, 1948.

Schwering’s Hardware Store, founded in 1922, was already 26 years old in 1948, but broadcast TV was still in its infancy.

The New Era, May 15, 1930, p4

Only a few years prior, in 1930, a columnist for The New Era had described the first public demonstration of a two-way television broadcast between points just three miles apart in New York City.

He imagined that the expensive process would become cheaper and, “Very soon there will be little rooms… to which anybody could go and for a fee talk to people… as if face to face.”

The man had no idea!

Television for the masses would come of age during the Postwar Era, and Riverton was ready for it. Soon, local TV customers patronized Dan Mento in Riverton, as well as Palmyra Home and Auto Supply, and Earle B. Harder’s General Electric Appliance Store in Palmyra.

Motorola tv ad, Life Dec 6, 1948

A Life magazine ad, December 6, 1948, touted the innovative features of the new line of Motorola TVs, featuring the “Gorgeous Table Model” VT105 (same one in the above Schering ad) that “…shows constant, crystal-clear pictures. Hand-rubbed Furniture Styled Cabinet.”

1948 Motorola VT-105

Imagine your family clustered around that massive 10-inch display ready to watch your choice of three available television stations in the Philadelphia region – 3, 6, and 10.

According to Philadelphia Television by Bill Shull, Philadelphia’s first commercial broadcast station WPTZ, which was later called CBS 3 (KYW-TV), commenced operation on July 1, 1941.

WPVI-TV/Channel 6 went on the air as WFIL-TV in September 1947, and WCAU-TV followed in May 1948, as Philadelphia’s third television station.

WPTZ TV to televise RYC races, The New Era, Sept 23, 1948, p1

Hours of programming in 1948 were sparse, as illustrated in this 1948 network tv schedule.

Before the advent of taping, a method, apparently used for the Riverton Yacht Club broadcast, was to film an event and then scan it for broadcast back at the studio.

I was six in 1953 when Nana and Pop-Pop got their TV in Camden, but I still remember seeing some of the shows depicted in this YouTube video.

Sure, the grownups had their favorites like Uncle Milty, Red Skelton, and the Ed Sullivan Show, but my favorite was Winky Dink and You (at about 26:30 you can see a girl with the plastic overlay and crayons).

Winky_Dink Photo Credit: CBS Photo Archive, Getty Images

I sent in 50 cents for the Winky Dink Kit and Magic Screen and every week I helped Winky Dink out of a jam by drawing whatever Winky needed (rope, boat, rollerskates, etc.) on the TV screen.

And the price to put that 1948 Motorola under your tree? $289.00 was a hefty 9.3% of the $3,120 median family income in 1948 (Federal Reserve Bulletin, Nov. 1949). According to this Consumer Price Index Calculator, $289.00 in 1948 dollars is equivalent to $3,086.02 in 2019.

Comments always welcome. -JMc

The signs are everywhere – Historic House Party coming soon

You know what it is – an excuse for an awesome party – but do you know why we’re throwing it?

The Historical Society has a tradition of encouraging student involvement with local history. In 2007 we established the Betty Hahle Excellence in History Award for sudents at Riverton Public School.

A 2011 web post describes the motivation behind the award and profiles the esteemed former Town Historian for whom it is named.

Betty B Hahle 10-06-09 age 90

The Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award is given to an eighth grade student each year at Riverton Public School. Betty Hahle’s many decades of historic research and writing as Town Historian and her interest in cultivating the interest of young people in the study of history inspired the award.

Former HSR President Priscilla Taylor described the first presentation in the September 2007 Gaslight News:

Betty B Hahle Award plaque in RPS trophy case, 2012

At Riverton School’s 8th grade graduation ceremony in June, I was very pleased to announce the inaugural winner of the Historical Society of Riverton’s BETTY B. HAHLE EXCELLENCE IN HISTORY AWARD. Named for our esteemed historian, this annual award of a $100 savings bond is given to the 8th grader who best completes an oral history project of a Riverton resident. Riverton School social studies teacher and HSR Board member, John McCormick, created the 8th grade history project to capture, via audio and video recordings, the stories of notable Rivertonians. Miss Jennifer Pacek, now a 9th grader at Palmyra High School, won the 2007 award for her videotaped interview with 100-year-old Mae Goodwin, who is believed to be the oldest living graduate of Riverton School.

The November 2007 Gaslight News highlighted some of what Jen learned from Mae Goodwin:

Jen Pacek Mae Goodwin 2007

Mae told of kids taking rides on fire trucks in celebration of the end of World War II, she did not particularly like school, and she recalled that in school, bad students were whipped with a strap. Even decades ago, children like young Mae went sledding at Double Bunkers at the Riverton Country Club.

