What do you remember of these businesses at 606-608 Main?

Two recent posts of old postcard scans to Facebook prompted several hundred views, a few dozen “likes,” a handful of “shares” and some comments. To help you get your bearings, I include a few more images here along with a History of 606-608 Main Street that was last revised in 2013.

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Mary Honeyford is often counted among the names of those liking our posts on Facebook, and she said she did not know that the drugstore pictured in the old postcards was now The New Leaf Tea Room.

We are happy to dig deeper than that, Mary.

Dana Feigenbutz took over The New Leaf Tea Room from former owner Phyllis Rodgers who first conceived the idea in 2003, of starting a tea room and gift shop in the charming Victorian building at 606-608 Main Street. Prior to that,  a plant and gift shop, a fine furniture store, two different drug stores, and a news agency occupied that address. See more details in the article below.    We welcome more photographs, artifacts, and information about Riverton as we work to fulfill our mission “…to create an awareness of our heritage, to discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the history of the area.” 

We invite you to join in this effort by supporting the Society with your membership. Look in the upcoming September issue of The Gaslight News for meeting announcements, a word from President Bill Brown, project updates, and details on events planned for September and November. We look forward to seeing you.  – JMc


It’s all about the Benjamins (Harrison, that is) and McKinleys and McCulloghs

Last week Bob Kotcher of Hackensack, NJ, a researcher with an interest in New Jersey’s national banks and the currency they issued, called us after he saw this image on our website and he wanted to know if he could buy the original or get a better scan. This post is the result of an exchange of emails that turned out to be a win-win, as they say. Since we do not own the original postcard I sent him a high-resolution scan of the Palmyra National Bank real photo postcard and he gave me a history lesson on the practice of such banks to issue currency back in the day.

According to Mr. Kotcher, New Jersey’s 342 National Banks issued National Banknote Currency generally between 1863 up until May of 1935. The Palmyra National Bank, Charter #11793, started in business on July 2, 1920 and issued $157,270 in $5, $10 and $20 National Currency before it was placed into receivership on January 6, 1934. See the scan for the proof sheets below.

#11793 Palmyra $5-$10-$20 Proof Sheets, scan courtesy of Bob Kotcher

Bob writes:

I did work for the Smithsonian back in 2003 along with a fellow collector and my mentor in this hobby.   We wound up sorting all the New Jersey Proof Sheets putting them into Federal Charter number order.  That took us 2 days, but in return, we were allowed to photo copy any of the New Jersey Proofs that we wanted.

This represents one proof for each of the bank’s printing plates.  The proof sheets were pulled off the newly made printing plate to make sure that the plate accepted and transferred ink properly.  Proofs were pulled prior to the plates being put into production to minimize any problems in production.

Palmyra Bank Officers 11793

I am also attaching an index card that I use to show the progression of bank officers at the bank.  The Cashier is on the left and the President on the right.  The large size National Banknotes were produced at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing then sent to the Comptroller of Currency, who then distributed them to the bank itself.

The Large Size notes from this bank were shipped unsigned to the bank.  Upon arrival at the bank, the Cashier would sign his name on the left and the President would sign on the right.  Assistant Cashiers would sometimes sign for the Cashier, and Vice Presidents could sign for the President of the bank, as long as they noted their title on the note.

Curious about our own Cinnaminson National Bank, I asked Bob about it and he replied:

Cinnaminson Natl Bank, Riverton, NJ 1910

The Cinnaminson National Bank of Riverton, New Jersey.  This National Bank Chartered in December of 1906, and issued $311,350. in large sized $10 and $20 National Currency before it was placed in voluntary liquidation on April 1, 1925.  My records show that it was succeeded by “The Cinnaminson Bank and Trust Company, Riverton”.  Once they dropped their National Bank Charter, I basically have no knowledge of them, as they would not have been able to issue their own currency.

Checking our archives yields a 1909 New Era Christmas Issue with some more information about Cinnaminson National Bank.

1909 New Era Christmas Issue, p17-18
Cinnaminson Bank – c. 1930s, scan courtesy of Betty B. Hahle

And to further illuminate the history and development of Cinnaminson National Bank and its successor Cinnaminson Bank and Trust Company, see Town Historian Paul W. Shopp‘s detailed article What’s Old is New Again at the Bank on Main from a May 2011 post.

Now all we need are some scans of proofs or actual banknotes issued by Cinnaminson National Bank.

Turns out that the banknotes for these two hometown banks can be quite scarce.

This image of a Palmyra National Bank banknote is courtesy of antiquebanknotes.com.

Palmyra Nat’l Bank banknote courtesy of antiquebanknotes.com

I found this source that has additional information about the denominations and dollar amounts of notes issued for both banks. See the entries for Palmyra National Bank and Cinnaminson National Bank.

Thank you to Bob Kotcher for sparking this deep dive into two of the area’s old national banks.

We are always anxious to acquire more images, artifacts, and particulars about Riverton history, so please contact us if you can help.

Bob Kotcher adds that he really wants to buy that original Palmyra National Bank RPPC that started this whole thing, so please contact him through the comment form below. – JMc


Christmas in July – a reader gifts us with a 1911 dry goods advert

Kathi Giden called us out of the blue and offered to give to the HSR an 8-page advertisement dated 1911 for Mrs. Alfred Smith’s store that residents once referred to as “Riverton’s John Wanamaker store.”

Mrs. Alfred Smith, New Era, Feb 25, 1925

Riverton’s hometown newspaper, The New Era, profiled the thriving enterprise in its February 25, 1925 issue.

John Wanamaker Building, Philadelphia, PA. Scanned postcard image courtesy of William Downs

For you young’uns who don’t get the dated reference, John Wanamaker’s was the first department store in Philadelphia.

Like the much larger larger emporium at 13th and Market, Mrs. Alfred Smith’s dry goods and notions store stocked a large and varied stock of quality merchandise and built a fine reputation for its courtesy, integrity, and customer service. It served the community for more than fifty years.

Railroad Station c1905, Price Building at right. Scanned image courtesy of Nick Mortgu

The first floor of the three-story Price Bldg. opposite the old Pennsylvania Railroad Station first housed the shop which opened July 1, 1895.

The New Era 1909 Christmas Issue, p6

The business grew and relocated about 1905 to the brick mansarded double at 412 Main Street.

The proprietress clearly understood the power of advertising when, in 1911, she published this 8-page advertisement for the business.

Click on the cover page below to see the PDF file for the entire ad.

The Riverton Holiday Messenger, Christmas 1911. Original publication, a gift from Ms. Kathi Giden

The Historical Society of Riverton is indebted to Ms. Giden for her donation of this rare advertisement.

414 Main on left, 412 on right
Smith store sold March 1946

The store later moved to a one-story building erected for the purpose at 414 Main. (You might recognize 414 Main as the home of The Sharon Shop, a popular lunchtime eatery for students and teachers in the 1970s.)

Downsized in the mid-1940s, according to a report in The New Era, the store returned to the Smith home at 412 Main, but we have not determined how long it remained open.

Can a reader help? We welcome additional particulars and photos about Mrs. Alfred Smith’s store. – JMc




Hello Muddah, hello Faddah, here I am at Camp Lenape

With apologies to Allan Sherman’s 1963 parody that complains about the terrible conditions at a fictional Camp Grenada, the following upbeat letters sent home by our contributor’s younger self recall his joyful stay at Camp Lenape, a Boy Scout camp.

1951 Esso NJ Roadmap detail

Mosquitoes, merit badges, a menu of bug juice and burgers, plus a canoe trip along the Wading River from Chatsworth to Chip’s Folly had the makings of an unforgettable week-long wilderness adventure in 1956 at the camp once in the Pinelands of Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.

What may sound like indentured servitude to us today was one 13-year-old boy’s relentless pursuit of merit badges to advance rank in scouting.  

Some excerpts, as written:

July 29, 1956

Dear Mom, Dad, and John

We came back from the Wading River canoe trip at 3:45… there were three to a canoe and three canoes… We paddled on until about 6:30 pm and just as we got out of the canoe it began to rain like all heck, with lightning and thunder…

…finally we succeeded in getting the tent up… we were soaked to the skin.

At this point it was pitch dark and the rain ceased. The we ate supper, hamburgers, salad, bug juice, and oranges.

We hardly slept a wink because of the singing of the mosquitos.

…today we packed all our duffle, ate breakfast, and had a small morning worship service… breakfast was Rice Krispies, orange juice, bacon, coco and scrambled eggs.

We paddled on until 11:30 am and stopped for a small swim and at lunch… For lunch we had jelly sandwiches, bug juice, cookies and watermelon…

…we made it. We had canoed for close to 9-1/2 hours.

…Only about 40 boys in camp this week… Richard and me are going to try and get as many merit badges as possible.

