2016 marks 100 years since the Japanese beetle invaded N. America

New Era, July 11, 1919, p2.
New Era, July 11, 1919, p2.

And guess where the pests made landfall after their trip across the ocean.

Riverton, NJ.

Yeah, you could google that. Riverton’s Wikipedia page mentions it under HISTORY. “In 1916, Japanese beetles, now a widespread insect pest in the United States, were first discovered in a nursery near Riverton.”

Apparently, they arrived in the grub stage some years prior, as they snuggled in the root balls of some iris plants imported from Japan bound for Dreer’s Nursery.

In the “We get letters” section on page 4 of the Oct. 2015 GN I introduced readers to Ken Frank, a Philadelphia physician who lives in “old” center
city Philadelphia.

Ken had inquired through this website if someone could show him where Dreer’s Nursery was when he would be visiting Riverton in July.

Would I? Yessss.

My wife Linda and I met Ken and his wife Sue at the Light Rail Station in mid-July and we gave them the fifty-cent tour.

Ecology of Center City Philadelphia by Kenneth D. Frank
Ecology of Center City Philadelphia by Kenneth D. Frank

A lot has happened since then.

His 29 chapter book, Ecology of Center City, Philadelphia, which takes a historical approach in examining the natural history of downtown Philadelphia, is now available in paperback and as a free PDF online.

Ken will speak at a meeting of  the American Entomological Society in the library of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Dec. 2, about the centennial of the North American introduction of the Japanese beetle.  The meeting starts at 7pm.

The Riverton contingent of Ken’s cheering section will consist of Nancy and Bill Hall, Jeannie Francis, my wife Linda, and me.

Bill Hall recalls some details about Japanese beetles in Riverton – says he used to be paid a bounty for catching them by the quart jarful.

Jeannie is a Master Gardener who not only has first-hand experience in dealing with the pests, she had relatives who worked at Dreers and knows some family stories passed to her about the beetles.

Get used to it because you can be sure it will occur to someone in this Centennial Year of the critter’s discovery in Riverton that it would be cute to have the story on the six o’clock news.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Enter the Academy through the door on 19th Street near the corner with Cherry Street, and the security guard will direct you to the meeting room. One parking lot that is close is on 19th Street, just across Cherry Street where the Academy is located. Find directions here.

If you have experience with battling Japanese beetles near here or can pass along a beetle anecdote, let me know below or comment on Facebook. – JMc

Dreer Nurseries’ Long Role in Riverton’s History Not Forgotten

color plate from 1912 Dreer’s Garden Book

Dear Readers:

I prepared this PowerPoint presentation on a history of Dreer’s Nurseries so that it could be running in the background on the stage of the Porch Club as people came through on their way to or from one of the several stops on the popular bi-annual Garden Tour in June 2010.

From modest beginnings in a storefront on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Henry A. Dreer, Inc. would grow into a vast organization with an international reputation selling seeds, plants, bulbs, and associated sundries. In the course of expanding the business, Dreer moved to 300 acres in Riverton, NJ in 1873, where the enterprise became a  major employer of the town.

The prestigious house of Dreer closed due to a variety of circumstances in 1944 and the land that it occupied in Riverton was developed into housing lots. A few people still remember Dreer’s Nurseries and its effects upon Riverton and its citizenry.

The PowerPoint is loaded with information and many illustrations. Be sure to download the accompanying PDF file script for the slide show which also prompts you when to click your mouse for the animations and to advance to the next slide.

Click here to download “A History of Dreer’s Nursery, a 39.7MB PowerPoint presentation. The notes for the presenter’s talk are in a separate PDF file.  Click here for the presenter’s notes. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

PS.  Recent uploads to the Images page includes new categories for Atlantic City, NJ (63 images) and Miscellaneous (46 images) for, well… images that I couldn’t otherwise categorize.


“Do You Remember?” is a ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of Riverton History

Woolston Carriage Works in undated photo

If you like to look at old photos and postcards, then download the script that accompanies this PowerPoint slide show so that you can sort out the many places and players as you leaf through this huge 115 slide production, full of all kinds of historic facts and images about Riverton, NJ.  First shown at the January 2008 HSR meeting, this presentation does not contain exhaustive details on any one topic. Instead, it contains a little bit about a lot of different topics related to Riverton. (This presentation spawned two shorter spinoffs,”A Short History of Riverton Public School,” which is already posted and “A History of Dreer’s Nursery,” which will be featured later on. )

Regular readers of this column will recall the earlier posting of the shorter January 2007 slide show. This one duplicates some information found in that one and introduces more that I had learned in the interim. Topics in this 2008 sequel include:

Dreer Nursery - Victoria Trickeri Lily Pond
  • Old New Era newspaper clippings relating events from the past
  • Many vintage family photos, school portraits, and Riverton postcards
  • A short history of the famous Dreer’s Nursery
  • News accounts of the Japanese beetle scourge as well as a Riverton sighting of the Jersey Devil
  • Reports of internationally ranked swimmers involved in meets at the Riverton Yacht Club and a 150 mile bicycle race from NYC to Riverton
  • Dozens of views of local historic maps, ephemera, and real photos of places
  • A complete small 16-page booklet about Sacred Heart Church written in 1904
  • Information and photos about the men of the celebrated Riverton Athletic Association and the renowned “Riverton Nines”
  • A description of the exclusive Riverton Gun Club and its high-stakes live pigeon shoots
  • Discover these things and more that you may not know about Riverton, and please consider the slide show’s ending message, “You can help preserve historic  images and information.”
  • If you can help in this endeavor, please contact us so that we may increase the utility of this digital archive and make it available to a larger audience. We welcome your submissions for Gaslight News articles and blog postings, and invite you to support the Historical Society of Riverton by becoming a member.

Click here to download the “Do You Remember?” 38.8MB PowerPoint You’ll need the PowerPoint program or the free PowerPoint viewer in order to watch the slide show. Click here to download the PDF file of notes that accompany the slide show which serves as the narrative that explains the images as well as gives prompts for the animations and advancing the slides.   – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

PS – I just uploaded three new categories of vintage postcard images which brings the number of categories listed to 29; Asbury Park & Ocean Grove, 311; Bordentown & Trenton, 44; Hawaii, 9.