This Week in New Jersey History...
- 1846 Newark-born General Stephen Watts Kearny, commander of the Mexican War ''Army of the West,'' a less than impressive collection of Missouri mounted volunteer units, the Mormon Battalion, and some artillery, stiffened by his own dragoon regiment, captured Santa Fe without a shot being fired.
- 1918 White soldiers from Mississippi marched into Bergen County's Camp Merritt YMCA building and forcibly ejected five black soldiers. Black soldiers who gathered to protest the ejection then faced off against a group of Southern white troops. Rumors of razor fights and other atrocities spread on both sides and as the situation verged on a full scale riot Military Police finally moved in and broke up the hostile crowds with swinging nightsticks. Several shots were fired in the course of the ensuing melee. Two black soldiers were wounded and a third, Private Edward Frye of Kentucky, who was not involved in the disturbance and was sitting in his barracks, was killed when a stray bullet hit him in the chest.
- 1779 Major Henry ''Light Horse Harry'' Lee led a successful surprise night attack on a British garrison at Paulus Hook (today's Jersey City), taking 158 prisoners.
- 1856 John Cotton Dana was born in Woodstock, Vermont. Dana became the most influential librarian of his era, and served as head of the Newark Library from 1902 until his death in 1929. Dana also founded the Newark Museum in 1909. His innovative work made books and knowledge more accessible to the people of Newark, including recent immigrants, and future generations of Newarkers who benefitted from the library and museum owed him much.
- 1879 A parade and memorial ceremony commemorating the centennial celebration of the Battle of Paulus Hook was held in Jersey City.
- 1943 An explosion at the Congoleum-Nairn plant on Passaic Avenue in Kearny destroyed three buildings. Thirteen people died in the disaster, which shook buildings for miles around. Most of the factory's production had been shifted from linoleum floor coverings to unspecified ''war work,'' which some speculated may have involved making torpedoes and grenades, along with camouflage netting. A subsequent investigation report stated that the explosion was caused by ''explosive vapors'' emitted by linoleum and cork.
- 1811 The Martha Furnace iron forge clerk recorded in his diary that: ''Peter Cox got very drunk and gone to bed. Mr. Evans made a solemn resolution any person or persons bringing liquor to the works enough to make drunk shall be liable to fine.''
- 1872 To the tunes of Reinhard's brass band, the Newark Industrial Exhibition opened to the public in a skating rink expanded to fifty thousand square feet of exhibit space with exhibits by nearly one thousand Newark manufacturers. The Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey called the exhibition, which entertained 130,000 visitors during its fifty-five-day run, an ''element of perfection where the brazen padlocks glittered like gold; the huge shears were ornamented as if for special beauty; the carriages and harness as though they might have been made for a perpetual showcase.'' Among the visitors were presidential candidates Horace Greeley and Ulysses S. Grant. ''Newark has done well,'' said Grant. It did well by Grant in the election also, giving him the majority of its votes.
- 1923 R. C. Miller, the police chief of Atlantic City, advised Governor George Silzer's secretary that his department had arrested 982 people for drunkenness and 114 for violating the Volstead Act by selling illicit alcoholic beverages.
- 1776 After adopting the new state constitution, the New Jersey Provincial Congress adjourned.
- 1904 Jazz musician, composer and bandleader William James ''Count'' Basie was born in Red Bank. Basie began his career providing a piano as musical accompaniment to silent films at a Red Bank theater. He played locally, particularly at clubs in Asbury Park, before moving on to Harlem, where he joined with a jazz orchestra. He founded his own jazz orchestra in 1935 and in a short time became one of the most famous bandleaders in America. Basie and his band played at one of President John F. Kennedy's inaugural balls in 1960. He died in Hollywood, Florida on April 26, 1984. A popular local theater in Red Bank was named in his honor.
- 1921 The First Cavalry, New Jersey National Guard, reorganized after service in World War 1, was formally re-designated as the 102nd Cavalry Regiment by the federal government.
- 1960 John Brodeur, a Jersey City accountant visiting his girlfriend, a Jersey City teacher working at the Stockton Hotel in Sea Girt for the summer, swam out a bit to body surf in at the hotel employees' beach and was attacked by a shark. The profusely bleeding Brodeur was dragged to the beach by a lifeguard, where Norman Porter, a US Marine veteran from the Bronx, applied a tourniquet that slowed the blood flow as he was rushed to Jersey Shore Hospital in Neptune for emergency surgery. The shark attack was the first one documented on a New Jersey beach since 1916, although there had been incidents involving sharks off the New Jersey coast. Brodeur survived, but lost his right leg below the knee. He was married in 1970 (not to the girl he had come to visit) raised a large family and passed away on May 22, 2011, at the age of seventy-five.
- 1787 John Fitch demonstrated his steamboat on the Delaware River.
- 1879 Reverend William B. Wood and Reverend S. Wesley Lake attended a religious service in Ocean Grove. The experience inspired them to found a Christian beach resort community that prohibited the use of alcohol in Cape May County. The result was the town of Ocean City.
- 1893 Dorothy Rothschild was born in the West End section of Long Branch. As Dorothy Parker, she became a well known essayist, short story and screen writer and poet, as well as a member of New York City's famed ''Algonquin Round Table'' of literary figures. Best remembered today for her acerbic wit, Parker died of a heart attack in 1967.
- 1960 A fourteen-year-old boy was attacked by a shark in the surf at Seaside Park. His knee was ripped to the bone, but his leg was saved.
- 1814 James Roosevelt Bayley, the first Catholic Bishop of Newark, was born in New York City.
- 1876 Abraham Browning of Camden, while speaking at ''Jersey Day'' at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, allegedly first used the term ''the Garden State'' in reference to New Jersey. Other sources attribute the nickname to the state seal, however, with its three plows and figure of Ceres, goddess of Agriculture.
- 1923 The New Jersey Ku Klux Klan held a mass meeting on a ten acre field ''off the Freehold turnpike'' (today's route #33) in Farmingdale. The Klan claimed 1,700 attendees from Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties were present, and ''1,200 cars were said to have parked along roadways, in driveways, and in every available spot.'' New Jersey Grand Dragon Arthur Hornbui Bell acted as master of ceremonies for a program that included formal inductions of new members and a guest speaker from Georgia.
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These are brought to you courtesy of GSL author and Board of Advisers member, Joseph G. Bilby, who with his co-authors, James M. Madden and Harry Ziegler, have written 350 Years of New Jersey History, From Stuyvesant to Sandy (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2013), due out January 28, 2014 and available from local booksellers and chain bookstores, online book vendors including Amazon, and in e-book form for Kindle, Nook and iPad.
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