July 31, 1956

Just got back from washing dishes for cooking merit badge… For our supper tonight we had chocolate pudding, coco, veal cutlet, diced carrots, homemade bread, and broth… For Cooking merit badge I have already made a fireplace and cook meals and build fire.

For Pioneering merit badge I have been working on [a] 100 foot bridge across Great Earth Dam… learn how to splice, lash, etc.

For Wildlife management merit badge we have to fill one side of the dams at the waterfront with fertilizer so… roots will take hold… and prevent erosion. Also we have to answer a couple of questions, write a report… not[e} ten animals we have seen…

…for First Aid we have to know some questions and demonstrate… Well, see you Saturday and I sure hope I’m Star…

Love, Harlan

Such was a scout’s summer adventure before housing development in the late 1980s swallowed up Medford’s 419-acre Camp Lenape, which once served thousands of Burlington County Boy Scouts.


Question of the Day: Is there a residency requirement for membership in the HSR?

Just recently we received feedback to our website in which Adele from Cinnaminson asked, “Do you have to be a resident of Riverton to join?”

If membership in the HSR were exclusive to Riverton, this interloper from Delran would not be editing the newsletter and managing the website. Plus, with declining membership, we need all the help we can get!

So, no, you do not have to be a Riverton resident.

As our constitution states, “The purpose of the Society shall be to bring together those people who are interested in history and especially the history of the  Borough of Riverton, but not limited thereto.”

The topics on our IMAGES PAGE represent a number of places in the region plus Philadelphia and some shore points.

It should have occurred to me long ago to emphasize that one can join wherever one lives.

Crunching the numbers, of the 105 households on the Historical Society of Riverton newsletter mailing list…
•73 have Riverton addresses
•22 have other NJ addresses
•2 have PA addresses
•CA, CT, FL, ME, NC, OR, SC, and WI have one address each.

Without exaggeration we can claim members from the North to South and coast to coast.

Seriously, we would love to have you join the Historical Society of Riverton.

If you are able to print a membership form, here is the link to a PDF file. If, not, I will send you one by mail if you give me your address.

UPDATE: Today Adele emailed me, “I’ve printed out the form and mailed it in with a $25 check.”

Sweet! That’s 106 and counting.

Questions? Use the contact form or call 609-220-8040 and leave a message. -JMc

Duster wins on the Fourth of July… 1934, that is

Apropos of the Duster and July 4th…

The New Era, July 5, 1934, p8

…this 1934 clipping from The New Era tells about the first July Fourth race in which Dusters competed.

Want to know more about the Duster?

The following link goes to the search feature. Just type in “duster” and click ENTER. Skip the first ads and find results below.

For news of this year’s Fourth, head over to the Riverton 4th of July Facebook page.  -JMc


The Birth of a July 4th Tradition in Riverton

Tomorrow marks Riverton’s 121st Children’s Flag Parade.

Inevitably, around this time of year a child or an out-of-town visitor will ask, “How did this wonderful July Fourth Parade originate?

Well, kids, this authoritative article written by Borough Historian Paul W. Schopp for the 2018 Riverton 4th of July Program Booklet will transport readers back to July 4, 1897, as he examines the very genesis of the Children’s Flag Parade we celebrate today.

It is a bit of Riverton history not to be found in any history book. -JMc

The Birth of a July 4th Tradition in Riverton

Contributed by Paul W. Schopp, Borough Historian

Rivertonians have always celebrated our nation’s birthday with grand panache. Houses and businesses festooned with flags, ribbons, garlands, and bunting lined the town’s streets in the past just as they do today. Prior to 1897, sporting events filled the Fourth, providing revelers with spectacles ranging from baseball games to boat races on the Delaware River to competitive cycling at the Riverton Athletic Association quarter-mile velodrome between the years 1894 and 1896.

Riverton PRR Station c. 1908

On July 4, 1897, the community’s focus pivoted. Sure, sporting events remained an important part of the ongoing annual celebration, but by 8:45 a.m. on this 1897 Sunday, a crowd was gathering at the Riverton station, filled with anticipation. Officials had invited the Burlington Band to travel down to Riverton and aid the residents in commemorating the day and all it meant to Americans filled with ardor for their country. The band boarded train no. 315 at the Burlington station and departed at 8:47 a.m. for the eighteen-minute trip to Riverton.

Fire Department, Riverton, N.J.

