South Jersey photographer brings history of Medford to life in new book
April 24, 2012By Kerry Brown, for NewsWorks
The area is so rich in history and I feel as if I just scratched the surface.
photographer Dennis McDonald
A South Jersey photographer's 18-month project of combing through photographs, postcard collections and historic images is now coming to life in a new book that offers a look at Medford, New Jersey.
"Medford" is the latest installment of the popular book series "Images of America" published by Acardia Publishing Company.
"This is something I've always wanted to do," author Dennis McDonald said.
McDonald, who is also a photographer for The Burlington County Times, spent the last year-and-a-half combing through the old photographs and postcards, even interviewing Medford residents as he pieced together the New Jersey township's history.
"Even though the photographs in the book aren't mine, it's exciting to see so many historic photographs of Medford contained in one place," he said.
McDonald says he was already familiar with Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series, which features other South Jersey townships, but believed there was enough of an interest for a book on his hometown. McDonald then set a goal for himself to find as many photos as possible to share his passion of Medford's history with others.
The book contains eight sections, each focusing on a particular facet of Medford life as it once was. McDonald hopes the book gives local readers a new perspective of the area and its place in New Jersey history, as they view images of familiar landmark homes and businesses looking very much the same as they did 100 years ago.
Among the many pictures, McDonald says one of the book's highlights includes a rare look at Dr. James Still, the son of runaway slaves. Known through folklore as the "Black Doctor of the Pines," Still cared for the sick with herbal lotions and tonics.
McDonald says the book also examines Medford's agricultural history, including a chapter that tells the story of the area's bustling economy when trucks full of tomatoes were made ready for delivery to the Campbell Soup Company. Other images reveal what life was like back in the early 1900s. An image of a contract dated May 1912, shows a local teacher earned $45 per month to teach third-grade at Cross Keys School. Elmer H. Carigan's South Medford Store sold coffee for 17 cents a pound, a package of flour for 25 cents or two ready-to-fry codfish cakes for 25 cents.
"The area is so rich in history, and I feel as if I just scratched the surface," he said.
McDonald even found his own personal connection to the book when he came across the history of local businessman and photographer William B. Cooper.
"He took many of the book's photos with a large format camera using glass plates," said McDonald. "As a fellow photographer, I am deeply indebted to him."
"Images of America" chronicles the history of small towns across the country.
McDonald is scheduled to sign copies of his book, "Medford" on Saturday, April 28, at Johnnson's Corner Farm Market from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.