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

Planning ahead for 2018-2019

Our meetings and newsletters may be taking a hiatus for the summer, but please know that we are planning for Fall 2018 – Spring 2019 activities and programs now.

Our Treasurer, Pat Brunker, sends this request for your ideas.

The Board is starting to develop programs for the upcoming year starting in the fall. We’d like your input, as members, about what you would like to see as a program or fundraiser. What would get you out of the house to come to an HSR event or meeting? Please share your thoughts with us.  Thank you.

Pat Brunker (for the HSR Board)

P.S. from the Editor, John McCormick: Most programs are free to the public. We welcome suggestions from the public as well as from any HSR member.

In a town of roughly a thousand households, only 72 support the preservation efforts of the Historical Society of Riverton with their membership. (Another 33 member households are from places other than Riverton.) You can find more information and a 2018 membership form on our CONTACT page.

A serendipitous reader inquiry leads to evidence of a legion of ancestors and a historic photo

George Bishop, a St. Cloud, FL reader, left the following comment on April 27 that led to finding evidence of his ancestor’s role as constable in late 19th century Riverton.

Hello and thank you for all the wonderful photographs and information about Riverton. So interesting. I was born in 1952 at 518 Main Street in Riverton and lived there until 1958 when relocated to Long Beach Island. I’ve always found myself digging through the internet trying to find out about my family & the house (photos, etc) My greatest interest in information about my great-grandfather George W Bishop who built 518 Main St house. According to the census he was a Constable. Any help locating photos or information about him or the house?

I searched our resources and replied the next day with what I had found.

Hi, George
Here’s what I could find on Bishop. Just this info on the home and two news clips at the end are relevant to your question, but I included others in case they are related. These old newspaper files are on our website, ( …

Found this bit about 518 Main but no old photo of the home.

518 Main National Register app 1999

Copied from Riverton’s 1999 National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. You can view the entire PDF document here –

Apparently, Kull lived in it in 1999. No mention of the original owner. That involves searching the title in Mount Holly.

The New Era, Feb 7, 1935, pg2

518 Main mentioned in the New Era, Feb 7, 1935, p2.  So the house was not continuously in the Bishop family from the start?

Zillow has a later build date… – same 1885 date       Am I at the right address? See photo.

518 Main,

Are you related to a Harold Bishop or Billy Bishop? Clara, Sam, Ernie, or Charles Bishop? There are hundreds of hits on searching the name Bishop in our old newspaper files.

Searching our old newspaper files I found…

Many 1912-1920s ads for plumber William H. Bishop at 302 7th St.   Any relation?

1944 Riverton Honor Roll from The New Era

1944 Riverton Honor Roll of persons serving in the military. These and other names are listed on the War Memorial on Main St.

In the 1890s, I found many ads for JOSEPH BISHOP, CONTRACTOR and BUILDER in Palmyra, but no mention of George W. Bishop.

These last two mention Constable Bishop

Riverton Journal, Mar 15, 1882, p2

Riverton Journal, Mar 15, 1882, p2















Riverton Journal, June 15, 1882, p2Riverton Journal, June 15, 1882, p2

Finally, this from Gaslight News of May 1983:

030_GN May 1983

John McCormick

Mr. Bishop wrote back to acknowledge that I indeed had found evidence of some of his ancestors in our archives.

Thank you SO much for the information! All of the mentioned Bishops are my uncles, grandfather, Great-Grandfather finally! and my father, George W Bishop on the honor roll… So wonderful to hear about all the family, especially George W Bishop in the 1890’s… Well, thank you so much again. Great reply and I wish you the best.    Sincerely, George Bishop (St. Cloud. Fl, formally Riverton NJ 1952-1958 and Ship Bottom NJ)

But the big bonus for us in this email exchange across the miles is that Mr. Bishop also sent a scan of a photo of 518 Main from waaaay back in the day with Constable Bishop and family out front. Is that snow?

THEN                                                   NOW
Constable Bishop at 518 Main
518 Main 6-13-2018







Just a thought… who else out there has a story, photo, document, or artifact that would be great to have as part of our historical record before it is lost? -JMc

Memories of Wartime Scouting in Beverly, NJ

A post about Medford’s Camp Lenape seen here almost two years ago and another last January continue to engage readers who no doubt land on because scarce information exists elsewhere on the web about the now-gone Boy Scout camp.

After Don Ulmer commented in April that he had been Aquatic Director there in 1944-45, and had material to contribute, we reached out to him.

Don writes:

…we downsized from 3600 to 1600 sq.ft. I know there is more Lenape/Scouting stuff, including a number of superb photos taken summer of ’44. Am certain they will pop out in time and will get them to you when they do. Believe they include a US Navy Captain from Riverton, but can’t be sure of that. The name Ryan resonates, though a long time ago. Recollection tells me he was a mover/shaker in getting C. Lenape set up…
If you have specific questions about that time, perhaps asking them will trigger memories.
At age 89, am in sort of rush to get whatever I have into the right hands to preserve it for future generations. All my scouting years were concurrent with WWII which made for interesting times.

We communicated by email and phone, and apparently managed to “trigger some memories” because the following memoir is the result.

Memories of Wartime Scouting in Beverly, NJ
by Don Ulmer

Spring 1941 found an America struggling to recover from the Great Depression and in the final pre-World War II months of peace.  However, hovering war clouds nonetheless made their marks on Scouting.  By spring, a leaderless Beverly Troop 8 depended upon older scout and Assistant Scoutmaster Austin Haines to fill the void until LCDR Kenneth Heinrich, USN, stationed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and Church Street resident jumped into the breach. In this same time frame, an expanding Fort Dix claimed what once had been Burlington County Council Scout Camp Edge.  This left Burlington County scouts dependent upon the kindness of other Councils in and out of state for annual summer camping.

Despite mounting international pressures, LCDR Heinrich showed up dutifully at Troop 8 meetings each Friday evening in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Parish HallAustin Haines remained on as Assistant Scout Master.  ‘Dutch’ Wilmerton was Senior Patrol Leader over the Eagle and Moose Patrols, led respectively by Bonsall MacFarland and Howard Cramer.  Eagle Patrollers included Frank Pisa, Earl Adams, Ralph Anderson, Joe Orfe, Ralph Ulissi, Ken and George Heinrich (both drummers when the troop practiced for the Beverly Memorial Day Parade); Moose Patrol consisted of Kenny Rogers, Marvin Weiss, Bob Thompson, Cook Stockton, Ron & Don Ulmer, John Hines, O. B. Thompson and Billy Lucas. Hopefully, better memories than mine will fill in the many omissions.  Track has been lost with all but a few of these scouts, but many reports over the interim are consistently good.

Camp Edge gone, Del-Mar-Va Council invited Troop 8 scouts that summer of ’41 to camp at Rodney Scout Reservation, a Boy Scout camp located near North East, Maryland. Indeed a magnificent setting, it shares a long border with the woodlands of Elk Neck State Park and Chesapeake Bay on the other.  Beverly lads frequently made their presence known with renditions of their marching song.

(To the tune of Gary Owen)

There’s a bunch of boys from Beverly town

who belong to a scout troop up and down

Their reputation is best to be found

Their Troop is Troop 8 Beverly


Now they are all good scouts and they know their ins and outs

They always work and never shirk

Their Troop is Troop 8 Beverly

However, ominous harbingers of the impending war echoed from the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground across Chesapeake Bay from Camp Rodney.  Principal among these, the new Bofors forty-millimeter anti-aircraft automatic cannon. Since sound travels slower than light, five air bursts, visible as black smoke puffs in the distance, appeared seconds before the blast of the explosions.

On December 12, 1941, our first meeting after the attack on Pearl Harbor which plunged America into World War II, a grim LCDR Heinrich stood before Troop 8. “Last week we met in a nation at peace.  This evening we meet in a nation embarked upon a terrible war.”  Specifics of his remaining speech are lost to time, only that LCDR Heinrich reluctantly passed leadership of Troop 8 to Mr. Sam Phillips.

