New Jersey Topics

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.

Crossing under the Hudson

The Lincoln and Holland Tunnels are key links in the transportation infrastructure of New York and New Jersey. What comes to mind when we think of these tunnels? Traffic. Honk. Beep. Beep. Exhaust.

Moving beyond that view, Gillespie takes a fresh look at their planning and construction. With a lively and entertaining approach, Gillespie explores these two monumental works of civil engineering and the public that embraced them. He describes and analyzes the building of the tunnels, introduces listeners to the people who worked there—then and now—and places the structures into a meaningful cultural context with the music, art, literature, and motion pictures that these tunnels, engineering marvels of their day, have inspired over the years.

Angus Kress Gillespie, Ph.D.
Professor of American Studies, Rutgers University

Speaker requests that a microphone be made available. Program only available in Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, and Union counties.

‘Ere the Shadows Fade: New Jersey’s Civil War Era Photographers

This presentation features several notable examples of New Jersey’s Civil War Era photographers. The Civil War boosted the photographic trade in New Jersey as both soldiers and families demanded more images of loved ones. Numerous new photo galleries opened to meet the demand. Some New Jersey photographers operated elsewhere during the war, including in the South. Other photographers active at the war front settled in the state after the war. And some New Jersey soldiers returned home and only then began photography careers.

Gary Saretzky
Archivist, Monmouth County Archives

A computer projector is required for this presentation.

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.

Peachy-keen in New Jersey

The juicy sun-kissed peach captures the flavor of summer and is one of the most popular fruits of the season. A native of China, the peach was introduced to Florida in 1571 by the Spanish explorers. It has been an important crop in New Jersey since the 1600’s. Learn the history and folklore of this New Jersey summertime favorite.

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.

The Jersey Joke: Its Long and Complicated History

New Jersey has long been the whipping boy of New York City and suffered from something of an inferiority complex. Rarely has a Saturday Night Live episode or a Woody Allen movie spared New Jersey. But, ironically, beginning in 1975, when Bruce Springsteen appeared simultaneously on the covers of both “Time” and “Newsweek” magazines and continuing with the fame “The Sopranos” brought to New Jersey (ironically, positive rather than negative) New Jersey has been enjoying something of a renaissance and the Jersey joke has been in decline. Indeed, given the realization that New Jersey has been a veritable engine of inventive and artistic prominence (Edison and Einstein in the first instance, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, and Frank Sinatra in the second) it has, lately become “cool” to be from New Jersey.

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. Este programa está disponible en español.

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

Ancient Greece and Rome Meet Revolutionary New Jersey

Explore the Liberty Hall archives and early American newspapers to discover how John Kean, first cashier of the U.S. Bank, and William Livingston, New Jersey’s first governor, turned to classical Greece and Rome for inspiration. Our search reveals how revolutionary Americans charting a new nation’s future wrapped themselves in the mantle of a great ancient past.

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

Tuneful Felicity: Francis Hopkinson and Musick

Francis Hopkinson is best known as an ardent patriot, one of New Jersey’s Five Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Delegate in 1778 to the Continental Congress and later an active member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  Like his friends Franklin and Jefferson, music and the social harmony it engendered held pride of place. Hopkinson, who maintained residences in Philadelphia and Bordentown, was a proficient harpsichordist and is credited as the first native born composer in America. The program will survey Hopkinson’s musical world and will draw specifically on printed  music he is known to have purchased in Philadelphia and from London publishers and from his ca. 1764 manuscript volume of music for [or arranged for] the harpsichord.

John Burkhalter
Independent scholar and lecturer

Program not available in Cape May county. A computer projector and microphone are required for this program.

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