Disembarking from the train, the band assembled into formation on Broad Street behind the station and then marched to the Riverton Fire Company headquarters on Howard Street as the drummers beat the cadence. The squad of volunteer firemen stood ready to hoist a new American flag up the pole while the band members solemnly played The Star Spangled Banner. The crowd raised their voices in reverent singing to accompany the band music. The unfurling new flag featured an extra white star in the blue canton, symbolizing Utah achieving statehood and joining the 44 other states then comprising the Union.

Children’s Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

When Riverton’s first processional formed up, local newspaper editor C.F. Sleeper noted, “The band then led the parade of about 150 sweet little tots all dressed in white carrying silk flags to the river bank in front of Wm. P. Ellison’s where patriotic songs were sung ….” Those silk flags the children carried also featured 45 stars on the blue field. From the onset, the yearly event was known as “The Children’s Flag Parade.” Ellison resided in the original dwelling occupying the address of 405 Bank Avenue. Demolished in the 1950s, Samuel Sloan designed this “cottage” for founder Daniel L. Miller Jr.

Riverton Yacht Club – enjoying a good time

A celebratory crowd lined the riverbank, keen on watching the yacht club sponsored boat races, since other sporting events would not be offered. No baseball games would be played, since the 1897 holiday fell on a Sunday, and the velodrome had permanently closed when the 1896 season ended.

postcard published by The New Era

Three catboats initiated the riverine racing heats, with the FROLIC winning the prize over the larger SEA GULL. Nine mosquito boats took their turn, but several of the craft failed to finish the race. James Coale took the cup, with Norman Ellison and C.C. Rianhard mere inches behind. Only three contestants entered the tub race, in which Tom Kerigan won and William Bishop placed.

Moonlight on the Delaware, Palmyra, NJ

No exploding fireworks lit up the darkened sky out of respect for Sunday. Instead, the Rev. R. Bowden Shepherd, rector of Christ P.E. Church, conducted a patriotic evening worship service on Ellison’s lawn and Judge Hanna delivered an address that touched the American soul.

Lyceum Hall, 4th & Main St., Riverton, NJ

Not present were the town’s young people, who spent the evening at the Riverton Lyceum listening to live music. As the day drew to a close, adults and children alike strolled home to bed under the dim glow of the town’s gaslights.

While the preceding account of the Riverton 4th that included the inaugural children’s flag parade may seem a tad tame to those who line Main Street in 2018 awaiting the festivities, the common thread of patriotism and the celebration of a uniquely American holiday remains an intact stitch running through Riverton’s social fabric for the past 121 years.

All postcard views from the Paul W. Schopp Collection except the Children’s Flag Parade and the crowd on the riverbank, which are from Nick Mortgu’s collection. Additional links to images in Historical Society of Riverton archives.

Our first, but hardly historic, heat wave of 2018

Extreme Weather: A Guide & Record Book, Christopher C. Burt, W. W. Norton & Company, 2007

OK, already. So we’re having a heat wave for the Fourth. Big surprise.

Trenton Evening Times, July 3, 1901 Trenton, NJ, p1
Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 1890, p1

Welcome to New Jersey in July.

Almost any July.

Stifling heat and high humidity have been staples of summers here for as long as records have been  kept.

The effects of an 1876 June-July heat wave seriously discouraged visitors to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

Since then, summers here have spawned dozens of heat waves (notably those of 1896, 1911, 1995, 1936, 1948, 1955, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2006, and 2012) with devastating economic effects and costing hundreds of lives.

Summer 1936 produced the nation’s worst heat wave and hottest summer in history, up to that time.

Trenton Evening Times, July 9, 1936, Trenton, NJ, p1
Business District of Palmyra, N.J., Broadway Theater marquee at left 1954

Back then, the local citizenry sought refuge from the intense heat inside Palmyra’s Broadway Theater.

The New Era, July 16, 1936, p8

A story in The New Era describes the innovative cooling system that used well water.

The New Era, July 15, 1937, p1

It wasn’t until post World War II that residential air-conditioning became available at reasonable rates.

Before Riverton School had air-conditioning, I can recall school closing because of the heat a couple of times. Those third-floor rooms could get brutal. The whining and complaining was awful.

And that was just from the teachers.

So stay hydrated out there on the Fourth, folks, add another page to Riverton history, and please comment about a heat wave that you recall.  -JMc

Kodachrome – Bruce Gunn 1950s

Historical markers help preserve Riverton’s unique heritage

There’s that word again – UNIQUE.

