(Look Back is an occasional series with content and images from the Atlantic County Historical Society.)
Probably, there are not too many residents of South Jersey and Hammonton that know the important role that Queen Victoria of England played in the economic growth of Hammonton.
Andrew J. Rider, who founded Rider College (today a university) in Trenton, wanted to be known as the salesman who brought the New Jersey cranberries into international prominence.
It was around 1889 that he bought his first cranberry patch, a small bog in Hammonton. Eventually he increased it to five hundred acres and then resigned as president of Rider College to devote all his time to cranberries.
At that time in agricultural circles, cranberries were not a popular food item and most growers had a difficult time selling their product. Rider prided himself as being a super salesman and in 1893 sailed for London to try and create an European market for the berries.
Rider soon discovered that for a new product to be accepted by the population it had to be first accepted by the royalty. Through this association with the prince of Wales, Rider was able to get the berries into Windsor Castle. Once Queen Victoria tasted them, liked them and approved them for distribution, the whole of London wanted them.
A year after Rider sailed back to America, England was importing five thousand barrels of New Jersey cranberries a year, and the rest is history. Most of us know Hammonton as the blueberry capital of the country. Now you know its role in establishing cranberries.
Founded in 1913, the Atlantic County Historical Society has been preserving historical materials in its library and museum since. Every week, Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it opens its doors to share these collections with anyone who is interested. The society building is at 907 Shore Road in Somers Point. More information is available at www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org and on Facebook, or by calling 609-927-5218.