Other Riverton School recipients of the award include: 2008 Hannah Hoag, 2009 Emily Curci, 2010 Chelsea Montieth, 2011 Hannah Creighton, 2012 Andrea Kinzler, 2013 Holly Bednarek, 2014 Taylor Blinebury, 2015 Grace Hochenberger, 2016 Fisher Hudak and Maura Scott, 2017 Joseph Fort, 2018 Catherine Azelby, 2019 Jack Kinzler

Our hope is to establish cash awards to encourage students to author local history articles using primary source material. The primary goal of the Historic House Party is to raise the funds needed to underwrite that endeavor.

C’mon and help make some history. Please buy a ticket and join the fun if you can. For more details, see this website link to the event and this Facebook event.

Event tickets are on sale for $50 at Riverton Library and the Guitar Guild of Palmyra. The Guild has a credit card reader. You may also purchase tickets by calling or texting Heather Huffnagle at 856-505-7087.

If you can’t go, but wish to support the Society’s goal to better connect with families and young people, just click on the PayPal button at left and follow the prompts. Or send your check, payable to The Historical Society of Riverton to:

Historical Society of Riverton
PO Box 112
Riverton, NJ 08077

A descendant and I collaborate across the miles to research a Dreer employee

Rabbit hole awaits

One of the most common requests for help received here – family research – often results in a descent down a rabbit hole on a search that the questioner hopes will reveal some historical truth about their ancestor. That search seldom has had as satisfying an end as this one.

Last week Richard E. Shaw emailed me from his home in North Carolina to tell about a visit to Riverton he had made in October in a quest to find out more about the Dreer Nursery since William F. Dreer employed Shaw’s great grandfather, John Shaw, as superintendent of the Dreer estate in Rosemont, PA from 1900 to 1922. Another ancestor, Joseph Shaw, John Shaw’s brother, worked at Dreer Nursery in the 1910s-20s and resided in Riverton and later in Palmyra.

Wed, Jul 26, 1899, Woodbury Daily Times, Page 1

John Shaw, whose stated profession was “Gardener,” might have started his association with Dreer as an employee of the Dreer Nursery in Riverton sometime between 1883 and 1895. After immigrating the USA from England in 1882, Shaw may have been living in the Frankford section of Philadelphia or perhaps he resided at or near Riverton. From 1895 to 1900 he worked for Mr. G.G. Green in Woodbury, NJ.

Richard had already gleaned the above information from forays into and help from Gloucester County Historical Society Library, but he hoped to flesh out more details.

Understandably, Richard had some questions:
1) Are the records of Mr. Dreer’s 250 or so employees at Riverton during the 1880s or 1890s?
2) Did employees reside in (or near) Riverton or did some of them commute each day across the Delaware River from Philadelphia?
3) Does anyone happen to know whether the Dreer family papers and/or business records are archived anywhere, such as Riverton or Philadelphia?
4) Is there more than one cemetery in town for me to check next visit?

With Richard’s permission, I highlight here some of our correspondence to explain a bit about our research process.

Searching through our old hometown newspaper collection for “Shaw” yielded over 240 results – it’s a common surname. Halfway through, most results were not relevant. However, I found a few for John or Joseph and sent Richard a few news clippings that looked promising and answered his questions.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I wrote, “Regarding your questions:
#1 – I ONLY WISH we had Dreer employee and business records.
#2 Yes, many Dreer Nursery employees lived locally – probably most.
#3 If anyplace was given company records, Cornell Univ. makes a good suspect. There is a William Frederick Dreer Scholarship there. 
#4 There is no cemetery within the Borough. Morgan in Palmyra and Westfield in Cinnaminson are likely ones to try. 

New Era, April 14, 1932, page 3

This clipping from our historic newspaper collection showing a Palmyra residence and a burial, not locally, but in Philadelphia’s Oakland Cemetery, provided a breakthrough.

Richard replied, “Thank you so very much for navigating that rabbit hole on my behalf. I am most grateful… The Joseph Shaw obit that you shared was spot on.” 

We agreed to keep each other apprised of further developments and then Richard did the classiest thing… he used the PayPal button at left to make a donation to the Society!

His comment about the donation reads:

I am grateful for the fine assistance provided to me via email by John McCormick, helping me search for my great grandparents in the Riverton and Woodbury areas. Also for his gem of a ppt presentation about the former Dreer Nursery at Riverton.

