This Week in New Jersey History...
- 1930 The Ford Motor Company formally opened (production had begun three weeks earlier) an assembly plant in Edgewater, NJ, an industrial town across the river from Manhattan. The factory, the largest Ford plant to that date, could churn out a Model A car every forty-eight minutes, and was a major supplier of vehicles to the Soviet Union in WWII. It closed in 1955 and was demolished in succeeding years. Edgewater's industrial past has resulted in superfund sites, but not this location, which is now the location of a condo development.
- 1941 The United States declared war on Japan in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. Around 560,500 New Jerseyans, including 10,000 women and 360,000 draftees, served in all branches of the armed forces during World War II. A total of 10,372 of them, including ten of the state's seventeen Medal of Honor awardees, made the ultimate sacrifice and were killed in action or died of wounds or other causes.
- 1864 Corporal Charles Williams of Company F, Thirty-fifth New Jersey regiment, was killed and four other men were wounded by a ''torpedo,'' or land mine, buried in a road near Savannah, Georgia by retreating Confederates. Williams bears the dubious distinction of probably being the first New Jerseyan killed by a land mine. The Jerseymen used enemy prisoners to clear the rest of the mines in the road.
- 1914 A fire damaged or destroyed thirteen factory buildings at the Edison West Orange laboratories.
- 1933 Milton Gray Campbell was born in Plainfield. A multi-sport athlete at Plainfield High School, Campbell set several New Jersey records and went on to compete in football and track at Indiana University at Bloomington. While still in high school, he competed in the Decathlon in the 1952 Summer Olympics and won the silver medal. In 1956, at Melbourne, Australia, he became the first African-American to win a gold medal in the event. Campbell has been inducted into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Hall of Fame (1997) and the New Jersey Hall of Fame (2012). He died in Gainesville, Georgia on November 2, 2012 .
- 1784 The Marquis de Lafayette visited Trenton on his way home to France.
- 1968 An earthquake measuring 2.5 on the Richter scale occurred in Burlington County. There were some broken windows and tremors were felt in Camden and Moorestown as well as Darby and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One report noted that toll booths on the Benjamin Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges in Philadelphia trembled.
- 1907 Thirty-four year old Saverio DiGiovanni of Raritan, convicted of the murder of Joseph Sansone, was the first New Jerseyan executed in the electric chair at the state prison in Trenton. At the time it was last used in 1962, the chair, known by its nickname 'Old Smokey'' had executed 159 men. For more about the Trenton electrician who designed the chair, see : http://gardenstatelegacy.com/files/Adams_Electrical_Co_Bond_GSL12.pdf
- 1941 The United States declared war on Germany and Italy in response to those nations' declarations of war on the United States following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
- 1854 Temperance advocate Reverend Samuel Lockwood, addressing the Chingarora Tent of the International Order of Redmen in Keyport, advised the assembled lodge members that alcohol would rob them of their brains and cause a ''crimson current to rush though every vein, blurring the vision, becrimsoning the cheek, making garrulous the tongue, fretting the passions and setting in a flame the lust.''
- 1915 Legendary singer Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken. Sinatra's unpromising beginning, expelled from high school, arrested for ''adultery and seduction'' and employment as a delivery boy, brightened when he began to sing professionally, performed with a group on Major Bowes' Amateur Hour and won a six month contract. Sinatra returned to Hoboken and worked as a singing waiter in Englewood Cliffs. In November, 1939 he became the lead singer in Tommy Dorsey's band, and the rest is well known history. Frank Sinatra died on May 14, 1998 in Hollywood.
- 1938 Concetta Maria Franconero was born in Newark. Known professionally as Connie Francis, she was one of the most popular singers in America between 1958 and 1964, when she recorded thirty-five songs that made the Top Forty hit list and also starred in a number of films.
- 1776 American General Charles Lee, a former British officer, was captured while dallying at Basking Ridge as the British army crossed New Jersey in pursuit of the retreating Americans.
- 1862 Most of the New Jersey regiments in the Union Army of the Potomac were present at the disastrous Civil War battle of Fredericksburg. Some units suffered heavy losses, including the Twenty-fourth New Jersey regiment, with 136 casualties, and the Twenty-eighth New Jersey regiment, with 193.
- 1776 Cornet Francis Geary, a twenty-four year old officer in the Queen's Light Dragoons and son of Admiral Sir Francis Geary, was killed in an ambush by militiamen near Ringoes. The militiamen buried Geary but did not mark his grave. In 1891, members of the Hunterdon County Historical Society exhumed a skeleton at a rumored gravesite and discovered Queen's Light Dragoon buttons in the grave. A monument was erected at the site in 1907 by Geary's great nephew Sir William Geary.
- 1858 Paleontologist Joseph Leidy became the world's first scientist to present a paper describing the anatomy of a dinosaur, which he named Hadrosaurus foulkii. The dinosaur's skeleton was uncovered in a marl pit in Haddonfield, New Jersey, and in 1991 the Hadrosaurus was named as the official New Jersey state dinosaur.
Would you like more of these Garden State history tidbits? Throughout 2014, Garden State Legacy will be sending FREE weekly emails like this one! Every Monday, you'll find a list of fascinating facts to help you get through the week. To sign up, just go to www.GardenStateLegacy.com and enter your email into the form at the top of the page. (And while you're there, please check out the rest of the GSL site if you are not already familiar with it!)
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.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief