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.
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.
As families and friends again congregated on Independence Day in Riverton, inevitably many paused to reflect on other Fourths of days gone by.
No doubt this year’s Parade Marshal Mrs. Elsie Waters has stored up many memories since that photo was taken of her and brother John sitting in wonderment at the 1920 July Fourth celebration.
FUN FACT: As July 4 fell on Sunday in 1920, Riverton’s Glorious Fourth was held on Monday the fifth.
Previous posts have addressed the origin and changes in Riverton’s Glorious Fourth over the past 116 years since the parade began in 1897, much of it gleaned from the research of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Town Historian, now passed. More than 100 of her signature “Yesterday” columns written for the Historical Society of Riverton’s newsletter, the Gaslight News still serve as the most authoritative record of our town’s early days.
This previously posted four-page 1920 Program (above, right) details the activities enjoyed that day. HSR member Gerald Blaney generously allowed us to scan his rare eBay find and display it here.
The clipping at left from the July 2, 1920 New Era newspaper advises readers of two added features to the program that included a presentation of gold rings to veterans of World War I.
Later, the New Era recapped the results of the many games and summarized the patriotic observances witnessed by “fully five-thousand men, women, and children.” The Children’s Parade had 792 kids vying for prizes such as best decorated baby coach, velocipede, or kiddie car.
Children gathered on the riverbank and scrambled as a Curtiss F. Boat hydroplane brought over for the occasion showered them with hundreds of tickets good for merchandise at either one of three local stores.
You can see the issue as a PDF file just as it appeared to Rivertonians 93 years ago. (You will need the free Adobe Reader program if you do not have Adobe Acrobat.) Scroll down to see PDF page 3 For the July 2 issue and PDF page 7 for the July 9, 1920 issue.
Were they the good ol’ days? Absolutely.
However, we do not dwell on the past, but simply acknowledge it as we value the contributions of those countless citizens who have helped Riverton develop into the unique place it is today.
The following photos and video demonstrate that for many, the experiences of this July 4, 2013 may just as well be recalled in the not too distant future as “the good ol’ days.” Absolutely!
Photographer Richard W. Pringle, Jr. kindly sent these photos that include a few great close-ups.
You never know who you will meet on the Fourth. Here is my former Riverton School colleague and snow cone entrepreneur, Wade McDaniels. After selling the frosty confections here for over twenty years, I guess that feat qualifies Mr. McDaniels to be included in the record of Riverton history.
Read more about my friend Wade in the phillyburbs.com post by Burlington County Times Staff Writer Peg Quann. She interviewed the coolest Riverton School maintenance supervisor who has been moonlighting on this summer job since his first gig selling at a Beach Boys concert in Philadelphia during the 1976 Bicentennial. Chilly treats a tradition on Riverton’s Fourth by Peg Quann
The image gallery below illustrates what we remember in any typical Riverton Fourth of July observance: family, friends, flags, festivities, fire engines, fun, and food. What does a Classic Riverton Fourth of July mean to you?
The Fourth is often a time for reconnecting with others who have put some miles and years between themselves and their old hometown. Palmyra native and PHS alum Gary Weart stopped by to see Phyllis Rodgers and family while vacationing from his home in South Carolina. Here he is talking to Phyllis as she tallies the 320 children participating in this year’s parade.
It turns out the former teacher, whose great-grandfather James Taylor Weart served as Palmyra’s first mayor from 1923-1928, is a keen photo enthusiast who captures images with a truly memorable perspective.
Enjoy this slideshow by Mr. Gary Weart, book author, former social studies teacher, administrator, and athletic coach who founded Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), and received the Presidential Service Award from President Bill Clinton.
There is still a little room left here for your own memories and recollections of July Fourth – actually for any year at all that you wish to share. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org – John McCormick
Marge Habernn’s recent donation of a rare 1933 New Era newspaper proves here to be grist for the first of several posts from this blog mill.
Readers of that nickel weekly hometown gazette in the first quarter of March 1933 were no doubt hopeful to receive some good news that would release them from the grip of economic hardships brought on by the Great Depression.
An upbeat editorial titled “American Morale” supported the recent “bank holiday” and remarked on the amazing power given President Roosevelt during this “new deal,” calling it a “great event.”
Apparently, the Palmyra National Bank was reopening after being put into the hands of a conservator. The article explained that old accounts were restricted— “no checks against them will be honored.” The good news—the bank recorded $33,000 in deposits from Saturday to Tuesday.
Historical note: President Roosevelt had only just assumed the presidency of a nation in economic chaos on March 4. Prior to his taking office, there had been a month-long run on banks. He immediately declared a nationwide bank holiday that shut down the banking system for a week. Congress introduced the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 on March 9 and passed it the same evening. Roosevelt appealed directly to Americans to prevent a resumption of bank withdrawals in his first Fireside Chat on March 12. The following week banks reopened on as depositors stood in line to return their hoarded cash.
Riverton’s slashed tax rate made the front page—down fifty-eight cents to $3.60 from $4.18 the previous year. Borough and school taxes took hard hits, with employees taking a ten percent pay cut. They even pared down the fund for Riverton’s beloved Fourth of July celebrations. The dire situation downstream prompted Palmyra to issue scrip with which to pay teachers and town employees that was acceptable for payment on taxes, sewer fees, and other such borough indebtedness.
Elsewhere in the paper, the Welfare Committee urgently appealed to the generosity of Riverton and Cinnaminson for more funds so that it could aid 133 registered unemployed. They also needed children’s and men’s shoes of every size.(Riverton population would decline during the decade from 1930-1940 from 2483 to 2354, a 5.2% drop)
Things were tough all over, kids.
An ad on page three for the Philadelphia Flower Show was a familiar sign of spring. If one could not live like a millionaire in these tight times, for a 75¢ admission, at least they could go to the Philadelphia Flower Show and see “a million dollars’ worth of fragrant blossoming plants, many in varieties shown for the first time.”
The Philadelphia Flower Show had been a Philadelphia tradition since 1829 when twenty-five Pennsylvania Horticultural Society members showed off their horticultural treasures in a building on Chestnut Street. Billed as “largest indoor flower show in the world,” the Philadelphia Flower Show continues this week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from Sunday, March 4 – Sunday, March 11, 2012.
The employees of Henry A. Dreer very likely must have prepared for some time for the upcoming Philadelphia Flower Show. A page two column, “Dreer’s Exhibit at the Flower Show” gave New Era readers an insider’s preview of the elaborate display of water lilies in a pool encircling a piece of statuary and a full 6,000 square feet of space devoted entirely to a garden of Dreer’s famed roses.
Among rose growers, the announcement of a new hybrid was, and still is, a highly anticipated event, even in tough times. The first patented plant in the world was “New Dawn,” introduced by Henry Dreer in 1930. Decades later, the repeat-flowering climbing rose remains a classic choice for gardeners today.
The star of the show in 1933 was the sensational new dark cerise-pink, Mrs. J. D. Eisele, named in honor of the wife of then-president of the Dreer firm.
For the rest of this post, I refer you to what former Riverton Town Historian, Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, wrote for her “Yesterday” column in the December 1977 Gaslight News about the impact of Dreer’s on Riverton. Betty’s column follows exactly as she wrote it 35 years ago.
– John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
Dreer’s Nurseries in Riverton were known throughout the world. It was founded in Philadelphia in 1838 as a seed and plant farm, prospered and grew, moved, and in 1873 located permanently in Riverton. It became the town’s largest industry, and was instrumental in its development from a tiny resort area to a bustling community of families who built homes and churches and who were active in a large number of clubs and civic organizations.
The site had been selected 5 years before, influenced by available land, proximity to major cities, and excellent transportation (railroad and boat). It spread northward from Cinnaminson St., on both sides of the railroad, to cover about 100 acres. On the river side of the railroad were greenhouses covering almost 8 acres which, in the early 1900s, required 3000 tons of coal per season to heat. At the same time, 150 men were regularly employed in gardens, packing sheds, and other parts of the Nurseries, and in the busy season the number increased to 200.
Mrs. Dreer presented a pulpit to the Presbyterian church, a memorial to Henry A. Dreer, which both had been instrumental in founding the year after the nursery came to Riverton.
The Nurseries became an integral part of the town. Dreer’s whistle sent many a housewife scurrying to have a meal on the table when her husband or son came home for lunch, and was a dependable check on the old parlor clock.
A leisurely Sunday afternoon found many people, visitors and residents alike, strolling through magnificent greenhouse showrooms of rare specimens from all over the world, or through the rose gardens, where over 500 varieties of standard and hybridized roses bloomed.
Or to the lily ponds, over 8 acres of them along the creek and on both sides of the railroad, where some specimen plants had pads 6 feet across and could support a man’s weight, and where not only goldfish swam, but also some tropical varieties accidentally imported along with the water plants. In the 1930s it was even possible to fly over the acres of flowers in bloom in a small open plane (remember the little airport on S-17). Helen Van Pelt Wilson illustrated her garden books with pictures taken at Dreer’s Nurseries, and in some of the local gardens. And at the Philadelphia Flower Show, Dreer’s roses were consistent 1st place winners.
After a century of developing improved strains of vegetables, grasses, small fruits, and many flowers and shrubs, Dreer’s Nurseries closed their doors for the last time, during WW II. In less than 30 years the stores, parking lots, houses and apartments and industries that replaced the nurseries have erased it all, making it hard to picture the beauty that was once there. – BBH 1977
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:
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.
I started collecting images and information about Riverton’s early days to use in instructing my middle school students at Riverton School on local history. When I couldn’t buy on eBay, I borrowed from other collectors who generously loaned me items to scan.
The result was a virtual collection of hundreds of vintage images from which I reproduced prints and enlargements to raise money toward the purchase of a digital projector for my classroom. While my first goal was to help my students learn about their town’s local history, I soon learned that even many adults had not seen the images in this expanding digital compilation.
When Priscilla Taylor and Patricia Brunker approached me during Victorian Day 2006 festivities and drafted me into the Historical Society of Riverton, I mistakenly thought that one needed to live in Riverton to join. Au contraire, mon frère. There is no residency requirement. In fact, only about 60% of the addresses on the Gaslight News mailing list are for Riverton; the rest of the locations range from New Jersey to California and Maine to Florida. Rivertonians, current and former, are a far-flung lot. Hence, my wish to bring the show to the Internet. (Here’s a membership flyer, or go to the Contact page.)
Since joining the HSR, I’ve been tapped to do several presentations; some solo, some collaborating with others. I have never charged the HSR a speaker’s fee. In a classic case of “you get what you pay for,” or perhaps hoping that I’ll one day get it right, the Board continues to invite me back.
This was the first presentation that I gave to a HSR meeting in January 2007. Billed as a show of vintage postcards and photos, it played to a SRO crowd in the Riverton School Library, a feat not duplicated since. Maybe there was nothing on TV that night. For whatever reason, the turnout both surprised and gratified Bob Bednarek, the president at that time. Me, I was just nervous, as you may hear.
However, once seen by the group of people who venture out for a particular meeting, the program’s content, however worthwhile, just languishes in the hard drive of my computer. While I have always wanted to post these presentations on the Internet, the large file sizes that result from creating PowerPoints from the vintage postcards and maps, graphics, and animations which illustrate my talks have been problematic.
Short story: I told Mike Solin, my former Riverton School student, now computer consultant, of my wish, and he figured out how to add that feature to the WordPress template that he continues to tweak to meet our needs.
Following is the link to download the large PowerPoint file for that first program containing images and information about historic Riverton. To be fair, it’s really more eye candy than in-depth information—the reason for the freshman course title of this blog post. I would learn at that first presentation, and on successive ones since, that when coming to address the Riverton citizenry on their history, I could expect to receive schooling in such matters myself.
Although I cannot find my handwritten presenter’s notes which explained the slides, somehow, through computer crashes and changeovers, I found on my hard drive a rather poor quality audio file recording of that evening’s program, complete with no small amount of audience participation. You may want to download the audio file and listen as you advance through the slides.
You can hear that my lecture certainly benefited from the many recollections and personal anecdotes furnished by the group. I have come to value the fact-checking, insights, and historical perspectives contributed by people in the audience.
Then, as now, I invite viewers to comment on the presentation, particularly if they would note an error or provide more information. One mistake in this presentation was my identification of a long-gone building that I thought was the Evans Lumber Building; it turned out to be the Woolston Carriage Works.
Click here to download the 74.3MB PowerPoint slide show, “HSR slide show 1-29-2007.” Click here to download the 52m, 06s 24.1MB wma. audio file which I recorded as I gave the presentation that evening. You will hear that my solitary “talk” instead turned into more of a town meeting, with the slides serving as an itinerary for a group excursion down Riverton’s Memory Lane. You are invited along, and it’s not too late for you to add your voice to the chorus.
I welcome comments from this larger audience and I’ll be glad to try to answer any questions that you may have. Please contact me if you can add to our knowledge base by donating relevant items, by loaning items so that we can scan them, or by sending text or image files as email attachments. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor
This second installment of the 1909 Christmas issue of the New Era includes pages 25-44 plus the inside and outside of the back cover of this remarkable nostalgic tour of the various political and social organizations and business establishments of Riverton, Palmyra, and Cinnaminson.
While Part 1 included information mainly about Riverton and a number of advertisers, this second part is mainly about Palmyra, and Cinnaminson, and more advertisers. Some facts may be old news to followers of Palmyra history, but others just seem the stuff of winning bar bets. That is, if you know the answers.
In its early days, Palmyra was known as Texas. Yeah, I know. Living in a place called Texas, New Jersey must have been confusing. In any case, the name was changed to Palmyra by a man named Isaiah Toy who “…did not like the name Texas for a town that had aspired to the dignity of a postoffice, and changed it to Palmyra, a name suggested by his sister, Caroline.”
