Today is National Cherry Day, and to celebrate this special day, we’re reflecting on the journey of Cherry Hill Programs, the leader in holiday and souvenir experiential photography. And you know what? We have A LOT to celebrate! We are proud of this company's heritage and accomplishments and are thrilled to share just how far Cherry Hill Programs has come from Day 1 to today. Join us on a quick stroll down memory lane, and you'll get a glimpse into the super neat history of photography too! But before we get to it – let's talk about cherries for a quick second, in honor of the holiday!
Did you know cherries date back to Ancient Roman times?! There are cherry trees in Japan that are thought to be almost 1000 years old. Cherries have been a part of history for a very long time and came to the United States in the early 1600s with early settlers, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that Cherry production began. The first official Cherry orchards were born in the early 1800s in Traverse City, Michigan. To this day, Michigan grows about 75% of the United States crop of tart cherries, which equates to about 250 million pounds – that’s a lot of Cherries!
There is so much to unpack here; it’s tough to know where to begin.
It all started in 1961 when New Jersey entrepreneur, Alan Weschler, opened his photo studio in the Cherry Hill Mall which also opened its doors the same year.
Cherry Hill Mall was so successful that people from as far as New York and Boston would drive in just to shop and explore. That could have been partly because it was the first enclosed shopping center in the Northeast region of the United States - that was air conditioned!
One day, Weschler's landlord, James Rouse, had the idea of taking photos of kids with Santa Clause at his mall locations. Weschler jumped at the opportunity to expand - and the rest is history!
MAGIC FUN FACT
Cherry Hill, New Jersey is just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Legendary Cherry Tree chopper, George Washington, crossed that river during the American Revolution on Christmas night in 1776. How cool would it be to cross that same river from Philadelphia to get your picture taken with one of our Real Bearded Santas for Christmas?
Photographic technology wouldn't come around until about 50 years after the American Revolution when Joseph Nicephore Niepce and William Fox Talbot started experimenting with the idea, but we'll get to that later. For now, let's look at Cherry Hill Program's vibrant past that led us to the magic of experiential photography today!
Cherry Hill Programs Timeline
Weschler and his photo company were off to the races so much so that by the 1970s, Cherry Hill Programs, then known as Cherry Hill Photo had become a national provider of seasonal photos and even added the Easter Bunny as a secondary character in the production, expanding operations to the spring season.
Instant color film was introduced by Polaroid in 1963, so while Cherry Hill Photo was expanding into Canada in the 80s, the company began to incorporate instant film polaroid technology into the business model. Only a decade later, Cherry Hill Photo had gone digital and acquired Western Photo Service from Western Staff Service in Walnut Creek, CA. By this time, Cherry Hill Photo was heading into the new Millennium with over 250 locations!
Alan Weschler sold Cherry Hill Photo in 2003 and went on to become quite the philanthropist. Alan and his wife, Laura, donated a whopping one million dollars to Elwyn, an internationally recognized nonprofit that offers support for special needs children and adults. Alan was also the president of the Raymond and Gertrude R. Saltzman Foundation, which serves as a resource for the New Jersey Jewish community. What an amazing man that provided the impetus for this ever-growing company and for his generous contributions to society!
After Weschler’s departure, Cherry Hill Photo, known as Cherry Hill Programs today, continued to keep the pace with advancing technology. By introducing price optimizing strategies in the 2000s like Shutterfly and Santa's Fast Pass, the most important people, our Guests, can enjoy an enhanced experience. Since Cherry Hill Photo's 50th anniversary in 2011, the magical photography company has enhanced its social media presence, POS systems that optimize venue operations and expanded digital download options included with each photo package. Follow @cherryhillprograms on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
In 2015, Cherry Hill Photo acquired Noerr Programs from Judy Noerr and Phillip Byrne, which took Cherry Hill Photo to 675 locations! In 2017, Cherry Hill Photo, while being mindful of Guests, clients, employees and partners, worked with Cohn Marketing to change the name to Cherry Hill Programs which created a new brand and identity. In 2018, Cherry Hill Programs acquired WorldWide Photography from Iconic Group in Florida which expanded venue operations exponentially – skyrocketing from 650 to 870 mall locations throughout North America.
Most recently, Cherry Hill Programs acquired Photogenic Inc. in 2019. Photogenic, a Chicago based company that specialized in taking souvenir photos at tourist attractions nationwide, is now part of the future of Cherry Hill Programs as the industry leader of experiential photography. Photogenic brought their historical mission to CHP and is now being wrapped into the development of this company’s identity. Photogenic’s mission is to deliver an enhanced Guest experience through a custom approach for hospitality and tourism venues across the United States.
Cherry Hill Programs’ timeline is full of rich history that shapes each decision that impacts the company’s trajectory. And that complete foundation lives and breathes because of photography. So let’s keep celebrating National Cherry Day by exploring the history of photography – what led to the reason Cherry Hill Programs was founded.
A Brief History of Photography
We can't think of anything more akin to alchemy than photography. In fact, one could argue that photography, as an industry, is the most enduring aspect of alchemy's legacy. What is alchemy you ask?
According to Merriam-Webster, alchemy is defined as “a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life.” But what does that have to do with photography?
Well, alchemists were concerned with activities like the transmutation of base metals into "noble" metals like gold and creating the Philosopher's Stone, also known as the Elixir of Life. Many of these alchemical experiments led directly to the art of photography. Photography is, in a way, like the Philosopher's Stone in that while the former preserves historic people, events and settings, the latter aims at immortalizing life itself. In the same way that alchemists seek the Holy Grail, photography pursues the perfect picture.
Photography's history, like alchemy's, is rooted in ancient times but begins with the "camera obscura." The camera obscura is a dark room with a small hole or lens in one side through which an image is projected onto a wall on the opposite side. Evidence of camera obscuras can be found in cave paintings as far back as 500BCE, but it wasn't until 1604 that astronomer and astrologer, Johannes Kepler, coined the term.
Modern photography came about during the mid-nineteenth century, but a much earlier discovery was necessary for its fruition: silver nitrate. Silver nitrate was discovered by the thirteenth century alchemist, Albertus Magnus. While Albertus was documenting the ability of nitric acid to separate gold and silver by dissolving the silver, he noted that the resulting solution of silver nitrate could blacken skin. Silver nitrate was even called lunar caustic because the alchemists associated silver with the moon. It was this inorganic compound that allowed WIlliam Henry Fox Talbot in 1835 to produce the oldest known photographic negative known to exist. One could take these negatives and produce positive prints from them.
Talbot's camera was remarkably simple. It was a camera obscura fitted with a lens from one of Talbot's microscopes. Inside the box was placed a piece of writing paper which had been first coated with a salt solution and then coated again with silver nitrate. The mixture created silver chloride which is sensitive to light. Expose the paper to light for a few hours and voila! You've got yourself lightning in a bottle!
One could argue that Joseph Nicephore Niepce's heliographic technique actually produced the first photograph a decade earlier in 1825, but the history of photography really develops with the Daguerreotype. Louis Daguerre was no doubt influenced by his fellows Niepce and Talbot. His invention first involved polishing a silver coated piece of copper and then treating this plate with fumed iodine.
Afterwards, this silver iodine plate is put into a camera obscura and exposed to light. After exposure, the plate is put into another box that contains mercury where it is heated and treated by the mercury fumes. Once removed from this second box, you have a magic alchemical picture worth a thousand words! This Daguerreotype was the first publicly accessible photographic process and was widely used in the 1840s and 1850s. Going on two centuries later, Cherry Hill Programs is carrying on the tradition and bringing the wonder of photography to you and your loved ones!