History Repeats Itself as Ice Jams the Delaware River

As last night’s (Jan. 9) Action News segment explained, the sight of recent ice jams on the Delaware brought out spectators with cameras to record the “once in a lifetime” event. However, for our friend William Hall this makes at least twice, as regular readers of our newsletter will recall (“Adrift on the Icy Delaware,” Gaslight News, January 2013).

IMG_6279 [1024x768 PPt]
ice jam RYC pier 1920

 

 

 

 

 

 

This stereoview of ice shards clustered up over the pier by the Riverton Yacht Club in January 1920 comes from Elsie Waters. There is another view on a Feb. 2011 post along with a few other images from this rare collection.

Say, doesn’t that pumper in the Feb. 2011 post look like the same one depicted in the photo I bought on eBay, mentioned here Dec. 22? But, I am off topic.

March 8, 1934 Courier Post ice-bound RYC
March 8, 1934 Courier Post ice-bound RYC

Back to the ice conversation.

Here is mention of a close call for some ice skaters rescued from an ice floe in 1900 by Charles Biddle.

Mary Flanagan’s scrapbook continues to be a goldmine of source material for this blog. This newspaper clipping provides another example of the uncommon phenomenon.

Or is it?

Can any reader recall another occurrence of glacial blockage on the Delaware?

If you have an old one or a new one, please send us a scan or donate it for our archives.

River Ice, undated, from Bill & Nancy Hall's family photos
River Ice, undated

Please appreciate the view from a safe distance.

NYT, Feb 11, 1917 Charles Durbonard, possibly Durborow
NYT, Feb 11, 1917 Charles Durbonard, possibly Durborow

This is NOT to suggest that anyone should  actually risk going out on the ice.

Or in it, as evidenced by this clipping from a Feb. 11, 1917 New York Times showing Riverton’s Charles Durbonard taking his usual morning dip in the Delaware prior to going to his office in a Philadelphia bank.

I believe this is the same Charles Durborow referenced in news articles of the 1910s-1920s as being a champion long-distance swimmer associated with the Riverton Yacht Club.

Again, I digress. – John McCormick

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

Odd Bits of Past July Fourths

Mayor Robert Martin with banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth

The July 4th post, How did Riverton’s “Glorious Fourth” start? referred to a number of July Fourth traditions which Mrs. Betty B. Hahle explained in her classic series of “Yesterday” columns published over her four decades of research and writing for the Historical Society of Riverton. I omitted her explanation of one longstanding parade tradition—the Mayor’s walking staff— until I could make certain of its status. As any observant parade spectator has noticed throughout the years, the Mayor always holds a long cane ringed with dozens of silver-colored bands as he or she walks.

Consider the above photograph of current Mayor Robert Martin with said walking staff.

To further explain the origin of this tradition, read below the complete text of our recently passed Town Historian’s “Yesterday” column from the September 1997 issue of Gaslight News entitled, “A Cane’s Name.”

A Cane’s Name

History is not static, as some might think. A different interpretation, or the discovery of new materials can change a historical concept at any time. And slightly different accounts of an event provoke questions of which is accurate; age, perspective and re-telling all influence the development of a legend.

In 1965 Riverton Yacht Club published a Centennial Booklet that contained two pages of memoirs of Ogden Mattis, an active member for many years. He also suppled a photograph of an early 4th of July Parade that was published with the caption “the Marshall’s baton is a Calcutta Cane brought from India by Og Mattis’ grandfather.”

The grandfather referred to was Louis Corner, who had come to Riverton from England circa 1863, and lived on Main Street.

Recently Sally Jane Mattis shared with me something her husband, George, had written in the late 1930s, when he was a student at Palmyra High School. A requirement of Miss Edna Ziegler’s Senior English class was the student’s autobiography. In his, George had written that his great-grandfather, Louis Corner, born in England…“travelled abroad many times visiting his parents and foreign countries.

On one visit to Switzerland in 1897 he brought back two Alpine Sticks and presented them to the town for the purpose of recording year by year the number of children in the annual parade on 4th of July… by placing silver bands on them…”.

We know that various kinds of walking sticks were popular in the late 19th century, and both records agree on who brought back the cane (s) that are a part of Riverton’s traditional 4th of July Parade. At first the Marshall carried the cane, but for many years now it is the Mayor who carries it. A silver band bearing the year, mayors name, and number of children participating that year is added to the cane after the event. In 1952 the last band that would fit on the original cane was placed on it, and 1953 started a new cane. Since 1958 the bands are of stainless steel instead of silver.

Another Corner legend about the 4th of July Parade is that Louis Corner’s young nephew, George, led the first Parade, in 1897. The Mt. Holly Herald carried a detailed account of the 1898 Parade, which said that it “was led by two 3-year-olds, George Corner, dressed as Uncle Sam, and Clarice Frishmuth, dressed as the Goddess of Liberty.” They were followed by ten little boys in Dewey suits (for the recent Dewey victory) and then by 250 children parading. (Gaslight News 1986, vol. 12 #4, told that story) There was no mention of a Marshall or of his baton. Would it have been called a Calcutta Cane or an Alpine Stick, if it had been described that day? – BBH

As the above photo of Mayor Martin shows, the tradition persists of adding a band to the cane each year engraved with the number of children in the parade. According to Phyllis Goffredo Rodgers, the official kid-counter for the past several years, the number this year was 185, about a half of last year’s showing and a fraction of the 600 tallied in 1908.

Frank Mills’ plane, 1923
undated photo – plane in Delaware at Riverton

 

 

 

 

 

Scouring my hard drive for other references to that July 4th airplane drop of paper tokens good for penny candy resulted in the above scanned image of a stereograph from the collection of Mrs. Elsie Waters with the caption, “Frank Mills’ Plane, 1923” and a scan of an undated photo from the collection of recently elected HSR Board Director Mr. Ed Gilmore. Elsie told me that it was Frank Mills who gave airplane rides for a fee, but I’ll have to confirm with her (or another reader) if he is the one who dropped the penny candy vouchers and if it was done for more than just the year 1921. Regular readers may recall that Mrs. Hahle reported on such a paper shield penny voucher plane drop for the year 1920. So far I have been unable to account for the difference in dates. Further, can any aircraft expert determine if the plane in Elsie’s stereograph and Ed’s photo are the same?

1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program

Segue to this 7.28MB PDF file of a 1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program that almost got away. The original once belonged to Mrs. Mary Jane Mento, widow of Mr. Danny Mento, a popular local musician. When she passed away, her daughter living in the South inherited it, and she placed it on an eBay auction. Gerald Blaney, a recent homeowner transplant from Palmyra to Riverton and very keen on local history, prevailed as high bidder and has generously allowed the use of the image seen here. Would that all such great finds be shared with the community by such altruistic persons.

THEN – Riverton Fire Department 1925
NOW – Three Generations of Dorworths 2011

Classic cars and fire engines are always a part of the parade. Here’s an old one from 1925, again from Elsie’s stereograph collection, and a recent 2011 pic of Riverton Fireman Charles Dorworth with his daughter Nicole taking advantage of a photo op with her husband and son in the driver’s seat of Riverton’s 2005 Pierce 100 foot ladder apparatus, or “fire truck” to us civilians. The RFD, established 1890, is a respected institution with its own historic past which you can visit at this website link.

military unit in undated parade photo

 

undated July 4th parade photo
Although undated, Mr. Gilmore’s set of remarkably well-preserved photos may each have been taken around the same time. Another one, presumably from the same parade, shows what must be the mayor holding the cane with the silver bands. Are there any who history sleuths would care to deduce a date for the Gilmore photos? If you have a theory, please send it in.

Readers, please leave a comment, criticism, or even a correction, lest how else am I to get the record set straight? “Like” us on Facebook and tell your friends and family, whether local or across the miles, about the rivertonhistory.com website. With increasing visitor counts and membership support comes a greater chance to “connect the dots” and make sense of the separate pieces of our individual collections of artifacts, collectibles, and ephemera. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

 

Welsbach Gaslamps Are Century-Old Fixtures Here

Riverton Yacht Club and Pier, 2007

Ask someone what things in town they think symbolize Riverton, and somewhere in that top ten list will probably be the Riverton Yacht Club and the old-time gas streetlamps. Here are both in the same photo, taken on a sunny August day in 2007.

There is just no place else which has this picture postcard look.

We here in Riverton may be “used to” the gaslamps illuminating our streets. To an outside visitor, though, it must seem as if a Hollywood set dresser has placed these nostalgic fixtures throughout this charming town in order to evoke an elegant Victorian mood.

Whereas most American cities had gaslit streets in the early 20th century, only a handful have retained the type of old-fashioned gas streetlights which have become such an integral part of many people’s memories of Riverton.

It is hard to imagine Riverton without its cherished gaslamps. Yet, there was a time during the late 1970s when it looked like Riverton’s gas streetlamps would be snuffed out for good.

Welsbach lapel pin

In November 2007, Mr. Jeff Cole, a HSR member and Riverton resident, presented a comprehensive presentation on the Welsbach Street Lighting Company which manufactured the original lamps. In it, he traced the history and development of the Welsbach Company, explained the technology of the incandescent gas mantle, told of the battle against the state Board of Public Utilities to keep the lamps, and showed some his collection of  Welsbach publications and collectibles.

Jeff is uniquely qualified to assemble such a project since he is the grandson of Mr. Robinet Cole, a Riverton resident who worked at Welsbach for a remarkable 68 years. In a true Horatio Alger story if there ever was one, the elder Mr. Cole worked his way up from being a 15 year-old office boy to the president of the company.

In case you have wondered about those gaslamps, or missed that Historical Society meeting almost four years ago, here is that same PowerPoint and the notes that explain the slides. Click here to download the 43.4 MB  PowerPoint slide show and click here to download the PDF file of explanatory speaker’s notes.  In addition, several rare publications used by Jeff in the preparation of the project can be seen in greater detail by clicking on the following links:

A handsome example of an original gaslamp post refinished by homeowner, Mr. Harry Richman

As always, we welcome your comments, additions, or corrections.

John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

The schooner Lucy Evelyn, built 1917, beached at Beach Haven, NJ  (1948-1972) where it served as a unique gift shop. Destroyed by fire, 1972.
PS – Despite these damp chilly days which have no business being here at the end of March, my thoughts wander to warmer temps and past summers at the shore. For me, it was LBI. I worked there several summers through high school and college at Surf City Hotel, first as busboy and then as a waiter. Look on the Images page for recent uploads of 87 Long Beach Island images40 Ocean City images, 10 Seaside Heights images, and 5 Avalon images. Those great linen-era postcards depict a number of things which aren’t there anymore, and most pre-date even my serving days at Surf City Hotel during the 1960s.

 

Welsbach torch
Welsbach torch – top view

PPS – 06/13/2012. A visitor named Anthony has a torch stamped “Welsbach Street Lighting Company of America” and he left two comments about it below. Since then, he sent in two photos which we display here in the hope that someone may be able to offer more information about it.

“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.

Betty’s Sage Advice

Riverton Yacht Club 12/26/2010
On December 26, 2010, I was driving through Riverton on my way to a post-Christmas celebration when I recalled Betty Hahle’s description of how spectacular gaslight-lined Elm Terrace looks when snow falls, so I decided to take a detour and snap some photos along the way. She once told me to not forget to record the history that is happening today.

21st Century Currier & Ives - 404 Main Street
I drove to the river to capture this wintry portrait of the Riverton Yacht Club rendered in murky shades of grey standing where it has weathered the elements on this pier in the Delaware River since 1880.

On the way back, I paused at the home at 404 Main Street which looked like it had the makings of a souvenir postcard, if only anyone still produced them.

According to the four-fold leaflet published by the Historical Society in 1989, “A Walking Tour of Historic Riverton,” researched and written by Betty Hahle, there are floor to ceiling windows with small iron balconies in the Italianate style house, built circa 1855. It was once called the “Home Mansion” and was a popular boarding house.

Riverton Walking Tour - side b
Riverton Walking Tour - side a

It's a Wonderful Life on Thomas Ave. 12/26/2010
Daylight was fading fast on Thomas even though it was still only late afternoon, and through my camera viewfinder I pretty much just saw a haze of white-on-white. With numb fingers I snapped this photo of a lucky kid being pulled up the street on a sled.

You can step back in time and view many vintage photos and postcards of the Riverton Yacht Club and much more by clicking on the IMAGES tab above. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor