Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Tourist Trips:
Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies

The states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey all belonged to William Penn the Quaker. He was the largest private landholder in American history. Using explicit directions, comprehensive touring of the Quaker Colonies takes seven full days. Local residents may need a couple dozen one-day wanderings to match it.

Regional Overview: The Sights of the City, Loosely Defined
Philadelphia,defined here as the Quaker region of three formerly Quaker states, contains an astonishing number of interesting places to visit. Three centuries of history leave their marks everywhere. Begin by understanding that William Penn was the largest private landholder in history, and he owned all of it.

Haddonfield, New Jersey
Haddonfield is now well past its three hundredth birthday.

Quaker Philadelphia 1683-1776
New volume 2012-11-21 17:33:18 description

Philadephia: America's Capital, 1774-1800
The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from 1774 to 1788. Next, the new republic had its capital here from 1790 to 1800. Thoroughly Quaker Philadelphia was in the center of the founding twenty-five years when, and where, the enduring political institutions of America emerged.

New Jersey (State of)

The Garden State really has two different states of mind. The state motto is Liberty and Prosperity.


Defining and Naming New Jersey

{King Charles II}
King Charles II

On March 12, 1664, King Charles II of England granted his brother, James, Duke of York, all of the land in the New World known as the Dutch Domain or New Netherland. The gift included land from the

... West side of the Connecticutte River to the East side of Delaware Bay...

Three months later, James carved New Caesarea from that land for John, Lord Berkeley, and Sir George Carteret; and this lease sealed the grant to

all that Tract of land adjacent to New England and lying and being to the Westward of Long Island and Manhatis Island and bounded on the East Part by the Main Sea and part by Hudsons River, and hath upon the West Delaware Bay or River extendeth Southward to the Maine Ocean as farre as Cape May at the mouth of Delaware Bay... which said Tract of land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Caesarea or New Jersey...

---From documents at the headquarters of the West Jersey Proprietors, Burlington, New Jersey.

The Philadelphia Bay (1)

It's about sixty miles from Salem, New Jersey where the river takes an abrupt turn to the right, to Trenton, where the river takes an equally abrupt turn to the left. This is the area that could be called the Philadelphia Bay, a protected extension of Delaware Bay. Benjamin Franklin, who sailed down this bay on his many trips to Europe, noticed that it was not exactly a river, because the salt water seemed to invade it, whereas most big rivers have fresh water pushing out to sea. The true Delaware River comes down from the north and empties into Philadelphia Bay at Trenton. We now know that barrier islands begin out at sea every three hundred years or so, gradually move toward the shoreline, and pack themselves against the mainland about three hundred years later. Depending on circumstances, there are usually several sand reefs in various stages of development. Southern New Jersey is made up of a number of barrier islands packed together as they moved toward the mainland of Pennsylvania. The barrier islands actually have packed solid against the Pennsylvania coast, from Trenton to New Brunswick, closing off the ancient northern inlet to the bay. Barnegat Bay is a more recent variant of the same process, running parallel to the more ancient Philadelphia Bay. Since its northern inlet is almost closed at Barnegat Inlet, this seems to be a regular phenomenon of Atlantic barrier island development. Lower Delaware Bay, from Salem to Cape May, appears to have a different history, probably a volcanic split.

Joshua Fisher's 1778 Map of Delaware Bay

In the days of sail, Philadelphia Bay was the main artery of internal commerce. When the Delaware-Chesapeake canal was dug in 1829, it extended the inland waterway from Trenton to Norfolk VA. The earliest commerce took advantage of the tide and the bends in the "river" which was actually just the remnant of ocean between mainland Pennsylvania and the former barrier island of New Jersey. It had tides, but not much in the way of waves. Flatboats filled with Garden State produce would be carried up and across the river by the incoming tide, and down and across the river by the outgoing tide. When ships, particularly steamships, came along, this was the way to carry goods of all sorts up and down the Bay. At Odessa, it's only five miles between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, so even prior to the old Delaware-Chesapeake Canal sailing commerce was natural from Trenton to Norfolk, Virginia, and all points in between. The next step was building canals, up the Raritan to New York Bay, and even up the "Main Line" west to Pittsburgh and beyond. The war of 1812 blocked off ocean shipping, and then another canal carried anthracite to Philadelphia, emptying at Bristol, briefly enriching Bristol, but then leaving it reduced to its present vestigial state when the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad cut it off. After canals came railroad tracks, usually following the path of the canals, making smoke and noise, constucting a dangerous, impenetrable barrier between the land and the water beside it. Superhighways do the same thing, replacing soot with gasoline fumes. There's a river out there somewhere, but you can't get to it. It now takes a twenty story high rise to give you a river view; even that is best seen on Sunday when lessened traffic reduces gasoline haze.

It's really hard to imagine that main attractions to living on the river once included not merely the view and the transportation, but also wonderful fishing and hunting among the bullrushes. Down around the Delaware Chesapeake Canal, Blackbeard the Pirate used to hide his ship and merry men in the shallow marshes among the mud islands. There's a reminder of it as you speed along the elevated multi-lane highway, or maybe it's just another reminder of political correctness. If you know the way well enough to take your eye away from the traffic pattern, off to the right is a directional sign pointing to the little cove where pirates used to convene. It says, "Blackbird".


{Map of NEw Jersey}
Map of NEw Jersey

Once you notice the oddity of salt water in the lower reaches of the Delaware and Hudson rivers, it gets easier to understand current theory that southern New Jersey was once an island. Like Long Island, it was separated from the mainland by a sound, but in the Jersey case the sound silted up from Trenton to New Brunswick, creating a new peninsula of "West" Jersey by uniting the island with the mainland. The colony was named after the island of Jersey off the coast of England, a gesture for Sir George Carteret, who was given the American area out of gratitude for once sheltering the exiled royal brothers Charles II and James from Cromwell, in that other Jersey. Cape May was probably a second distinct island later joined to the larger one by the transformation of silted ocean into the bogs of the Maurice River. Cape May started as a whaling community, populated by Quakers from New York and New England, who always maintained a social distance from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. The long Atlantic beaches of New Jersey now repeat the main geological process, with successive generations of barrier islands first heaved up by the ocean and then packed against the mainland, filling up the brackish bay. The cycle of forming and packing successive barrier islands takes about three hundred years before a new one starts. In a larger sense, the process consists of the former mountains of Pennsylvania crumbling into the ocean, and then responding to wave action.

It's no mystery, therefore, why southern New Jersey is flat, broken up by turgid meandering streams which casually empty in either direction. The head of Timber Creek, which flows into the Delaware, is only eight miles from the head of the Mullica River, flowing toward the ocean. During the Revolutionary War, the British found it too dangerous to sail up these winding creeks, since at any moment they might make a sharp turn and be facing a battery of cannon on the shore. An arrangement quickly grew up that buccaneers would build ships in the center of heavy oak forests and sail them out to Barnegat Bay, thence out one of the inlets of the barrier islands into blue water. The financiers of Philadelphia, many of them with names now in the Social Register, would come from the rear, sailing up the Delaware River creeks, and walking the last mile or two to privateer headquarters on the Atlantic-flowing creeks. Auctions were conducted, in which the ships were examined, the captain interviewed, and the crew observed in target practice. If you bought a small share you would be rich when the ship returned; and if it never returned, well, you had to invest in a different one. New Jersey is indignantly of the opinion that these privateers were mainly responsible for winning the Revolution, but given little credit for it. Many more British sailors were lost to the privateers than soldiers were lost to Washington's troops, and the economic loss to Great Britain of the ships and cargoes eventually became serious. Since much of the profit from privateering was recycled into the American war effort by Robert Morris, the British found themselves facing an enemy much more formidable than just the ragged frozen troops at Valley Forge on the Schuylkill. Meanwhile, William Bingham was conducting a similar privateering operation in partnership with Morris but based on the island of Martinique, but that's another story.

In later centuries, the traditions and geography of the Jersey Pine Barrens suited themselves to smuggling and bootlegging during the era of alcohol Prohibition, and even after Repeal, high taxes on liquor kept bootlegging profitable. As late as the 1950s, there were divisions of FBI men prowling the woods of South Jersey, on the lookout for trucks carrying bags of cane sugar, or coils of copper tubing. After housing developments started to invade the forests, the hard-ball politics of the South Jersey reflected a Mafia culture thought more characteristic of South Philadelphia. Near Vineland and Atlantic City, it isn't just a culture, it has the accent, because it also has some of the ancestry.


New Jersey, A Historical Account of Place names in the United States: Richard P. McCormick: ISBN-13: 978-0813506623 Amazon

Robert Barclay Justifies Quaker Meetings

{Robert Barclay}
Robert Barclay

As part of the dissidence and Civil War of 17th Century England, Robert Barclay the Scotsman emerged with a point of view which was structured and reasoned in detail. What was almost unique was his reduction of it to a handful of pithy "Sound Bites". Coupled with membership in a prominent family, these abilities made him a particular friend of James, Duke of York, later King. Barclay became a Quaker at an early age.

The whole point of the Reformation was revulsion against corrupt Catholic clergy, shielded behind some impossibly convoluted legalisms of doctrine. But for the governing establishment any reform was going too far if it led to anarchy and chaos; combating disorder was then in many ways the central mission of the Catholic faith. The establishment did recognize that public revolt against universal micromanagement led to the scaffold for Kings who insisted on it. But in their view the need for law and order still demanded some legitimacy, if not organized law. The Ranters, who paraded about stark naked and lived in ways resembling the hippies of the 1960s, were beyond the pale. Quakers, who professed no formal doctrine except silent meditation, might be possibly just as threatening. After all, silent meditation could lead you anywhere including regicide. But the Quakers at least were quiet about it.

George Fox the founder of Quakerism, had already provided one basis for containing fears of anarchy, by organizing local monthly meetings for worship within regional quarterly meetings; quarterly meetings in turn were within an overall framework of a yearly meeting. Occasional monthly meetings might develop a consensus for wild and antisocial behavior, indeed often did so, but would have to persuade the quarterly meetings whose members naturally outnumbered them. In extreme cases, the whole religion assembled in a yearly meeting. The innate conservatism of the meek would usually silence the extremism of the rebellious few. Very few kings would deny they could go no further toward despotism themselves, without the public behind them. The Quaker problem was to demonstrate what their consensus really was.

{Free Quaker Meeting House}
Free Quaker Meeting House
Barclay recognized and, framing the matter in Quaker terms, drove to the heart of this matter. Why have a Quaker meetinghouse at all? If the purpose is to meditate in silence, why not do that at home or in a cave?

Essentially, the answer emeged that any religion which renounced a priesthood, which even renounced having a written doctrine, still needed some sort of institutional memory. If every Quaker began with a clean slate, to develop his own organized set of moral principles, then most of them would never get very far. Even if they did, they would have no time left for milking cows and weaving cloth. Single silent meditation was inefficient, particularly if you had faith that everyone was eventually going to arrive at the same convictions as the Sermon on the Mount. The founders of Quakerism took a chance, here. To assume the same outcome, you have to assume everyone starts with the same instincts and talents; even 21st Century America has private doubts about that one. Feudal England would have rejected it contemptuously. Carried to an extreme, it was a claim that everyone was as good a philosopher as Jesus of Nazareth, as good a person, as much a Son of God. That seemed like an arrogant claim. A more humble claim was that collectively, listening respectfully to one another in a gathered meeting, the whole world would over time reach the same truths as the Creator. If not, that still was as about as close as you were going to get to an oral memory, slowly building on the insights of the past.

Like all the early Quakers, Robert Barclay spent some time in jail. He did visit America in 1681, but it is doubtful if he spent any time here while he was Governor of East Jersey, from 1682 to 1688. The King insisted on his appointment, because he seemed the most reasonable man among the most reasonable sect of dissenters, and therefore the rebel he chose to deal with.

Line Dividing East from West Jersey

{King Charles II}
King Charles II

Because we focus here on title to land in real estate transactions, a three-paragraph historical synopsis is necessary. If you've wondered why you need to buy title insurance when you buy a house, read on.

Four years after his restoration to the throne in 1660, King Charles II got his brother the Duke of York to conquer New Netherlands by first granting him the land. New Netherlands extended from the Connecticut River to the Delaware River. He added that it was up to the brother to conquer it from the Dutch, who had been in disputed possession since 1614. By much the same pass-the-buck process, the Duke of York then conditionally subdivided that part of it which is now called New Jersey, jointly to Sir George Carteret and John, Lord Berkeley -- who promptly delegated the actual fighting to one Colonel Nicholls. The Jersey name derives from an island in the British Channel, where Carteret had once provided haven from Cromwell for the exiled Charles and James. Nicholls defeated the Dutch on February 10, 1665, although later Dutch attempts at reconquest caused royal clouding of the Berkeley/Carteret titles, with the ultimate result that Berkeley sold his share to a Quaker Edmund Byllinge, and Carteret lost his right to govern but not his right to own, his half of the land.

{William Penn}
William Penn

At this point William Penn entered the picture as one of three Quaker trustees for Byllinge, who had gambling debts. A tenth of this share was given to John Fenwick, the 1675 settler of Salem, to settle his part of the disputes with Byllinge; the rest of it constituted what was to become the oldest American stockholder corporation, The Proprietors of West Jersey. The arrangement up to this point was firmly settled for the southern half of New Jersey by a Quintipartite Deed of July 12, 1676, signed by the three Quaker trustees plus Byllinge and Fenwick. Aside from establishing the Proprietorship, the main point of this deed was the separation of West Jersey from East Jersey (the Carteret part) by a North-South line which still persists as the upper border of Burlington County. The right to govern this land was fully restored in 1680 by a Confirmatory Grant from James, probably after considerable lobbying in London by William Penn.

Presumably in pursuit of this final confirmation, Penn had negotiated a hundred-page agreement with prospective settlers which outlined his plans for governing, called the Concessions and Agreements of March 14, 1677. Although its original purpose was mainly a real estate marketing tool, this landmark document seems not only to have persuaded the Duke of York, but so shaped the thinking of the English colonies that many of its features are readily recognized in the American Constitution of 1787.

{ West and East New Jersey}
Line dividing West and East NJ

The land mass between the North and South Rivers (Hudson and Delaware) only came completely and legally into the hands of Quakers in 1681. At that time Carteret's widow, Lady Elizabeth, sold the northern half (East Jersey) to twelve Quaker proprietors, while the southern half (West Jersey) was already held by thirty-two other Quaker proprietors under the effective leadership of William Penn. It is somewhat uncertain who orchestrated this final consolidation, but there is a strong presumption that it was Penn. Since the main purpose of these business proprietorships was to sell land to immigrants, it was vital to minimize land disputes with accurate records and accurate surveying. With a history behind them of fifteen years of bickering, everybody concerned was surely ready for some peaceful organization. Both groups of proprietors, East and West, found it useful to delegate authority to a council of nine executive proprietors, whose main agent under the circumstances was logically the Surveyor General. For the next three hundred years, the surveyor generals were the men running things in New Jersey. The right of the Proprietors to govern was revoked by Queen Anne in 1702, but their land rights remain undisturbed to the present day, notwithstanding the intervening transfer of national power to the United States of America in 1776-83. Underneath all of this hustling and arranging, with exquisite attention to details, seems to be found the hand of William Penn. Almost immediately after New Jersey was packaged and delivered, King Charles paid off his family debt by turning over the far larger combined land mass of Pennsylvania and Delaware to William Penn, urging him to make himself a vassal king in the process. The Quaker instantly declined such a thing, but the power continues to reside in the final Royal Charter. It's only a conjecture, but it might help explain the strange acquaintance between a dissolute king and an abstemious Quaker to notice that the New Jersey tour de force astoundingly demonstrates how Penn was a man who really could be trusted to get complicated things done with dispatch.

Today, for practical purposes it all amounts to a company named Taylor, Wiseman and Taylor; but we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. To go back to 1684 a surveyed line was clearly needed between the two proprietorships, as declared by the following resolution:

"Award we do hereby declare, that [the line] shall runn from ye north side of ye mouth or Inlet of ye beach of little Egg Harbor north north west and fifty minutes more westerly according to naturall position and not according to ye magnet whose variation is nine degrees westward."

To clarify those quaint words, the survey was not to make the mistake made in the layout of Philadelphia, whose streets had intended to be true north and south but by using Magnetic North are actually twelve degrees off from that. Another important point is probably unclear to modern readers, who know the town of Egg Harbor on the mainland of Barnegat Bay, but are largely unaware that the "beach of Egg Harbor" was what we now call Long Beach Island, on the east side of Barnegat Bay. The southern anchor of The Line was in what we now call Beach Haven, on the north side of the inlet, although beach erosion has put the southern anchor about two miles out to sea, locating a temporary marker in Beach Haven. Hardly anyone seems to be aware of it, but reread the sentence and observe the meaning is actually quite clear. The intent of the northern end of The Line (? the Delaware Water Gap ?) is buried in the obscurity of compass markings, but comes out slightly above Trenton on the Delaware River, extending beyond the river into Pennsylvania until it reached the river again in a crook on the far side of the Delaware Water Gap. Word of mouth has it that William Penn wanted to have both sides of the river although this triangle of Pennsylvania was eventually surrendered. It seems fair to say, the line was roughly intended to run from the Beach Haven ocean inlet to the Delaware Water Gap.

{Lord Berkeley}
John, Lord Berkeley

For its time, the survey of The Line was also a significant engineering achievement. The general plan was to lay out the course of the line in the wilderness until it hit a big boulder, or anything else that was large and heavy. This became a marker along a line of 150 markers which could be used for local surveys and boundaries. After several less accurate attempts, the West/East line was surveyed by John Lawrence in 1743 and stands as the Official Province Division Line. A few years ago, a group of volunteers tried to locate all of the original markers and found 55 of them. The historical project took ten years.

All of the deeds of property in the State of New Jersey still depend on the original survey and the meticulous notes kept by the Surveyors General of these two Quaker organizations, without whose private records every title to every property would be clouded. With the passage of time, and especially the warfare of the Revolution, other copies of the surveys have disappeared. So, without the need to get ugly about it, these soft-spoken courteous folks retain a form of power it would be hard to match with sticks and stones, guns, threats or legalisms -- the only surviving record of everyone's title to his land. There is little reason to inquire further why these Proprietorships durably survived the revolution which overthrew King George III, and why no one has seen fit to enter serious challenge to their claim of owning the whole state except for what they had already specifically sold.

Let's go back to a point made earlier. In all the complexities of the English Royal Court and uncertainties of an uncharted wilderness, how did a little band of Quakers find themselves with uncontested ownership of a whole American colony? Some of the chaos of the age probably helped. King Charles unleashed his brother's armies in 1664. Also in 1664, Parliament passed the Second Conventicle Act, which provided that not more than five persons were permitted to worship together otherwise than according to the established ritual of the Anglican Church of England. This act might be described as an improvement on the First Conventicle Act of Queen Elizabeth, which provided that no one at all could so worship. However, this prohibition was so extreme it was ignored, whereas the Second Conventicle probably had some popular support. It thus can be imagined why Quakers were suddenly interested in leaving England, and not hard to understand how young William Penn was propelled into leadership by successfully overturning that Act in the Haymarket Case. Penn was both the defendant in the case and the defense lawyer, inventing the common law principle of jury nullification that has so confounded tyranny ever since. To go on with events current at the time, the Great Plague took place in 1665, making London an undesirable place for anybody to live. And finally, George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, took a journey to the new world in 1672, noting that the place now called Burlington, New Jersey was "a most brave country". Taken altogether, it is not hard to suspect this group of fairly wealthy, fairly well educated people developed a collective resolve to buy up the pieces, assemble the parcel, and go away to live on it. Their organization into monthly local meetings, quarterly regional meetings, and annual national meetings was surely a great assistance. From what we know of the broader vision of William Penn, it is fair to speculate his enthusiasm for this communications network first suggested by George Fox, or at least his having a pretty quick recognition how it would assist the emigration venture.

{George Carteret}
George Carteret

George Carteret's widow was the last to sell out her land parcel to the East Jersey Proprietors, presumably drawn from the 1400 immigrants who had arrived in Burlington on five or six ships between 1678 and 1681. In particular, the ship Kent sailed from the Thames in 1677, bearing 230 Quakers, half from Yorkshire, the other half from London settling further south in West Jersey. Before that, Lord Berkeley had sold his half for a thousand pounds to John Fenwick and Edward Billynge, who arrived in Salem on the ship Griffin in 1674. These two soon fell out, with Fenwick taking a tenth of the land and settling around Salem. Billynge got into unspecified difficulties, probably gambling, and turned his property over to his three main creditors, William Penn, Gawen Lawrie, and Nicholas Lucas, who assembled the Proprietorship of West Jersey. Penn's remarkable talent for leadership again emerged in his statement of "Concessions and Agreements" with the Indians and new inhabitants. In another place, we discuss the reasons for thinking this document created the effective basis of the U.S. Constitution. By infusing it with the unspoken word of compromise, Penn created the main model explaining why the ratification of the Constitution remains the only time in history when thirteen independent nations voluntarily gave up sovereignty for the purpose of creating a larger vision -- which then held together for two centuries. But the voluntary union of East and West Jersey certainly has a claim to being earlier, although its claim to sovereignty is weaker.

Perhaps so, but since their interest in power was weaker, their achievement in peaceful negotiation with a secretly Catholic King was surely much greater. If some small group of religious dissidents should today emerge as having quietly and systematically bought up an entire state, however legally, the word conspiracy would be on every tongue. In this case, however, the reaction was peaceful consensus.

Dingman's Ferry, Below Port Jervis

{Dingman Ferry Bridge}
Dingman Ferry Bridge

Because the area was once covered with glacier, the northeast corner of Pennsylvania is fairly deserted. That's always been good for hunting and fishing, and more recently is good for skiing. Although the topsoil is poor, it's a beautiful area, practically guaranteed to provoke confrontation between the environmentalist movement and the Marcellus shale-gas extraction industry. The history of anthracite coal demonstrates locally that the mineral extraction industry always wins these arguments in the short run, but ultimately the land seems to heal itself without much help from people living in city apartments. The followers of Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt are slowly learning to concentrate on minimizing the damage, and forcing the extraction industries to pay for clean-ups afterward. Right now, this semi-wilderness area is a remarkably beautiful but deserted forest within two hours drive of Philadelphia and New York City. It contains the headwaters of the three main rivers of Northeastern United States.

Crossing those three rivers was the main geographical problem for the Connecticut invaders of Pennsylvania. Today, the landscape is not a great deal different except for the absence of Indians, and crossing the three rivers is the main event. There's a Hudson river bridge at Newburgh, and crossing the Susquehanna at Wilkes-Barre is a placid bridge within a town park. From the point of view of the Interstate highway, crossing the Delaware occurs very near the highest point in New Jersey, over a deep rocky gorge with boaters deep below. Since the traveler is at a peak point within a long wide mountain valley, the view is spectacular in several directions.

However, for centuries the builders of roads had to operate on a modest budget, and the only reasonable place to cross the Delaware in that region is a few miles south of Port Jervis, at Dingman's Ferry. The Dingman family prospered at their trade for many generations before they modernized and constructed a toll bridge, which is now one of the few remaining toll bridges in private hands, and possibly the oldest one. You don't have to ask the two jolly old toll collectors whether they are part of the Dingman family because they certainly act like it, adding to the wad of dollar bills in their left hand as they greet the fellas, josh the girls, and wave directions with a free hand. A quarter-mile to the south of the bridge on the Pennsylvania side is the entrance to a trail leading to a National Park Service station. The Park Guards are a friendly sort, most of them freely admitting they are members of the Dingman clan, available to help tourists interested in a trail walk, including a visit to the local waterfall. In spite of all this family connection, and Park Service training, nobody at the station had ever heard of the march of the Connecticut invaders. Or of the Proprietorships of West and East Jersey, or of the line between them which allegedly ends at Dingman's Ferry. The best they could do was point to the local cemetery, which has a big rock at the entrance that somehow has some particular significance, or other.

{Cemetery Unmarked Stone}
Cemetery Unmarked Stone

As it turns out, the cemetery is quite large, with surely a thousand or more gravestones, a great many of which fly American Legion flags for veterans of one war or another, and many more are decorated with fresh flowers. Only a corner of this graveyard touches the curving road to The Bridge, and just inside the entrance is a very large, unmarked stone. Trees have been planted nearby, and their roots have half-covered the rock. But the roads and the cemetery in general seem designed around it. There's no marker to explain it, any more than there is a placque at Stonehenge. As the Park Ranger said, it has clear significance, but no one now seems to know what it is significant of.

Well, if no one is likely to contradict, let's make the timid suggestion that this may be the terminus of the line dividing East from West Jersey. Yes, it's in Pennsylvania. But there is nothing more likely on the New Jersey side of the crossing, and the current Surveyor-General of West Jersey, William Taylor, is firm in the belief the line terminated at Dingman's Ferry. William Penn had hoped to control land on both sides of the river, and when he acquired Pennsylvania in addition to New Jersey, the issue became moot. The style of the survey had been to start at Beach Haven ("Ye inlet of ye beach of Egg Harbor") and follow the compass until it hit something large and heavy. That rock was marked, and another survey went the next step. About fifty of these markers have been discovered by later explorers, and officially represent the underlying fixed line which serves as a survey basis for every property in the state of New Jersey. Since I own some property in New Jersey myself, it seems important to be sure I know where it is, or else some trial lawyer may try to take it away.

