The New Jersey History Speaks Lecture Series, generously supported by a grant from the Elizabeth Tuttle Fund and hosted by the Historical Society, continues in 2017 with speakers who will shed light on a variety of topics related to New Jersey. Each event is free and open to the public.
The next talk in our Speaker Series, Land Deeds and the Illumination of State, Local, and Family History, will be given by Joseph Grabas author of Owning New Jersey: Historic Tales of War, Property Disputes, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Mr. Grabas will discuss how people of different backgrounds fought to claim their piece of the Garden State. He also will share the bizarre and mysterious stories that emerge from NJ’s property records. Finally, he will discuss how property records can reveal a great deal about family history and are an excellent source for genealogists. This event, which will take place on March 15th at the Moorestown Library, is free and open to the public. Please join us!
The following event has already occurred.
New Jersey’s Multiple Municipal Madness
New Jersey’s residents historically have been of the bickering sort, said Michael DiCamillo, Vice President of the Historical Society of Moorestown, at his talk, “New Jersey’s Multiple Municipal Madness,” which drew a large audience on January 18, 2017 at the Moorestown Library. Because of this contentiousness, New Jersey is divided into 566 municipalities, many more than exist in California – our nation’s most populous state – which has only 482.
How did people’s divisiveness lead to the creation of so many little towns, both big and small? Michael DiCamillo explained all of this in a brilliant review of the sometimes petty, sometimes economically-based, sometimes racially- or class-charged disputes that led to the splintered New Jersey residential landscape we know today. His talk was based on his own research, as well as on the 1998 book, New Jersey’s Multiple Municipal Madness, written by the late Alan Karcher, a former Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly.
Mr. DiCamillo said that there are five reasons for New Jersey’s prodigious promulgation of localities. They are: street fights (disagreements about the need for streets and street maintenance), the rise of railroad towns, the creation of school district boroughs, the formation of dry versus wet towns, and the secession of exclusive enclaves of people.
Disagreements over streets and street lighting pitted rural areas of New Jersey against population centers. Haddonfield resulted from one such dispute, when it separated itself from Haddon Township. Other towns sprang up with the burgeoning building of railroads. Collingswood was founded in 1888 by Edward Collings Knight, who bought up properties around railroad depots and marketed them to people who wanted to live outside Philadelphia but still work there.
Of particular interest to Moorestown residents would be the break-up of Chester Township due to the incursion of railroads into South Jersey, with Moorestown, surrounded by farmland, being an important population center. Chester, founded in 1688, eventually split into Cinnaminson, Delran, Riverside, Riverton, Palmyra, Moorestown, and Maple Shade.
An 1894 New Jersey law required towns to consolidate their schools into one municipal district. Previously, residents of different neighborhoods in the same town were responsible for maintaining only the schools to which they sent their children. People wanting to avoid the consolidation of schools into one district, because of, for example, their aversion to newly-arrived European immigrants, created separate towns.
Religious beliefs often led to the creation of new towns. The “camp meeting” movement, active especially in some Jersey Shore towns (like Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea), led to dry versus wet localities and the enactment of blue laws. The alienation of working families from more religious residents who enacted strict laws affecting secular behavior led to further secessions. The tiny town of Tavistock was formed in 1921 by a handful of people who, during the height of prohibition, wanted to be able to play golf and (secretly) drink.
Other people desired exclusive enclaves where they could be rid of vagrants, especially in the wake of the Panic of 1873 when unemployment skyrocketed and the jobless moved from place to place looking for work.
This talk was sponsored by the Historical Society in conjunction with the Moorestown Library. Michael DiCamillo, the speaker, has taught history at LaSalle University and served as a reference and research librarian at the University of Pennsylvania.
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Our next event is January 18th at 7pm at the Moorestown Library when Vice-President of the Historical Society, Michael DiCamillo, will discuss New Jersey’s Multiple Municipal Madness, a book written by Alan Karcher, a former Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly.
New Jersey has 566 municipalities. In contrast, California has 482. Why does New Jersey have so many independent towns and subsequently so many municipal governments? Michael DiCamillo, who has taught history at LaSalle University and has served as reference and research librarian at the University of Pennsylvania, will discuss Alan Karcher’s book which details how and why New Jersey divided itself … then divided itself again … and again to accommodate a variety of differences among New Jersey neighbors. Included in the discussion will be the case of Chester Township which was sliced and diced to form Riverside, Riverton, Palmyra, Delran, Maple Shade, Cinnaminson, and Moorestown. Historic maps will be on display to help everyone visualize the boundaries that currently and formerly divided the state.
Please join us at the Moorestown Library, Meeting Room A, on January 18th at 7 pm for this talk.
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Dan Lieb, president of the New Jersey Historical Divers Association, gave an animated, nail-bitingly suspenseful talk about shipwrecks of New Jersey on November 16, 2016 at the Moorestown Library. The Library joined the Historical Society of Moorestown in cosponsoring the event. Well over 80 people attended, and it was standing-room-only in the back with more people spilling out of the doorway leading into Meeting Room A.
Over the fascinating two hours, which included Mr. Lieb’s illustrated presentation plus a generous question-and-answer session, we learned that there are about 7,200 New Jersey shipwrecks which have been found off the Atlantic coast and Delaware Bay, as well as in other NJ waterways. He told us stories about some of the more tragic wrecks and the circumstances causing them. In 1846, The John Mintern ran aground off Squan Beach in a bad storm that, in total, sank 10 vessels, with dozens of lives lost. Especially terrible was the loss of the New Era in 1854 which had sailed from Germany. About 50 people died of cholera on the way over, with another roughly 295 people losing their lives when the ship struck the Jersey Shore at Deal Beach in a Nor’easter. During the two world wars, the enemy was a lot closer than most people know – many U.S. ships were sunk off the coast by German U-boats! Mr. Lieb said that, sometimes, when he and his fellow divers discover another old shipwreck, they are only able to identify it by comparing evidence from the wreck with historical records. If just bits and pieces of a wreck turn up, they may have to contact collectors of items found in wrecks to help with identifying it. Thanks to Dan Lieb and the Moorestown Library for making this event such a huge success!
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The second season of our New Jersey History Speaks speaker series begins this month!
Dan Lieb, president of the New Jersey Historical Divers Association presents: Shipwrecks off the New Jersey Coast on Wednesday, November 16th, 7pm at the Moorestown Library in Meeting Room A
What lies underneath the dark Atlantic waters that rush along the New Jersey coast? Dan Lieb, president of the New Jersey Historical Divers Association, has dived deep into these cold, rough waters and has discovered amazing shipwrecks that reveal New Jersey’s significant history. From wrecked luxury liners to sunken German U-Boats, Mr. Lieb–who has appeared on History Channel’s Deep Sea Detectives–will describe what lies buried in New Jersey’s ocean floor and will share the tales of courage, terror, and survival that accompany the wrecked vessels.
All speaker series events are free and open to the public thanks to a generous grant from the Elizabeth Tuttle Fund and a cooperative effort with the Moorestown Library.
Advanced registration is not required but it is requested. Click the link to the registration page:
Other upcoming talks in the New Jersey History Speaks lecture series will trace natural and manmade boundaries to understand why New Jersey has more municipalities than California, and delve into the Garden State’s property records for some personal family histories and the struggles some people have endured to own a piece of New Jersey land. More information about these talks will be provided in the near future. You may contact Michael DiCamillo of the Historical Society of Moorestown at email@example.com if you have any questions about the lecture series.
The following events have already occurred.
The Historical Society’s Fall General Meeting at the Moorestown Community House, Thursday October 13th at 7:30 pm
In anticipation of our new exhibit, History Rocks: Interpreting the Archaeological Discoveries in Moorestown, Dr. Gregory D. Lattanzi, Curator for the Bureau of Archaeology & Ethnology and New Jersey State Archaeologist at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, will speak about the archaeology of New Jersey and will highlight some important sites and new insights at our General Meeting, which is open to the public, on October 13th at 7:30 pm at the Moorestown Community House. Please join us!
Graham Alexander, April 7th at Moorestown Community House
Graham Alexander, a local singer-songwriter with experience on Broadway, was the featured speaker before dozens of people at the Annual Meeting of the Historical Society of Moorestown held on April 7 at the Moorestown Community House. Though only 26, Alexander, through a combination of financial savings, luck, and pluck, has managed to acquire the Victor Talking Machine Company and its associated record labels, all of which had lain dormant for decades until just a few years ago, and which were operated in the City of Camden by Victor founder and Moorestown resident Eldridge Johnson. Those labels include some very familiar names: Victor, Victrola, Camden, His Master’s Voice, Little Nipper, and Electrola. Alexander is in the process of reviving the labels and, in doing so, not only releasing his music and the music of other promising acts, but releasing or re-releasing as many as he is able to of the 10,000 master recordings he has managed to track down. Among the legendary singers and musicians who at one time or another recorded for one or more of the Victor labels were Enrico Caruso, Nat King Cole, Billie Holliday, Perry Como, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Dinah Shore, Jimmie Rodgers, Rachmaninoff, Leonard Bernstein, and Duke Ellington. Victor founder Johnson was an involved member of the Moorestown community, providing major funding for the Community House, and supporting Moorestown’s activities in other ways. Moorestown residents have probably seen the numerous statues of the iconic Little Nipper dog situated about the town which serve to commemorate Johnson’s impact.