We continued corresponding and when I found some more results, I sent him this:

Maybe nothing below. Just trying to follow breadcrumbs…

American Florist, Nov. 15, 1887, p15

(Google) searching for John+Shaw+Florist… see middle col., bottom, near GRAND PRIZE.

I thought we might be on to something with Shaw and chrysanthemum culture, so I searched further for John+Shaw+chrysanthemum and found more accounts of his prize-winning flowers in old trade journals.

The trade journals also listed other employers. Click on each image caption to view the source material.

Florist & Nursery Exchange, Volume 2, Nov. 15, 1890, p314
Gardener’s Monthly and Horticulturist, Volumes 29-30, 1887
The American florist – a weekly journal for the trade, 1885 , p155
The Gardener’s Monthly and Horticulturist, Volume 26, p383






That American Florist page mentions John and Joseph Shaw five times.

Lots of searchable Dreer catalogs online. I hoped to find a mention of Shaw, but no luck.

Have you tried searching for a connection to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society or Radnor Historical Society? Radnor High School has an award named for Dreer.

After several email exchanges with attachments between us, Richard concluded with…

…your most recent email included two additional clippings I had not received, including the one from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Each of these helps fill gaps in our family information. I’m very pleased and am grateful for your assistance.

Your search unearthed much more than bread crumbs. You’ve provided several meals worth of information for me to chew on and digest. You found my great grandfather showing his chrysanthemums at several flower shows, and winning awards!. And, you’ve revealed that he was employed by G.G. Green (of Woodbury, NJ) many years sooner than I had known from previous documentation (1889, rather than 1895). So you have helped add color and close temporal gaps in my knowledge. In addition, you found that John Shaw in 1887 had been employed by another prominent Philadelphian, Clarence Howard Clark. So, in addition, you have pointed me in other directions for additional information.

And I was glad to help.

I thank Richard Shaw for his generous donation and for allowing us to share this experience with our readers.

Please know that we welcome submissions of information and images from the public.

Indeed, much of what you encounter here is the result of contributions from scores of persons who have helped us document local history.

Each one enriches this online resource and helps search engines find us. How else do you think Richard Shaw found us from Hillsborough, NC? -JMc

Historic House Party in 8 days – please attend or contribute

Yes, it’s a party, but one with a noble objective: to establish cash prizes to encourage student authors to use primary sources to write about local history.

Event tickets are on sale for $50 at Riverton Library and the Guitar Guild of Palmyra. The Guild has a credit card reader. You may also purchase tickets by calling or texting Heather Huffnagle at 856-505-7087.

You don’t want to miss this. But, if you must, please support the Society’s goal to better connect with families and young people, for that is where our hope for the future survival of this Society lies.

Just click on the PayPal button at left and follow the prompts. Or send your check, payable to The Historical Society of Riverton to:

Historical Society of Riverton
PO Box 112
Riverton, NJ 08077

Only 9 days ’til the Society’s House Party – more details below

Great Party, Great Cause!

On Saturday, November 23, from 6pm ’til 10 pm, the Historical Society of Riverton will host a very historic house party at 100 Lippincott Avenue to raise funds for cash awards to students at Riverton School and Palmyra High School who use the HSR’s archives to write about aspects of local history.

Ticket price is $50 per person and includes an open bar and dinner buffet of smoked pork and beef brisket, roasted vegetables, pickled vegetables, cornbread and an assortment of seasonal pies.

Kids under 18 admitted free, but let us know that you’ll be bringing them so that we can plan properly. Bounce house and kid-friendly snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Tickets are on sale at the Riverton Library and the Guitar Guild of Palmyra. The Guild has a credit card reader. You may also purchase tickets from me by responding to this email or calling or texting my cell: 856-505-7087. 

More Info

In 2020, HSR will be celebrating it’s 50th birthday, and we’ve been thinking about how to recognize this benchmark and better connect with families and young people in Riverton. At the same time, we’ve been cleaning up our archives, improving how we store them (these are currently in the Riverton Library’s basement) and putting a lot of archival material online (see The most recent Criterium Bike Race’s proceeds went toward our archives project.

Each year, the HSR’s Betty Hahle Award has recognized a Riverton School student who excels in history. We’re looking to build on this with an expanded program that spotlights our archives and includes Palmyra High School students.

Hope you can make it!
Heather MacIntosh Huffnagle
Membership and Ways and Means Chair
Historical Society of Riverton

The Cold War Era Ballistic Early Warning System had local roots here

After almost fifty years of documenting the rich and varied chapters in Riverton’s history, it is a rare treat for the Society when we encounter a new one.