The Proprietorships of William Penn

William Penn became first interested in the Colonies when he acquired New Jersey as an investor in what started out as the bankruptcy proceedings of a client. Unlike his spoiled children and grandchildren, he was sincerely interested in helping the persecuted members of his new religion, and those who later totalled up his lifetime finances found that overall he lost money on his real estate ventures. His descendants however were mainly concerned with selling real estate, and soon reverted to Anglican church membership. When William Penn later received Pennsylvania and Delaware from the King of England (Charles II, the Stuart King restored with the help of his Admiral father), he not only owned these territories but for practical administrative reasons was offered the right to rule them. By then Penn's main future intention was to found a refuge for Quakers and other religious dissenters, so becoming a vassal King was graciously declined. Instead, he became a real estate Prioprietor, after satisfying himself about the government and other arrangements in only a general way. At least half the original 13 colonies were also proprietorships, although the terms of their grants had great variation. Penn's intention for the proprietorship was to sell off as much of the property as possible, sort of benignly watching the process unfold in the parts he had sold.

There were two unforeseen flaws in this benevolent idea; the first was that his sons and heirs would abandon the Quaker faith and have little interest in his holy experiment except for the revenue it returned. The second flaw was to fail to see that vigorous religious toleration might eventually lead to the Quakers becoming outnumbered in their own refuge. Eventually, there does come a time in the real estate sell-off process when you have sold more than you retain. After that point, you may no longer dominate the politics, and in fact that happened far sooner than half-way, because of Penn's unwillingness to employ force .

William Penn

In land value, although perhaps not in land area, that point of loss of control had been reached by the middle of the eighteenth century, and it led to a famous battle between the Penn descendants and Benjamin Franklin. The Penn family saw no justice in paying taxes on the land they hadn't yet sold, or obeying laws created by their customers which extended beyond the land they owned; if they wanted to rule it all, they should buy it all. Franklin took the part of the settlers and immigrants, who resented paying taxes and fighting Indians on behalf of someone who still owned vast stretches of land "within" the colony. A significant factor in this peculiar argument is that Thomas Penn, the dominant chief of the family descendants, had a deep and abiding suspicion of Franklin, dating back to that episode related in Franklin's Autobiography where Franklin raised a militia in King George's War when the pacifist Quakers refused to do so. Both sides had some justice in their positions, both sides appealed to the King. The Penns knew the King better, so Franklin lost. That was mostly what Franklin was doing in London in the years before the Revolution, and eventually it took a Revolutionary war to resolve the issue. Some have said the episode showed Franklin was not as shrewd a politician as history books would portray him. In fact, it more likely emphasizes that Franklin was a loyal British subject right up to 1775. His position was that all parties were and forever would be, inhabitants of the British Empire, so they had equality under British rule. The Penns felt they had a right to consider Pennsylvania their own sovereign property, under which the colonists had no rights until they paid for them. It is easy to see how the notion of independence could take hold in this curious reversal of roles. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania did resolve the issue with the appearance of lawfulness, although with restrained generosity. To quote Sydney G. Fisher, writing in The Quaker Colonies, "When the people could have confiscated everything in Pennsylvania belonging to the proprietary family, they not only left them in possession of a large part of their land, but paid them handsomely for the part that was taken." The matter is generally considered to have been finally settled by the Confirming Act of 1787, although few would now contend that fifteen pennies per acre is or was a handsome price.

And so, the Pennsylvania proprietorship was dissolved. In New Jersey, on the other hand, the proprietorship still exists. The land between the North River (Hudson) and the South River (Delaware) was divided into two proprietorships by a line drawn between the Delaware Water Gap, and Beach Haven on Long Beach Island. The southern segment was called the Proprietorship of West Jersey, informally peopled by English Quakers, and a northern half, the Proprietorship of East Jersey, informally ceded to Scots Quakers who proved to be more Scottish than Quaker. Temperamental differences might well have eventually led the two segments to take opposite sides of the 1860 Civil War except that it was the northern half that sympathized with slavery and the Southern confederacy, while the Proprietorship of West Jersey was mostly where the anti-slavery movement began, with a Quaker named John Woolman. As matters turned out, neither slavery nor taxing unsold land became irreconcilable issues in the Jerseys. Unsold land of the Proprietorship was already fairly minor in New Jersey at the time of the Revolution, but the issue hadn't been forgotten by the Proprietors, either. A couple of the stockholders of the proprietorship were members of the Constitutional Convention. When the time came that other delegates urgently needed New Jersey's vote to ratify the new constitution, the Proprietor problem was "explained" to the other states. The outcome was that the proprietorship tacitly agreed to be taxed and regulated like any other property owner, while their ownership rights were respected as persisting under the new Constitution. Such a sensible outcome was probably not possible in Pennsylvania because there was so much more unsold land to fight about. The peacefully accepted consequence in New Jersey, even today, is that when the ocean creates a new strip of beach, or a farmer abandons some land on the other side of a turnpike, it reverts to the Proprietorship as undeeded and untitled land. As such, it legally belongs to a little group of stockholders who meet once a year in Burlington or Salem, under a tree, and who can actually pay themselves annual dividends. It is however only true in half the state; the Proprietorship of East Jersey surrendered its rights to the State in 1998.

In Delaware, things are a little fuzzier. Delaware was once part of Pennsylvania, as its lower three counties. John Dickinson was once Governor of both states, but they had two legislatures from 1700 to 1776. The last time the proprietorship matter came up, so far as real estate lawyers can remember, was in the shifting sandy beaches of Cape Henlopen; things were smoothed out by making the disputed land into a state park.


Encyclopedia of New Jersey Google Books
The Problem of West Jersey JSTOR
The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Origins of the Empire Google Books
A Map of East and West New Jarsey JPG
Council of Proprietors of West Jersey
Magna Charta: Part I: The Romance of the Great Charter; Part II: Pedigrees of the Barons: John S. Wurts: SIN: AB0006D91C4 Abe Books
West New Jersey: The Peculiar Province: ASIN: B00072HGTE Amazon
Why the Private School?: Allan V. Heely: ASIN: B000GR1QS2 Amazon

Addressing The Proprietors' Dilemma

William Penn

DURING the century which elapsed after Charles II gave away Pennsylvania to William Penn, several hundred thousand people moved in and changed the place. Transformation of the wilderness explains why the terms of the grant seemed logical at one time, but proved almost impossible to manage at the time of the Revolution. The Penns with thirty million acres were the largest landholders in America but, in fact, by 1776 only five million acres had been sold in a century. The land they held was simply too much for one family to handle without an army, and although the original settlers were pacifists, the later ones were combative.

Charles II had written in the Charter that the Penns could have the land if they could maintain order there, retaining the legal right for the King to recover the land if they didn't. This fall-back provision certainly reflects some doubt about the ability of pacifists to shoot the necessary number of Indians, Frenchmen and Spaniards. On the other hand, the motive for a King delegating away his authority in the first place became clearer when the Penns experienced severe financial strain defending the Northeast corner of the state against the Connecticut invaders. It furthermore helps us understand why Benjamin Franklin received such a cold reception when he was sent to London by the colonists to request the crown to reassert civil authority over the state. That did not necessarily imply stripping the Penns of their land; by this time, it was clear that the Penn Proprietors were mainly interested in selling it to someone. The charter of the King's grant included the offer to make William Penn a King; and although the offer was declined, the Penn Proprietors retained some degree of legal power to govern the territory. Franklin for all his persuasive power was unfortunately the one man Thomas Penn didn't want to see, because of the threat he had posed by raising a militia in King George's War, and later his expansiveness at the Albany Conference. And Thomas was a good friend of the King. The King didn't want these problems, and particularly didn't want the expense. Ambiguities were of course shared all around. William Penn had quite shrewdly seen it was more sensible to treat the Indians decently than to fight with them, and cheaper too; the lesson was not lost on the British crown. But the French Kings posed a much larger world-wide threat to the British colony, finding for their part, it was rather economical to supply munitions to the Indians on the frontier and stir them up emotionally. The French and Indian War was a small component of the Seven Years War, which proved to be a costly adventure for both sides. Its local cost certainly overwhelmed the ability of one family to underwrite local governance in a large wartime colony, and it jeopardized the finances of the British Monarch to carry the rest. The resulting need to tax the colonies for their defense sent things downhill, eventually to the Stamp Act, the Townshend duties, and the Tea Tax. Everyone made lots of mistakes as the whole structure underwent revision, just as pacifists are certain will happen in any war. But when a pacifist utopian colony was prospering while successfully dealing with the Indians, it's all sort of a big pity.

Thomas Penn

With much to lose, the Penn family did pretty well with the resources at hand. By the time of the Revolution, three generations of Penns had divided up ownership shares of the Proprietorship. When French and Spanish ships were marauding the Delaware River, Benjamin Franklin the local printer took it on himself to organize a militia which persists today as the Pennsylvania National Guard, the Twenty-eighth Division. Franklin was suddenly a local hero to everyone, except to one man, Thomas Penn. Thomas was the dominant figure in the Penn family for many years, and worried deeply about Franklin, a man who could stir up ten thousand armed volunteers with a poster proclamation. Such a man could mean trouble, as indeed events later proved to be the case.

John Penn was the Governor of the state, residing in his mansion on the Schuylkill called Lansdowne, doing his best to ingratiate the locals. He struggled to be diplomatic when arguing for the decisions actually made by his Uncle Thomas in London. Thomas Penn, on the other hand, was an important friend of the British Ministry, and a notable person in aristocratic England. As the Revolutionary War approached, the problem transformed into how to hold on to 25 million unsold acres, while remaining unsure who was going to win the impending war.

John Penn

The strategy the Penns adopted was to get out of the business of running local government, as Franklin had proposed but in a different way. John Penn the Governor became a private citizen, just a local real estate agent. He took an oath of allegiance to the Revolutionary government, which in the chaos of the time was equivalent to becoming an American citizen. Meanwhile, other members of the family remained in England, ready to revise the arrangement if the British won the war. It was all fairly transparent straddling of the issues, which was only even remotely likely to be effective because of the enormous store of Penn goodwill built up over a century. In 1789 revolutionary France, for example, such sentimentality would not have delayed the tumbrels to the guillotine for five minutes.

Meanwhile, an unexpected difficulty was created. By withdrawing from control of the local government, the Penn family also withdrew from the defense of state borders against neighboring colonies. Under the circumstances, the Penns were afraid to appeal to the King, while the new government of Pennsylvania found the Articles of Confederation were merely a wartime tribal compact. The Articles stabilized boundaries mainly for the purpose of conducting a united war, and did not seriously contemplate a continuing judicial role for disputes between colonies. When the Revolution was finally over, the Penn Proprietors were not left with much of a bargaining position. The new State of Pennsylvania offered, and they accepted, about fifteen cents an acre to surrender their claims. In Delaware, they got essentially nothing for those three counties. Only in New Jersey did the Proprietors' claims remain durable after the new nation was established. The Proprietorship of East Jersey survived into the late 20th century, and the Proprietorship of West Jersey continues to return a small profit even today. The New Jersey curiosity is treated in a separate essay.

The Proprietor, Himself

Richard Dunn, who with his wife Mary Maples Dunn stand as the two core authorities on the life of William Penn, merely smiles when asked to describe what Penn was really all about. What we need is to have one good biography emerge, but it isn't easy to guess what it will say. For the present, let's just sketch a few paradoxes which somehow need threading together.

In the first place, the wealth of William Penn can only be described as prodigious. His father had played a central role in restoring the Stuart monarchs, and in the course of it had conquered for the Crown the enormously valuable property of the Island of Jamaica. For these efforts, the father had been rewarded with extensive properties in Ireland, and a highly influential position at Court. To all of this was overgenerously added as a debt repayment, the American territories which have now become the states of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Actual ownership of some of this was shared with others, but all of it was quite effectively controlled by young William. No one else stands even close as the largest private landholder in American history. But to appreciate the immensity of his wealth, it should be understood that he treated this property as a sort of hobby. Over the course of his lifetime, the colonies lost money, and Penn subsidized them rather seriously from his other assets.

At the same time, Penn lived vastly beyond his income in ordinary ways, becoming heavily indebted, eventually going to debtor's prison. It probably was not necessary; his sons renounced Quakerism and made a profit on the colonies after they inherited them. Although he could display remarkable organizational talent, particularly in the organization of New Jersey, his management was mostly slack, his judgment of agents often proved too trusting, and he permitted himself to be exploited by poorly-designed contracts to his eventual financial ruin. Even that might not have been serious; he displayed a towering legal mind in the devising of the doctrine of jury nullification and was the winner in a great many lawsuits. He even demonstrated he was capable of winning dubious lawsuits, soundly defeating Lord Baltimore in a border dispute over Maryland which others have said showed Baltimore had the stronger case. We know he had influence at Court, and such legal victories suggest he might on occasion have taken full advantage of it.

{Gulielma Maria Springett}
Gulielma Maria Springett Penn

From the sound of things, some have concluded Penn was so rich and powerful he grew careless about his own best interests, which essentially needed very little defense. In particular, he gave this impression to his fellow Quakers, who concluded he did not need nor likely would stoop to collecting what he was owed in taxes and property sales. This cavalier attitude encouraged the early Quaker merchants to follow their own advantage without shame, and as it happened with great vigor. The Constitutions he devised for the colonies are frequently cited as the brilliant cornerstones of fairness and stability, ultimately the models for much of our present Constitution. Penn really was sincere in wanting to provide a better life for the working people than they could have at home in England. But in the Seventeenth Century, the modest role he devised for the Proprietor commanded little respect, and was not one his aggressive clients would have chosen for themselves in his position. Perhaps the most generous description of their passive aggression would be that he taught power and governance to be the collective possession of the whole Quaker meeting, so the leaders of the meeting simply took him at his word. For their part, there can be little doubt of their commercial talents; trade and industry immediately thrived in the colony. However, sharp, aggressive trade and commerce were not things a gentleman would himself want to associate with.

Unfortunately, the historical records of the early colonies are not good; for the most part, we have to surmise the struggles and frictions between a rich, financially careless, and sincerely earnest theologian in his contention with a group of poorly educated strivers who had been told he regarded each of them to be his equal. As the saying goes, he was rich beyond denying. And therefore, he was probably arrogant beyond his own ability to see it as a flaw.

Equal before the law, perhaps, and equal in the prayers of First-day Meeting. But everything about his upbringing, his social circle in London, and his staggering wealth suggested that even a saint would have trouble believing, deep in his heart, that these were truly his equals. And even if perchance he did believe it, they would not have believed it for a moment, had their positions been reversed. Penn certainly acted as though he believed in religious freedom, serene in the idea that if every person earnestly thought hard about ethical issues, everyone would eventually reach about the same conclusion. The elders of the meeting, however, behaved in ways which suggested they would personally prefer non-Quakers to settle somewhere else, and given half a chance would create Quakerism as an established church. There seemed to be those who felt that Friend William was perhaps a little too trusting. And anyway there were some obvious paradoxes. William Penn kept personal slaves.

{Hannah Callowhill Penn}
Hannah Callowhill Penn

With two wives, William Penn had thirteen childrem. Among them was considerable diversity of opinion, along with the same tendency to rebellion found in any two generations. Early illnesses and chance led to the emergence of those children who renounced Quakerism, and showed no shame at all about wanting to have money in order to spend it recklessly. One would have supposed that a man of Penn's intellectual stature would have been able to control his family better, but his own reckless youth had been so extreme that he had few arguments available when, as seems virtually certain, rebellious children defended themselves by reminding him of his own indiscretions. William Penn displayed absolutely no sense of humor; a touch of it would have been useful in mastering a family and friends who were undoubtedly having a little trouble knowing what to make of this apparition in their midst. Some equally pompous Pennsylvania merchants might have had difficulty denying that in their passive aggression, they occasionally resembled the spoiled brats with whom he found he had ample family association.


Remember William Penn, 1644-1944: A Tercentenary Memorial : Edward Martin: ISBN-13: 978-1258369934 Amazon

Concessions and Agreements

{Concessions and Agreements}
Concessions and Agreements

The United States Constitution is a unique achievement, but it had significant precursors, many of which James Madison had studied at Princeton. In the days of difficult ocean travel, almost all colonies were bound by agreement to maintain loyalty to their European owners in spite of receiving latitude to govern themselves. Charters and documents defining these roles were generally written by the owners, and the colonists could pretty much take them or leave them. In the case of New Jersey in 1664, however, a very formidable lawyer and friend of the King named William Penn was drawing up agreements to his own conditions of sale, taking care that the grant of governing authority he received was favorable. Penn's relationship to the King was unusually good to say the least. He had more reason to be wary of nit-pickers in the King's administration, trying to anticipate every conceivable disappointment for some successor King.

