Charles Albert Wright

29 February, 1860 - November, 1944

Introduction

Some Wright Notes

75th Anniversary of the Bridge

Photos

Links

Introduction

Most of the information on this page was taken from a xerox copy of a typewritten transcription of the original hand written account. Every attempt has been made to preserve the formatting of the typewritten copy, including spelling, punctuation and handwritten notes in the margin.

The original hand written document was prepared by Arthur Roland Wright. The typewriten document was prepared by bbh(?) from a xeroxed copy provided by Lenore Showell Probsting. This version was prepared by James Woodward Flach.

Genealogy

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Twentieth Century Grandfather Reviews the Life of a 19th Century Grandfather

The very first day of the life of Charles A. Wright was eventful. The date of his birth, Feb. 29th 1860. (Leap Year). His parents were of English and Quaker extraction. The location was Girard Ave. Phila. near Girard College.

When he was only two years of age his father died as did a brother, from tuberculosis, and he was advised in his early years that he would never live to be 16 years of age. The accepted belief in those days was that tuberculosis was hereditary.

His education was very limited; he only attended school through the 6th grade. That would bring him to the age of about 12 years. Around this age he took a job in a foundry. The work week consisted of 72 yours. at a wage of $3.50 per week, which adds up to approximately .05¢ per hour. From this experience he gained quite a knowledge of pattern making and casting.

At approximately 15 years of age he and his brother took a job working for a man named Bilby who was engaged in beveling photographic cards. It was around this period that his life enjoyed a great change. The beveling on these cards was all done by hand and he began to think of a mechanical approach to the problem. The machine he worked on at Gilby's faced a wall and as (an) idea for a machine developed in his mind he sketched it on the wall in a manner that only he would understand. Notwithstanding his age he had great mechanical ability and finally finished building the machine at home.

When completed he and his brother offered the machine to Gilby with the understanding that they would be continued to be employed. Gilby refused and they quit and started their own Company, consisting of four men. These four were Chas. A. Wright, his brother, Mr. Byers, and a fourth man whose name I have forgotten. They had very little work so my father said somebody goes up to the Collin's Mfg. Co. (the largest photographing Card Co. in the East, located a few blocks away) today and solicit their business or I quit. The other members reminded him he had signed a contract; my father's reply was the contract did not bind him because he was of only 17 years of age. On the strength of this, Ayers went up to the Collin's Mfg. Co. and returned with such a volume of orders that my father said afterward he never knew a day of adversity from that day on.

I might add here that just prior to this, the fourth member of this company had sold his interest in the Co. for $300.00 which the surviving three members had quite a job to raise (his wife wanted to buy furniture). My father said one year later their share was worth over $5000.00. These years, his later teens, were very eventful years of his life.

It was at this period that he saw a doctor. Having been advised earlier that he would not live to see his 16th birthday, he sought his advice. Fortunately, this doctor had advanced thinking and told my father that tuberculosis was not hereditary, but was a poor man's disease. The lack of proper food and poor living conditions were the contributing factors. In my opinion this advice greatly changed my father's life. I think he strongly determined to never be poor at this point.

It was around this time that he had a strange pastime. He had a friend, Harry Plumer, who was an extremely clever boxer but in appearance looked like anything except a fighter. They would go to a gym and sit and watch the boxers; it would not be long before some wise guy would come up and ask Harry to put on the gloves. Harry was very fair - if the guy just wanted to spar he would go along with him; but when he ran into a guy trying to knock him out it was something to watch. He would first give the guy a terrible beating before knocking him out. It was as my dad said, "a case where the sucker turns around and eats the shark."

Another event in this period had the most far reaching result for the Wright family. He married Mary Elizabeth Roland, my mother. Their union resulted in the birth of seven children, five of whom lived to maturity.

The first of the of the first generation was Gertrud(e), born 1880. The following six were Lenore, Edith, Marie, Walter, Elsie, and the only survivor Arthur, born 1904. Edith and Marie died in their teens. Edith, I believe, died of diphtheria and Marie of spinal meningitis. A rather tragic experience occurred in Marie's death. My father was given 24 hours to decide whether she would undergo an operation or not. He realized that with an operation and (pulled?) through there might be brain damage, so he said "no". According to my father, after Marie's demise the doctor was sneaking out of the house. My father stopped him and asked if he had agreed to the operation would it have saved her life. The doctor said, no, and my father called him all kinds of names for wanting to operate when it would avail to nothing. On the other hand, had he said "yes" my father would have gone through life thinking he was a murderer.

While on the subject of family I would like to emphasize what a devoted Mother I've had. She was one of the few mothers who devoted her whole life to her children, grandchildren, and home.

The second generation consisted of sixteen grandchildren, Gertrude had seven, Lee six. Elsie two and myself one. The seven grandchildren of Gertrude's were Dewees, Lenore, Elsie, Nellie, Betty and Anna-Jay. Elsie had Tommy and Charles; myselft Jacquilini. I'm completely lost when it comes to listing the great great great grandchildren. I do believe that if we constructed a family tree at this date 198 it would show over 100 descendants and family members.

Note: In the margin of the xeroxed copy next to "The seven grandchildren of Gertrude's were..." was the following note:
Giles, Edie, Charles, Robert, Elizabeth, John, Anne

There were some very peculiar events that took place in my father's business at this time. Competition faced him in the form of a Jewish man by the name of Postell. Both firms were in the same building and they shared a common Waste Paper chute. My father went down the chute to look for a missing part of a machine. He was surprised to find thousands of unfinished photographic cards dumped there by Postell's firm. The reason being that Collin's Mf Co, for whom they both did business, paid in advance for the work to be done on the cards. On another occasion Postell put Dutch metal on his cards instead of gold leaf and tried to blame my father. Fortunately my father was able to prove that the cards were finished by Postell by certain cutting marks. Postell not withstanding, he was Jewish, taught Christian Sunday school to try to please Mr. Collins. My father said Postell through his life time murdered five wives for insurance money. On the fifth murder a detective was sent after Postell. He happened to be a Mason, and believe it or not, it turned out that Postell was also a Mason and due to that he escaped the charge. Postell also started an Insurance Co. he only had one claim, that when his own house burned down. What a man. In conclusion and about 30 years later, my father and I ran into Postell in front of the Bourse building, 5th St. Phila. He was an invalid in a wheel-chair a broken down man. I heard my father offer him $600.00 if Postell would allow him to write a history of his life. Postell refused.

During the early 1880's my father apparently made quite a few excursion-boat trips up the Delaware River. Riverton, about 10 miles up river stood out because it was the only section on either side of the river that had a well developed water front. Including a Yacht Club and large wharf, with beautiful homes facing the river. He no doubt singled out this location for a future home, due to what the Doctor had told him 10 yrs. previous, about tuberculosis.

There were several other events that occurred in Philadelphia before the Wright family moved to Riverton. My father had visited Independence Hall and always admired the picture of Tom Paine, whom he considered an America hero. On a late visit he noticed the picture missing. After making an inquiry he found out that some temperance group who did not approve of Tom Pain's drinking had his picture removed to the basement. My Dad was wild. Napoleon once said he thought Tom Pain had more to do for the winning of the Revolution than George Washington did.

The second event concerns his step-father, a man by the name of Lucas, who was a partner in a business with a man named Whittington. The book-keeper was a man named Glauser a pal of Whittington. For quite a period of time Lucas would go to the bank to draw the payroll which of course he had to sign for. Later Lucas was stricken with Small-pox. At this time my father asked his mother if there was a Will-she replied yes. The only thing that Lucas had signed was an agreement between the partners that if one died the value of the business would be determined by the surviving partner and the book-keeper. Incidentally, Whittington was a big member in the church to which my father's mother belonged. There was a court case and my father retained John Weaver, a former Mayor of Phila. as a lawyer. By making it appear that the money Lucas drew for payroll went to him personally and the value that Whittington and Glauser put on the business my father's mother received nothing more than a gold headed cane. This is all that remained out (of) a share that my father thought was worth $30,000.

About 80 years later my father saw a death notice that Whittington had died. He went to the viewing because he wanted to make sure that the "S of B" was dead.

The year of 1887 was a very eventful year for the Wright family. My father read in a Phila paper that a house was on sale in Riverton, N.J. on the river bank, the area he admired when going up river by steam boat. The very same day he went to Riverton and bought the property on the river bank. This property, known as 305 Bank Ave was to be the home of the Wright family for the next 45 years. One of the outstanding events of this period was the birth of their first son, Walter Wright, born Sept. 1st 1887. Very few people, as he grew older, knew his first name, everyone called him "Sonny" Wright. He was an athlete of great ability. This ability was best manifested in swimming, foot-ball, Ice skating, and gunning. I believe he was outstanding in these events because he was very self-conscious about his height, he only stood about 5 ft 3 in. He had a determination to prove that a small man could do everything that a large man could do, and some times even better. Two of the sports he proved himself outstanding were football and ice skating. He played with the Riverton football team for 16 years, and managed the team for about 5 years after that. There is one observation that my brother made that I would like to touch on. When he was about thirteen, or year 1900, he told me that he could see bottom in 17 feet of water in the Delaware River. Today one would be lucky to see bottom in 6 in. of water. Another thing I appreciated was the advice and instructions in the use of a shotgun and hunting a sport I enjoyed so much in my life-time. As I grew older he made available to me the use of a 16 ft. sailboat, a gunning skiff, and a ice boat all of which brought me a lot of pleasure.

Shortly after the family had moved to Riverton the Republican Party made him Republican Challenger. Prior to this the Democrats would register the men who came from Phila. to pick berries in their party. My father had the good fortune to have two men beside him as he stood on the rostrum before the meeting. He was not braced for the reaction when he challenged the berry pickers known as the "Gravel Gang" on residence. They pulled knives and shouted cut the heart out of the S of B. My father told me that "Coop" Thomson who was one of the men and the second man, a big negro saved his life. As unpleasant as this affair was it had a favorable ending, it spelled the finish of the "Gravel Gang".

About 20 years after this event there occurred a strange coincidence. The same "Coop" Thomson that saved my father's life, saved my life. He pulled me out of the Delaware river when I was about 4 years old. I might add here that "Coop" was a very unusual man. He absolutely had no fear of either man or beast. He also was a famous foot ball player, having played full-back on "Connie Mack's" team and Riverton's team for many years. "Coop" was also quite a drinker. On occasions he would wrap an eight foot pine snake around his body, under his shirt. He then would go in a saloon in West Palmyra when it was crow(d)ed, mostly with negro's and then pull the snake out. It goes without saying the customers would leave, and "Coop" would finish up all their drinks. His demise came in a fitting way for "Coop". He was trying to retrieve a whiskey bottle in the street when he was run over by a truck.

The Wright family was welcomed to Riverton in another strange way, that was the famous blizzard of March 1888. In some areas the drifts were 30 ft high. There was no transportation following the storm, so my father walked from Riverton to Phila. to get to work. He did acknowledge that warm weather set in immediately after the storm and unfavorable conditions were soon ended.

Around this period a Rivertonian by the name of Davis had witnessed the Great Chicago Fire. When he returned home he immediately started a movement for a Fire Co. to prevent a tragic fire in Riverton. My father was one of the Charter members of the Riverton Fire Co. and my brother was president of the Co. for years. As for myself, I've been a member for over 50 years, so I would judge the Wright family contributed something to the Co.

