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The Underground Railroad

By Victoria Scannella, Library Assistant 

The Trans-Atlantic Slave trade began around 1526 and was active until 1867. However, it was between 1720 to 1780 that most of the enslaved people were brought to British North America from West Africa. (1) In an effort to free those who had been forcibly brought to the United States, many people worked together to organize a system to help enslaved escape bondage.  Prior to the “official” implementation of the Underground railroad, however, enslaved people who were trying to escape bondage, later known as “freedom seekers”, were sometimes able to escape bondage and live out their days as a free person. There were numerous underground railroads across the country that connected to places of safe haven for those who were able to escape.

The name of the “Underground Railroad” was metaphorical, as there was no actual railroad, nor did it run underground. It was named as such due to the undercover and hidden nature necessary to escape. “Railroad” came from the organized system of routes that were used to guide people to safe haven. Most of the escaped enslaved who were able to break out of bondage from the South and the West were generally moving toward the North or Canada. Not everyone in the North was an abolitionist. However, the presence of the Underground Railroad did help to inspire some sympathy from non-abolitionists. (2) There were many routes that ran through the state of New Jersey, ranging from as far south as Cape May to North Jersey. In New Jersey, “Though subsequent social and legal changes allowed greater freedom for persons of color in Jersey than in the adjacent states of Delaware and Maryland, it remained a slave territory in conscience and practice until at least the nineteenth century.” (3)

There were many famous Underground Railroad conductors including Harriet Tubman, William Still, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth. Tubman helped the railroad operate for 8 years, and helped around 50 formerly enslaved people escape to Philadelphia from Maryland and Delaware. She worked in Cape May waiting tables, cleaning rooms, and as a hotel cook. This was all in order to pay for her trips South, and when the Civil War broke out, Tubman also worked as a nurse for the Union. (3) One Delaware Quaker named Thomas Garret was also crucial in the North as a station master. He assisted, funded, and aided people escaping enslavement as they moved through the Underground Railroad. Garret was a supporter of William Still, brother of Dr. James Still and Peter Still, as well as the Secretary of the Philadelphia Vigilence Committee. William Still aided in finding safehouses, organized routes, and raised funds for self-emancipated people who had reached their final destination in the north. 

There were numerous branches of the Railroad in New Jersey, including the Greenwich Line, which began in Springtown and continued all the way to Jersey City, with stops in Mount Holly and Burlington, New Jersey. This route had a lot of stops that were surrounded by Quaker farms, swamps, or woods, where free African Americans made communities. Another line ran out of Cape May, through Snow Hill (present day Lawnside), Haddonfield and Camden. These resulted in small, tight knit communities around the state that were known as safe havens for the escapees. (3) 

Roughly 10 years prior to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, a teenager named Isaac Hopper had begun systematically freeing enslaved people and moving them further North, with the help of Quaker communities in Philadelphia. George Washington, in a letter written in 1786, wrote that “where there are numbers who would rather facilitate the escape of slaves than apprehend them when runaways.” (3) The Underground Railroad became an official “route” following the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Although there had already been a legislature in 1793 under the same title, it was after the second iteration that the Railroad became a more organized and intentional way to help the enslaved escape from bondage. Some sought refuge in the North, especially after the breakout of the Civil War, while others escaped the United States entirely, choosing instead to go to Europe, Canada, and Mexico. (4) In Parallel Communities by Dennis Rizzo, he posited, “Under the revised statutes of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in which any person of color was presumed a slave unless he or she could prove otherwise, kidnapping became rampant and profitable. Once “sold South,” it was near impossible for a person to find his or her way home to friends and family.” (3) This occurred within the Still family, as William’s older brother Peter was kidnapped prior to William’s birth and was sold South. It wasn’t until 40 years later that Peter made it back to Philadelphia and became involved in the Underground Railroad (3).

The Underground Railroad was one of the most influential and powerful aids in helping the formerly enslaved peoples escape and find their freedom in numerous communities around the Northern United States, sometimes able to reunite with their friends and family, or otherwise finding their “found” family.  It took the work of many people to organize and operate the Underground Railroad, and why it was such a success in aiding many escapees from enslavement. To highlight these accomplishments and celebrate Black History Month, we wanted to discuss the massive presence of the railroad in the Cumberland County area of New Jersey, as well as the communities present today as a result. Happy Black History Month!


  1. Mintz, Steven. “Historical Context: Facts about the Slave Trade and Slavery.” Historical Context: Facts about the Slave Trade and Slavery | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-resources/teacher-resources/historical-context-facts-about-slave-trade-and-slavery. 
  2. “Underground Railroad.” Encyclopædia Britannica, February 16, 2024. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Underground-Railroad. 
  3. Rizzo, Dennis C, Parallel Communities: The Underground Railroad in South Jersey. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2008. 
  4. “The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service. https://www.nps.gov/places/crnurr.htm. 
  5. “The Underground Railroad.” Education, https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/underground-railroad/. 

The Underground Railroad2024-02-26T12:53:52-05:00

Nostalgia for the Nifty 50s in Cumberland County: The Vineland Speedway and the Delsea Drive In

By Victoria Scannella, Library Assistant

In Vineland during the 1950s, there were a lot of fun activities going on for people of all ages to enjoy, including NASCAR and a drive-in movie theatre! Ordinarily when you think of car-racing tournaments, or the first drive-in theater in New Jersey, how often do you think of Vineland? The Vineland Speedway had a car-racing track that opened in the mid- 1950s and closed in the late 1960s. It hosted many local and national racing championships and events; these events included sports car racing, motorcycle events, and even drag races. (1) What about the idea of the drive-in? Did you know the first ever drive-in theatre, like the one seen in the movie Grease, opened in New Jersey?

Sports car racing began in the early 20th century in Europe with the first Grand Prix occurring in France in 1906. There are numerous types of racing that had been present in the early nineteenth century, including drag racing, stock car racing, which led to the founding of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing). (1) The late 1950s and the early 1960s saw a country-wide rise in interest in sports-car racing due to the establishment of Grand Prix racing worldwide. (1) The growth in popularity also can be credited to the end of World War II, and the demand for leisure activities that had not been previously available. (1) It was hot-rod racing in particular that gained popularity following World War II, which led to the founding of the National Hot Rod Association that: 

Unlike most European and other countries, the United States [had] no single automobile racing body. The governing bodies noted above for various kinds of racing are members of the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States-FIA, basically an advisory and liaison organization. (1)

Specifically, in Cumberland County, the introduction of the Vineland Speedway in the Spring of 1955 led to 10 years of high excitement automobile racing for the county. (4) The end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s show cultural themes across the nation of getting back to “normal” following the end of the war, but also experimenting with different forms of entertainment that had been present previously, but now could be revolutionized.

The Vineland Speedway was a dirt-road track that was only half of a mile and tickets were sold for less than a dollar each when it first opened. (5) The world of auto racing, as it was being reimagined, struck those in Cumberland County with excitement as drivers from all over came to race at the track. In 1958, the original dirt road track was paved with asphalt and brought new life to the racing scene. (5) There were several tracks present in the state around the same time, including the Morristown Raceway in North Jersey, which also hosted NASCAR races in the 1950s. (6) Quoted from the Trenton Evening Times, “An important link in the five-track Garden State circuit of NASCAR (National Association of For Stock Car Auto Racing), the half-mile Vineland smokepath will be the mecca for star performers who last year captured track, state, regional and National honors.” (7) This did become the case with famous racers racing at Vineland Speedway throughout its time. One famous racer named Tommy (Tommie) Elliott raced at Vineland Speedway several different times, and had raced at Vineland as early as April of 1959. (8) Elliott was described as “the blonde-haired flash,” in a newspaper article from the Trenton Evening Times, a racing champion who had been racing at several other New Jersey tracks before winning again at Vineland that week. (9) Another famous racer was Elton Hildreth, nicknamed “The Bridgeton Broadslider” was a Vineland Speedway champion, having won 12 features at the track in the season of 1960. (10) Also nicknamed “Wild Man”, his career began in the 1930s racing in open-cockpit cars. Hildreth was specifically known for racing in a black and orange 16-J Chevrolet coupe. Although he competed and won at numerous other races and was a champion, at Vineland Speedway, he won a whopping record of 33 races. (11) He was notorious for many things, and when kids were given the opportunity to ride with Hildreth in his famous 16-J, they lined up for a turn in the car. Hildreth had a long and successful career, retiring in 1973. (11).

Despite the seeming popularity of the track, it unfortunately closed in 1965 after a steady drop in attendance due to the lack of interest in local sports racing, in addition to some of the land being sold off to build the Cumberland County Community College. (2) 

Another famous (and historic!) spot in Cumberland County is the Delsea Drive-In, also in Vineland. Although it was not the first drive-in movie theatre in New Jersey, today it is the last one existing in the state. The first drive-in theatre in the United States was opened in Pennsauken, New Jersey, in June of 1933 by Richard Hollingshead Jr., “…admission cost was 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person.” (12) The site now houses the Zinman Furs building and a few billboards. I’ve passed this site going to Philadelphia for pretty much my entire life and never would have thought this space used to be a drive-in movie theater. 

Drive-ins, much like the Vineland Speedway, became post World War II pastimes as the culture of the nation shifted in the new post-war era. Many Cumberland County and New Jersey residents alike loved the Delsea Drive-In theatre from the days it was open to today. The Drive-In opened originally in April of 1949 by Milton Smith, playing the movie Drums as its inaugural movie. Unfortunately, after changing hands numerous times, the drive-in closed in 1987, assumed to be permanently closed. (13) It was in 2004 that the drive-in reopened after being purchased by Dr. John and Jude DeLeonardis, who renovated it into how it is seen today. The theater has two screens and a wide concessions menu, which is what the Deleonardis’s credit with keeping the drive-in afloat. Although Delsea is not the only drive-in left in the United States, there are not many left with “The closest drive-in to the Delsea [Drive-In is] Shankweiler’s in Orefield, Pennsylvania [which is] 100 miles away. It’s America’s oldest existing drive-in, dating to 1934.” (13) This, in a sense, helps Delsea as it is a unique destination for people from all over the state, and surrounding areas in Delaware and Philadelphia. 

I vividly remember when my friends and I were old enough to drive, one of the best summer activities was to drive out to the Delsea Drive-In, to see the blockbuster Marvel movies around 2018. If you want to feel nostalgic or wish to relive an aspect of the 1950s, attractions like these are great places to visit!


Also! If you aren’t following our social media, The Cumberland County Historical Society has just begun a new podcast called, “NOT Well-behaved Women, American History from a Different Perspective with Britt, Tori and Tia” now available on Spotify!

  1. “American, European, and International Racing.” Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/sports/automobile-racing/American-European-and-international-racing.  
  2. Doug Fuhrmann, “Vineland Speedway Was Center of Auto Racing.” The Daily Journal, June 16, 2015. https://www.thedailyjournal.com/story/news/history/2015/06/16/vineland-speedway-was-center-of-auto-racing-in-cumberland-county/28805367/
  3. “American, European, and International Racing.” Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/sports/automobile-racing/American-European-and-international-racing.
  4. Don Whitney, “SCODA, a Concise History.” SCODA, A Concise History – International Motor Racing Research Center. Accessed January 31, 2024. https://www.racingarchives.org/blogpost/scoda-a-concise-history/.  
  5. Doug Fuhrmann, “Vineland Speedway Was Center of Auto Racing.” The Daily Journal, June 16, 2015. https://www.thedailyjournal.com/story/news/history/2015/06/16/vineland-speedway-was-center-of-auto-racing-in-cumberland-county/28805367/
  6. “NASCAR and Modified Racing Has Deep Roots in the Garden State: NASCAR Hall of Fame: Curators’ Corner.” Nascar Hall of Fame. Accessed January 31, 2024. https://www.nascarhall.com/blog/artifact-morristown-program
  7. “Dual Feature At Vineland on April 7.” Trenton Evening Times , March 26, 1957. https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A1236872C1F6A0AE3%40GB3NEWS-1276D982621F35B6%402435924-1272EFA2797F7981%4022-1272EFA2797F7981%40?h=2&fname=&lname=&fullname=&kwinc=%22Vineland%20Speedway%22&kwexc=&rgfromDate=&rgtoDate=&formDate=&formDateFlex=exact&dateType=date&processingtime=&addedFrom=&addedTo=&sort=old&sid=axvvnuoondgsfawqpbklhuohtyftwlym_ip-10-166-46-159_1705508457799
  8. “Stock Cars Start Racing This Friday.” Trenton Evening Times, April 21, 1959. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-daily-journal-track-starter/26726689/
  9. “Elliot Races Choice at Dix.” Trenton Evening Times, July 1, 1964. https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A1236872C1F6A0AE3%40GB3NEWS-1272A81A36705A4A%402438578-1272439F79C78EB1%4051-1272439F79C78EB1%40?h=7&fname=&lname=&fullname=&kwinc=%22Vineland%20Speedway%22&kwexc=&rgfromDate=&rgtoDate=&formDate=&formDateFlex=exact&dateType=date&processingtime=&addedFrom=&addedTo=&sort=new&sid=axvvnuoondgsfawqpbklhuohtyftwlym_ip-10-166-46-159_1705508457799
  10. “Hildreth Seeks Win in 100-Mile Classic at Langhorne Sunday.” Trenton Evening Times, October 3, 1961. https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A1236872C1F6A0AE3%40GB3NEWS-126E01D8A6EE02AF%402437576-126BAA7AB4AFF9FE%4027-126BAA7AB4AFF9FE%40?h=25&fname=&lname=&fullname=&kwinc=%22Vineland%20Speedway%22&kwexc=&rgfromDate=&rgtoDate=&formDate=&formDateFlex=exact&dateType=date&processingtime=&addedFrom=&addedTo=&sort=new&page=1&sid=axvvnuoondgsfawqpbklhuohtyftwlym_ip-10-166-46-159_1705508457799
  11. “Legendary Race Car Driver Elton Hildreth Dies at Age 95.” South Jersey Times NJ.COM, September 3, 2013. https://www.nj.com/cumberland/2013/09/legendary_race_driver_elton_hildreth_dies.html.  
  12. “About Us.” Delsea Drive-in Movie Theatre, January 21, 2024. https://www.delseadrive-in.com/#

13. Jennifer Finn, “Behind New Jersey’s Last Drive-In Theater.” New Jersey Monthly, May 24, 2023. https://njmonthly.com/articles/arts-entertainment/delsea-drive-in-theatre/


Nostalgia for the Nifty 50s in Cumberland County: The Vineland Speedway and the Delsea Drive In2024-02-01T09:49:07-05:00

On Board The Sophia

Written and Researched by Victoria Scannella, Library Assistant

In order to start October with a bang, I’ve decided that this next blog post should be a wild story from start to finish, that all occurred on a boat on June 14, 1797 around 4:30 in the afternoon! The following story comes from The Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertizer from Saturday July 8th, 1797.

A sloop named The Sophia was on a voyage from Philadelphia traveling down the Maurice River when the event occurred. Aboard the ship was Captain Andrew Conrow, John Lundy, John Rolee, and Neil McIntosh.

As they were cruising down the river near Billingsport, a man named Robert Brown pulled up in his own boat beside The Sophia and asked Captain Conrow where his ship was headed. Brown told the men that he wanted passage to Port Penn; Captain Conrow welcomed him aboard the ship, attaching his boat to their sloop. Once the evening had drawn in, the sloop was anchored off of Newcastle (1) and the men remained there until Saturday morning.

The following morning as they approached Port Penn, the Captain ordered Rolee to begin preparations to approach the shore to let Brown off before returning to his personal quarters. In the midst of preparations, Brown told Rolee to stop and to continue sailing. Brown was no longer going to Port Penn, the ship he was expecting to meet was now in Cape May. The Captain agreed to allow Brown to remain on the slope and they continued about their day.

As they were coming into the mouth of the Maurice River, the ship ran aground and could go no further until the tide came in, so they dropped anchor and prepared to wait. While waiting for the tide, they had refreshments and John Landy went into the cabin while the Captain lay on the quarter deck and McIntosh was laying on the deck. McIntosh was then startled awake by a sound from within the cabin, and then immediately heard another noise coming from the quarterdeck. The sound could only be described as, “the pounding of an axe against the ceiling of the cabin”. McIntosh leaped up and looked towards the quarterdeck to see Brown running around the mast with an axe in his hand, headed to strike John Rolee on the side of his head while he slept, unaware of what was about to occur.

McIntosh leaped overboard and swam over to a shallop in an attempt to escape Brown (2) but he did not make. Brown took his boat into the water, capturing McIntosh and brought him back aboard The Sophia. Brown promised that he would not hurt the boy. Once aboard the ship again, McIntosh got the upper-hand and grabbed the axe that was discarded on the deck and threw it overboard. He then ran up to the quarter-deck as Brown approached with a mallet.

McIntosh again jumped overboard and swam towards nearby fishermen before once again being grabbed by Brown and brought back aboard The Sophia. Landy, who had been hit in the side of the head with an axe, came to his senses and went to the main deck. He found Captain Conrow, lying on the quarter-deck. Upon discover, Landy began asking what was going on, yelling “What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” Brown responded, “Nothing, but I believe the boy is crazy.”

McIntosh cut off the painter (3) and watched as Brown’s small boat drifted away from The Sophia, gaining significant distance in a short amount of time. Once the boat seemed to be a safe distance from the sloop, McIntosh and Landy jumped overboard and swam over to the boat and drifted away with it. Since no oars or ropes were attached to the Sophia, Brown could not reel him back in and the tide had since come in and was directing the small boat towards the shore. John Landy, alongside McIntosh, rowed to the nearby fishermen for assistance. They explained what had happened aboard the Sophia and the authorities were notified.

The Sophia was brought to the shore from the mouth of the Maurice River where it was left near McIntosh and Landy with John Rolee and Captain Conrow still aboard. Conrow had not yet passed away; the only thing he said was “Oh don’t! Oh don’t!” when being moved from where he was laying on the ship. He passed away around 9 pm that day. The Captain’s skull was heavily fractured in two places from one blow to the head. John Rolee survived, having sustained several blows to the head, a broken arm, and a few other wounds. John Landy sustained no further injuries than the large gash on his head from the axe blow. Robert Brown was apprehended on the following Sunday morning and set to wait for trial. The story comes from Neil McIntosh who was 16 or 17 years old at the time and aboard the ship. He was a witness in two separate trials for the murder and attempted murders.

1) It does not indicate whether it was Delaware or Pennsylvania but in this instance we are assuming Delaware
2) A light sailboat used for coastal fishing
3) A rope that is attached to the sloop to tie another boat to it

On Board The Sophia2023-10-02T10:53:37-04:00

A Brief History of Education in Early Cumberland County

By Victoria Scannella

In the early days of the American Revolution, prior even to the writing of the Declaration of Independence, interest in education was being taken up by those living in Southern New Jersey. As early as 1773, a man named John Westcott created the first private school in the state. Continuing on this path, the pastor of the Greenwich Presbyterian Church, Reverend Andrew Hunter established a classical school in Bridgeton, from 1780 to 1785. (1) In addition to these efforts, the Quaker population also had a vested interest in early education efforts in New Jersey. 

The Quakers followed a religion of pacifism and an easy way of life, with religious freedoms and with the hope and promise of economic prosperity in the newly settled land of what was then called West Jersey. It was the Quakers who voiced opinions regarding the importance of education, specifically Thomas Budd, an early Southern New Jersey Quaker. Budd’s opinions were published in Good Order Established in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in America: Being a True Account of the Country in 1685, suggesting two separate types of education for boys and for girls, in addition to parents being legally required to send their children to school. For the boys, Budd proposed that they be educated in subjects such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and bookkeeping, whereas the girls should learn home-based skills such as spinning, weaving, knitting, and other similar subjects. (2) 

Starting in 1794, the New Jersey Legislature passed an Act that would provide for the establishment of “Societies for the Promotion of Learning.” (1). The fund grew over time, and eventually, taxes were used to add to the fund. In this article, I will cover those schools that were the most prominent and/or had the most impact on the history of early education in South Jersey.

Prior to the legislation of education by the State of New Jersey, it was up to the individual townships to establish school and/or education systems. In the 1870s, there were various fundraisers and attempts to raise money with the intention of creating a school and being able to pay those who would teach there.. Additionally, this is around the time the first law in New Jersey was established, requiring parents to send children from the ages 7 to 16 to school or get educated elsewhere (such as homeschooling). (2) 

The Old Stone Schoolhouse, built by the Quakers in 1810 in Greenwich in Cumberland County, is the oldest officially known school building in Cumberland County. The building is still standing, living as the oldest school in the county. Not only did it serve as a school, it also was used for militia training, a town hall, among other things. This building is not currently in use. (3)

The idea for a new academy exclusively for boys was brought before the Presbytery of West Jersey in 1850 by Reverend Dr. Samuel Beach Jones. The project was taken on and the school opened in 1854, serving  students of Cumberland County until around 1910, when it appears as though the Academy was sold by the Presbytery of West Jersey. The land and the building  were purchased by the Bridgeton Board of Education. In the book The Bridgeton Education Story, A Historical Souvenir of the Bridgeton, New Jersey Tricentennial 1686-1986, it was around 1910 that the Academy “fell victim to the high school movement.”  In which the establishment and differentiation between types of schools became more prominent, describing the youngest school age as primary, middle age as secondary, and grammar school as the highest level. Later on, it was referred to as a “high school,” shortened from “high grammar school,” indicating that it was the highest level of school before college. (1) With the creation of Bridgeton High School in 1929, the original front facade of the Academy remained in use by the new school, and other parts of the building were added behind it. 

There were two private schools intended for girls, Ivy Hall Seminary and the Seven Gables School. Ivy Hall Seminary was founded by Margaretta C. Sheppard, as a boarding school for the young women of South Jersey. The original building was built by David Sheppard, a farmer living in South Bridgeton, in 1791. (4) In 1850, fathers of Bridgeton who wanted their daughters to become educated rented the second floor of the General Store that was across the street, owned and operated by Sheppard’s youngest son Isaac. Teachers were hired from New England to educate the daughters with the overarching intention of starting a school for girls. Isaac Sheppard’s third wife Margaretta, having attended the first institution of higher learning for women (which falls in line with a college), became strongly invested in establishing a seminary in Bridgeton, having been trained in education while at the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. 

After marrying Isaac Sheppard, it was in 1861 that Margaretta opened the school in the Sheppard House, first known as the Bridgeton Female Seminary, Family and Day School for Young Ladies. Later the name was to become Ivy Hall Seminary, as it is remembered today. It remains unclear if Ivy Hall took the place of the school formed by the fathers, but given it was in the Sheppard House, it can be assumed that it took the place of the former school.

 It was from Margaretta and Isaac’s own home that the school functioned. (1) Isaac’s daughters stepped in to help Margaretta, and subjects such as geometry, chemistry, and moral philosophy, among other subjects and languages, were taught at the school. Young women were drawn from all around the country to attend the Seminary, even following Margaretta’s death. Not only was this school created for women, it was also extremely important in the emerging suffragist movement. Interestingly, “Ivy Hall was a venue for independent young women to teach progressive students the importance of women’s rights. One student, Ella Reeve, later Ella Reeve Bloor, became a Progressive Era leading light, working for temperance, women’s suffrage, and workers’ rights” (4). Following its time as a school, it was in 1919 that the property was sold to Dr. Reba Lloyd and the building became known as Ivy Hall Sanitarium. The sanitarium provided care to everyone, including practice in maternity. The sanitarium was in operation until the 1960s when it became a retirement home. (4)  Despite closing  in the early twentieth century, the school still seemed to have a profound impact on the women of South Jersey. 

The Seven Gables School was also a school for girls, similar to that of Ivy Hall Seminary. Founded by Mrs. Sarah Westcott following her husband’s death, Sarah had been conducting a young girls’ seminary in Camden, New Jersey, before coming back to Bridgeton to open her own school,  in 1886. This was done out of her own residence on Lake Street. The graduation ceremonies were held every June at the West Presbyterian Church. Seven Gables was closed and the property was sold by Sarah in 1896. The property later became Lake View Sanatorium for Chronic, Medical, and Nervous Diseases.

The South Jersey Institute opened in 1870, existing as a boarding school for both boys and girls, until it closed in 1907. The school was under the jurisdiction of the West Jersey Baptist Association. The purpose of the South Jersey Institute was to prepare its students for  college by giving them a  well-rounded education. Coeducation  was unique for this time. It is unclear how or why the school closed. Before deciding on the West Jersey Academy land, the Bridgeton Board of Education considered buying the Institute property with the intent to build the later public Bridgeton High School. The building was later demolished and there are now homes on the former property of the school. (1)

Salem had a few private schools, the first one was established in 1818 by the Johnson Family who gave the property that the school came to exist on in 1787. It remains unclear, aside from language classes, what other classes were offered at the school. The languages offered were English, Latin and Greek. This school lasted into the twentieth century, specifically when remains unclear, as does the reason that the school closed. The building later became home to several seminaries during the 1820s, one being operated by a man named Joseph Stretch and another run by the Baptist Society. 

Salem Collegiate Institute was established in the Rumsey Building, founded in 1867 by Reverend George W. Smiley. The school opened as a girls’ school but eventually began admitting boys. It was two years later that the school was purchased by John H. Betchel, and 90 students were enrolled. During Betchel’s time there, student enrollment increased by one-hundred. A professor by the name of H.P. Davidson purchased the school in 1872, despite the local reform group pushing back against it. Davidson helped the education of the students by creating the curriculum in a systematic way, in addition to offering hands-on learning to further improve the students’ education. The school closed late into the nineteenth century, doing well up until the point of closure. (2) A few years after the end of the Civil War, Lawmakers in New Jersey began education reformation in the state. This reformation began with the New Jersey Legislature in 1867, with the help of congressional bodies, 

The Constitution was amended to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of 5 and 18 years.” A ten-member State Board of Education was appointed by the governor, and provisions were made to appoint an education commissioner. Moreover, plans were made to maintain a normal school and a model training school, and to set up a board of examiners to review and license teachers. (2) 

Bridgeton was the first urban area to actually establish a  public-school system. It served specifically white children who were age seven and older, but due to limited space, only 2 children per household were permitted to attend. During this time there were only twelve public schools in New Jersey that were free to attend. 

There is significantly less documentation regarding school for black children in Southern New Jersey. In Southern Bridgeton there is a known existence of a one room school for black children, and ten years later there is one that was documented as being part of a survey performed by the county, but it is unclear if they are the same school. (2) Following this, during the middle to late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the existence of schools and school buildings grew significantly in New Jersey. Rural New Jersey schools  and “the majority of extant country schools are lookalike, modest, gable-roofed frame buildings constructed of commercially produced and dimensioned materials and manufactured hardware, but incorporated provincialized ornamentation; many have been adapted to a new use. The forms, built from the mid to late 1800s, are repeated in nearby churches, community centers, granges and masonic halls.”(2) Once schools became a mandated thing for those living in the State of New Jersey, it became increasingly common for multiple schools to exist in one town. In fact, almost every single town had its own school. (2) Present day, there are around 2,511 schools in New Jersey. Local Educational Agencies, consisting of Charter Schools, Operating School Districts, Non-operating School Districts, among others, there are 697. (6) New Jersey is also home to around 83 schools, 51 being private and around 32 public Universities. (7)

Come check out the physical exhibit at the Lummis Library! The photograph features the exhibit, complete with objects and information regarding the history of education in early Cumberland County. The very bottom of the exhibit features Bridgeton High School yearbooks, from years 1939, 1941, and 1956 for a more modern look at education in Cumberland County.


  1. J. Robert Buck, William J. Chestnut, Joseph C. De Luca, and Robert L. Sharp. “The Bridgeton Education Story, A Historical Souvenir of Bridgeton, New Jersey, Tricentennial 1686-1986.” (n.d.) 
  2. Kimberly R., Sebold, and Sara Amy Leach, “Historic Themes and Resources within the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route: Southern New Jersey and the Delaware Bay: Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem Counties §” (n.d.). http://npshistory.com/publications/new-jersey/historic-themes-resources/chap7.htm
  1. “Old Stone School House” Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, NJ.GOV Accessed July 10, 2023. https://www.nj.gov/dca/njht/funded/sitedetails/old_stone_school_house.shtml
  2. Matthew E. Pisarski, “David Sheppard House.” Cumberland County Cultural & Historical Commision. Accessed July 10, 2023. http://cumberlandnjart.org/cumberland-historic-sites/david-sheppard-house/
  3. Jacob Downs, “Female Education in Camden County: 312 Cooper Street – Young Ladies’ Seminary School.” Cooper Street Historic District, March 11, 2018. https://cooperstreet.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/female-education-in-camden-county-312-cooper-street-young-ladies-seminary-school/
  4. “New Jersey Department of Education.” New Jersey Public Schools Fact Sheet 2022-2023. Accessed July 10, 2023. https://www.nj.gov/education/doedata/fact.shtml
  5. “Colleges & Universities in New Jersey: 2023 School Guide.” Colleges & Universities in New Jersey | 2023 School Guide. Accessed July 10, 2023. https://www.franklin.edu/colleges-near/new-jersey#:~:text=There%20are%20at%20least%2083,54%2C601%20undergraduate%20students%20were%20enrolled
  6. Bridgeton Evening News, A Souvenir of Bridgeton, New Jersey. (1895).
A Brief History of Education in Early Cumberland County2023-07-24T15:23:35-04:00

The Rum Runner Trial of Cumberland County

By Victoria Scannella

In the time of Prohibition, lasting in New Jersey from 1922 to 1933, parts of South Jersey were most famously known as “Rum Row”, the most famous for being the largest of the “Rum Rows” along the East Coast.

 Although cities such as New York, Chicago, and Atlantic City were all notorious for their bootlegging, the convenience of farmland and rural area that is Cumberland County made for its fair share of rum runners during the Prohibition era. The proximity to the Cohansey River allowed for boats to come in, load the liquor onto trucks, then distribute the liquor to wherever was necessary. The Cohansey River has been used to smuggle things for quite some time, as early as the American Revolution and the time of the Underground Railroad, as recently as transporting Marijuana in the 1970s. (7)

The investigation of a rum ring was ordered by Judge Stanger on April 26, 1930. The Judge ordered, “an immediate and sweeping investigation by the grand jury now in session into the charges of gigantic rum-running, threats, and intimidation against peaceable citizens, cowing them into silence by the rum ring, was eminently proper.” (1) The investigation looked into several charges including rum running, threats, and intimidation against citizens and others involved, such as workers, to keep them quiet. Edward Cronwell, a truck driver for those indicted in the conspiracy, was one of those who were threatened for “squealing” or otherwise ratting out the rum runners. Judge Stanger is quoted as saying, “Rum rings, whether composed of residents or non-residents, must have it made plain to them that they cannot use any point on our bay shore or navigable streams as headquarters from which to conduct their business.” (1) It is unclear just how long the river had been used for transporting illegal liquor, but it is clear that it is not until 1929 that there is repercussions for the act.

Seven men were arrested as being part of the alleged ring; John Callahan (who has several aliases), Cyril Eppinger (also several aliases), James Ernest, Benjamin Emerson, Edward Hymer Sr, Joseph Uhland, and Warren Hancock. They were all from Cumberland County, Bridgeton, South River, and Greenwich Township, among other towns in the area. John Callahan was considered to be the “brains” of the operation, while Cyril Eppinger was the Lieutenant. 

There is some confusion during the trial as to who was holding the liquor, whether that was Joseph Uhland or Warren Hancock, and who paid their workers on their farm to help with the unloading of the liquor. However, some witnesses from Greenwich Township claimed to know that the teams used were from Warren Hancock’s barn. Hancock also acted as a “decoy man”, leading officers on a chase for a truck that was empty once it was caught. Hancock was charged with “luring officers on a false scent” (4). It is unclear whether these trucks belonged to the rum-running ring Hancock was a part of or another truck that he hoped to pin the officers to.

John T. Callahan was the most prominent person on trial, as he was arrested five years before for being involved in a similar situation, breaking prohibition laws. The prosecution had brought about Callahan’s prior charges to further indicate that he would be involved in this crime syndicate for which he was accused. The article, which brings readers up to speed, reads,  “John Callahan had pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy in Cumberland County courts in October of 1925, paying a $500 fine.” (5) He opted to testify against one of the men he was working with, although there was no promise that he would be rewarded for his testimony. Despite this warning, he was given five years probation; had he broken the probation, he would have had to serve the prior sentence of one year in prison, in Middlesex County, NJ. 

During the trial, Callahan was accused of being in a sedan that was following a liquor truck going Northbound on Stathem Neck Road in Cumberland. No one could positively identify Callahan as being in a car involved in bootlegging with a truck carrying the illegal rum with intent to distribute. At first, Callahan had claimed he was not in Cumberland County at the time but instead was in New York. Mayor Thomas Dolan was called to the witness stand and testified that he had been with Callahan at the time, at the polls voting, as it had been election night. Despite the fact that this disproves Callahan’s statement that he was not in Cumberland County at the time, it still served to strengthen his alibi that he was not involved with the rum-running he was presently being accused of. 

He was also accused of trying to invite a man named Fred Renne, who was a witness called to testify, to join his operation. Callahan allegedly introduced himself under a false name that Renne knew was not his name, said as much and Callahan responded with something along the lines of, “I wanted to see how you would react to the fake name.” (4) This was the most convincing evidence of the entire trial that Callahan was indeed a rum runner and the ringleader of the men. 

As of September 13, 1930, Cyril Eppinger was found not guilty of the charges because there was no documentation that he was involved in the events of November 5, 1929. Following this newspaper, there is a gap in the documentation of such newspapers until October 10, 1930. The Rum-Runners trial had resulted in a disagreeing jury, which led to a new trial being requested, set for December 1, 1930. As of a newspaper from November 7, 1930, it becomes known that Callahan, Ernest, and Hancock pleaded “non-vult,” more commonly known as “no contest” to the charges that morning. John T. Callahan, James Ernest, and Warren Hancock were each charged a fine of $1,000 (which is around $18,000 today with inflation). 

It is unclear what happens to the men after the trial has concluded, which means that they either continued their crimes and did not get caught again, or this trial scared them into a more peaceful way of life. John T. Callahan appears a few more times in newspapers in North Jersey, in the Jersey City area, attempting to obtain a license to sell liquor. As seen in several newspapers from as early as 1956, “Take notice that John T. Callahan and Francis Callahan have applied to the Secretary of the Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control of Jersey City for Plenary Retail Consumption License #270 for premises situated at 273 ½ Washington St. Jersey City.” (6) There is no indication as to whether Callahan or his partner ever got the license to sell. 


“Get at the Facts.” Bridgeton Evening Times. April 26, 1930. (1) https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A124ABFFE25150BEB%40GB3NEWS-18665AFC94636C2E%402426093-18627F6B9308A2B9%403-18627F6B9308A2B9%40?h=5&fname=&lname=&fullname=&rgfromDate=&rgtoDate=&formDate=&formDateFlex=exact&dateType=range&kwinc=rum%20running&kwexc=&city%5B0%5D=bridgeton&city%5B1%5D=vineland&sid=otsqrdtsyomdutnbwfjwbbvzwxoucyvv_wma-gateway012_1687787541538 (Accessed June 26, 2023). 

“Higherups in Rum Smuggling Must Answer in Court for Law Violations.” Bridgeton Evening Times. May 17, 1930. (2) https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A124ABFFE25150BEB%40GB3NEWS-18665B1FC2FE9FCE%402426114-18627F583088F777%400-18627F583088F777%40?h=4&fname=&lname=&fullname=&rgfromDate=&rgtoDate=&formDate=&formDateFlex=exact&dateType=range&kwinc=rum%20running&kwexc=&city%5B0%5D=bridgeton&city%5B1%5D=vineland&sid=otsqrdtsyomdutnbwfjwbbvzwxoucyvv_wma-gateway012_1687787541538 (Accessed June 26, 2023). 

“Rum Truck Driver Confused on the Witness Stand – Attorneys Begin Arguments to Jury.” Bridgeton Evening Times. September 10, 1930. (3) https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A124ABFFE25150BEB%40GB3NEWS-18665B1FC2FE9FCE%402426114-18627F583088F777%400-18627F583088F777%40?h=4&fname=&lname=&fullname=&rgfromDate=&rgtoDate=&formDate=&formDateFlex=exact&dateType=range&kwinc=rum%20running&kwexc=&city%5B0%5D=bridgeton&city%5B1%5D=vineland&sid=otsqrdtsyomdutnbwfjwbbvzwxoucyvv_wma-gateway012_1687787541538 (Accessed June 26, 2023).

“Others Ready to Fight in Defense.” Bridgeton Evening Times. September 10, 1930. (4) https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A124ABFFE25150BEB%40GB3NEWS-18665BADA109A039%402426230-18627F64425A4D19%403 (Accessed June 26, 2023). 

“Rum Truck Driver Confused on the Witness Stand – Attorneys Begin Arguments to Jury.” Bridgeton Evening Times. September 12, 1930. (5) https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A124ABFFE25150BEB%40GB3NEWS-18665B1FC2FE9FCE%402426114-18627F583088F777%400-18627F583088F777%40?h=4&fname=&lname=&fullname=&rgfromDate=&rgtoDate=&formDate=&formDateFlex=exact&dateType=range&kwinc=rum%20running&kwexc=&city%5B0%5D=bridgeton&city%5B1%5D=vineland&sid=otsqrdtsyomdutnbwfjwbbvzwxoucyvv_wma-gateway012_1687787541538 (Accessed June 26, 2023). 

“Notice.” The Jersey Journal. January 19, 1956. (6) https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/newspapers/image/v2%3A124ABFFE25150BEB%40GB3NEWS-18665B1FC2FE9FCE%402426114-18627F583088F777%400-18627F583088F777%40?h=4&fname=&lname=&fullname=&rgfromDate=&rgtoDate=&formDate=&formDateFlex=exact&dateType=range&kwinc=rum%20running&kwexc=&city%5B0%5D=bridgeton&city%5B1%5D=vineland&sid=otsqrdtsyomdutnbwfjwbbvzwxoucyvv_wma-gateway012_1687787541538 (Accessed June 26, 2023). 

Don E. Woods | For NJ.com. “Baywalk Empire: History of Prohibition in South Jersey.” NJ.com, August 17, 2015. (7) https://www.nj.com/cumberland/2015/08/baywalk_empire_the_secret_prohibition_history_of_s.html 

The Rum Runner Trial of Cumberland County2023-06-26T16:10:50-04:00

What is a Deed of Gift?

Obtaining a signed copy of a Deed of Gift is an important step to processing and making the donation fully part of the collections. Without that form, we are unable to do each of the necessary steps to document the donation and fully claim possession of it. In this blog, we will unpack what exactly a Deed of Gift is and how it affects the processing process.

Why do we ask you to sign a Deed of Gift?

A Deed of Gift is a contract stating that the ownership of the donation(s) is being transferred from the donor to the Society. This form is evidence that CCHS fully owns the item that will become part of the collection. Without the signed Deed of Gift, the ownership of items within our care can be contested. In addition to possession, the Deed of Gift also gives us all the contact information of the donor, which is necessary for provenance information. Maintaining complete records of our objects is crucial for museums to function properly. We need to know where our objects came from in order to study them and exhibit them accurately. And we need to be confident that the items in our collections cannot be claimed by a third party in the future. The Deed of Gift protects us and helps us to fulfill our mission.

Why is the Deed of Gift needed to process donations?

When processing a new acquisition(s), one of the steps is accessioning the item. In museums, accessioning an object means officially incorporating it into the museum’s collection of research, education, and/or exhibition materials. Accessioning requires establishing a detailed record of the object’s history. This step can only be done once the Deed of Gift is signed. This allows us to document the donor, the physical information of the donation, the date of donation, and where the item will be located. Lastly, we place an accession number on the item. This unique number reflects that the item is completely owned by CCHS and is part of the Society’s holdings. If a Deed of Gift is not signed, we have no evidence of ownership and the item cannot be accessioned.


The Deed of Gift is a vital part of the donation process and is critical for our records. Without the document, the ownership is not clearly defined which can cause issues down the road if CCHS possession is ever contested. The lack of a Deed of Gift means our collections are vulnerable. Signing Deeds of Gift ensures that CCHS obtains complete ownership over new acquisitions and that the items will remain in the care of CCHS.

What is a Deed of Gift?2023-03-05T10:28:19-05:00

Chronology of Greenwich, N.J. Cumberland County — UPDATED

Warren Adams

21st Century


2001- Sara Langley Watson honored for 34 years as president of the Cumberland County Historical Society.

2002- Ship John sold to a Philadelphian, no opening.

2002- Meeting to repair the dike; many agencies involved.

2002- Roaming pig of Greenwich caught by “Reds” and Scott Gifford of Hancock Harbor.

2003- Roads to Bayside and Ragged Island paved.

2004- Sarah Langley Watson, President of CCHS, is buried in the Greenwich Presbyterian Cemetery.

2005- Waterspout sighted over Delaware Bay.

2005- Ship John Inn has a limited opening.

2005- Charles Wallis Goodwin, Mayor of Greenwich for 23 years, dies unexpectedly.

2006- Bitter’s Brothers, longtime farmers, give up farming; landowners look for new farmers.

2006- Core samples taken for future construction of the “Greenwich Dike.”

2006- Construction to begin on Gum Tree Corner Road; fresh water flow repair.

2006- Causeway to Bacon’s Neck closed due to more repairs.

2006- Tom & Mable of Greenwich Country store involved in a terrible vehicle accident.

2006- Tom & Mable return to the Greenwich Country Store after 5 months of healing.

2006- Road to Tindall Island (Nancy’s Island) cleared and open.

2007- 300th Anniversary of Greenwich Presbyterian Church.

2007- Author John Fea talks about Philip Vickers Fithian, Greenwich’s Favorite Son a GPC.

2008- 100th Anniversary of the Tea Burner’s Monument.

2009- Civil War Room created in the Gibbon House Museum.

2010- Sustainable Greenwich started in Greenwich — many projects projected.

2011- Sustainable Greenwich opens park in Greenwich.

2011- Historic Greenwich Website created.

2011- Several people fight for the dike restoration in Greenwich; an ongoing process.

2012- Greenwich Township Dikes Advisory Committee formed.

2012- County starts Mill Creek Dike repairs

2012- Greenwich becomes first Cumberland County Municipality to achieve Bronze Level certification in the Sustainable Jersey program.

2012- Tom & Mabel’s Country Store closes.

2012- Hurricane Sandy spares Greenwich.

2013- State of NJ Board of Public Utilities orders Verizon to make major landline improvements throughout the township.

2013- Two applications are submitted to the Greenwich Planning/Zoning Board to construct cellular towers in Greenwich Township.

2013- Aunt Betty’s Kitchen opens.

2013- Several small twisters come through Greenwich.

2013- Controversy over the Cell Tower in Greenwich

2013- Verizon Fios comes to Greenwich

2013- Call for demolition of Methodist Meeting House (663 Ye Greate Street)

2014- Sheppard’s Mill Pond land purchase discussed — swimming area.

2014- Many bank-owned properties in Greenwich.

2014- New ordinance for Greenwich updated, Historic Conservation District Regulations.

2014- Shade Tree Committee formed.

2014- New Flood Plan maps presented.

2015- Early Wood Architecture Book published by Joan Berkey; many Greenwich houses in the book.

2015- Watson’s Dike to be repaired.

2015- Flood protection sought for Mill Creek Dike.

2016- Emergency Management Building, oil leak, state clean-up.

2016- Sea Grant Study for Greenwich.

2016- Watson’s Dike out for bid.

2017- Sheppard’s Mill Pond land purchase — completed — no swimming area for Greenwich.

2017- Greenwich Township reassessment of properties.

2017- Emergency Management Building oil leak clean-up completed.

2017- Greenwich Cell Tower turned on.

2017- Greenwich Volunteer Fire Department Coin Drop returns for the Artisans’ Faire.

2018- Preservation Grant: New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund for the Old Stone Schoolhouse.

2018- Ordinance for Bed & Breakfast vacation rental in private home.

2018- Many bank-owned properties in Greenwich remain; some over 8-10 years.

2018- More and more trees dying in Greenwich.

2018- George & Mary Arnold move to Woodstown Quaker Village.

2018- Aunt Betty’s store closes; reopens later in the year.

2019- Cumberland County Historical Society Native American Museum building passes zoning.

2019- Bank-owned properties being sold for as low as $30,000. Bullseye House $60,000; Presbyterian Old Manse $30,000.

2019- Aunt Betty’s Store closes.

2020- Harris House by monument being conserved by Storm Family.

2020- CCHS Artisans’ Faire cancelled because of virus.

2020- CCHS Christmas in Greenwich cancelled because of virus.

2021- Chicken Fighting Ring discovered in Springtown.

2021- Work progressing on re-surfacing roads around Greenwich.

2021- Expanding of the Historic District.

2021- Bacon’s Neck causeway flooding again

2021- Harris/Storm House at Market Lane under extensive renovation.

2021- George Arnold, store owner and Postmaster, dies.

2021- CCHS Artisans’ Faire resumes.

2021- Wood Store re-opens as Willow and Main.

2021- Aunt Betty’s Store rented to Jerry Lewis, Landscape Architect.

2021- Holiday Lights Tour, new for Christmas in Greenwich.

2021- Greenwich added to the Historic Districts of the United States.

2022- Greenwich Township Public Safety Tower proposed on Pine Mount, Springtown.

Chronology of Greenwich, N.J. Cumberland County — UPDATED2022-11-13T11:38:06-05:00

See the World in a New Way: A Brief History of the Stereoscope

Tia Antonelli

For some time in the early nineteenth century, the eyes were a focal point of scientific research. Scientists were fascinated by what our eyes could do, both individually and in tandem with one another – what were the limits? What can someone see with two eyes versus one eye? During this period of interest, scientists discovered “binocular vision,” which is when a person with two eyes looks at an object through both eyes at once, and sees the object with more dimension as they see it with the left- and right-eye perspectives at once. In light of this revelation came the stereoscope. 

a vintage, portable stereoscope and stereoscopic slide

A vintage portable stereoscope and stereoscopic slide, as on display at The Gibbon House, NJ.

The stereoscope was first invented in London, 1838 by Charles Wheatstone, and was a box-shaped device with eye-lenses, wherein one could look into the box and view images on stereoscope slides. These slides had two different perspectives of the same image, each situated in front of the eye-lenses, so when one looked into the box they would see a three-dimensional projection of the image. The development and success of the stereoscopes was concurrent with the development of photography; in order for the illusion to be effective, the images need to be essentially identical in everything aside from perspective. An artist can achieve this with simple figures, but it becomes more difficult as the images become more detailed and complex. (1) In the late 1850s, Oliver Wendell Holmes, a doctor and essayist based in the Northeast region of the United States, agreed that photography was a necessity for the stereoscope’s illusion, stating that “[t]he first effect of looking at a good photograph through the stereoscope is a surprise such as no painting ever produced. The mind feels its way into the very depths of the picture.” (2)

Wheatstone’s original stereoscope was roughly the size of a table. David Brewster changed the design to make it smaller, so one could bring the device up to their eyes, and this ultimately led to its increase in production and popularity, both throughout Europe and the United States. (3) In fact, some believe that the stereoscopic craze hit the U.S. harder than Britain. (4) They were still new to the states in the 1850s, one Ohio newspaper claiming it was a new invention by someone other than Wheatstone; however, as quickly as they appeared, the business boomed. (5) For the nineteenth century, this invention was a marvel.  Frequently, it was used in schools for both science and humanities courses – as early as the 1860s, students in the United States would use them in addition to microscopes in biology classes, and to study maps in geography classes. (6) Albert E. Osborne, who wrote in-depth on the use of stereoscopes in education, claimed that “[a]lmost every child knows what a stereoscopic photograph is, its weight, and of what material it is made.” (7) This further suggests that students physically interacted with this technology and that they were commonly available in classrooms, which speaks to the growing popularity.

an advertisement in a newspaper for stereoscopic slides/views

New York Times, June 16, 1860.

Additionally, stereoscopes provided entertainment. With a box and some slides, one could pretend they were traveling to other countries and see other sites without leaving the comfort of their own home. The Gems of American Scenery, for instance, advertised about 100 European scenes, and 40 Egyptian, as well as slides (or “views”) with photographs of scenic landscapes in the United States, for about $3-5 a dozen.  During the Victorian era, a time of Western colonial expansion and rule, the idea of “exoticism” drew people in, so it could be that the stereoscope aided in fulfilling this desire, as one could go almost anywhere and see almost anything with little effort. Overall, people were highly satisfied with stereoscopes and their multiple uses, with one anonymous author writing “no description of ours will do justice to the beautiful results of the most beautiful of all the arts.” (8)

The stereoscope was a product of scientific discovery used to show the illusions of binocular vision, and was additionally utilized by people in Europe and the United States for general education and entertainment. Today, stereoscopic technology is still used in the medical field to view X-rays, as well as in entertainment. (9) The popular “View Master” toy, which Sawyer’s Photo Services debuted at the New York World’s Fair (1939-40), is essentially a re-imagined stereoscope, and the popularity of this toy has persisted for almost a century. (10) Additionally, the mechanics of 3-D movies are based upon stereoscopic technology. Despite stereoscopes being invented in the early nineteenth century, their presence and impact on the scientific, educational, and entertainment fields is still visible today.


(1) Brewster, David. The Stereoscope; Its History, Theory, and Construction: with Its Application to the Fine and Useful Arts and to Education. United Kingdom: John Murray, 1856, 6.

(2) Holmes, Oliver Wendell. “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph,” The Atlantic, June 1859, 5.

(3) Thompson, “Stereographs Were the Original Virtual Reality.”

(4) Green, Harvey., Becker, Howard Saul., Southall, Thomas W.. Points of View, the Stereograph in America: A Cultural History. United States: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1979.

(5)  “New Invention.” Ohio Observer, April 21, 1852. Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers.


(7)  Osborne, The Stereograph and the Stereoscope, 29.

(8) “MISCELLANEOUS.: SCIENTIFIC. THE STEREOSCOPE: ITS WONDROUS BEAUTY AND POWER.” 1859.New York Observer and Chronicle (1833-1912), Dec 22, 405.

(9)  “Stereoscope | Optical Instrument.” Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.

(10)  National Museum of American History. “Sawyer’s View-Master,” Smithsonian Institute, n.d.

See the World in a New Way: A Brief History of the Stereoscope2022-04-23T10:52:19-04:00

A Spoonful of False Promises: Patent Medicines and George H. Whipple & Son Drugstore

Brittney Ingersoll

In 1870, George Henry Whipple and Edwin F. Brewster started Whipple & Son Drugstore in Bridgeton, NJ on the corner of Broad and Fayette Street. Although the partnership was short-lived, with Whipple purchasing Brewster’s interest in the company only a year later, the store flourished into a successful operation for a number of decades. Whipple’s store sold a variety of medicines, some being patent medicines. Patent medicines were easily accessible and affordable cure-alls, that promised amazing health and healing in a bottle. While patent companies made promises of grandeur, the promises tended to be empty with either the individual continuing to suffer, die, or heal on their own. ‘Quackery,’ ‘nostrum,’ ‘tonics,’ and ‘pseudo’ are some of the words used to either describe or synonymous for patent medicines. Historian James Harvey Young described the popularity of patent medicines and medical quackery as being “Aided by medical ignorance and a remolding of economic patterns, shrewd entrepreneurs, pioneered promotional techniques which, in the atmosphere of Jacksonian democracy, were expanded and elaborated as the common man sought common relief for his common ailments.”(1) Whipple and many others who earned an income from patent medicines were able to do so due to the development of capitalism, consumerism, growth of distrust and anti-intellectualism, and the lack of medical understanding throughout the nineteenth century.

Whipple was born sometime in 1841 and served in the 24th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers Company H in the Civil War from September 1862 to July 1863. On February 1, 1866, he married Clara H. Borden and had five children, with three living to adulthood. (2) His son, Oscar K. Whipple, joined the Whipple Store and become a partner in 1895. Together, they ran the business until March 22, 1910, when Whipple died and Oscar K. continued operating the store alone. (3) The Bridgeton Evening News printed a detailed obituary that ended with “In the death of Mr. Whipple, Bridgeton loses a substantial businessman and a patriotic citizen.” Several months after Whipple’s death, the Bridgeton Evening News later again printed a description of Whipple and his store, informing the readers that: “This is the only store in Bridgeton where one can procure the justly celebrated ‘Rexall Remedies’ and in fact. George H. Whipple & Son are dealers in the ‘best of everything’ in their line. A laboratory for the careful compounding of prescriptions is maintained at the highest standard of efficiency.” (4) The city appeared to have thought highly of their Mr. Whipple and George H. Whipple and Son Drugstore.

Rexall Remedies was potentially one of many patent medicines that were available at George H. Whipple and Son Drugstore. Another item with the Whipple’s name attached to it was Hood’s Sarsparilla, which was manufactured by C.I. Hood & Company in Lowell, Massachusetts, founded in 1875. Hood promised that their medicines could purify blood in addition to cure edema, heart disease, rheumatism, and a variety of other illnesses. (5) Patent companies promised to heal and improve society, yet their products were not as effective as they claimed. Instead, the medicines ultimately could only give consumers peace of mind, a sense of control, and at times a hangover due to the amount of alcohol contained in some of the medicines. 

Society changed drastically as capitalism developed throughout the 1820s and 1830s, changing where people lived and their labor. Initially, apprentices had lived with their craftsmen who taught them how to make items. The process was then divided to speed up production with several people taking on different roles in the creation of an item, ultimately losing their ability to become a skilled artisan. The splitting of tasks and population growth in cities led to large-scale manufacturing and the introduction of factories. Due to the number of people, workers became disposable and work security scarce. Manufactured goods and printing developments led to businesses and companies creating needs and problems that sometimes had not previously existed to sell items. Individuals could be healed or transformed through a monetary transaction of new items, turning them into the person that they desired to be. Patent medicines were one of many items needed for society to become exactly who they wanted to be for a couple of dollars. (6)

Overall, American Society preferred patent medicine over treatment by trained medical physicians due to mistrust society had developed during the beginning of the nineteenth century. The popular practice of bleeding and bloodletting scared people from seeing a physician for treatment. The growth of anti-intellectualism also played a role in the distrust of physicians. Many came to believe that the “plain man of common sense seemed superior to the trained expert.”(7) Mistrust in trained physicians also derived from religion. Male doctors treating obstetrical cases was prohibited, as was anatomical study done by dissecting cadavers – both due to religious reasoning. Pseudo doctors took advantage of these insecurities, portraying themselves as being an “average joe” and further reaffirming the fear of expert doctors. (8)

Patent medicines were available in shops, at Wild West Shows, Carnivals, Traveling Medicines Shows, and from pitchmen. Performances served as large-scale advertisements aimed at inspiring desire and need for the medicines among potential customers. Racial imagery tended to be used in advertisements. Librarian Matthew Chase states that ” Traveling medicine shows relied a great deal on the advertising value of racial imagery, particularly in term of ethnic caricature performances.”(9) Entertainers often used blackface and redface during patent medicine performances. In some shows and ads, medicines were linked to Indigenous cultures and traditions or faraway countries such as China, Turkey, and Egypt. Society believed that the appropriation of cultures and traditions of Native Americans, of different countries, and ancient times made the medicines more effective. The use of racial imagery was also used in printed ads for patent medicines. Advertisements, pamphlets, and entertainment spread knowledge of patent medicines to large audiences.  (10)

For the most part, ingredients were rarely ever listed on the bottles and containers of patent medicines, leaving the consumer ignorant of what they were consuming. Some concoctions contained large doses of alcohol and dangerous additives. Due to the questioning ingredients, some states began to crack down, forcing patent medicines to include a list of the ingredients on the bottles. Between 1905-1906, journalist, Samuel Hopkins Adams, wrote several articles on the horrors of nostrums, describing them as the “Great American Fraud.” Adam’s articles were compiled into a small book that aided in the passing of the Food and Drugs Act in 1906. The new act prohibited misleading or false information on the label regarding the ingredients or the identity of the drug. Six years later, the Sherley Amendment went further banning labels from including false and fraudulent claims. Educating the public was also an initiative to aid in combatting the use of harmful patent medicines. The Food and Drugs Act forced patent medicine companies to be transparent with their customers and helped in protecting the health of Americans. (11)

George H. Whipple and Son Drugstore was one of the many spaces that sold these highly desired patent medicines. Anti-intellectualism, distrust of doctors, religion, and lack of medical understanding made patent medicine the only viable option for treatment or sustainable health. Printing and cheap entertainment helped further spread knowledge and entice individuals to purchase patent medicines. During a time when medical treatment was still questionable and inaccessible for many, patent medicines offered some sort of comfort and give a sense of control during those times of poor health.


    1. James Harvey Young, “Medical Quackery in the Age of the Common Man,” in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Mar., 1961), p. 579
    2. Find a Grave has George Henry Whipple as being born in August of 1841. There are many contesting accounts of his birth. Census records note his birthday as 1842 and 1843. Since the cemetery stone lists 1841 as his birthdate, I feel that that is the best date to use, but have not found sources to confirm August. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156861493/george-henry-whipple : accessed 30 January 2022), memorial page for George Henry Whipple (Aug 1841–22 Mar 1910), Find a Grave Memorial ID 156861493, citing Old Broad Street Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Spaceman Spiff (contributor 46783007); “New Jersey, County Marriages, 1682-1956,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VWRS-P5Z : 23 February 2021), George H Whipple and Clara H Borden, 01 Feb 1866; citing Cumberland, New Jersey, New Jersey State Archives, Trenton; FHL microfilm 1,289,243.; “New Jersey Deaths and Burials, 1720-1988”,database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FZZN-KHZ : 19 January 2020), Carrie D. Whipple, 1873.; “New Jersey, Deaths, 1670-1988,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2SZ-1NFY : 15 May 2020), Jennie E. Whipple, 29 Mar 1867; citing Death, Bridgeton, Cumberland, New Jersey, United States, Division of Archives and Record Management, New Jersey Department of State, Trenton; FHL microfilm 004208606.; Bridgeton Evening News, March 23, 1910
    3. Bridgeton Evening News, March 23, 1910; Bridgeton Evening News, September 20, 1910.
    4. Bridgeton Evening News, September 20, 1910.
    5. Jessica Griffin, “Hood’s Sarsaparilla, Lowell, MA,” in Old Main Artifacts, (January 21, 2014), https://oldmainartifacts.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/hoods-sarsaparilla-lowell-ma/
    6. “A Market Revolution,” Smithsonian: National Museum of American History Behring Center, https://americanhistory.si.edu/american-revolution/market-revolution#:~:text=In%20the%201820s%20and%201830s,transportation%20like%20the%20Erie%20Canal.
    7. James Harvey Young, “Medical Quackery in the Age of the Common Man,” in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Mar., 1961), p. 581
    8. Ibid., p. 581
    9. Matthew Chase, “Cures and Curses: A History of Pharmaceutical Advertising in America,” University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, https://library.usa.edu/cures-curses-exhibit
    10. James Harvey Young, “Chapter 11: The Pattern of Patent Medicine Appeals,” in The Toadstool Millionaires: A Social History of Patent Medicines in America before Federal Regulation, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, March 8, 2015); Brooks McNamara, “Pitchmen, High and Low,” in Step Right Up, (University: University of Mississsippi, 1995), p. 19-42; Matthew Chase, “Cures and Curses: A History of Pharmaceutical Advertising in America,” University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, https://library.usa.edu/cures-curses-exhibit
    11. James Harvey Young, “Arthur Cramp: Quackery Foe” in Pharmacy in History, Vol. 37, No. 4 (1995), (American Institute of the History of Pharmacy), p. 176-182; J.W. Kille, in A Comprehensive Guide to Toxicology in Nonclinical Drug Development (Second Edition), 2017, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/pure-food-and-drug-act

Further Sources:





A Spoonful of False Promises: Patent Medicines and George H. Whipple & Son Drugstore2022-05-08T10:31:04-04:00

Nameless Faces of the Past

Brittney Ingersoll

Today, old photographs can be found in attics, basements, antique shops, and even archives that showcase people whose identities have been lost to time. Although their names may be gone, we can still learn so much from their pictures. The details of the images themselves and the types of photographs provide information that allows us to better understand the past. While it would be helpful to know who the people in the photographs were, the photographs still have historical value.

Types of Nineteenth-Century Photographs

The nineteenth century was the century of photography. The first type of photography available was the daguerreotype (c. 1840-1860), which was highly expensive, making them only accessible to the wealthy members of society. Due to their value, the photos were not simply tools to capture images of loved ones, but they also reflected the financial status of those who could afford to have their picture taken. Daguerreotypes phased out to more affordable forms of photography: (in chronological order) tintypes (c.1856-1867), carte de visite (c.1854-1910), and cabinet cards (c.1867-1895). Each is more sustainable than daguerreotypes, which were made of glass and incredibly fragile,  as well as prone to fading – losing not just the names but sometimes the faces as well. (1)

Tintypes followed daguerreotypes and were, as the name suggests, developed on thin sheets of tin. Tintypes can be found in very small sizes – leading one to question their size and if they were made for a certain purpose. Not all were created with the intent to be put on display in the traditional sense. Some tintypes were cut very small to be used in brooches and/or lockets. Images of loved ones could be worn and carried with the person. Their size provides clues to the photo’s purpose. Was the tintype made for a lover’s locket, to be kept with them at all times? (2)


Reading the Images

While identities may be lost, much can still be gained from the images themselves. Scholars have developed a form of study called “Visual Culture,” defined as “…the study of the social construction of visual experiences, and also the visual experience of social constructions.” (3) Through the study of images, one can learn the social standards and beliefs of the time as well as the significance of the images within that society. Images at their most basic level are just shapes and lines, constructed together to create different meanings and ideas. Through visual culture, images, like written documents, are analyzed to gain a more complete understanding of the past. (4)

For example, one can gather what people found important or how they wanted to present themselves through the analysis of photos. People displayed their status through the items they purchased and possessed. Nineteenth-century sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined this phenomenon “conspicuous consumption,” the process in which people purchased items to proclaim their status and association with the middle-and upper -classes. People would dress their best in photographs that were then put on mantels and displayed in homes, further reinforcing their position within society. These symbolic items of wealth were also potentially meant for the photographer, to help demonstrate that they were not capturing the image of an average person. (5)

Photos in which people wore their best clothing was potentially a message of who they were and where in society they belonged. They also could have used photographs to claim a higher status by posing in their best attire and implying they were more wealthy than they were. This would make the photograph a tool for lower-class people to reflect their aspirations. (6)

Some photographers possessed costumes and props for people to dress up and take on personas and identities that were unlike their own for the pictures. But, why? Why did people wish to dress up and be someone else? So much can be surmised  – was it purely for fun? Did it give them a chance, even for a moment, to escape from their own lives? How different was their character versus their reality? Did the costume allow them to feign power that was unattainable due to class structures, racism, and or sexism? Dressing up may have been strictly for fun for some, and it may have been a moment of escape for others. And if it was an escape, what does it tell us about the world those in the photographs existed in? (7)


Photographs without names are pretty common within the Cumberland County Historical Society’s archives. Local families donate old photos of past family members, but other than a possible familial association, little additional information is known. Sometimes family associations are unknown. While names and exact dates may be lost, so much can still be learned from these photographs. Just look closer!


(1) Janice G. Schimmelman, “The Tintype in America 1856-1880,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 98, No. 2 (2007); “What is a Daguerreotype?” Daguerreobase, http://www.daguerreobase.org/en/knowledge-base/what-is-a-daguerreotype ; Tracee Hamilton, “How to Date Old Photos,” AARP, https://www.aarp.org/relationships/genealogy/info-11-2011/dating-old-photos.html ; Colin Harding, “How to Spot a Carte de Visite,” The National Science & Media Museum, https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/find-out-when-a-photo-was-taken-identify-a-carte-de-visite/

(2) “Ambrotypes and Tintypes,” Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/collections/liljenquist-civil-war-photographs/articles-and-essays/ambrotypes-and-tintypes/

(3) “Introduction” A Critical Overview of Visual Culture Studies: Seeing High & Low : Representing Social Conflict in American Visual Culture, Patricia Johnson, Ed. (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006), p.2

(4) Ibid.

(5) Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, (New York: Penguin Books, 1994).

(6) John Berger, “The Suit and the Photograph,” About Looking, (New York: Pantheon Books, 2011).

(7) Janice G. Schimmelman, “The Tintype in America 1856-1880,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 98, No. 2 (2007).

Nameless Faces of the Past2022-05-08T10:30:55-04:00
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