The pages paint a portrait of the community’s economic vitality as they boast of Palmyra and Riverton’s first schoolhouse and expanding school enrollment, the building of the Camden & Amboy Railroad (the 19th century forerunner of the RiverLine light rail passenger service which follows the same route), and the practice of five neighborhood farmers to ship their produce by boats which each carried 100 baskets of corn. Once part of Cinnaminson like its upriver cousin, Riverton, Palmyra became a separate township in 1894.
The publication traces the origins and 1909 status for a number of social and fraternal clubs and organizations. Among the more curious are the hundred member Palmyra Bicycle Club, the Loyal Temperance Union (a group which spearheaded the crusade for prohibition), the storied Palmyra Field Club, the Independence Fire Company No.1, and several patriotic groups.
Another amazing Palmyra fact involves one of its churches which actually was built in Riverton in 1859 and was moved to Palmyra to “…open for divine service on the new site Friday, May 8, 1885.”
“About Our Advertisers” on page 35-38 is a who’s who of the area’s 45 principal commercial establishments. Brief descriptions of each of the businesses appear for grocers, butchers, painters, plumbers, druggists, tailors, bakers, and other merchants and tradesmen of all sorts. Advertisements take up the remainder of the publication, some at a full page like the one for Dreer’s Nursery, and others at a half, or smaller fraction, as in the ad for John B. Murphy, Horseshoer at Broad and Cinnaminson.
Altogether, it is a pretty cool history local history lesson in twenty pages from a primary source that you won’t find on your typical public library shelf. Click on the link to download and view the pages. Be advised that it is a large 5.23MB PDF file.
Since 2011 is still young, you may find this much sought after collectible to be a realization of how far we’ve come, or perhaps it’s a nostalgic reminder of days gone by. The 1909 Christmas issue of The New Era included descriptions of virtually every social, civic, economic, religious, and educational institution in Riverton, Cinnaminson, and Palmyra.
From A through almost-Z, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, through each of the area’s nine churches, the DAR, the Loyal Temperance Union, to the Union League and the YMCA, along with a four-page “About Our Advertisers” section, the engrossing periodical serves as a glimpse into life in Riverton during the very early 20th century.
Remember, reminisce, or just imagine a time when Riverton was the destination for tours of Dreer’s Nurseries greenhouses and hundred-acre trial grounds and Riverton’s census included names of wealthy families listed in the Philadelphia and New York social registers as well as the first generation immigrant hired help who served in their elaborate homes.
This first installment includes the charming cover with its portrait of Santa sorting letters through page 24 of the 44 page publication. Of particular note is the selection entitled. “Early Days in Riverton” on pages 9-24. “Palmyra: Then and Now” and “About Our Advertisers” will be covered in Part 2 of this scan of the entire 1909 Christmas Issue of The New Era.
SNOW DAY! Are there any sweeter words to be heard when one is of school age? I confess that, even as a school teacher, there were days in which I welcomed that phone call. Today’s Riverton students no longer wait praying by the radio hoping to hear the name “Riverton Public School,” or even the school closing number. Instead, they receive an automated phone message triggered by the principal to tell of the glorious news directly to their home phone. But, imagine having four snow days in a row. It happened in Riverton in 1889.
The recent 14-15 inch snowfall may indeed give some of us symptoms of “snow fatigue,” but it was a minor nuisance compared to snowstorms with which Riverton had to bear during the years 1888 and 1889. In her “Yesterday” column in the February 1979 Gaslight News, Town Historian Mrs. Betty B. Hahle cited an 1888 Receipt Book of William F. Morgan in which it was noted that…”The Great Blizzard occurred March 12th 1888.” … “The second occurred Feb. 12 and 13th 1899. It snowed for 52 hours.”
Mr. Gerald Weaber reported in his November 2009 GN article, “The Fascinating Fitler Family” that during the March 1888 storm, drifts reached fifteen to thirty feet high along the riverbank. One subject of Mr. Weaber’s article, Dale Baker Fitler, was born in Riverton exactly nine months after the March 1888 blizzard.
Finally, this newspaper scan from The New Era newspaper reports that sleighs of all types made an appearance on Main Street on Friday, February 10, 1889 as the result of a severe snowstorm which cause a temporary food scarcity and closed school from Monday through Thursday.
From the newspaper account describing the town finding fun on Main Street after emerging from four days of being snowbound and the looks of joy on these skaters’ faces, I don’t think that these citizens of old Riverton suffered from snow fatigue.
I invite you to tell how you spent your Riverton “snow days,” whenever they may have been. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor