History

Mercer Magic: Roeblings, Kusers, The Mercer Automobile Company, and America’s First Sports Car

Trenton industrialists Ferdinand and Charles Roebling and Anthony and John Kuser founded the Mercer Automobile Company in 1909 to build “a car in a class by itself.” Mercer factory Raceabouts won many regional and national races culminating in Trenton native Eddie Pullen’s victory in the American Grand Prize Race in 1914. Amateur sportsmen driving their own Raceabouts won numerous local races around the country and made the stock Raceabout America’s first successful sports car. Mercer introduced “streamline” models in 1915 and built a total of about 5,500 cars before the factory closed in 1924. As a former employee noted, “Those cars sold as fast as we could make them.” Today Raceabouts and other Mercers are amongst the most highly prized antique automobiles in museums and in private collections, including several in New Jersey.

Clifford W. Zink
Historian

A computer projector is required for this program. Program not available in Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, Sussex, or Warren Counties.

Freedom Summer 1964

America’s effort to fulfill the promise of civil rights guaranteed in the Constitution played out as a long, slow grind in the twentieth century, with key moments that reshaped the conversation. The Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi was such a moment that transformed the civil rights movement and American politics. Come out for a movie and discussion that will explore the grand ambitions and unmet hopes of youthful activism in the period.

The host organization must provide a DVD player and a projector for this presentation. Program only available in Burlington, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset, and Union Counties

Christopher Fisher
Associate Professor of History, The College of New Jersey

My Lai and America

The Vietnam War stands as the defining event of an era. In the marshes of Southeast Asia, the US found the limits of the politics that shaped the Cold War and the frustrations that accompany global power. No event captures these tensions better than the tragedy of My Lai. Come out for a movie and discussion of how America responded to tragedy, its effect on domestic politics, and how it shaped the meaning of the Vietnam War.

The host organization must provide a DVD player and a projector for this presentation. Program only available in Burlington, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset, and Union Counties

Christopher Fisher
Associate Professor of History, The College of New Jersey

Corn – Simply A-Maize-ing

Sweet corn, golden ears of delicious sweet corn is a sure sign that it is summer in New Jersey. There are six main kinds of corn, but it is hot, buttered sweet corn we crave. Corn once also called maize is an ancient New World grass, grain, vegetable. It was highly valued by our Native North Americans, Incas, and Aztecs. Corn was given as tribute to their gods, it was used as money, and a most important food source. Come learn the fascinating history of corn and its folklore from ancient times to today’s modern farmers in New Jersey.

Judith Krall-Russo
Food Historian

Program available in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Salem, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties.

American Diplomatic History: From George Washington to Barack Obama

Professor Michael Rockland’s first career was in diplomacy, serving with our embassies in Argentina and in Spain as a cultural attaché. One of the latest of his books is An American Diplomat in Franco Spain and he has long taught the course, “The United States as Seen From Abroad” at Rutgers. Thus, diplomacy has been both his vocation and his avocation for many years. In lecturing on American diplomacy he endeavors to trace the evolution of the United States from a nation dedicated to George Washington’s argument in favor of “no entangling alliances” to a nation that has, in some instances, gone in the other direction.

Michael Aaron Rockland, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, Rutgers University

Program generally available in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties; other counties are available with speaker’s consideration.

New Jersey History, from 1664-the Present

1664 is the date the term “New Jersey,” named for the English Isle of Jersey, began to be used—even though the Dutch had considered it part of New Netherlands earlier and, of course, Native Americans had been here for thousands of years. But there were two Jerseys, West and East, and it would be many years before New Jersey became a single colony. But those uncertain origins, aided by having New York and Philadelphia bracketing it, has been part of New Jersey’s uncertainty about itself right down to today. This lecture will also deal with the term “Garden State” as a misnomer and suggest an alternative nickname. It will also look into why New Jersey has been going through something of a renaissance in recent years.

Michael Aaron Rockland
Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, Rutgers University

Program generally available in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties; other counties are available with speaker’s consideration. Este programa está disponible en español.

Colonial New Jersey from Contact to Revolution

The first part of the talk will explore the creation of ‘New Jersey’ including the development of East and West Jersey and the origins of some of the state’s most distinctive features that remain today. We will then examine the state’s growth as a center for agricultural development and as a key transportation network; we will also consider tensions surrounding land ownership and taxation on the eve of revolution.

Jonathan Mercantini
Assistant Professor of History, Kean University

Inquisition: History and Legend

Say the word “Inquisition” and caricatures of torture, dank cells, and Spanish Catholic fanatics come to mind. Just what was the Inquisition in history: where, when, and why did it happen—and what really happened? Explore the contexts of the reformations and age of exploration, the legends, and our evolving understanding of this important part of history.

Christopher M. Bellitto, Ph.D.
Professor of History, Kean University

Alexander the Great: History and Legend

Alexander brought Greek civilization to the edge of India, but even before he died barely into his thirties in 323 BC, the legends were even bigger than the truth. Join us in this illustrated exploration of the history and legends surrounding this real man and mythic figure, tracing his conquests, questions about his alleged divinity, his leadership skills, his ideas for inculturation and empire-building, and the continuing fascination with Alexander around the world from his day to ours.

Christopher M. Bellitto, Ph.D.
Professor of History, Kean University

Ireland’s Prehistoric Landscape

Did you know that Ireland was one of the last places colonized on the planet Earth? Do you know the story behind the great stone tombs of Newgrange and the great stone fort of Dun Aengus? This presentation explores the rich prehistory of Ireland from the first Hunters, Fishers and Gatherers that settled the island 10,000 years ago, to the first farmers of 5,000 years ago, to the Bronze and Iron Age farmers who sculpted the landscape with field walls and tombs and created some of prehistory’s finest jewelry and artifacts.

The host organization must provide a DVD player and a projector for this presentation.

Stanton W. Green, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology, Monmouth University

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