I believe it was in the early 1890's that my father sold his interest in the Gilding Co to his partner Ayrs. He then spent his time developing the Alco Vapor engine. It, I believe, was similar to the steam engine except it used naptha for fuel and used naptha in place of water in the boiler. His partner in this enterprise was John Showell a family who lived several doors away on the River Bank. Their backer in this program was Commodore E C Benedict a man of considerable wealth. It was around this period that Otto came out with the gasolene engine. Benedict was putting up $10,000 for further research on the Naptha engine, my father asked Showell to ask Benedict if he could use the money for research on the gasoline engine. Showell and Benedict had a meeting and decided that the gas engine would never be a success. My father said afterwards he never knew two men who could be so far wrong. Another unusual event in connection with the Alco Vapor engine was that my father had one of his engines installed in President Cleveland's Yacht. It was his duty to be in charge of the service and repair of the engine. This brought him into the presence of the President on many occasions. Although they differed politically my father said he found the President very likable and agreeable but he added the president's wife and daughter were snobs.

When my father was connected with the Gilding Co the gold leaf they used came from Scotland. He tried on many occasions to get them to increase the length of the leaf. They refused and would only use the mold their grand gathers had used. He later developed the gold Roll and had it patented. What is very strange is (that) his was one of (4 words unclear) Gold that the Patent office had on file. He sold the patent to the Pullman Co for $10,000. They used the gold leaf for designs on the sides of railroad pullman cars in those days. Although the amount seems small today it was a considerable sum in the 1890's.

It was around this period that two tragedies were narrowly averted. The first concerns a Mr. Frishmuth, a resident who lived on the River Bank. He was a wealthy tobacco grower who also had a big plantation in the south. He was an avid gunner and had valuable bird dogs. One of his bird dogs was poisoned and my father knew the party who had committed that act. He also knew that if he told Frishmuth who the guilty party was Frishmuth would load his shot-gun and kill the man. There was a different approach to settling these kinds of matters in those days compared to what happens to-day.

The second event concerned my sister Elsie who was around ten years of age. A man by the name of Slocum who was quite a celebrity because he had sailed around the world in a small boat was visiting Riverton with his boat tied up at the Riverton wharf. One afternoon my sister visited the boat and Slocum attempted to molest her. When father returned from work in Phila. he was advised of what had happened. By very good luck Slocum had gone to Phila late that afternoon and was supposed to return on the last train from Phila. My father loaded a revolver and laid in wait for him. Fortunately some one who knew what my father was up to got in touch with Slocum, told him the circumstances, and not to take the last train home. These events had a strange relationship in the first event my father saved a life, in the second event some body saved him from murdering a man.

While attending a party at the Showells some body there had a tip on Illinois Central Railroad. As a group they all bought shares. My father agreed to take 100 shares. (I) think the price at that point was about 17 dollars a share. A few months went by and the price of the stock dropped to about 6.00 share. My father being reasonably wealthy at this point locked his shares in a safe and made up his mind to forget them. Unfortunately for my father, a down and out broker knew my father had these 100 shares, and hounded him to sell them and put the money in some thing good. More to get rid of this pest he sold the shares. Believe it or not within one year this stock was selling for $1500.00 a share. Another man with a 200 share certificate went out of his mind with scarlet fever. As the stock went up his family kept looking for his stock certificate. They ripped the house apart as the value increased and were lucky to find it when the stock was at its peak, proving that an idiot can make a killing in the stock market.

In my opinion the one thing that had the greatest impact on my father's life and the whole Wright family was the creation and success of the Standard Index Card Co. The existence of the Co. covered a substantial period of about 65 years all in the same location, the 3rd floor of the five story Rittenhouse Building at 7th and Arch Sts. Phila. The exact time of its origin I am not sure of, but it was close to the turn of the century, namely 1900.

I feel ashamed at this point of the story because these are the first lines I have written in over two weeks. I think I was stalled because I was in doubt about what to write about the Standard Index Card Co. and its effect on the Wright family. The development and success of the business can be traced directly to the genius and out standing ability of Chas A Wright. who invented, designed and machined almost half the machinery used to conduct the business. His main contribution being the Tobbing line, plain tabs, metal tabs and celluloid tabs, creating all the machinery necessary to mount these tabs. This Co. gave life time employment to five members of the Wright family, namely my uncle Bill Roland, Chas A Wright, my brother Walter, my brother in Law Robert Knight and to me (Arthur R Wright.) Shorter employment was had by Giles Knight, Charles Knight, Betty Showell, Joe Roland and there were about ten other workers who put in over 40 years of employment.

The Tacony and Palmyra Ferry was put in operation in the early 1920's with C.A.W. the first president in which capacity he remained until the Ferry ceased operation in 192(6). At this point I have a strong desire to write about the Ferry and the Bridge but my vision is very poor so mistakes may creep in. There were about four outstanding events that I remember about the Ferry. The first was my father's effort to increase the capacity of two of the ferry boats to carry more cars. He did this by overhauling both boats by removing the passenger cabins and creating more room for cars. He also devised a plan of pre-selling tickets to cars lined up to cross the ferry, thereby eliminating the time lost by each car stopping at the toll booth to pay fare.

After several years the ferry ran short of funds. My father tried to get a loan from R. M. Hollingshead who wanted a mortgage and conditions surrounding the mortgage were such that my father thought that Hollingshead was aiming to gain control of the ferry. So he said there will be no mortgage. This caused a rift in their friendship and later led to a vicious proxy battle for control of the ferry. The battle was won by C.A.W. who remained president. At this stage C.A.W. tried to start a Bus line from Riverside to Bridge St. station of the Frankford elevated. After being turned down by several Bus Companys a local man, George Steedle, took my father up on the deal. The Bus line proved very successful and eventually brought in $25,000 a year without the ferry investing $1.00. My father with the strong belief that a bridge would superceed the ferry and the New Jersey terminal would be at Eight mile point exactly opposite Levick St. the Pa. terminal put a resolution before the 23 member Ferry Co. board of directors recommending that the ferry buy enough ground and start to build a slip at this point, their by ( ) the ground, and a bridge would have to buy out the whole ferry boats and all. The result of the vote plainly showed the apathy that attended a bridge at this time, 23 to 0 against the resolution.

The strong vision of a bridge at this point never waivered in my fathers mind. I think it was their attitude that earned him the Title of the "Father of the Bridge). Although he was disappointed when he tried to interest RMHollingshead and the DuPonts in the bridge, he still keep trying. The start of the bridge began in an unusual way or manner. My father had written an open letter extolling a bridge at this location. Unknown to my father, E.G.Borer a stock-broker turned the letter over to Myesli, Masters & Chase the builders and engineers of the Ben Franklin bridge in Phila. They had reported back that it was the best location for a bridge anywhere from Phila to New York. It was this development surrou( ) by the letter that was the true start of the Tacony & Palmyra Bridge. Borer stopped in and asked my father "when do we get started?" There were three original promoters C.A.W., Borer and Sam Daniels (my father's friend). They had to divide between them the complete issue of Class A stock, 3000 shares each at 12½¢ per share and they had the privilege of subscribing to 1/3 of all other issues. Shortly after organizing Sam Daniels died and senator Stites of Pa bought his shares. At the very first board meeting, I am proud to say, my father was elected as the first president of the Tacony Palmyra Bridge. At this point my father greatly helped the Ferry Co stockholders by insisting that the $50,000 that the bridge owed the Ferry for the purchase of the Pa terminal at Levick St. be paid in par value Bridge stock at $12.50 per share. In a very short time the value of the bridge stock increased thereby greatly increasing the value of the Ferry stock.

I think it was in the 1930s when the great depression had started or was underway, that the three promoters of the bridge each sold 500 shares apiece to the Fidelity Bank of Phila at $75 per share (y times par). In one Sense I think this result is remarkable. Here was Tacony & Palmyra Bridge stock at 6 times par while the stocks on the N.Y. stock exchange were at bottom.

A little prior to all this excitement a tragic event happened in our family. My father's wife for almost 50 years passed away in 1928, a very devoted mother to seven children and very backbone to our family. She had devoted here whole life to the Wright family in a most valuable way to our family. I only bring this up at this point because my father married again about one year later and took a trip to Europe. He had as president of the old Ferry been engaged in a bitter battle with the Bridge board about certain rights of the Ferry that were being denied by the Bridge board. Due to these differences he was dropped as President of the Bridge while he was abroad, they forced my brother off as director also. To further prove their kindness they revoked both my father's pass along with my brother's pass.

The most dramatic event in the Bridge's history to this point 1948 occurred in this year. In the Bridge charter there was a provision that after 20 years the bridge was to revert to the state of NJ and Pa. at a price determined by the cost less depreciation without any mention of earning capacity. this would put a price of about ½ par value on the stock or about $6.00 per share. This is where Cliff Powell stepped in (1948) He sponsored a bill that would permit Bur. Co. to purchase a small privately owned bridge somewhere in the southern part of Bur. Co. The bill finally passed a was signed by the acting Governor of N.J. (not Governor Driscoll who was away at the time). This made it possible for Cliff Powell to buy both bridges, Tac & Palmyra and Bur Bristol Bridges before the dead line set in 1949 when the Tac & Palmyra bridge was to pass into the hands of the states of NJ and Pa. Cliff Powell sold both bridges to Bu County for a total of $12,000,000. which netted the stock holders of the Tac & Pal bridge $88.00 per share. As big as the price was it was one of the best deals that Bur. County ever made. In the space of just a few years Bur. Co. paid off the Bonds that had paid for the Bridge from their revenue. I feel sure that if my father had been alive at this time or period he would have approved of Cliff Powells efforts. Incidently this sale of the bridge from Cliff Powell to Bur. Co. was at a rate of $156.00 per share for the Tac. & Palmyra Bridge stock (about 12 times par).

I should add here that at the beginning of the bridge our father presented each of his five surviving children with a hundred shares of Class A Bridge stock. I believe I was the only one who cashed in most of my gift when the stock was at its peak namely $88.00 per share. I still had 60 shares left when Cliff Powell pulled off his great deal. This of course was 19 years after the opening of the bridge.

At this point I'll try to take the bull by the horns and record the family history in the 20th century. The early part of the 1900's was conspicuous ("conspicus") by my arrival, 1904. All my sisters and brother were born in the 1800's. Another thing odd, I think, was my birth coinsided in the development of the airoplane by the Wright brothers, Orvill & Wilbur, at Kitty Hawk and also the early development of the automobile. One of the reasons I mention the automobile was that my father picked up Dr. Marcy to bring him to the house for my birth. The car he owned at the time was a Searchmont. It had a two cylinder engine and a top speed of 15 miles per hr.

In a few years following my arrival my two older sisters were married. Gertrude was the first and she married Robert Knight. My sister Lee was next and married Rex Showell. In 1908 the first grandson was born...the same being Giles Knight. A few years later-----Dewees Showell was born. Following the first born in each family Gertrude had six more and Lee had five more children all in the teens of 1900 or at the (beginning) of the roaring 20s. The youngest sister Elsie married Tom Mooney Sr. shortly after the close of World War #1 and her first child was Tom Mooney Jr. who had a very remarkable career and Charles Mooney who was born a couple of years later.

In writing about Tom Mooney I doubt I can do justice to all of his accomplishments, but I'll try. The first big event in his life was joining or enlisting in the Marine Corps..just after Pearl Harbor. Shortly after his boot-camp training he starting training as a fighter-pilot and what a success he made of it. I think he was greatly motivated by a tragic event that happened early in the war. His cousin and friend Bobby Knight was stationed in the Phillipines when the war broke out, he survived Bataan & Corrigetor and also the Death-March but died in a Jap prison camp 6 mon later. It is my belief that Tom saw to it that a lot of Japs suffered for this event. I might add at this point that when he shipped out a wealthy Californian gave a silver dollar to the Marines when they shipped out, Tom gave me this dollar which I still have. These were supposed to be good luck pieces and it sure worked for him; He survived four wars and thousands of hours of combat in his 26 years in the Marine Corps as a fighter-pilot. He told me that shortly after they landed on Leyte they caught the Japs trying to evade (invade???) the Island. Tom was flying a Corsair with 50 cal. machine guns, he said the bullets would knock a Jap 10 or 12 ft out of the boat after he was hit.

"This account of the life of Charles A. Wright was written by Arthur Roland Wright born 1904 died 1984, he married Jeanne Wright. They had one daughter Jackie. She is married to Richard Nisula and has two daughters, Lauren and Meghan. They live in Medford, NJ.

He spoke at the 50th Anniversary of the Palmyra Tacony Bridge. In his speech he noted "the Bridge was in better shape than he" (he had a leg amputated).

Arthur R. Wright was my mother's brother. My mother was Lenore Wright Showell.
(signed) Lenore Showell Probsting, September 30, 1990."


(last page, in hand of author of article:)

Tacony Palmyra Bridge

Opened August 1929

Investors: C A Wright, Sam Daniels, F.G. Borer, Senator Stites of Pennsylvania
Estimated cost: $5,000,000
Actual cost: $4,000,000


Credit: typed Oct. 4 1990 by bbh from Xeroxed copy from Lenore ("Sister") Probsting. Copied as written with these exceptions: a few words corrected in spelling, i.e. "tuburculois":tuberculosis; a few commas or semicolons were added where they helped clarify and made reading easier; a few words or letters in a word could not be read, and are indicated by ( ). However, on last few pages a few phrases were enclosed in ( ) by the author himself.
An account of the incident re. a little girl and Slocum is written up in a newspaper of the period, and Slocum was cleared of any such conduct. bbhahle

Notes on Wright and Showell families and related subjects from era newspapers

Blizzard of '88...was over Sunday and Monday preceding 17th of March (date of paper) all traffic ceased...mules soon exhausted trying to pull wedges used to clear streets to make paths to trains, and had to give up...drifts up to 15 ft high...vessels in river grounded.

13 Aug. 1896: One of the best hearted men in Riverton is Charles A. Wright who enjoys nothing better than taking a party of friends out in his steam launch. Mt Holly Herald.

19 Oct. 1895: The Knight property has been leased by John J. Reese (which "Knight property" not specified...bbh)

1900: ..Charles A. Wright elected treasurer of Riverton Fire Co.

July 1900: ..W D Roland saved the 20-yr-old son of a Phila banker from drowning in the Delaware River...

March 1900: ..David Wright was run over by a buggy at Broad/Chestnut sts. in Phila. and treated at Hahnemann hospital...his throat was injured...

July 1900: ..Edw. B. Showell was one of the managers of the Annual dance at the Lyceum...

1900: (reprinted in 1961 Palmyra News) ...a storm of protest by residents of Bank Ave. over a proposed change in the course of the road beginning at W L J(ones?) to J B M Showell's property by closing the present road and making a new one between the wall and a row of trees...

Aug. 1904: ..Miss Lenore Wright and JBH Deacon, Riverton, and Robert Knight of Phila. swam across the river from Keystone Yacht Club, Pa. to Riverton wharf--1 mile at that point...believe it is the first time done by a "female swimmer" ...Mt Holly Herald

April 1907: ..D H Wright told of his experience at a recent congress to a large group at Westfield meeting house on Sunday...(no further info in item..bh)

March 1907: ..Miss Ellen Showell was given a party by her parents on Saturday evening..

April 1907: ..Charles Showell, a cadet at Va. Military Inst., home for the holidays.. (also Arthur Hall...)

1908: .. the Tacony-Palmyra ferry is still to come...

Feb. 1910: ..Rex Showell and his bride are home from their wedding trip...

March 1913: ..David Henry Wright, Phila. lawyer, advises building of bridges across the (Delaware) river at Camden and Burlington...he proposed this in a letter to Sec. of War Garrison and invited signatures, calling attention to the need for better interstate facilities...

1914: (Palmyra Record) ..David H. Wright proposed a free bridge, to cost $23,000,000 to connect Pa. and NJ, in Washington, and was speaking "everywhere possible" to gain support for it. Various clubs voted to support it; Riverton's Borough council voted support in Feb. 1914 of "a bridge or a tube"...

Feb. 1916: ..Efforts being made by Charles A. Wright and several others to secure money to purchase a hydroplane...if successful, he will seek a free government instructor. "Looks like preparedness." Mt H Herald..

Jan. 1917: ..Mrs. Edw. Showell and dtr. Gertrude who left last week on a two month trip to California may go on to Hawaii before returning home

Nov. 1919: ..Mr/Mrs. C.A.Wright announced the engagement of their daughter Elsie Tya(..) to Tom Gleason Mooney of Troy, N.Y.

Nov. 1919: ..C A Wright has purchased the Wolcott property at the corner of Broad/Howard Sts..rumors on what will be done with it (abound..)..some say it is to be a large office and insurance structure to be erected on the corner and a large garage in the rear...
(Williams-Wright bld erected...Moccia apts today...)

Tacony-Palmyra Bridge...etc...

(Ferry...)

Trolley line in Riverton, to Riverside, in 1901; extended to Palmyra, then Camden... ended 1934 when buses replaced them...

4 Nov. 1920: "We're going to see a ferry across the Delaware to Tacony. If we can get a landing we'll bring it to Palmyra; if not, we'll take it to Riverton--but there is going to be a ferry. That much is settled." ..this was the message brought to the people of Palmyra by George T. Sale, promotor of the Tacony-Palmyra or Riverton ferry Co. at a meeting held in the high school auditorium last Tuesday evening...

4 Dec. 1920: ..deal by the Tacony Ferry Co. to purchase ground from the Riverton-Palmyra Water Co..200 ft frontage east of the foot of Cinnaminson Ave. and 500 ft riparian rights from the same point...in spite of protests (from owner of Toy-Morgan property there)...Company is going ahead with its plans, selling stock...will begin work on the Tacony side at Lardner's point near Disten Saw Works...the Palmyra site is more difficult because of the flats, requiring dredging and filling in.

Dec. 1920: ..residents are demanding a change of name, to Palmyra-Tacony Ferry Co. ..some backers refused to purchase stock until it was done.

Jan. 1921: Stockholders approved the change (in name). The Ferry Co. originally planned for the landing to be in Riverton, but it was opposed by residents, so a site was obtained in Palmyra. (They) think the ferry can be in operation this year...

Note: The Ferry opened May 6, 1922; it ended in 1929 when the TPB opened.

1924: Ad for Philburco Coach Co...George D. Steedle, proprietor:
57 boats and 35 buses each way every day to and from Riverside-Riverton-Palmyra...to any point in Philadelphia, via Tacony-Palmyra Ferry and the Frankford el...Fare from Riverton, 15¢, including ferry
52 minutes from Riverton to Broad/Market Sts, Philadelphia.

1925: The Tacony Palmyra Ferry Co. purchased the Allen Hubbs farm, approx. 90 acrea, from Palmyra Realty Co, for $125,000; the realty co. had purchased the farm from the City of Camden in 1924 for $25,000. The site, known as 8-mile point, is to be the Palmyra terminus for the ferry.
(note: although article said terminus for ferry, we know that it was planned as terminus for the yet-to-be realized bridge.bbh)

Aug. 1926: Ferry Co. commissioned a feasibility study re a bridge.

Jan. 7, 1927: report was that it was feasible and financially sound.

March 1927...E B Showell is home from a trip to Costa Rica...

1928...Rex Showell is election officer in Riverton Borough...)

1928...James W. Wright, 209 Linden Ave..pres. of McCatchen Bros & Q( ) industries, Phila...died...sons Jon D. and James R...

Sept 8 1927 (Palmyra News) ..The projectors of a Tacony-Palmyra bridge, C A Wright, pres., Edw. W. G. Borer, treas., and Grover C. Richman (succeeding the late Samuel S. Daniels) sec., announced that they have received authorization from the Sec. of War which removes the last barrier to construction of the bridge, and it is expected that contracts will now be awarded.

Feb. 23, 1928..Boro engineer Vasbury at a meeting of Palmyra Borough Council called attention to the fact that Palmyra-Tacony & Ferry Co plans to fill in certain sections of the marshy ( ) of the Hubbs farm and urges the borough to bake steps to protect their interests, in as much as sewer outlet is at this point the silt will be ( ) from the weirs used in the filling operation.
(note: parts of the paper with this item are torn so some words are missing...bbh)

March 29 1928..the 1st of 3 caissons for the Tacony Palmyra bridge were launched last Monday from the yard of Dravo Construction Co., Wilmington Del...steel ( ) measure 26'6" by 72' and is approximately 30 ft high...Immediately following launching the caisson was taken in tow by a tug and is being towed to the Tacony side of the Delaware...

Nov 15, 1928..Walter C. Wright, pres. of Riverton Fire Co...gave plans to Council to erect a new firehouse and municipal bld..costing $40,000...a committee was appointed to confer on it...mixed feelings re renting vs boro bld own bld...

14 August 1929: Tacony Palmyra Bridge opened to traffic...pouring rain... Bridge had been built in less than 2 years, at a cost of 4-million (subsequent reports sometimes say 5-million)...planned to carry 35,000 cars (ferry had carried 4600 cars over 1 week-end in 1928)...tape cut by Ralph Madjeski, who headed the bridge architects..followed by parade of marchers and cars...1st toll collected at 12:01 a.m. Aug 15, was 35¢. The opening (section) is 200 ft long...

The Ferry closed down the same day. of the 42 employees of the ferry, 30 became toll takers, guards, or maintenance workers on the bridge; 12 pilots and engineers transferred to the Chester-Bridgeport ferries...

1929...(Palmyra...others..) opposed any move by the State Highway Dept to elevate the tracks of the PRR for an overpass over the proposed state highway to the Tacony Palmyra Bridge...(would make...) a "Chinese Wall" in West Palmyra...a delegation of public spirited citizens journeyed to Trenton to attend the hearing...following lengthy discussions, no statement was made as to whether the railroad would go over the highway, or the highway over the railroad.
(note: the road, before the bridge, was "the S-41" and dead-ended at the water; now it is route 73, and the rr goes over the rd..)

1929...The building of Temple blvd with the resultant improvement of a large section of Palmyra was virtually assured when all questions asked by a committee from the T-P Ferry Co. (rec'd) answers to the satisfaction of all around at a meeting of Palmyra Borough Council Tues night...the project will be financed in part by State aid and cost approximately $30,000 which will include grading and laying a 20 ft strip of concrete in the center of the proposed 60 ft wide roadway.

Nov. 1930...Taxpayers of Palmyra won an important case before the Supreme Court of Taxation when the (Board?) sustained the Burlington Co. Tax Board in its decision to uphold Assessor Hartley's $550,000 assessment against the TPB. Taxes amount to more than $20,000 were at stake, 1½ year of which had been held back due to the controversy.

The Bridge Commission took control of the bridge in 1948.
Tolls:
orig: 35¢
Aug. 1955, reduced to 5¢
1975, 10¢
March 1982, 25¢
1990: 50¢

1957 local paper has art. Giles Knight, 210 Cinn. St. winning radio contest and trip to Paris

1979 Celebrated 50th anniversary of Bridge: special paper published has picture of Charles A. Wright on front page

article recalled opening ceremonies, with Gov. Morgan Larson, of NJ, Lt. Gov. Arthur James, Pa., Phila Mayor Harry Mackey and Palmyra Mayor George Wimer there, parades, fire boats in water, and fireworks topping off the day.

one article said that Charles A. Wright found impetus to push for the TPB when the (now Ben Franklin) Camden-Phila bridge was built

Original Officers & Directors of Tacony Palmyra Bridge

President: Charles A. Wright
Vice President: Fletcher Stites, Phila.
Secretary: Owen Richman, Camden
Treasurer: Edw. W. G. Borer, Riverton
Directors: Walter C. Wright, Kenneth May (Phila), Leo Nessen (Phila), Henry J. Sherman (Moorestown), Frederick P Hemphill (Riverton), B. Herbert Cooper (Moorestown), and N Perry Edwards, (Phila).

Some Wright Notes

305 Bank Avenue

Built 1851 for founder Prof. Charles D. Cleveland; arch, Samuel Sloan Sold to Roach; his widow sold to D. Leeds Miller; in 1887 Miller's widow sold to Charles A. Wright (R-11, p451 etc.) (later sold to Mechling, whose wife had house moved to CHL/Penn St. and used foundation for sunken gardens; now a part of Baptist Home complex, and orig. bld remains at Penn St site)

301 Bank Avenue

House built by Edward Lippincott, part of orig. Jos. Lippincott farm, on which Riverton was established; this section deeded to Asa, son of Joseph, who in 1868 deeded part to his son Ezra and this section and remainder of farm (plantation) to his son Edward, via Riverton Improvement Co. Near 1900 purch by John B.M. Showell; 1923 to Richard Dickson; 1935 to Mechling, who had bld razed. Land now part of Bap. Home.

105 Bank Avenue

In 1895 Howard Thomas sold land to Gertrude Showell (316 p. 218 etc); Home there since razed and area divided into several properties. In 1926 Gertrude Showell, widow of Edward, was living at 405 Bank Ave.(apt)

1895 NJ census


Address Name Age
305 Bank Avenue Charles A. Wright 20-60
Lizzie M (wife) 20-60
Gertie 5-20
Lenore 5-20
Walter C under 5
Marie under 5
Elsie under 5
(several servants)
301 Bank Ave John B M Showell 20-60
Marion W 20-60
Edward P 5-20
Ellen M 5-20
Marion M under 5
Brennan, Louis A, Katie (servants)
205 Bank Ave Edward B. Showell
Gertrude B
George R
Edw B jr
Charles B
(3 servants)

1900 Federal Census


Address Name Date of Birth Age Place of Birth Years Married Occupation
105 Bank Ave Edw. B. Showell March 1863 Pa 13 yrs groceryman
Gertrude A March 1863 Maine
George R 12 NJ
Edw. B. jr 11 NJ
Charles B 8 NJ
Gertrude A 4 NJ
John M 2 NJ
Sara Bachelor, m-in-l Apr 1833 Maine ? wd
1910 Census: Edw. occ: wholesale groceries; George not enum; also in household are Mary Myers, cousin, age 40, single; and 3 servants and a nurse
301 Bank Ave John B M Showell Apr 1859 19 yrs Launch blds
Marion W Feb. 1860 wf
Edward E Dec. 1881
Ellen M Mar 1889
Anerian May 1894
Cornelius Feb. 1896
gardener, nurse, and servants
1910 Census: occ, travelling salesman for groceries; "Anerian" is listed as Marion, and Cornelius as C. Benedict, dtr.; also in household are S. Wyman, wd. mother, age 78; and Foster, ( ?), aunt, age 73
305 Bank Ave Charles A. Wright Feb. 1860 Pa 20yrs mfr of cards
Mary E Apr 1860
Gertrude Sept 1879
Lenore June 1885
Walter Sept 1887
Mary E July 1892
Elsie T June 1896
William Roland, br in l 1879 Pa single
Katie Roland, sis in l 1871 Pa single
1910 Census: Charles and Mary, same; children as follows:
Knight, Gertrude, dtr 29
Knight, Robert, s-in-l 25
Knight, Giles infant
Wright, Edith 1880
Wright, Walter 22
Wright, Elsie 15
Wright, Arthur 5
(3 servants)

1905 NJ census


Address Name Occupation
305 Bank Ave Chas Wright mfr index cards
301 Bank Ave John Showell marine engineer co
201 Linden Ave Richard Hollingshed mfr polish

(Census records often have strange spellings and dates/ages can vary)

1926 Directory


Last Name First Name Occupation Address
Showell Dewees student res. 209 Howard St
George R (Lenore) emp. Phila res. 209 Howard
Gertrude wd of Edward 405 Bank Ave
Lenore student res. 209 Howard
Wright Arthur emp. Phila 305 Bank
Charles A (Mary) pres Palmyra-Tacony Ferry 305 Bank
H. Winfield (Florence) act Phila 200 Linden
Hobart (Mary F) clk PRR Florence res. 715 Main St
John E (Elizabeth) emp PRR 405 Main St
Walter emp. Phila 305 Bank Ave

Note: In the xeroxed copy the typed lines for Winfield, Hobart and John were crossed out.

Additional Notes

In 1910 Chas A Wright had blt (wedding gifts) for 2 dtrs: 209 Howard, for Lenore/Geo R Showell and 211 for Elsie (Robert Knight); (Their dtr Edith m. Phillip Flack)

Charles A Wright died October, 1927

Note: In the xeroxed copy "1927" was crossed out and written next to it was the following note:
1944, 84 yrs, Hit by truck in Phila

Lenore Wright Showell died 1966 (age 81 yrs). Her children: Dewees, Lenore (Probsting, G.); Elizabeth (Lore); Ellen (Layton); Elsie (Waters, A.); Anna (Veithimer).

Note: In the xeroxed copy next to "Anna (Veithimer)" was the following note:
m Thos. Veitenheimer

The Tacony Palmyra Ferry opened for business May 1, 1922, with 2 ferryboats: The Palmyra, and the Jacksonville, a double-decker that had been built in 1913 and carried 36 vehicles plus 500 passengers on the upper deck. The Ferry ended 7 years later, when the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge opened.

(bbh 1990)

Re: Slocum Incident

June, 1981, Giles Knight showed bbh a copy of a page made from a book about a (Joseph?) Slocum, who had built a yacht and sailed around the world in it, gave lectures at various places, etc. The article said that the 1 June, 1906 edition of the New Era of Riverton and Palmyra had an article about a little girl in Riverton who was said to have been frightened by an attempted rape aboard his boat here; the boat was impounded, Slocum was jailed and held on $1000 bail, etc. Names of officer Quigley, Coddington, and another were mentioned.

Giles said he asked Gardner Crowell about it and was told the child was Elsie Knight, Giles' aunt, after which Giles visited Art Knight and got the story. Apparently Elsie had gone on board to look around, Slocum was apparently not aware of her presence and "relieved himself" over the side of the yacht, and the exposure frightened Elsie, who ran home...Giles was not clear about next events, but said apparently Slocum had gone on to Philadelphia, and meanwhile the child's father became incensed and went off to find Slocum with a shotgun; Elsie was checked out by Dr. Mills and found to be quite all right, only nervous and upset by the experience...the article Giles had mentioned the examination, according to the book...when Slocum returned home he missed the regular Riverton stop and rode past, to Dreer's stop, and had to walk back from there. As Giles tells it, his grandfather was greatly relieved to learn that that chance had saved him from shooting Slocum, who was innocent after all, and he (Wright) wanted to pay his bail...whatever happened, the whole thing was dropped.

Giles also said his grandfather never had guns around after that, and always told the family to be very careful around them, that they not make a mistake such as he almost made, in anger over something that proved to be a mistaken belief.

(possibly when we get recently filmed New Eras an issue may have the story...)

Newspaper Notes

13 August 1892..Mt Holly Herald...One of the best hearted men in Riverton is Charles A Wright, who enjoys nothing better than taking a party of friends out on his steam launch.

17 Oct 1895..the Wright property has been leased by John J Reese...

re. blizzard of '88...it was in March, over a Sunday and Monday preceding the 17th (date of publication of newspaper) and said mules trying to pull the wooden wedges used to clear streets were soon tired out and had to give up...all transportation stopped...several boats in the river were grounded...some of the drifts here were 15 ft high...

1957..Giles Knight, of 210 Cinnaminson St, won a radio contest and an all expense trip to Paris for his letter re New Year's Eve in Paris...

1900..Charles A Wright was elected treasurer of Riverton Fire Co...

July 1900..W D Roland saved a 20-yr old son of a Phila Banker from drowning in the Delaware...

Feb 1910..Rex Showell and his bride have returned home from their wedding trip...

April 1907 Chas. Showell, a cadet at Va. Military Inst., is home for the holidays...

Credit: typed Oct. 4 1990 by bbh from Xeroxed copy from Lenore ("Sister") Probsting.

75th Anniversary of the Bridge

August 14, 1929 - 2004

Historical Information About The Key People Who Were Instrumental In The Design And Building Of The Tacony-Palmyra Bridge

Charles A. Wright, Ralph Modjeski, Paul P. Cret

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania near Girard CDollege on February 29, 1860, Charles A. Wright would eventually state in 1929 when referring to the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge that "it was imperative that a bridge be built at this particular point, for it surely seems as though nature had decreed it so."

When Wright was only two years old, his father and brother died of tuberculosis. He was told that he would never live to be sixteen years old because doctors thought tuberculosis was hereditary. Wright only attended school until the sixth grade when he quit at the age of eleven.

Wright's first job was as a core maker in an iron foundry working 72 hours a week for the equivalent of five cents an hour. At the age of sixteen, he worked in a photographic card gilding and beveling business. While working at this company, Wright invented a machine that could replace the hand beveling of the cards with a mechanical method.

Wright's purpose in the world took a different path in 1876 when he sold guide books at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia that was heldto celebrate the one hundreth anniversary of the country's Declaration of Independence. Wright stated in 1929 that "the three of four months ending November 19, 1876 were the happiest months of my existence. I discovered the exhibits proved a most agreeable way to acquire a knowledge of the great things in the world at the time."

Wright married Mary Elizabeth Roland in 1880 and had seven children. In 1887, Wright bought a house at 305 Bank Avenue in Riverton, New Jersey. This was to be the home of the Wright family for the next forty-five years. While residing in Riverton, Wright was very active in politics and community affairs and in fact was a charter member of the Riverton Fire Company.

The establishment and subsequent success of the Standard Index Card Company located in the Rittenhouse Building in Philadelphia had a great impact on Wright and the entire Wright family for about sixty-five years.

In 1919, Wright established the Tacony-Palmyra Ferry Company that operated ferries at the same general location as the future bridge from 1922 to 1929. It was in the early 1900s when Wright recognized the need to transport people and farm products across this portion of the Delaware River. He had actually wanted to build the bridge first but due to a delay in assembling the necessary financing, it was decided to build and operate the ferry service until the bridge financing could be arranged.

On June 24, 1926, the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge Company was incorporated and the original incorporators were Wright, Samuel Daniels and Edward Borer. Its first president was Wright. The Bridge Company commissioned a Feasibility Study in August 1926 to consider the construction of a bridge across the Delaware River between Palmyra and Tacony that would in effect replace the existing Tacony-Palmyra ferry service between these same two cities.

The engineering firm of Modjeski, Masters & Chase prepared all of the studies and design plans and also provided on and off-site construction inspection. Construction of the bridge began on February 14, 1928 and the bridge was opened to traffic on August 14, 1929.

It can be stated with certainty that if it were not for Wright, the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge would not have been built. Wright was given the unofficial title of "Father of the Bridge" because of his unwavering vision for the bridge.

Charles A. Wright died in November 1944 when he was hit by a milk truck while crossing the street on his way to work at his Standard Index Card Company at 707 Arch St. in Philadelphia.

Credit: Burlington County Bridge Commission

Links

Links to web sites with information on the Tacony Palmyra Bridge

Burlington County Bridge Commission: History

Burlington County Bridge Commission: Photo Gallery

Historic County of Burlington, New Jersey

Tacony-Palmyra Bridge (PA 73-NJ 73), Historic Overview