1953 Photo Likely Shows the First Crossing Reenactment

February 26th, 2020 History,News and Events

Harry Guyer holds an enlarged version of the photo he took in 1953


The small, 2×2-inch black and white picture has been pressed between the pages of one of Harry Guyer’s photo albums for 67 years.

At first glance it looks like nothing special, but officials at Washington Crossing Historic Park are saying it may be one of the few – and possibly the only – photo that exists of the first modern-day Crossing reenactment, held back in 1953. The park itself has nothing in its archives from that day.

“As a kid I was given a camera and I always carried it with me,” says the 85-year-old Guyer, a lifelong resident of Hopewell Township, NJ. “It was a box camera. I’d buy a roll of 8 or 12 negatives, load them in, and then have them processed when I was done shooting.”

“When my sister decided to attend the first crossing reenactment I tagged along with my camera and snapped this photo. I was 18 years old, and I’m not even sure I knew what the crossing was. This is the only photo I have from that day.”



Reflecting the newness of the event, Guyer recalls the crowd being fairly small that day. He estimates 700 people lined the overgrown riverbank, a number that pales in comparison to the thousands who show up for today’s reenactments. Most of the spectators in the photo appear to be men, many in hats.

Also of note: the boat used in this first reenactment appears to be a rowboat, unlike the replica Durham boats used today.

According to Guyer the photo was taken from the Pennsylvania side of the river and the crossing took place south of the Washington Crossing Bridge. Today, the reenactment takes place north of the bridge.

“You can also see that it was a nice, calm day, and if I remember correctly, they were successful in crossing the river. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since, even though I live only five miles from the river,” admits Guyer.

Guyer has been posting his photo of the reenactment to his personal Facebook page every year for the past five or more years, in hopes that someone might see it and comment. When his daughter shared the photo to the Washington Crossing Historic Park Facebook page this year, it caught the attention of the park.

“I was so happy to have it recognized this year,” beams Guyer. “I think it’s a really fascinating photo, and I’m excited to share it with others.”