Worth a thousand words: Women trace Bordentown history through postcards in new book
BORDENTOWN CITY — Twenty-some years ago, Patti DeSantis started collecting postcards. Through the years, her collection grew as she combed eBay, flea markets and auctions for vintage postcards — each providing its own window and glimpse into local history.
“Wherever I see them for sale, if there’s a Bordentown one, I will buy them,” said DeSantis, 64, who was born and raised in the city and retired last year from the departing Ocean Spray.
Now some of those images are the subject of a new book, “Bordentown,” that she co-authored with her friend, Arlene Bice, 74. The 128-page book is part of Arcadia Publishing Co.’s popular Postcard History Series.
Bice, who has published four books with Arcadia, was approached last year by the company. She now lives in North Carolina, but found an ideal partner in DeSantis, who she said is as passionate about the city as she is.
“I’ve long been enamored with Bordentown,” said Bice, who owned a new and used bookshop on Farnsworth Avenue. “It’s the kind of town that gets under your skin and I put roots down there.”
For the better part of five months, the duo worked together to group the hundreds of postcards into categories and capture the history behind them in a few short words.
“In this one-square-mile town, there’s so much history,” DeSantis said. “It’s unbelievable.”
The postcards were easy to come by, Bice said. The bulk of them came from Sue and Sam Ardoin, whose relatives Holmes and Irene Pellett had a large collection, as well as from DeSantis and Suzanne Wheelock.
Bordentown, long a destination for visitors because of its private schools and history, had a market for postcards, Bice said, adding that all of the local drugstores and shops stocked them and many even printed their own.
“I was amazed by how many were available,” she said. “People just love that town and they’re not shy about paying money for anything that has to do with Bordentown history.”
Bordentown was settled in 1682 by Thomas Farnsworth. It soon became a major trading point, serving boats and stagecoaches traveling along the coast. During the Revolution, British forces occupied the town on three separate occasions and burned much of the town in retaliation, according to the Bordentown Historical Society, of which DeSantis and Bice are both members.
It was home to several famous residents including Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence; Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon and the former king of Spain; Thomas Paine, author of “Common Sense”; Clara Barton, who opened the first free public school, which still stands today; and Patience Wright, the first American female sculptor.
The book’s postcards and pictures offer readers a treasure trove of memories and facts. There are images of old houses including that of Bonaparte, Bordentown Beach, Bordentown Military Institute, Barton’s one-room schoolhouse, Divine Word seminary, churches, banks, fire stations and Old City Hall.
“I love the fact that these old postcards tell you the history of Bordentown,” DeSantis said, adding that she hopes that younger residents will read the book and learn to appreciate the history just as much as she has.
Copies of the book are available at Barnes & Noble and at the city’s annual Cranberry Festival Oct. 4 and 5.