Revolutionary Heritage: Elizabeth, New Jersey

When looking to imbibe our nation’s colonial and revolutionary heritage, most people might travel to Philadelphia, Boston, or Williamsburg, Virginia. Few people–very, very few people–would consider an afternoon journey to Elizabeth, New Jersey, an industrial city on the Newark Bay just outside of New York City. Continue reading

Valiant Ambition: Rethinking the American Revolution

During my early adulthood, I lived in Philadelphia and spent a majority of my leisure time visiting historic sites, cemeteries, and museums. I loved learning about colonial and early America. I loved living in a place where I could see, hear, and even touch history.

Although I no longer call Philadelphia home, I still enjoy histories on early America and biographies of our founding fathers. Recently, I read Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick. Continue reading

Manufactures Village: Art & Work

Manufactures Village, the original home of Seabury & Johnson (later Johnson & Johnson) sits in East Orange, New Jersey. Built in the late 1880s, the complex overflows with fascinating detail and industrial character. Currently, Manufactures Village houses an array of small businesses, light industry, and art studios.

Perfume Professor and I were invited to partake in this year’s annual studio tour (October 21-22, 2017) at the complex by our friends, Liz and Brendan. (Liz, the owner of Jersey City Veggie Burgers, rents a commercial kitchen in the Village.) Continue reading

Thoughts on Asbury Park: a Few Days at the Jersey Shore

Wanting to avoid the expense, inconvenience, and utter unpleasantness of flying, my wife and I have planned our weekend trips and vacations around train travel over the past several years. A proponent of the contemporary cult of travel (and any airline executive) would blanch at this practice. The whole wide world awaits you. Why limit yourself to your tiny corner of the globe? Fortunately, we live in the New York metropolitan region with its extensive local and regional rail networks and an enviable abundance and variety of sites and geography.

For well over a century, weary urbanites have visited the Jersey Shore for relaxation, refreshment, and entertainment. Embracing this tradition, my wife and I rode the rail to Asbury Park, New Jersey, a storied town experiencing resurgence and reinvestment.

Looking toward the Asbury Park boardwalk in the morning (Photograph by author).

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A City’s Lost Dreams: Review of How Newark Became Newark

On January 1, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson wished a happy 300th anniversary to Newark, New Jersey, observing that Newark’s history paralleled that of the United States itself. Church bells rung, and celebrations occurred throughout the city. The Newark Museum launched a year of exhibits exploring the city’s historical and cultural heritage. A year and a half later, on July 12, 1967, riots wracked Newark, destroying millions of dollars in businesses and property and leaving twenty-six people dead. Brad Tuttle opens his history How Newark Became Newark: the Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American City (New Brunswick, NJ: Rivergate Books, 2009) with these two dramatically different events.

Newark began as an outpost of a Puritan splinter group. Robert Treat and his cohorts left Connecticut, finding the colony too lax in its religiosity and chafing under the laws of its government. The Puritan families hoped that their settlement could remain devout and separate from the new nation forming around them. Not surprisingly, this desire proved to be impossible. Newark’s prime location became apparent in the decade prior to the American Revolution. In the last two decades of the eighteenth century, Newark emerged as a  regional transportation, commercial, and manufacturing hub.

Firm of Ferdinand Mayer, Newark, (East of Mulberry St. 1820–5), c. 1854-1857 (Courtesy of New York Public Library).

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