For his part, Penn wanted to make colonial land attractive to re-sell to religious groups who had experienced harsh government oppression; he wanted no obstacles to his announcing there would be no religious oppression in New Jersey. He was offered the role of sub-king although he hastily rejected any such title, and needed to repeat the formalities of the Charter to define his role and reassure his settlers about that matter. Furthermore, he was dealing with the heirs of Carteret and Berkeley, active participants in North and South Carolina. So Penn's method of achieving basic rights was influenced by prior thinking in the Carolinas, as the thinking of John Locke secondarily influenced matters in Delaware and Pennsylvania. These ideas were incorporated in a New Jersey document called "Concessions and Agreements." The concepts were not wholly the ideas of William Penn, but he did write it, and it does contain many ideas that were uniquely his. Understandings about limits were set down, argued about, and agreed to. The owner risked money, the colonist risked his life. Neither would agree unless a reasonable bargain was struck in advance of any dispute. Furthermore, the main value of a colony was beginning to shift from trading rights to real estate rights. Carteret and Berkeley had not only been principals in both the Carolinas and the Jerseys, but had been involved in a number of such investments in Africa and the West Indies; New Jersey was just another business deal. It was conventional for documents of this type to define the method of selection of a governor, the establishment of an assembly of colonists, and some sort of council to attend to day to day affairs. In that era, few colonists would cross the ocean without a guarantee of religious freedom, at least for their own brand of religion. Standard clauses which may sound strange in today's real estate world, were then necessary because it was a transfer of not merely land, but also the terms of government. In the case of the Quaker colonies, many of these stipulations were included in the earlier charter from the King. It seems very likely that Penn hovered around and negotiated these points which he wished to have the King agree to; and then once the land was safely his, Penn repeated and expanded these stipulations with the colonists in his Concessions and Agreements . It wasn't exactly a Constitution, but it reads a lot like the one America adopted a century later.

{Proprietors House}
Proprietors House

Quakers had suffered persecution and imprisonment, and knew exactly what they feared; on the other side, it seems likely Carteret and Berkeley were less interested. So this real estate transfer document conceded almost anything the colonists wanted and the King would stand for, couched in conciliatory phrases. For example, no settler was to be molested for his conscience, and liberty was to be for all time, and for all men and Christians. Elections, by the way, must be annual, and by secret ballot. While law and order must prevail, nevertheless no man is to be imprisoned or molested except by the agreement of twelve men of the neighborhood. On the matter of slavery, no man was to be brought to the colony in bondage, save by his own consent (that is, indentured servants were to be permitted). And in what proved to be a final irony for William Penn, there was to be no imprisonment for debt. Almost all of these innovative ideas survived into the U.S. Constitution a century later, but the most innovative idea of all was to set them all down in a freely-made agreement in writing. This was not merely how a government was organized, it defined the set of conditions under which both sides agreed it would operate.

It was of course, more than that. It was a set of reassurances to settlers who had been in New Jersey before the English arrived that they, also, would be treated as equals. It was a real estate advertisement to the fearful religious dissenters back in England that it was safe to live here. And it was a reminder to future Kings and Parliaments that this is what they had promised.

The pity and a warning, is that the larger vision of a whole continent governed fairly by common consent may have been too grandiose for a little band of New Jersey Quakers, surrounded as they were by an uncomprehending world. All utopias are helpless when stronger neighbors reject the basic premise. However, it was the expansion of the pacifist concept to the much larger neighboring territory of Pennsylvania that proved to be just too much for such a small group of friends to manage by consensus, particularly when unbelieving immigrants began to outnumber them. But the essential parts of it certainly remained in the minds of delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.


Concessions and Agreements of New Jersey 1676: William Penn New Jersey State Library
Camden After the Fall: Decline and Renewal in a Post-Industrial City: Howard Gillette Jr.: ISBN-13: 978-0812219685 Amazon

Unalienable Rights Before 1776

{Proprietors of West Jersey}
Proprietors of West Jersey

In 1976, the bicentennial birthday celebration of the Declaration of Independence contained two major exhibits of its conceptual origins. Mr. H. Ross Perot of Texas loaned his copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, and the Proprietors of West Jersey loaned their 1677 original of William Penn's Concessions and Agreements to the colonists of New Jersey. The purpose of the exhibit was to emphasize the historical origins of the concepts within the Declaration, but even the language of the Concessions is remarkably similar, quite evidently lifted by Jefferson when he was writing. On one point, Penn had the better of Jefferson; he correctly wrote about inalienable rights, while somehow Jefferson gave us unalienable ones.

{William Penn}
William Penn

The matter came up recently at a Socrates meeting of the Right Angle Club, where at least one member felt there was no such thing as a natural right, while others wavered. In discussing the rights which the Creator, William Penn and/or Thomas Jefferson may have given us, the various contexts must be held in mind. At the time of declaring our intention to sever relations with Britain's King, there was no Constitution to refer to as a source, and it was impolitic to assert the rights had been given by English kings, like King John. Therefore, the language cleverly short-cuts around the divine right of kings to make a direct connection between the Creator and the colonists. William Penn on the other hand, was a real estate promoter, offering enticements and assurances to prospective colonists who were naturally fearful of risking their lives in sailboats, only to face the possible tyranny of a vassal king who might be even worse than the anointed one. Not only did Penn renounce any suggestion of a Royal role for himself, but went to considerable length describing the legally binding concessions and agreements he was offering. The right of trial by jury, for example, became a right to be punished only by a jury of twelve of one's neighbors. He wasn't talking to lawyers, he was making important distinctions very clear to laymen. These were not rights given by a Divinity who could be trusted, nor something which grew out of Mother Nature. They were the personal promises of William Penn, in personal legal jeopardy of the English courts if he reneged on them. He even had a ready answer for those who discovered religious language in legal documents -- the Quaker belief that, occasional appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, There is That of God, in every man.

{H. Ross Perot}
H. Ross Perot

As a small side light of the Concessions document, it had long been housed in the little brick hut on Main Street in Burlington NJ, where the Proprietors of West Jersey keep their treasures. The obscurity of these papers was probably their best protection, but the risk of displaying them in Philadelphia at the centennial brought out the need to insure them, hence to appraise their value. The figure of four million dollars was kicked around. Ross Perot might have felt comfortable with this sort of expense as the natural cost of being a rare book collector, but it seemed highly unnatural to Quakers. Sometime afterward, the Surveyor General, William Taylor, was awakened by a call from Burlington neighbors that someone was trying to break in the roof to steal contents of the Proprietorship building. The burglars were unaware that underneath the shingles, the roof was actually made of concrete a foot thick. So the perps were frustrated in their aims, but Bill Taylor was greatly troubled by the implications, actually unable to sleep at night worrying about what was in his custody. So, in time the State of New Jersey constructed a suitable archives building, and the valuable documents were transferred up to Trenton. Time will tell what the Soprano State does with such a valuable possession, but at least the Quakers can now sleep at night.

Burlington, Capital of the Province of West Jersey

Burlington County Map

Perth Amboy sits on a high bluff overlooking New York harbor bordering the north side of the Raritan River, while Burlington sits on a high bluff overlooking Delaware Bay from the south. Each of them was originally the capital of a province. The eighty-mile strip of land between them is the wasp waist of New Jersey (Nova Caesaria) containing enough land to satisfy the needs of the handful of early settlers. This strip, as the shortest land distance between the Delaware and the Hudson, seemed destined to be the commercial main line along the Atlantic seaboard. Ultimately, Scottish Quakers were comfortable moving into hilly East Jersey stretching to the northward on what used to be mainland; while the English Quakers were comfortable with the flat sandy loam stretching to the south into the piney woods that once were an oceanic barrier island. George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, had visited the area in 1671 and pronounced favorably on the fair prospect around Bridlington, now Burlington; the founding meeting of the two Quaker proprietorships was held there. Because of dissension within East Jersey, Queen Anne combined the two provinces into a single royal colony in 1701, with its colonial capital in Perth Amboy. The state capital moved to Trenton in 1790, following which the whole region prospered in response to the nation's first commercial railroad, the Camden and Perth Amboy RR. Ultimately, the flaw in this project was that the early railroad easily crossed the narrow Raritan but came to a dead halt in Camden, where it could not hope to cross the mile-wide Delaware at Philadelphia. When the Pennsylvania Railroad crossed the Delaware at Trenton, the century-long prosperity of New Jersey from Trenton to Camden was doomed to slow decay.

One enduring symbol of the commercial decline of Burlington is in the second largest restaurant in town, located within an imposing bank building, whose remaining bank vault door towers over the dining area, and is only the first-floor vault. Another one like it is on the second floor. This bank turned restaurant is at the corner of two broad intersecting business avenues, one traveling north-south with a railroad track down the center, and the other leading to the fine esplanade on the bluff above the dock area. Sheltering the old docking area is Burlington Island, large enough to contain a hundred-acre lake.

Just south of the main street to the river is a handsome and well preserved colonial street, just waiting to become the center of a second Williamsburg revival, but curiously containing a house used by General Ulysses S. Grant, and -- not so curiously -- the family seat of the Haines family who have loomed large over West Jersey for many -- perhaps thirteen or fourteen -- generations.

If you go back to the other main street, the one with the railroad tracks, there is a little open-air station used by riders of the light rail Riverline which has flourished beyond all expectation as a less expensive way to commute to New York. In six months of operation, the Riverline has exceeded the ridership prediction for ten years ahead, so it's easy to predict more trains will be purchased to accommodate increased traffic, and home construction for commuters is probably not long in the future as well.

Just across the road from this little station stands a tiny one-story building, next to several imposing Federalist style red brick homes. You have to look up at the medallion over the door to identify this building as the present home of the Proprietors of West Jersey. This particular building was built in 1919, replacing an older one which used to be across the street. Inside the Proprietor building, behind the walls of small bank vaults, were the invaluable historical documents and maps of the Proprietorship, dating back to the signatures of William Penn and other notables taught about in the schools of the region. There was the Quintipartite Deed, signed by three Quakers (Penn, Gawen Lorie, Nicholas Lucas) and both George Carteret and Edward Billinge, establishing the boundaries of East and West Jersey; and there was the document of Concessions and Agreements, one of the major precursors of the United States Constitution; the Tripartite Indenture, and various early agreements of land sales. After a frustrated effort at break-in these documents were copied and the originals sent to the State Archives. It seems a great pity to lose the testimony to public trust that came along with having three-hundred year old relics easily and simply available for public view, just by walking up and asking to see them. But these are signs of the times; the greatest warning came from the rifling of the Christopher Columbus museum in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, where any passerby could honk his horn and ask to see the sea chest and crucifix that Columbus actually used on his voyages to the brave new world, that hath such creatures in it.


New Jersey, A Historical Account of Place names in the United States: Richard P. McCormick: ISBN-13: 978-0813506623 Amazon

John Woolman Reports on Yearly Meeting, 1758

{John Woolman House}
John Woolman House

"In this yearly-meeting (1758) several weighty matters were considered; and, toward the last, that in relation to dealing with persons who purchase slaves. . . .

"Many faithful brethren labored with great firmness, and the love of truth, in a good degree, prevailed. Several Friends who had Negro's expressed their desire that a rule might be made to deal with such Friends as offenders who bought slaves in future. To this it was answered, that the root of this evil would never be effectually struck at until a thorough search was made into the circumstances of such Friends who kept Negro's, with respect to the righteousness of their motives in keeping them, that impartial justice might be administered throughout. Several Friends expressed their desire that a visit might be made to such Friends who kept slaves; and many Friends said that they believed liberty was the Negro's' right; to which, at length, no opposition was made publicly. A minute was made, more full on that subject than any heretofore, and the names of several Friends entered, who were free to join in a visit to such who kept slaves. "

Slaveowning Quaker Steps Up To The Plate

County of Gloucester

I, Joseph Nicholson of the Township of Woolwich and County of Gloucester, do hereby set free from bondage my Negro Tenor, aged about twenty-two years, and do, for myself, my Executors and Administrators, release unto the said Tenor, all my Right, and all claim whatsoever as to her person or to any Estate that may acquire, hereby declaring the said Tenor, absolutely free, without any interruption from me, or any person claiming under me.

In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal this twenty-seventh day of the twelfth Month, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy nine. 1779.

. . . Joseph Nicholson (Seal)

. . Sealed and Delivered in the presence of Joseph Allen

East Jersey's Decline and Fall

The colony of New Caesaria (Jersey) had two provinces, East and West Jersey, because the Stuart kings of England had given the colony to two of their friends, Sir George Carteret and John, Lord Berkeley, to split between them. Both provinces soon fell under the control of William Penn but it took a little longer to acquire the Berkeley part, so the Proprietorship of East Jersey was the oldest corporation in America until it dissolved in 1998.

{Apology for the True Christian Divinity}
Apology for the True Christian Divinity

It would appear that Penn intended West Jersey to be a refuge for English Quakers, and East Jersey was to be the home of Scots Quakers. Twenty of the original twenty four proprietors were Quakers, at least half of them Scottish. Early governorship of East Jersey was assumed by Robert Barclay, laird of Urie, who was certainly Scottish enough for the purpose, and also a famous Quaker theologian. Even today, his Apology for the True Christian Divinity is regarded as the best statement of the original Quaker principles. However, Barclay remained in England, and his deputies proved to be somewhat more Scottish than Quaker. Eighteenth century Scots were notoriously combative, and soon engaged in serious disputes with the local Puritans who had earlier migrated into East Jersey from Connecticut with the encouragement of Carteret. This enclave of aggressive Puritans probably provided the path of migration for the Connecticut settlers who invaded Pennsylvania in the Pennamite Wars, so the hostility between Puritans and Quakers was soon established. The Dutch settlers in the region were also combative, so the eastern province of Penn's peaceful experiment in religious tolerance started off early with considerable unrest. Of these groups, the Scots became dominant, even referring to the region as New Scotland. To look ahead to the time of the Revolution, most of the East Jersey leadership was in the hands of Proprietors of Scottish derivation, with at least the advantage that these were likely to have been very vigilant in seeing Proprietor rights originally conferred by the British King, continue to be honored by the new American republic.

East Jersey was probably already the most diverse place in the colonies when loyalists and revolutionaries took opposite sides in the bitter eight-year war over English rule, with hatred further inflamed when the victors in the Revolution divvied up the properties of loyalists who had fled. Earlier conflict was created by management blunders of the Proprietary leadership itself. Instead of surveying and mapping before they sold off defined property, like every other real estate development corporation, the East Jersey Proprietors adopted the bizarre practice of selling plots of land first, and then telling the purchaser to select its location. In the early years it is true that good farm land was abundant, but inevitably two or more purchasers would occasionally choose overlapping plots of land. The Proprietors were astonishingly indifferent to the resulting uproar, telling the purchasers that this was their problem. The outcome of all this friction was that settlers petitioned London for relief, and in 1703 Queen Anne took governing powers away from both the East and West proprietorships and unified the two provinces into a single crown colony. The Queen obviously nursed the hope that South Jersey would impose a civilizing influence on the North, but immigration patterns determined a somewhat opposite outcome. Both proprietorships, however, were allowed to continue full ownership rights to any remaining undeeded property.

In later years, the East Jersey Proprietors created more unnecessary problems by attempting to confiscate and re-sell pieces of land whose surveys were faulty, sometimes of property occupied with houses for as much as fifty years. This East Jersey proprietorship, in short, did not enjoy either a low profile or the same level of benevolent acceptance prevailing in the West Jersey province. A climate of scepticism developed that easily turned any management misjudgment into a confrontation.

{New Jersey Line}
New Jersey Line

The East Jersey proprietorship operated by taking title to unclaimed land, and then reselling it. In what seemed like a minor difference, the West Jersey group never took title itself, but merely charged a fee for surveying and managing the sale of unclaimed land. The upshot of this distinction was that the East Jersey group got into many lawsuits over disputed ownership, which the West Jersey Proprietorship largely escaped. The nature of unclaimed land in New Jersey is for ocean currents to throw up new islands in the bays between the barrier islands and the mainland, or pile up new swamp land along the banks of the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. Such marshy and mosquito-infested land may have little value to a farmer, but lately has become highly prized by environmentalists, who supply class-action lawyers with that nebulous legal concept of "standing". The posture of the West Jersey Proprietors is to be happy to survey and convey clear title to a particular property for a fee, but a buyer must come to them with that request. The East Jersey method put its proprietors in repeated conflict over possession and title, with idealists enjoying free legal encouragement from contingent-fee lawyers. By 1998, the Proprietors of East Jersey had endured all they could stand. Selling their remaining rights to the State for a nominal sum, they turned over their historic documents to the state archives. The plaintiff lawyers could sue the state for the swamps if they chose to, but the East Jersey Proprietors had just had enough.

