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 the 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.

Wait…what?

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. Stroughton 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

Hopefully the last of the season’s Code Blue Alerts

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 24 2015 01
Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 24 2015 01

The folks are alright, kids.

With sub-zero wind-chill temps of late and threats of historic snowstorms I actually received emails and phone calls from friends in California, Virginia, and Ohio asking if we were OK.

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 24 2015 02
Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 24 2015 02

Yes, thank you for checking on the elderly – we are fine.

For any of you Riverton snowbirds temporarily billeted in a sunbelt state or expatriates currently living elsewhere, here are some recent photos of your old hometown.

Our HSR stringer Dick Paladino shot these with his point-and-shoot camera on Feb. 24 and 27.

He writes:

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 27 2015 02
Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 27 2015 02
Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 27 2015 01
Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 27 2015 01

I took them a few days ago when the ice was piled up along the river bank, then while driving by last night shortly after sunset, I picked up a few more in the dusky rose sky-glow.

 

FYI to any photogs hoping to replicate one of these moonlit views on the old postcards – you can never position yourself so the sunset or moon is behind the Yacht Club as it is in this scan of a vintage lithograph postcard sent in by Nick Mortgu.

vintage postcard of Riverton Yacht Club  scan contributed by Nick Mortgu
vintage postcard of Riverton Yacht Club
scan contributed by Nick Mortgu

 

Maybe some sailor can give us our bearings.

Light at the end of the tunnel – Accuweather is forecasting mid-fifties and rain for Weds. and spring arrives March 20.

Stop snickering, Murrietta, CA, I know it’s 75 degrees there. – JMc

 

Don’t try this these stunts today, kids.

New Era, July 20, 1920, pg. 2
The New Era, July 20, 1920, pg. 2

As Labor day approached in late August 1920, Riverton’s hometown weekly gazette, The New Era, reported, “It is astonishing the great number of children from 12 to 14 years of age who have swam across the river and back. At least 30 have made the one-way journey, and over a dozen both ways.”

Just as it was once a Riverton rite of passage to walk across the frozen Delaware and touch the Pennsy shore (see GN 2013), so too, was it the custom for youngsters to swim across and back in summer months.

Mrs. Elsie S. Waters, Oct. 2013
Mrs. Elsie S. Waters, Oct. 2013

You can take Elsie Waters’ word for it.

She recalled learning to swim at five years of age and making the crossing at twelve in 1930, in this 2013 interview.

With safety in mind, Riverton Yacht Club’s Secretary and Treasurer and famous distance swimmer, Charles Durborow (see Mar 7, 2014 post), accompanied the juvenile tadpoles as they paddled into adulthood.

The New Era article noted that swimming had “…risen rapidly in popular favor in Riverton of late and the Yacht Club has been kept busy handing out bronze and silver medals to its members.”

Riverton Yacht Club - View opposite Lawn House, from Nick Mortgu's collection
Riverton Yacht Club – View opposite Lawn House, from Nick Mortgu’s collection

A week later, The New Era described how Riverton’s Miss Harriet Holder swam from Riverton Yacht Club to Race Street, Philadelphia in three hours and twelve minutes.

And I get winded backstroking across to the other side of my swimming pool!

Do you have more to add to this chapter of Riverton history? If anyone has a photo of one of those swimming awards or additional information, we would like to publish it.  – John McCormick

Thankful for a postcard Grand Slam and much more

Riverton - Broad & Main - 1905
An antique automobile, a steam locomotive, a railroad station, AND a trolley – all in one postcard! I call that a GRAND SLAM and the HSR is fortunate indeed to have this scan of a 1905 real photo postcard of Broad & Main Streets in Riverton courtesy of collector Mr. Nick Mortgu.

Nick has contributed scans of dozens of his vintage postcards to our online archive of historic Riverton images, but this one is truly extraordinary and rare because it has three modes of transport plus the train station in the same frame.

Times may have changed, but the roofline of the building that is today Zena’s is unmistakable to anyone familiar with Riverton. In 1905, the building served as the offices of the Public Service Corporation of NJ which supplied the gas to the borough.

1905 Sanborn Insurance map detail

This detail of a 1905 Sanborn Insurance Map shows the placement of the station on Broad near Main.

1905 postcard message

Any guesses on what those  few missing words of the message say?

 

December 5, 1905   My Dear Nancy,  We are still alive. Why don’t you answer my letters. You must excuse me for not writing but this is… Good by Mildred.  This is the Riverton station.

 

I have straightened, cropped, and adjusted levels on a slice of the postcard image, but that is about the limit of my restoration ability on this image. Click on it to enlarge it and step into a moment frozen in time – 1905.

Riverton Grand Slam slice
I’d love to see those tiny cracks Photoshopped out so if a reader has the skills, please contact me.

We thank Mr. Mortgu and all of the contributors of images and comments for helping to make this website grow in content. We also thank the donors who have given the HSR their treasured historic items so that our archives may become a specialized repository for preserving Riverton history.

We are grateful too, for members who continue to support 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.

If you can help this endeavor by becoming a member of the Historical Society of Riverton, by contributing content to this website, or by donating items to the organization, please contact us.

courtesy of Moore's Postcard Museum

Since the theme for this post seems to be me being REALLY thankful, here’s a holiday wish from Lora over at Moore’s Postcard Museum who recently expanded our inventory with many great vintage Atlantic City and Ocean City postcard scenes.

Happy Thanksgiving!  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

Added 12/18/2011 – Shortly after I published the above post, professional historian and HSR member Paul W. Schopp added a comment which greatly amplifies the information that I wrote, and I have added it below because comments often get missed. Every blog post, and often some of the media, have a provision to for the reader to leave a comment photos.  Paul’s comment follows:

While the 1905 Sanborn does, indeed, depict the building that today houses Zena’s as Public Service, that corporation had only just assumed control of the office there. On 21 September 1899, the River Shore Gas Company incorporated with an address of Broad and Main streets, Riverton. The new utility company has constructed the one-story building to be its office and retail store for gas fixtures and appliances. Initial capitalization consisted of $75,000, but less than a year later, the stock had increased to $140,000 for construction purposes. Another increase occurred in April 1901 and the stock now totaled $168,000. In February 1903, the conglomerate known as the South Jersey Gas, Electric and Traction Company—forerunner of Public Service—gained control of River Shore. Public Service Corporation then consummated a lease of the South Jersey Gas, Electric and Traction Company on 2 May 1904. Hence, the reason why the 1905 Sanborn lists the building as the property of Public Service.

 

 

Just in – over 30 new vintage images of Riverton

Recently I received an email alert that notified me that I had won an eBay auction for an old Riverton postcard.  And I got two in a row! Quickly, I keyed in the PayPal information and then checked the mail each day to see if my treasures had arrived.

These are two of the rarest kind of postcard images – real photo post cards, or RPPCs for short. They were created by developing a photograph onto postcard-sized photo paper with a postcard backing. RPPCs often demand higher prices than mass-produced postcards because of the limited number of cards produced.

As any collector will attest,  it is a great feeling to acquire that elusive stamp, comic book, coin, baseball card, matchbook, or some such chotskie. Some anthropologists say that we collect to reminisce and remember the past. Certainly, that is a motive here, but we hope that the images and information displayed on this website will serve as testament to what Riverton’s men and women have built here since 1851 on this scant square mile.

Whether you collect sports team memorabilia or antique dolls, you know that feeling when you’ve discovered yet another variation on a familiar theme. Well, if you are here because you are a fan of Riverton, NJ, imagine that elation and multiply it times ten because in recent weeks we have received dozens of great vintage postcard and photo album scans to add to our images pages.

These have come just when I was starting to think I had seen all the Riverton cards there were. There are more views of the Yacht Club, the Porch Club, residential streets, and Dreer’s Nursery, plus some rare RPPCs including the Children’s Parade.  Altogether, it is a remarkable photographic record and we are fortunate that Mr. Mortgu has opened up his album to share in this way.

If you received a reminder postcard for our last HSR meeting, you caught a brief preview of the choice vintage photos which Nick has scanned for display here.

They will also being placed in with the rest of the Riverton images so they will be easy to find when you return. We invite you to leave a comment, factoid, recollection, or question.

Readers, if you have one image to donate or a hundred, know that you will be contributing to a continuing virtual archive which we hope will help tell the story of Riverton’s historic past to current and future generations. – John McCormick