New Jersey Topics

The New Jersey Turnpike

Through a series of compelling, sometimes frightening and often humorous anecdotes, Gillespie conveys the flavor of a massive turnpike-what is looks like, what it feels like, what it smells like, what it means. Based on his award-winning book, Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike, co-authored with Michael Aaron Rockland, Gillespie tells about the physical characteristics of the road. The engineers who built it, in the spirit of their time, were seeking efficiency at the expense of aesthetics and the environment. The Turnpike is quite possibly American’s most important road, certainly its most traveled. Here the Turnpike is described not only as a physical artifact but as an emblem of American ideas and values.

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.

Blueberries: New Jersey’s Wonder Fruit

The blueberry has its roots in the Pinelands of New Jersey. Elizabeth White along with Dr. Fredrick Coville proved that the “swamp huckleberry” could be cultivated. Discover the history of this fascinating berry and the contributions Elizabeth White of Whitesbog made to its cultivation. Learn why the blueberry is touted as the wonder fruit with a host of healthful benefits and hear about the variety of ways to prepare and savor these berries.

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 Tomato

Everyone loves the Jersey Tomato! Discover where the tomato originated and why it became one of New Jersey’s favorite crops. Find out when New Jersey was known for its tomato packing industry and what happened to it. Did you know that tomatoes were considered poisonous at one time and it was a New Jerseyean who decided to prove everyone wrong? Hear about heirloom varieties and modern hybrids and the folklore attached to this fruit.

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 Pine Barrens of New Jersey

The New Jersey Pine Barrens, covering nearly a third of the nation’s most industrialized state, shelter endangered plants and animals, often the subject of newspaper stories. Less publicized are the people who live in the Pine Barrens, sometimes referred to as “Pineys.” Perhaps the finest book on this topic is John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens. In a lively talk with many intriguing examples, Gillespie paints a picture of the surviving folk culture of the Pineys, who often describe themselves in terms of attachment to the land and self-sufficiency. They try to avoid dependence on the outside world as much as possible, bypassing the mainstream cash economy and providing for themselves largely by foraging.

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.

Nineteenth-Century New Jersey Photographers

A slide lecture identifying the leading photographers in the state before 1900 with numerous examples of portraits and views taken by both men and women. The presentation includes the largest cities and selected towns from around the state but it can be customized to focus on the county in which the lecture is given.

Gary Saretzky
Archivist, Monmouth County Archives

A computer projector is required for this presentation.

The New Jersey Cranberry

Cranberries were known by many names, such as bitter berry, bear berry and the marsh apple. It is one of the few fruits indigenous to the United States. Native Americans were using cranberries as food, medicine, and dyes long before the European settlers arrived. Cranberries have been an important crop for New Jersey since the 19th century. Learn the history of these tart berries and why they were so important. We will also explore New Jersey’s contribution to their cultivation. Early American recipes will be discussed.

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 Roebling Legacy

The Roebling Story is a classic American saga spanning the continent and more than 200 years since John A. Roebling’s birth in 1806. The Roeblings built the Brooklyn Bridge – the “universal symbol of New York” – and the great cables on the George Washington and Golden Gate Bridges. The John A. Roebling’s Sons Company produced wire rope and wire products that helped shape modern life and provided livelihoods for tens of thousands. The Roeblings also created America’s “first sports car” and built one of America’s best company towns – “a model in every respect.” Roebling mills in Trenton now serve new uses and the Roebling Museum in Roebling, NJ, celebrates the remarkable legacy.

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.

The Role of New Jersey Just Before the Civil War

A reevaluation of the state’s antebellum position. The view that New Jerseyans before the war supported slavery, states rights, and the South is disputed. A new view of why most New Jerseyans did not actively support the abolitionist movement will be advanced.

William Gillette, Ph.D.
Professor of History, Rutgers University

Looking at New Jersey: The Arts and Crafts Movement and How It Changed Our World

The Arts and Crafts Movement was the aesthetic bridge that carried us from an era of Victorian Excess to the simpler forms and easier lifestyle of modernism. Much of the energy for the movement originated in New Jersey as did the revival of interest and activity that continues today. We will look at the movement past and present with an eye to what survives and how to find it.

Helen Schwartz
Artist, Arts journalist, Author

Host organization will need to provide computer projector and computer for this program. Program only available in Burlington, Camden, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, and Somerset counties.

Over Here, Molly Pitcher

A dramatic presentation highlighting the lives of women who “belonged to the army” during the American Revolution. “Molly” reminisces about the days when she accompanied her husband through summer battles and winter encampments from Valley Forge to Monmouth to Morristown. Relating her tales of firing a cannon in the heat of battle to trudging “behind the baggage,” she provides a glimpse into what it was like to be a “camp follower” in the days when American independence was a dream rather a certainty.

Stacy Roth / History on the Hoof
An educational performance troupe that employs storytelling, roleplay, displays, and music to illustrate historical topics.

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