-Elizabeth J. Rosenthal
Read more about Graham Alexander at his website: http://www.graham-alexander.net/#latest
and about Victor Records: http://www.victorrecords.com/
Graham Alexander to speak at our Annual Meeting April 7th, 7:30pm at the Community House
Remembering and Reviving South Jersey’s Connection to the Music Biz
Special Guest Speaker: Graham Alexander—singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and owner of the Victrola, His Master’s Voice, and Victor Talking Machine Co. labels, and Little Nipper!
In the early decades of the 20th Century, the Victor Talking Machine Company and Victor Records were among the most prominent companies in the music and electronics industries. Its Camden headquarters helped the city thrive, and the company’s founder, Eldridge Johnson, made his home here in Moorestown. (Johnson lived on Main Street in the home that today is the Lutheran Home.) Johnson’s legacy in Moorestown is palpable. He donated large sums of money to support the town’s activities, and in 1923 he donated $250,000 for the purpose of constructing the Moorestown Community House. Since the Little Nipper dog was the iconic symbol of Johnson’s iconic company, Moorestown has commemorated Johnson’s legacy with the many Little Nipper statues that are scattered along Main Street and other parts of town.
Like many companies in the latter part of the 20th Century, a series of mergers and acquisitions eventually moved Johnson’s companies out of South Jersey. However, over the last few years, one person has been working to bring Johnson’s companies back home. Join us on April 7th @ 7:30 PM inside the Moorestown Community House when Graham Alexander speaks to us about the history of these significant South Jersey brands, how he acquired the brands, and his plans for restoring the musical legacy of South Jersey.
Read more about Graham Alexander at his website:
and about Victor Records here: http://www.victorrecords.com/
This is a free event open to the public!
New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones: History in the Landscape
It was standing room only at the Smith-Cadbury mansion on Thursday night, January 28, when author and university professor Dr. Richard Veit gave an hour-long, humor-laced historical overview of graveyards, cemeteries, and notable graves in New Jersey. The appreciative audience learned about tombstone architecture going back to the 17th century, as well as materials used (granite, clay, tiles, ceramics, concrete – even plastic). Highlights of Dr. Veit’s talk included his numerous examples of grave markers, headstones, footstones, and mausoleums that told stories about the people buried there. Some were funny: “I told you I was sick,” read one tombstone. Another was somewhat humorous but sad: a tombstone for two brothers who died in 1693 noted they had both succumbed to mushroom poisoning despite repeated warnings by their elders to avoid the mushrooms. Typical juveniles! Yet another was simply tragic: one grave marker contained an epitaph to a woman who, in 1772, fell from a carriage and onto a blade she had been using to peel an apple. Just as interesting were the personalities illuminated by their graves. There was the immodest head stone inscription informing visitors that the grave’s occupant had been “The World’s Greatest Electrician.” A Roma cemetery featured a head stone paying tribute to a Roma couple who were community stalwarts, “Big G and Loveable Rose.” Some notable celebrities are buried in New Jersey: the infamous Aaron Burr, who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel; and Dudley Moore, the famed actor, comic, and pianist. Dr. Veit discussed African-American burial grounds and the cemeteries of different immigrant groups, such as Italians and Jews. Poignantly, he concluded by warning of the challenges that many cemeteries and grave sites face: acid rain erosion, neglect, even vandalism. Dr. Veit, an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University, based the presentation on his book, New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones: History in the Landscape (Rivergate Books, 2008).
-Elizabeth J. Rosenthal
January 28, 2016@7:30pm
As part of its ongoing NJ History Speaker Series, The Historical Society presents Dr. Richard Veit who will discuss his book, New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones: History in the Landscape, on January 28 at 7:30 pm at the Smith-Cadbury Mansion, 12 High Street, Moorestown. New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones presents a culturally diverse account of New Jersey’s historic burial places from High Point to Cape May and from the banks of the Delaware to the ocean-washed shore, to explain what cemeteries tell us about people and the communities in which they lived. Dr. Veit is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University. He is the author of Digging New Jersey’s Past: Historical Archaeology in the Garden State, winner of the 2003 New Jersey Historic Preservation Award.
Free & open to the public. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 856-235-0353.