How many times have you heard that word used to characterize Riverton?

Below, HSR Board Member Roger Prichard updates us on the Society’s Historical Marker Project – our effort to commemorate Riverton’s treasured past. – John McCormick, Editor

RFLibrary marker, June 2018, PHOTO: JMc

Our historical marker program has its next two markers in the ground, at Riverton Free Library and Riverton Public School.

John Laverty, Roger Prichard, RFL marker PHOTO: Bill Brown

Our volunteer Sub-Committee on Excavations (i.e. Pres. Bill Brown, John Laverty and Roger Prichard) planted them both on a recent Sunday morning.  Stop by and have a read!

The marker for the Library tells the story of the tiny cottage first occupied by a nationally known motivational preacher.  It was then for many decades the home of a lifelong bachelor who was a beloved figure in Riverton.  It was transformed into the home of the new Riverton Free Library and Reading Room Association, which has been a treasure for the town for about 110 years since then.

RPS historical marker, June 2018, PHOTO: JMc
Roger Prichard, John Laverty, RPS marker PHOTO: Bill Brown

Riverton Public School is actually the fourth public school attended by students of the area – the first being long before there even WAS a Riverton.  The marker tells of how its expansion paced the evolution of the whole concept of public education in America and includes a “then-and-now” graphic with groups of children from about 1915 and 2018.

Carlos Rogers directs the action at the 6th Annual HRCriterium, 2016, PHOTO: JMc

Carlos Rogers kickstarted our Historical Marker Program when in 2016,  he donated $4000 of the proceeds from his 2016 Historic Riverton Criterium to the HSR. We partnered with Riverton Free Library Association and the 2018 Class of Riverton Public School respectively to fund these historical markers. Previous markers installed under this program include those at the Caleb Clothier Home at 503 Bank Avenue and Riverton Yacht Club. – Roger Prichard

Duster origin photo – local legend or fact?

Dusters, undated photo given by Marty Carhart

There is perhaps no sailboat more steeped in Riverton lore than the diminutive Duster, a 13-3/4 foot long craft designed by Jim Merrill in 1933 and built by his father RYC Commodore Edward Merrill the following winter in their workshop at 301 Main Street. He and some friends lowered the craft from the window, took it down to the river, and christened it a “Duster.” Established as a class in 1946, it became a world-class sailboat.

Duster history, The New Era, March 11, 1937, p3

Ayers, Carhart, Coe, Gladney, Hunn, Knight, Lundstedt, Lippincott, Parsons, Thompson, Shoemaker, and Storey are some of the other names of sailors associated with the Duster’s conception, construction, and racing.

301 Main Street, from a 2017 Facebook post by Albert Seither, Clearwater, FL

While many residents will swear they have seen a photo of Duster #1 emerging from the third floor window of the home, obtaining a scan to post here has eluded the Society for years.

301 Main St., June 14, 2018

Imagine my excitement when, during a conversation on June 10 with John Hartnett while watching the Historic Riverton Criterium, he mentioned that he had seen such a photo on Facebook. Later that day he emailed the image file to me. Was this the long sought after photo depicting the very moment of the Duster’s birth?

The following Wednesday, I elatedly passed around my iPhone with the photo during our HSR Board meeting, and Roger Prichard politely pointed out that the boat with the rounded bottom in the photo looked more like a Comet.

Ohhhh, nooooooo… Could such a photo illustrating the Duster’s origin be a myth?

Seither home, 417 Lippincott, Aug. 23, 1947

Meanwhile, John Hartnett had continued to run down the source of the photo, and he sent me another photo later that evening.

Albert Seither’s  Facebook post of July 2017  explained that his grandfather and Alvar Erickson built a Duster in the attic of 417 Lippincott Avenue.

Right boat; wrong house and time, but still a cool bit of Riverton history.

So, our wish to the Universe is that someone reading this will help connect us with a picture of Mr. Merrill and friends lowering the first Duster from the third-floor window at 301 Main Street.

Moreover, Tom Shaw, the current owner of the Duster’s birthplace at 301 Main, wants to find an old Duster, seaworthy or not, that he can place in the yard as a kind of “The Duster was born here” historical marker.

(Sources sometime disagree on dates for the design and construction of the Duster. We deferred to information by Riverton Yacht Club in this article.)

We appreciate your comments, additions, and corrections. Please comment below or contact us if you can add to the origin story and history of the Duster sailboat. – JMc