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.