Recent Talks

To read about recent talks given by Martin Kane on Hudson Maxim, and Joseph Grabas’ talk on land records click here!

Two Great January Talks!

As part of our Speaker Series, Michael DiCamillo, Vice President of the Historical Society, gave a talk on, New Jersey’s Multiple Municipal Madness, which drew a large audience on January 18th at the Moorestown Library. To read about it click here.

And on January 24th, the Historical Society hosted the Annual Joint Meeting at the Community House with several other Moorestown organizations. To read about it click here.

Great talk by Dan Lieb!

Dan Lieb (center) with Mickey DiCamillo and Lenny Wagner of the Historical Society.

Dan Lieb (center) with Mickey DiCamillo and Lenny Wagner of the Historical Society.


Dan Lieb, president of the New Jersey Historical Divers Association, gave an animated, nail-bitingly suspenseful talk about shipwrecks of New Jersey on November 16, 2016 at the Moorestown Library. The Library joined the Historical Society of Moorestown in cosponsoring the event. Well over 80 people attended, and it was standing-room-only in the back with more people spilling out of the doorway leading into Meeting Room A.

Over the fascinating two hours, which included Mr. Lieb’s illustrated presentation plus a generous question-and-answer session, we learned that there are about 7,200 New Jersey shipwrecks which have been found off the Atlantic coast and Delaware Bay, as well as in other NJ waterways. He told us stories about some of the more tragic wrecks and the circumstances causing them. In 1846, The John Mintern ran aground off Squan Beach in a bad storm that, in total, sank 10 vessels, with dozens of lives lost. Especially terrible was the loss of the New Era in 1854 which had sailed from Germany. About 50 people died of cholera on the way over, with another roughly 295 people losing their lives when the ship struck the Jersey Shore at Deal Beach in a Nor’easter. During the two world wars, the enemy was a lot closer than most people know – many U.S. ships were sunk off the coast by German U-boats! Mr. Lieb said that, sometimes, when he and his fellow divers discover another old shipwreck, they are only able to identify it by comparing evidence from the wreck with historical records. If just bits and pieces of a wreck turn up, they may have to contact collectors of items found in wrecks to help with identifying it. Thanks to Dan Lieb and the Moorestown Library for making this event such a huge success!
-Liz Rosenthal

Ghost Tours a Success!

This year our Ghost Tours, led famously by Joe Wetterling, expanded to 3 weekends to accommodate what has become a pretty popular way to spend a fall evening in Moorestown. You can read about what’s on the tour, see historical photographs, and find more stories at Joe’s blog, Moorestown Ghosts and Mysteries, by clicking here.

Joe Wetterling (with light) gets ready to lead these brave mortals out into the night...

Joe Wetterling (with light) gets ready to lead these brave mortals out into the night…

HISTORY ROCKS! Exhibit Opens

Our new exhibit, History Rocks! Interpreting the Archaeological Discoveries of Moorestown successfully opened on Sunday, October 16, 2016, at Smith-Cadbury Mansion. The grand opening featured noted local archaeologist Jack Cresson, who, on Smith-Cadbury’s front porch, provided a high-energy, two-hour demonstration to eager onlookers of early Native American toolmaking techniques using a wide array of rock types. Jack Cresson is an influential and much-honored archaeologist who has worked in the field for over 40 years.

Archaeologist Jack Cresson speaks to visitors about prehistoric toolmaking.

Archaeologist Jack Cresson speaks to visitors about prehistoric toolmaking.

Steve Herz watches Jack Cresson in action.

Steve Herz watches Jack Cresson in action.

On opening day, the History Rocks! exhibit filled Smith-Cadbury to bursting with people of all ages who studied selections from Jack Cresson’s collection of Moorestown artifacts, as well as representative items from the hundreds of prehistoric artifacts retrieved in the Madeira I and II digs which took place in Moorestown four years ago. These artifacts, many of which originated in the Early Woodland Period dating back thousands of years, are supplemented by private collections of artifacts generously donated by other individuals, as well as items from the Historical Society’s own collection.

The exhibit familiarizes visitors with New Jersey archaeology through videos, charts, a timeline, maps, illustrations, and photos, not to mention the three-dimensional artifacts themselves. Among the artifacts on display – frequently spectacular and in a variety of colors, sizes, and stages of perfection or erosion – are: beautiful projectile points (some almost pristine), axe heads, pottery fragments, cobble tools, knives, arrowheads, grinding stones, pestles, 6 Adena-like tubular stone pipe fragments and the prized tubular pipes on loan from the New Jersey State Museum. The pipes are connected to the Adena culture, which originated in what is now Ohio during the Early Woodland Period but spread eastward to modern New Jersey and other nearby regions. They are thought to have been used in burial ceremonies to produce smoke as an offering to the spirits. The artifacts are made of, among other materials, jasper, argillite, flint, fire-cracked rock, and quartz.

In addition to the Madeira site, some of the sections of Moorestown that these artifacts were found include the Young Avenue area, Marter Avenue, the Lockheed Martin area, and the Strawbridge Lake area. A large map of Moorestown highlights the sites where most of the items were excavated. History Rocks! will be on display through June 2017.

Admission is free.

Liz Rosenthal

Jack Cresson and Bill Archer on Smith-Cadbury Mansion's porch.

Jack Cresson and Bill Archer on Smith-Cadbury Mansion’s porch.

Archaeologist Greg Lattanzi spoke at our Annual Meeting

Dr. Lattanzi, Curator for the Bureau of Archaeology and Ethnology at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, was the featured speaker before dozens of people at the October 13 Annual Meeting of the Historical Society of Moorestown held at the Community House. He provided a fascinating overview of the way of life of native peoples and the geological and climatological conditions of pre-historic New Jersey.

Archaeological studies in New Jersey took a major step forward, said Dr. Lattanzi, when the Work Projects Administration, part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, funded the Indian Site Survey (conducted in 1936-38) led by the legendary Dorothy Cross. She was head of the New Jersey State Museum at the time and, said Dr. Lattanzi, was the “most amazing individual as far as New Jersey Archaeology is concerned.” There are 933 registered archaeological sites in Burlington County, said Dr. Lattanzi, with 27 of them in Moorestown alone!

Gregory Lattanzi is a big fan of fellow archaeologist Dorothy Cross.

Gregory Lattanzi is a big fan of fellow archaeologist Dorothy Cross.

Dr. Lattanzi indicated that Homo sapiens entered North America from the North, journeying between two ice sheets, during the most recent ice age when the glacier covering the area that would become New Jersey was a mile high. At the time of the last ice age, about 18,000 years ago, the “ocean level was so low that you could walk out a mile and a half [off the modern Atlantic coast],” said Dr. Lattanzi, and not find the ocean. He said that today’s Atlantic Ocean is now “churning artifacts up to the surface and people are finding them.” This phenomenon has been helped along by Superstorm Sandy and other major storms. As time progressed, native peoples living in what is now New Jersey enjoyed a more temperate climate and forests were increasingly filled with deciduous trees and plants.

Dr. Lattanzi explained that it is possible to determine the time period people lived in and the kind of culture that defined their way of life by the types of tools found and the materials with which they were made. For example, in the Early to Middle Archaic periods (commencing about 8,000 B.C.), Native Americans preferred using cryptocrystalline for toolmaking. As time went on, Native Americans used argillite (a kind of sedimentary rock) and rhyolite (a kind of igneous rock) to make their stone tools.

Dr. Lattanzi describing the varieties of prehistoric toolstone.

Dr. Lattanzi describing the varieties of prehistoric toolstone.

The Late Archaic Period, which led to the Early Woodland Period (the latter commencing in 3,000 B.C.), saw the development of more complex human cultures and exotic burial customs. The Adena culture, originating in Ohio, managed to spread the use of its unique blocked-end tubular pipes to New Jersey. (You can see two fine examples of such pipes – on loan from the New Jersey State Museum – at the Historical Society of Moorestown’s History Rocks! exhibit now on display at the Smith-Cadbury Mansion.) While primitive forms of agriculture began in the Midwest before reaching our area, Dr. Lattanzi said that maize kernels found around New Jersey place the region “in good standing with Midwest agriculture.”

The Historical Society of Moorestown would like to thank Dr. Lattanzi for his excellent talk and for helping the Historical Society with background information for its current History Rocks! exhibit.

Liz Rosenthal


An Evening in Mo’Town Fundraiser

On Saturday night, September 17, Karla and Jim Varrell opened up their elegant, 18 th century home for “An Evening in Mo’Town,” a gala that raised a total of $8,854, after expenses, for the much-anticipated “Pathway to History,” which will provide handicapped access to the Historical Society of Moorestown’s base of operations at the Smith-Cadbury Mansion. The dozens of high-spirited supporters of Moorestown’s rich heritage ate heartily of the delicious catered appetizers and dinner supplied by Robin’s Nest restaurant. There were also lovely wines from WinesTilSoldOut, as well as beer, and such timeless cocktails as Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds. Scrumptious desserts were provided by The Pie Lady. A hardy bunch of partiers held down the dance floor for hours as they moved to Motown tunes of the 60s and 70s. Many guests mugged for the camera at the photo booth wearing 60s-inspired accessories. Both music and photos were courtesy of Old City Photo Booth. Helping to make the gala such a successful night were the many business, civic, and individual sponsorsof the event, as well as business donors of numerous items for the silent auction from the worlds of, among others, fashion, cosmetics, sports, and food. To thank the Varrells for hosting the gala, the Historical Society presented them with several gifts, including a beautiful house plaque for outdoor display identifying their residence as a historical home. Historical Society Trustee Lisa Hammell donated her time and artistic talent to production of the plaque. The many hours she spent researching records in Mount Holly of the Varrell property must be gratefully acknowledged. Business partners of the 2016 fundraiser include Distinctive Woodwork Inc., Esposito Family Dental, Kazmierski Orthodontics, Leonberg Nursery, Moorestown Construction, BAYADA Home Health Care, Armstrong Pediatric Dental LLC, PowersKirn LLC, Colorstone Gardens, Audrey Shinn Interiors, Remember Me Stationery and Gifts, Tait Co., and Kathryn Supko – Berkshire Hathaway. Other financial donations weregenerously provided by Karla and Jim Varrell, Ann Condon, Christopher and Jennifer Eni, Margo Foster, Mary and Lou Berardi, Angela Zallie, and Gina Zegel. Historical Society Trustees Julie Maravich and Mary Berardi also donated some of the party goods. The Historical Society is proud to announce that the total raised for the Pathway to History from the three annual fundraisers to date is $20,081. We’re well on our way to reaching our goal of $53,000 for the walkway, ramp, and handicapped-accessible bathroom!

-Liz Rosenthal

Our Evening in Mo'Town hosts, Jim And Karla Varrell with Trustee Julie Maravich and President Lenny Wagner.

Our Evening in Mo’Town hosts, Jim And Karla Varrell, with Trustee Julie Maravich and President Lenny Wagner.

Annual Meeting

Graham Alexander spoke at our recent Annual Meeting, April 7th at the Community House
Graham Alexander, a local singer-songwriter with experience on Broadway, was the featured speaker before dozens of people at the Annual Meeting of the
Historical Society of Moorestown held on April 7 at the Moorestown Community House. Though only 26, Alexander, through a combination of financial savings, luck, and pluck, has managed to acquire the Victor Talking Machine Company and its associated record labels, all of which had lain dormant for decades until just a few years ago, and which were operated in the City of Camden by Victor founder and Moorestown resident Eldridge Johnson. Those labels include some very familiar names: Victor, Victrola, Camden, His Master’s Voice, Little Nipper, and Electrola. Alexander is in the process of reviving the labels and, in doing so, not only releasing his music and the music of other promising acts, but releasing or re-releasing as many as he is able to of the 10,000 master recordings he has managed to track down. Among the legendary singers and musicians who at one time or another recorded for one or more of the Victor labels were Enrico Caruso, Nat King Cole, Billie Holliday, Perry Como, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Dinah Shore, Jimmie Rodgers, Rachmaninoff, Leonard Bernstein, and Duke Ellington. Victor founder Johnson was an involved member of the Moorestown community, providing major funding for the Community House, and supporting Moorestown’s activities in other ways. Moorestown residents have probably seen the numerous statues of the iconic Little Nipper dog situated about the town which serve to commemorate Johnson’s impact.
-Elizabeth J. Rosenthal

Graham Alexander at the Moorestown Community House

Graham Alexander at the Moorestown Community House

Speaker Series

President Lenny Wagner, Professor Richard Veit, and Vice President Mickey DiCamillo

President Lenny Wagner, Professor Richard Veit, and Vice President Mickey DiCamillo

It was standing room only at the Smith-Cadbury mansion on Thursday night, January 28, when author and university professor Dr. Richard Veit gave an hour-long, humor-laced historical overview of graveyards, cemeteries, and notable graves in New Jersey. The appreciative audience learned about tombstone architecture going back to the 17th century, as well as materials used (granite, clay, tiles, ceramics, concrete – even plastic).

Highlights of Dr. Veit’s talk included his numerous examples of grave markers, headstones, footstones, and mausoleums that told stories about the people buried there. Some were funny: “I told you I was sick,” read one tombstone. Another was somewhat humorous but sad: a tombstone for two brothers who died in 1693 noted they had both succumbed to mushroom poisoning despite repeated warnings by their elders to avoid the mushrooms. Typical juveniles! Yet another was simply tragic: one grave marker contained an epitaph to a woman who, in 1772, fell from a carriage and onto a blade she had been using to peel an apple.

Just as interesting were the personalities illuminated by their graves. There was the immodest head stone inscription informing visitors that the grave’s occupant had been “The World’s Greatest Electrician.” A Roma cemetery featured a head stone paying tribute to a Roma couple who were community stalwarts, “Big G and Loveable Rose.” Some notable celebrities are buried in New Jersey: the infamous Aaron Burr, who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel; and Dudley Moore, the famed actor, comic, and pianist. Dr. Veit discussed African-American burial grounds and the cemeteries of different immigrant groups, such as Italians and Jews. Poignantly, he concluded by warning of the challenges that many cemeteries and grave sites face: acid rain erosion, neglect, even vandalism. cemetaries

Dr. Veit, an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University, based the presentation on his book, New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones: History in the Landscape (Rivergate Books, 2008).

Holiday Party

The Board of Trustees of the Historical Society held a Holiday Party in celebration of their members and volunteers on Friday, December 4th at Smith-Cadbury Mansion. Entertainment was provided by the wonderful Moorestown High School Madrigal Singers and the chugging of Trustee John Watson’s vintage O-gauge train setup under the sparkling tree.

Videos & photo by Stephanie Herz