This Week in New Jersey History...
- 1928 Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague and Hudson County political boss and Governor A. Harry Moore held a massive political rally on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate and New York governor Al Smith at the Sea Girt National Guard Camp. The crowd was estimated at eighty thousand people.
- 1928 Richard E. Byrd's expedition to Antarctica set out from Hoboken.
- 1975 Bruce Springsteen's major hit ''Born to Run'' was released.
- 1791 John Stevens of Hoboken received one of the first three patents issued by the United States Patent Office. All three of the patents, including ones to John Fitch and James Rumsey, were for applications of steam power.
- 1960 In the wake of a recent shark attack, two entrepreneurs from Orange came to Sea Girt peddling a proposed shark proof ''bubble fence.'' Testing proved the device to be totally ineffective.
- 1776 The organization of a new New Jersey state government under the newly adopted Constitution began.
- 1998 The Toms River East American Little League team beat the South team from North Carolina, winning the U.S. Championship in the Little League World Series.
- 1664 The Dutch surrendered New Netherland, including the future New Jersey, to James, Duke of York's English fleet without a fight when it showed up on the doorstep of the colony's capital, New Amsterdam.
- 1921 Trenton theaters defied the city's ''blue law'' and remained open on Sunday.
- 1932 In his first stop after winning the Democratic Party presidential nomination, Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a huge rally of supporters in Sea Girt at the National Guard Camp. The crowd, estimated at over 100,000 people, had been assembled by Jersey City mayor and Hudson County political boss Frank Hague and his associate, New Jersey governor A. Harry Moore.
- 1839 Josiah Johnson Brown was born in Newark. Brown, descended from one of Newark's original settlers, graduated from Rutgers College in 1860, and, in 1861, enlisted in the Second New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. He served in that unit, reenlisting in January, 1864, until he was captured by Confederates at Winchester, Virginia on August 17, 1864. After spending time as a POW at Lynchburg and Danville, Virginia, Brown was exchanged and rejoined his regiment in February, 1865. He was mustered out of service that July. In the postwar era he became a minister, and then an attorney, practicing in Newark. Brown's 1885 reminiscences of his army service, preserved in the New Jersey Historical Society collections, are a valuable primary source on New Jersey soldier life during the Civil War. When he died on January 20, 1936, Brown was one of the last survivors of his regiment and the oldest living Rutgers graduate.
- 1855 The Camden and Amboy Railroad, a component of the ''Joint Companies'' transportation monopoly, was a single-track line prior to the Civil War, and became the scene of one of the country's worst railroad accidents when a northbound train backed up to avoid a head-on collision near Burlington. The train backed into a carriage crossing the tracks, derailing a number of cars and resulting in the deaths of twenty-two people and injuries to seventy-seven more.
- 1878 Former major general Hugh Judson Kilpatrick held a ''First Reunion'' of New Jersey Civil War veterans at his farm in Deckertown as a kickoff for his run for a Congressional seat. The highlight of the day was a battle reenactment featuring veterans and National Guard soldiers fueled by ten thousand barrels of beer. The event, the first Civil War reenactment, also featured food stalls and games of chance, drew four thousand veterans and forty thousand spectators to rural Sussex County. Kilpatrick failed in his election efforts but gained an ambassadorship to Chile, where he died of chronic nephritis on December 2, 1881. He was the great-great grandfather of CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper.
- 1899 Colonel Donald McGowan was born in Orange. McGowan, who became one of New Jersey's greatest soldiers, joined the National Guard on graduating from high school, served in the Mexican Border campaign of 1916 and rose from private to sergeant major of the 114th Infantry in World War I at the unheard of age of nineteen. In the postwar era, he attended West Point but left the military academy after three years to be commissioned a lieutenant in the New Jersey National Guard. McGowan rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and was assistant adjutant general of New Jersey in 1940, when he was appointed to command the Guard's 102nd Cavalry, and led 102nd ashore at Omaha Beach, Normandy, on June 8, 1944. Following World War II McGowan served again as New Jersey's assistant adjutant general and was promoted to brigadier general in 1947. He commanded the New Jersey National Guard's 50th Armored Division as a major general from 1948 to 1955, when he was appointed chief of the Army National Guard Bureau and then chief of the entire National Guard Bureau in Washington, a position from which he retired in 1963. General McGowan died on September 24, 1967 in Lawrence Township and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
- 1964 The Beatles performed in Atlantic City's Convention Hall before a crowd of 18,000 fans.
- 1757 New Jersey royal Governor Jonathan Belcher died in office.
- 1776 William Livingston was chosen the first governor of the state of New Jersey under the Constitution of 1776.
- 1843 Promoter Phineas T. Barnum staged a ''Grand Buffalo Hunt'' in Hoboken. In what was called a ''humbug'' in those days, Barnum had a costumed mounted man chase some buffalo around a fenced field. When some animals broke loose and stampeded, a spectator was killed falling out of a tree, but fortunately for Barnum, liability lawsuits were not yet in fashion. The ''hunt'' was the promoter's first big show, and it launched his career.
- 1869 A Cape May City shop filled with flammable souvenirs and known as ''The Pearl Diver,'' caught fire. The conflagration spread to the United States Hotel, where President Ulysses S. Grant and his family had recently vacationed. In the end the fire destroyed a quarter of the city's densely packed frame buildings. Arson was suspected, but never proved.
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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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