What alerted us to the role played by Riverton in the establishment of our nation’s Ballistic Missile Early Warning System was a Facebook post made last week in which Sara Sinexon Gual asked, “Does anyone remember where RCA/BMEWS was located?”

It was the BMEWS (pronounced be-muse) radar arrays that provided the capability to detect an incoming ICBM attack and provide 15 minutes warning.

Resident John Hartnett got the ball rolling when he commented, “East Riverton, banner st”.

However, it was former resident Rob Gusky‘s link to an essay by Gene McManus that really opened up the story. Mr. McManus, a former USAF radar technician recounts his training experience at Riverton (actually, East Riverton) in February 1961, for BMEWS training and his subsequent BMEWS deployment at Thule, Greenland.

RCA BMEWS El Paso Herald Post, El Paso, Texas, US, December 2, 1960, Page 51

Here, a classified ad, perhaps similar to the one to which Mr. McManus responded, outlines the need for positions of engineers, technicians, and technical writers at Riverton and on-site in the Far North.

BMEWS classified ad, Aug 02, 1959 Trenton Evening Times, Page 46

If you know Riverton geography, you know that there is no Bannard Street within its boundaries. While all of the news clippings we found listed the address of RCA Service Company as 1908 Bannard Street in Riverton, Bannard Street actually lies within East Riverton, an unincorporated community located within Cinnaminson Township.

The following screen capture from google maps shows the location of 1908 Bannard Street, East Bannard Street, Cinnaminson Township, Burlington County, New Jersey. Can anyone tell us more about the RCA operations that once took place there?

google maps screen capture
Built in 1959 and maintained by RCA under contract to the US Air Force, FPS-49 was the prototype for BMEWS

Other clues to the beginnings of the BMEWS story were once in plain sight.

Remember Moorestown’s “golf ball”? That now-gone landmark, located on Centerton Road in Moorestown, was a radar station built by RCA and a prototype for the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System,

As any school child of the 1950s and 60s who experienced a “duck and cover” drill can attest, the possibility of a nuclear attack was something for which we prepared. It caused anxiety and fueled our nightmares.

The undated RCA produced color film linked below (probably from the late 1950s-early 1960s) mentions RCA Moorestown shortly after 3min:53sec.  The construction process at Thule commences at 8min:05sec.

Another USAF produced video, Eyes of the North, explains the difficulties of constructing such an installation in the harsh conditions above the Arctic Circle. Look for one of those “golf balls” and the radar array inside it at about 2min:19sec.

HSR Editor, John McCormick

Our purpose here is not to thoroughly examine BMEWS (other sources do a better job of it), but to simply provide a place for other readers from this area to tell of their first-person experience with this massive technological achievement that provided advance  warning to the United States of an enemy missile attack during the Cold War.

Please leave a comment below or contact us at -JMc

The New Era, June 8, 1944, p7

P.S. Speaking of long-forgotten stories, former Riverton resident Edith Harris once told me that she worked on developing bombardier sights at Optical and Scientific, Inc. in the Collins Building for the US Government during World War II. Can anyone corroborate that?



Camden’s Newton Avenue – Then & Now

Newton Ave, S. of Berkley St., Camden, NJ, Aug 16, 1910. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Here’s one for the ages! A wonderful real photo postcard view at the intersection of Newton Ave. and Berkley St. in Camden, New Jersey. This item was placed in the mail stream and bears a Camden, N.J. postmark dated AUG. 16, 1910 6-PM, so it’s about 110 years old. (See over 150 more vintage views of Camden on our Camden, NJ images page.)

Things to look for include: the “Coca-Cola” and “Oysters In Every Style” signage; a large assemblage of school-aged boys in the street wearing their customary vintage-era knickers, caps, and ties; and a set of trolley tracks along with a horse-drawn wagon with a driver. One wonders what the occasion was for taking this photo at this particular moment in time. This characteristic street scene, a mix of mostly residential row homes and some neighborhood commercial businesses and corner stores, is located very close to the well-known Haddon Avenue.

Newton Ave, S. of Berkley St., Camden, NJ, July 2017 CREDIT: google maps screen capture

Compare that 1910 scene with the google maps image taken in 2017 at the same intersection.,-75.1138169,3a,37.5y,225.23h,94.53t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sP3i0ax3pnUqiCJ1VU-igAg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Now, if you really had a tech-savvy HSR Editor here, he would upload a short video in which one view dissolves into the other. This would be interesting to do with some of our scenes of old Riverton. – JMc

Best I could do… see the 7 sec. dissolve on Facebook.