An interesting aside – though Troop 8 is how the rest of Burlington County regarded Beverlyites, for years it had been Troop 5, and our scouts were reluctant to change uniform arm patches to the new number.  Mr. Philips gently brought his Troop into compliance and the white number 8 replaced 5 on the square red sleeve patches.

World War II fell upon Troop 8, and it quickly immersed itself in scrap drives and just about anything they could do to aid the war effort.  The Troop, as it was custom over the years, marched with great pride in the annual Memorial Day Parade after practice marches up and down Church Street to the beat of the Heinrich boys’ drums.

Left to right, Joe Orfe, Marvin Weiss,Ken Heinrich, O. B. Thompson, Don Ulmer at Camp Minitik

In the summer of ’42, at the invitation of Camden County Boy Scout Council, Troop 8 visited Camp Minitik near Uhlertown, PA on the Delaware River.  The balance of the summer passed in war effort related jobs and keeping track of older siblings who disappeared into the service at a great rate.

The summer of ’43 saw the opening of Burlington County Council Camp Lenape near Medford Lakes.  Property included an abandoned cranberry bog equipped with an adjustable height dam that permitted flooding a sizeable swimming and boating lake that accommodated swimming, boating and canoeing tests for advancement from second to first class scout and subsequent merit badges. Trails cut through the Pine Barrens permitted observing plentiful nature of the area.  This included a nearby nest of flying squirrels, king snakes, and occasional deer that dropped by, no doubt wondering what this hubbub was all about. Rumors of venomous copperhead snakes abounded, but none sighted.

Don Ulmer and Marty Hamel of Beverly at Camp Lenape waterfront, 1944

As young men went off in the service, younger scouts took over duties of camp counselors. From Troop 8, Ron Ulmer served as Camp Naturalist and his cousin Don Ulmer as Waterfront Director.  Don attended classes at Mortimer L. Schiff Scout Reservation near Bernardsville, NJ to prepare for his job.  Full-blooded Sioux Indian and Princeton college professor J. P. Baldeagle served as Camp Director ’44-45 and drew upon both qualifications much to the benefit of his charges. Tents served as shelters and a mess hall for Beverly youngsters and other scouts of Burlington County.

Only a few World War II era Troop 8 scouts remain among us and to a man treasure all gained from those wonderful years.  They are ever grateful for them and for leaders who always found time from their busy schedules to support scouting.  So, to LCDR (later Captain, US Navy) Heinrich, Austin Haines, Dutch Wilmerton and Mr. Phillips, the many volunteer merit badge counselors about town, and countless others, your qualities and wisdom passed down sustained us well. From what is known, when scouting days ended and Troop 8ers went their separate ways, all traveled successful careers and lived happy lives, most putting something back into scouting.  They wish for Beverly scouts who followed the same good experiences of those happy times.


We sincerely thank Mr. Ulmer for entrusting us to share his scouting story here. He served in the US Navy from 1947-1979, worked at the Boeing Company (1979-96), and authored a dozen fiction books under the name D.M. Ulmer. We invite reader comments and contributions which will further fill out this chapter in local history.  – JMc

June 9, 2018:  Mr. Ulmer adds some names to his Camp Lenape recollection.

Other staff I remember at Camp Lenape

Scout Vondy, Assistant Camp Director, Bordentown, ’44
Scouts Tom and Jim Morrisey, Beverly, ’45
Scout Jerry Levy, Nature Counselor, Maple Shade, ’44
Scout Ed Sumner, Bugler, Moorestown, ’45 Metal scarce during WWII, his bugle was plastic.
Scout Bill Steinke, Maple Shade

Hanley Diehl, 1943, First Lenape Aquatic Director.  Hanley was a Quaker and Conscientious Objector during WWII.  He and I corresponded a bit to help me better understand the waterfront job.  His address was at a CO camp. I vaguely recall he once spelled me for a weekend off.  Do not know what became of him. Definitely recall him to be  a superb young man, as were all the Lenape-ers.

Those were wonderful years indeed.

McWhorter Mfg. Co., Riverton, NJ

When this unusual c.1907 farm implement catalog for McWhorter Mfg. Co. in Riverton, NJ with a purple cover and green text surfaced on eBay I bid for it even though I had no clue where such a factory would have stood.

eBay item, McWhorter ad 1911

With having a saved search on eBay for “Riverton, NJ” for some time, I had already seen small ads for sale from periodicals like this one:

FS McWhorter obit, The New Era, Sept 5, 1919


HSR Board member Roger Prichard joined the search and found this obit in The New Era for F.S. McWhorter, the president of the company, who once lived at Eighth and Lippincott and…

McWhorter Edger, The New Era, April 15, 1921


…another ad for a grass edger made by Allen McWhorter (presumably a son or other relative) indicating a 420 Lippincott address.

However, both of those residential neighborhood  addresses seemed like an unlikely place for a manufacturer of farm and garden implements.

detail, Sheet 14, Riverton, NJ Sanborn Insurance Map, 1919

While I was stumped on the location, Roger kept digging and found the plant in East Riverton, as shown on Sheet 14 of this 1919 Sanborn Insurance Map for Riverton.


View the entire 28-page catalog here: McWhorter Special Farm and Garden Implements Catalog c.1907

If any century-old McWhorter manufactured items are still around, please send us a photo. -JMc



Donations enrich the historical community

Apologies for the inactivity here since my computer spontaneously combusted last week. This post by phone is the best I can do for now.

In other news, this past week we received two separate offers to donate postcards to the Society.

I received a phone call from John Poss in Gastonia, NC, who offered to send us a Dreer’s Nursery shipment postcard dated 1911. It seems that he sometimes obtains postcard collections through his work and he then makes an effort to track down a sender or recipient and sends the item to them.

In our case, John saw the name DREER, and when he googled it, the search led him to, arguably the greatest source of information and images on the web for the defunct nursery. This card is a welcome addition to the Society’s collection since it is not one we had seen before.

He wrote:

John –
Great to see this artifact return home –

This must be the week for Johns.

Riverton resident John Criqui made a special trip to my home today in Delran to pass along five vintage postcards, one of which is a real photo post card, or RPPC, showing Keating’s Drugstore at the intersection of Broad and Main Streets (second photo down on the right). (Read more about Keating’s Drugstore in this previous post.) Can a classic car buff suggest a date for the photo?

I really must emphasize the gratitude with which we accept these relics from Riverton’s past. The HSR only actually owns a small fraction of the postcards and photos you find displayed here. Most images are simply scans supplied by collectors, so this was a treat to receive these six vintage postcards for our collection, two of which have not been displayed here before.

Additionally, when ready disposal of historical ephemera for cash is just a few mouse-clicks away on eBay, we applaud these men for choosing instead to benefit the Society with their philanthropy.

I will get better images posted in the IMAGES gallery when my computer gets fixed. – John McCormick, newsletter and website editor

REV. 5/28/18: You can see scans of the above items on the IMAGES page under Palmyra, Riverton Businesses, Organizations, Public Buildings and Dreer’s Nursery.

The Ladies of Riverton’s Bezique Club

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

I say intrigued because I had to look it up.

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

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

Czar Nicholas II and Alexandra played Bezique.

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

Well, not together.

Gustave Caillebotte, “Game of Bezique,” 1880

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

Bezique set box, c1895

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

a typical society column banner for the Philadelphia Inquirer

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

Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 14, 1897, p39

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

The Weekly News, Nov 20, 1897, p2

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

The Weekly News, Dec 4, 1897, p2

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

December 19, 1897, Philadelphia Inquirer, p37

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

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

The Weekly News, Jan 15, 1898, p2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec 18, 1898, p3

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

Philadelphia, Inquirer, Jan 22, 1899, p11

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

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