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.
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