Don’t give trashy things

Christmas Don'ts, New Era, Dec. 13, 1912, p3.
Christmas Don’ts, New Era, Dec. 13, 1912, p3.

No trashy things here.

Just lots of mugs with nostalgic reminders of Riverton, Palmyra, Riverside, and Moorestown.

Just closed up shop at the RFL used book sale. Like the proverbial hotcakes, the mugs are selling, and I am getting orders for more.

A previously placed order for 37 (about half already spoken for) may be here by next Sunday, Nov. 29.  I will return then to the catacombs of the RFL with more mugs.

mugs to go
mugs to go

I still cannot thank anyone here by name for shopping with us because it is clear that Santa’s helpers are out in force early this year and we do not want to spoil surprises.

I can say that even with making 28 variations of mugs, someone always has another idea to suggest – like a vintage Fourth of July mug.  Why didn’t I think of that?

Would a duster sailboat mug sell?

Have you another idea for a mug that would feature vintage imagery from our extensive image archive?

That huge image archive is the result of people making donations of actual postcards and photos to the Society, some eBay auction purchases on my part, as well my begging local history enthusiasts since 2007 for scans of their treasured collections. Such a number have obliged that our virtual acquisitions now far exceed our real collection. We can always use more.

FYI – available mug colors are light blue, blue, pink, red, white, black.

The HSR sincerely thanks all who have purchased our mugs. You know who you are.

Look for a late Nov/early Dec Gaslight News with a form included for paying your 2016 membership dues. – JMc

Boffo box office for Maggie Worsdale’s production of Martha Washington

President Phyllis Rodgers opens the meeting
President Phyllis Rodgers opens the meeting

Well, it would have been boffo box office, but this was another example of your HSR dues dollars at work in partnership with Riverton Free Library in making available to the public a presentation free of charge.

"...29, 30, 31, 32... a great turnout," observes RFL Director Michael Robinson.
“…29, 30, 31, 32… a great turnout,” observes RFL Director Michael Robinson.

Actress Maggie Worsdale played to a capacity crowd in the RFL’s meeting room Tuesday night.

She entertained in character for a full hour, delivering her fact-filled monologue with no notes.

It was, as it was heard characterized, more like a one-woman play than a typical historical interpreter’s presentation.

Maggie Worsdale channeling Martha Washington with flair
Maggie Worsdale channeling Martha Washington with flair

She absolutely did delight, teach, and inspire the SRO crowd with her recounting of episodes in not only Martha Washington’s life, but also for many other of America’s 44 First Ladies.

One could certainly fill up an hour reporting on the lives of First Ladies, but this remarkable performance was full of little known, often touching, anecdotes which were obviously the result of exhaustive research and preparation.

No video clip or excerpts of Ms. Worsdale’s one-act follow so that there are no “spoilers” should you have a chance to enjoy this compelling material performed live.

Consider this short review a 5-star endorsement of Maggie Worsdale’s production of Martha Washington. Book her without reservation. But you might want a bigger room.

not just Riverton mugs
not just Riverton mugs

Find more at and see a short video there.

At the conclusion, folks shared conversation, cider, cookies and cake, and placed orders for another 17 mugs.

I will be at the used  book sale again next Sunday afternoon with the few mugs left. More are on the way in about two weeks. – JMc



Mrs. Washington and mugs at RFL Tues. night

Maggie Worsdale - Martha Washington publicity flyerFor one night only, Tuesday, November 17, international performing and recording artist, cabaret and jazz singer, actress, and producer Maggie Worsdale brings her one-woman show to Riverton Free Library as she becomes Martha Dandridge Custis Washington.

Be there before 7pm, and we will have on display the mugs mentioned in the post of Nov. 9.

When I found out that the RFL was having its usual Sunday afternoon used book sale in the basement I decided to set up a card table just inside our new space and offer those mugs for sale.

I had about 28 mugs, mostly all different prototype designs I was trying out featuring vintage images from our extensive archive. You can make out a Riverside, a Moorestown, and a Palmyra mug amongst the Riverton cups.

I sold ten and got an order for 14. The result was encouraging enough that I will go back next Sunday and try again.

Santa reads GN (779x768)I can’t say who came or what they bought.

Let’s just say Santa has sworn me to secrecy.

I ordered another bunch more today, but delivery is not expected until the end of November.

Rosemary Hutchins HSR mug
Rosemary Hutchins HSR mug

One of them will be this one featuring a beautiful watercolor by artist Rosemary Hutchins that we gave out at our Second Annual Daniel Campbell Riverton Awards Night last April.

What would you like to see put on a mug? – JMc

Riverton Mug Shots

mug shots

#5 Riverton passenger train station
#5 Riverton passenger train station

Guess you heard that the planned Candlelight House Tour had to be cancelled for this year.

So the pressure is off for us to coincide the début opening of our space in the basement of the Riverton Free Library with that popular RFL fundraiser.

We had hoped to make available our new keepsake mugs during the House Tour. Each ceramic mug holds 11 oz., is dishwasher safe, and displays a wrap-around image from our archives.

So now our Plan B is to get down to the next used book sale on Sunday, 1-3 pm to see if anyone wants to buy a mug for $15. Add $3 for color or black mugs.

Either that, or our own modest fundraiser starts out 2016 in the red.

I made a lot of mugs. – JMc

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Summer winds down and the Society revs up

201 River Bank
201 River Bank

These remarkable photos from Nancy and Bill Steel’s family album offer a rare glimpse into early 20th century Riverton.

Porch Club (Copy)Do you recognize this Riverton landmark in its earlier days?

Built in 1909 as the clubhouse for an organization celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2015, it has a much different look here than in a later postcard view.

In an August 3rd post called Hot enough for ya? candid shots of the Fitler family of 109 Bank Avenue cavorting in a homemade swimming drew possibly the most traffic ever to this website and rekindled memories of those who later learned to swim in Bay Ruff’s pool. These scans came from that same album.

RYC biplane - no caption
RYC biplane – no caption


This photo had no caption or date, but you can see the Yacht Club in the background. Somewhere I have the name of a pilot who flew passengers around Riverton for a fee. But who is the woman?

We are often asked here what we have on file about the history of a house. Except for a few founders’ homes, we have precious little, I am afraid.

However, the 1999 Riverton National Register Historic District Inventory has short summary descriptions for over 500 structures. Mrs. Patricia Solin, a frequent contributor to the Gaslight News, reports that she will have some helps to publish here later this fall for those wishing to research the history of their home.

212 Thomas 1905
212 Thomas 1905
212 Thomas 1905
212 Thomas 1905

A new homeowner once told me how much they appreciated receiving from their seller a box of documents and old photos about the history of their just purchased house.

These photos taken in 1905 would be invaluable to a person trying to recreate original architectural details.

Note the oil lamp on the post that predates the Welsbach gaslamps. Do you have any photos of your home back in the day you could send in?

In a year in which we have a woman candidate running for president, an intriguing sequence of photos about suffragists marching to gain the right to vote prompted me google some of the names I read in the captions.

Col. Ida Kraft speaking at Bridgeboro
Col. Ida Kraft speaking at Bridgeboro

I learned Col. Ida Kraft (also spelled Craft) and her army of Pilgrims were actually a real thing and a very big deal. But are the pictures in this album because a family member was involved in the march?

The captions do not say and the Steels do not know.

I couldn’t wait for cold weather to share this next one. I have heard of people walking on the river ice way back when, but a wind powered iceboat must be something to see.

Delving into the Steel family album reminds us that there are still some surprises to be found in Riverton history, but sometimes they present more questions than answers.

H. McIlvain Biddle's iceboat
H. McIlvain Biddle’s iceboat

If you have any more surprises to throw into the mix, or can help connect the dots to some of these random bits, please join the conversation here at

Won’t you support the Historical Society of Riverton’s efforts to preserve and promote the history of this “unique” town in the only way that matters with your membership?

The Society gets an earlier than usual start on the season this time with its first event on September 10. Read more about it and other calendar events in our SUMMER EXTRA Gaslight News, a two-page late August summary of upcoming events and recap of summer web posts. – JMc

Mayor Brown fashions a new July 4th parade baton

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2
Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

The July 3rd, 1865 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer announced “The Democratic citizens of the beautiful and flourishing town of Riverton… intend celebrating the Fourth of July in grand style.”

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

As the Great Day approaches, some may wonder how some of our July Fourth traditions started. Here is a sequel to the origin story of the mayor’s parade staff.

The subject of the parade baton that the mayor wields as the July Fourth Parade traverses Main Street has been touched on in these pages before.

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth
Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth, July 2011

We reprinted here the findings of former Town Historian Betty Hahle and learned there were not one, but two staffs.

And it seems she reached a different conclusion from what been reached earlier in the 1965 Riverton Yacht Club Centennial Booklet – that the staffs had come from India. Admitting that history is not static, and the discovery of new materials can change our interpretation of events, she reasoned that they instead originated from Switzerland.

Whatever the ancestry of those first two staffs, we can be certain of the provenance of the most recent addition to the Borough’s collection of parade batons.

This past November, I was talking about the parade baton with Mayor William C. Brown and he mentioned in passing that he had to fashion a new staff himself for the 2014 July 4th promenade.


That is the very definition of Riverton history so I pressed the former marine for details of the news that was already several months old.

Mayor Brown explains:

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35
Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

The Mayor of Riverton’s tradition of carrying a staff during the Annual Fourth of July Parade, was started by Mayor E.C. Stoughton in 1897.

So that every year since then, a metal plate was added with the current mayor’s name, the year, and the number of children that marched in the parade.

There are three staffs in the Borough office, and legend has it that they came from trees located in Riverton. I’ve not found anything written about the first two, however I can state that the current staff did come from a Riverton tree.

I searched the wooded area along the park till I found a tree floating in the Pompeston Creek. I cut it loose, trimmed it out, and took it home, where I stripped, sanded, stained and applied two coats of varnish to preserve it.

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014
Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

One has to admire Mayor Brown’s unpretentious and no-nonsense account of how he humbly came to add another page to Riverton lore. And to think that we would have missed it if I had not brought it up.

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1
History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

This column from a June 28, 1934 New Era outlines the history of the Flag Parade Staff and lists the number of children participation from 1897 through 1933.

The  loss of those old hometown newspapers left such a gap in our historical record. If you have not yet explored them, browse though some pages. You might find someone mentioned you know.

If you have any issues we do not have, please donate them or allow us to scan the pages.

July 4th Parade batons
July 4th Parade batons

While Riverton history of old is worth preserving, so too, it is worth recording events of today. The approach of our Glorious Fourth is sure to cause much reminiscing and retelling of family tales.

Leave one below in the comments box, or let us know what draws so many to return to this “unique” place each July Fourth.

Have a great holiday! – JMc

Many hands contribute to the success of the fifth Historic Riverton Criterium

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Under the sweltering heat of today’s sun, the fifth running of the Historic Riverton Criterium was exciting for spectators, punishing for competitors, and all the excuse many needed to throw a porch or backyard party. Those arriving just in time for such events may have missed this.  Below, a crew erects the framework that holds the photo finish camera. It’s just one of the many heavy lifting jobs, literally and figuratively, that get done before the first race starts. – JMc



Congrats to the RYC on the 66th running of their classic Governor’s Cup Regatta

Governor's Cup Regatta here, New Era, June 30, 1949, p.1.
Governor’s Cup Regatta here, New Era, June 30, 1949, p.1.
Governor Driscoll presents cup, New Era, July 7, 1949, p.1.
Governor Driscoll presents cup, New Era, July 7, 1949, p.1.

Congratulations to the members of Riverton Yacht Club on 66th running of the Governor’s Cup Regatta at Riverton Yacht Club as they celebrate their sesquicentennial – that’s their 150th anniversary, in case you don’t have a dictionary.

Here, Roy Vollmer narrates a short BCT video about the classic boat race established in 1949.

The clipping at left is from the pages of Riverton’s now defunct hometown newspaper, The New Era, which announced in late June 1949, the events planned around the first Governor’s Cup Regatta planned for the following July 2 and 3.

A week later The New Era provided coverage of the regatta in the clipping at right. In his remarks that day Governor Driscoll congratulated the Yacht Club for its part in teaching the youth of America the meaning of sportsmanship.

Today, no doubt, countless sailors far and wide have many memories and much to be grateful toward the RYC. Why not thank them or share a memory here? – JMc




Another Riverton Snow Day – 1896 style

1896 Snow House
1896 Snow House

There must be more to this story, but all I have to offer is this photo and caption card I found in the HSR files.  The card reads:


1896 Snow House - full view of original cabinet card.
1896 Snow House – full view of original cabinet card.
1896 Snow House caption card
1896 Snow House caption card

Click on the thumbnails at left to view the entire cabinet card and the index card.

Do you think those kids knew they were making Riverton history when they carved that fort out of a snowdrift?

Why don’t you look though your family archives and see what you could add to these pages of Riverton history?

In completely unrelated news, the Society’s Board met last night at President Phyllis Rodgers’ home and, despite falling short of a quorum, planned details for the upcoming Antique and Collectible Appraisal on Sat., March 28, and the Second Annual Preservation  Awards Night in mid-April.

Also in our job jar is preparing our recently enlarged area in the basement of Riverton Free Library to better store our documents, photos, and artifacts and to one day receive visitors.

What would you hope to see when you get there? You Riverton ex-patriates now living across the miles – what would you like to see displayed here online? – JMc