The only clear thing about all of this is that the Proprietors of West Jersey now stand unchallenged as the oldest stockholder corporation in America. It's not certain just what this title is worth, but at least it is awfully hard to improve on it.

British Headquarters: Perth Amboy, New Jersey, in its 1776 Heyday

Not many now think of the town of Perth Amboy as part of Philadelphia's history or culture, but it certainly was so in colonial times. Sadly, the town has since declined to a condition of quiet middle-class suburb. There are quite a few Spanish-language signs around, and some decaying factories. The little house of the Proprietors on the town square, and the remains of the Governor's mansion overlooking the ocean are about all that remain of the early Quaker era.


To understand the strategic importance of Perth Amboy to Colonial America, remember that James, Duke of York (eventually to become King James the Second) thought of New Jersey as the land between the North (Hudson) River, and the South (Delaware) River. This region has a narrow pinched waist in the middle. It's easy to see why the land-speculating Seventeenth Century regarded the bridging strip across the New Jersey "narrows" as a likely future site of important political and commercial development. The two large and dissimilar land masses which adjoin this strip -- sandy South Jersey, and mountainous North Jersey -- were sparsely inhabited and largely ignored in colonial times. The British in 1776 developed the quite sensible plan that subduing this fertile New Jersey strip would simultaneously enable the conquest of both New York and Philadelphia at the two ends of it. It was a clever plan; it might have subjugated three colonies at once.


Perth Amboy is a composite name, adding a local Indian word to a Scottish one because East Jersey had been intended for Scottish Quakers. Like Pittsburgh at the conjunction of three rivers, Perth Amboy's geographical importance was that it dominated the mouth of Raritan Bay (Raritan River, extended) as it emptied into New York Bay just inside Sandy Hook. Two of the three "rivers" of the three-way fork are really just channels around Staten Island. Viewed from the sea, Perth Amboy sits on a bluff, commanding that junction. Amboy became the original ocean port in the area, although it was soon overtaken by New Brunswick further inland when increasing commerce required safer harbors. Perth Amboy was the capital of East Jersey, and then the first capital of all New Jersey after East and West were joined in 1704 by Queen Anne. The Royal Governor's mansion stood here, as well as grand houses of Proprietors and Judges overlooking the banks of the bay. The main reason for the Nineteenth century decline of the state capital region was the narrowness of the New Jersey waist at that point; its main geographical advantage became a curse. Canals, railroads and astounding highway growth simply crowded the Amboy promontory into an unsupportable state of isolation. The same thing can be said of Bristol, Pennsylvania, and New Castle, Delaware, but local civic pride has somehow not risen to the challenge to the same degree.

Perth Amboy Revisited

Perth Amboy

It's now moderately complicated to find Perth Amboy, New Jersey, even after you locate it on a map. Like New Castle DE it flourished early because it was on a narrow strip of strategic land, and like New Castle, eventually found itself cut off by a dozen lanes of highways crowded together by geography. It's an easy drive in both cases only if you make the correct turns at a couple of crowded intersections. Both towns were important destinations in the Eighteenth century, but by the Twentieth century both were pushed aside by traffic rushing to bigger destinations. Industrialization hit the region around Perth Amboy somewhat harder than New Castle, destroying more landmarks, and bringing to an end its brief flurry as a metropolitan beach resort. If you aspire to preserve your Eighteenth century glory, it's easier if you don't have too much progress in the Nineteenth. In Perth Amboy's defense, it must be noted that Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia had just about totally disappeared when noticed by Charles Peterson and John Rockefeller, but neither of those towns was run over by Nineteenth century industrialization. So, while New Castle has treasures to preserve and display, Perth Amboy seems to have only the Governor's mansion as the one notable building to work with. William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin, was the royal governor installed in this palace shortly before 1776.

Governor's mansion in Perth Amboy

While it is true that some wealthy local inhabitants did a lot to restore and maintain New Castle (and Williamsburg), the Governor's mansion in Perth Amboy was bought and made the home of Mathias Bruen, who in 1820 was thought to be the richest man in America. If Bruen had only had the necessary imagination and generosity, this was probably the best moment for Perth Amboy to have had a historical restoration. Instead, he added some unfortunate features to the mansion; it later became a hotel, and later on, an office building. Public-spirited local citizens are now trying to set things right, but the costs are pretty daunting. Someone has to find an inspired Wall Street billionaire like Ned Johnson to make over an entire town. Occasionally, a state government will do it, as has been done with Pennsbury. Or a national organization might become inspired, as happened with Mt. Vernon and Arlington. Its present state of peeling paint and makeshift repairs suggests uninterest in Perth Amboy's Governor Mansion by the State, and the absence of whatever it is that occasionally inspires fierce and determined local leadership. Perth Amboy needs some help, and needs to forget about its handicaps. Sure, it's hard to commute anywhere, it's even hard to drive across the highways to the countryside. The bluff on the promontory was once quite arresting, now a rusting steel mill occupies that spot. Other than that, it doesn't look ominous or dangerous at all. It's just forgotten.

Pennsbury Manison

Aside from the Royal Governor's former mansion, it is hard to find a historical marker or monument in this scene of former prosperity and glory, but there is one. Down on the beach is a bronze plaque, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of -- Argentina. So there's a clue, which is not difficult to associate with all of the hispanic names on the stores, and the hispanics in evidence on all sides. They all seemed to know that this was once the capital of New Jersey, seemed pleased with it, and could point out the famous building. They are pleasant and friendly enough. Perhaps even a little too comfortable. Because, as William Franklin's famous father once said, all progress begins with discontent.

Easy Ride: Perth Amboy to Trenton

{Battles on Brooklyn Heights}
Battles on Brooklyn Heights

The Revolutionary War had been raging for a year in New England before the Declaration of Independence, a point that never ceased to bother John Adams whenever Thomas Jefferson or his devotees took credit for starting the Revolution with a piece of paper nailed to a lamp post a year after Lexington and Concord. This interval nevertheless allowed for the organization of the Continental Army, and Washington's maturing military background by the summer of '76. It also allows the time for the surprisingly immediate landing of Sir William Howe's army on Staten Island at the end of June, 1776. A month or so after that, his brother Admiral Howe landed more troops. By September, 1776, not all of the signers had yet put their names to the Declaration of Independence, but there were about 40,000 British troops parading around the essentially uninhabited Staten Island in New York harbor, in plain sight of the inhabitants of New Jersey's capital in Perth Amboy, and scarcely a hundred miles from Philadelphia. The Massachusetts and other New England patriots have a point when they claim the Declaration of Independence marked the end of the first year of rebellion against British rule, while the other colonies prefer to say July 4, 1776 was the beginning of the war for independence. It was an irrevocable gesture of unified defiance, a copy of which was sent to the personal attention of George III.

The British shrewdly selected New York harbor as the center of their operation, since their Navy was thereby in position to shift quickly in the protected waters of Long Island Sound from New Jersey to Rhode Island, or up and down the Hudson as far as Albany, meanwhile dominating the considerable expanse of Long Island, not to mention Manhattan. It was only eighty miles travel across the narrow waist of New Jersey to the top of Delaware Bay at Trenton, potentially also leading to control of Philadelphia. Meanwhile, land-locked Washington was faced with crossing numerous rivers to defend hundreds of miles of shoreline, moving foot soldiers to defensive positions. He tried to defend New York, it is true, but the battles on Brooklyn Heights, Harlem, Fort Washington and Fort Lee were essentially unwinnable, and the best he could really do with the situation was escape with an undestroyed army. Being farther from the reach of the British Navy, Philadelphia was more defensible than New York, and besides, it was now the capital of the rebellion.


By the fall of 1776 Howe had consolidated his hold on New York, and Washington was reduced to scattering small clusters of troops around the places Howe might likely invade. Those clusters were reassuring to their neighbors and easy to provision locally, but equally easy for the British to overwhelm. Washington was a better general than it seemed; these several bands of about 500 militia were expected to remain in readiness to be summoned as soon as the main British force committed itself to a major objective. In early December, the British started landing in New Jersey and marched toward New Brunswick. Washington thought that meant he was going to head for Trenton, and then down the Delaware to Philadelphia. There was not much to stop him except skirmishers and Minute Men, but it was unsafe for Washington to move his troops from the New York region until the intentions of the swifter British were really clear. By that time it might be too late to stop an advance, but it couldn't be helped. Washington was inventing guerrilla warfare, patterned after his observations of the style of Indian fighting, and his observations during the French and Indian War, of the weaknesses of the British style.

Since the Raritan Strip along which Howe and Cornwallis eventually chose to advance, was prosperous and Tory, things went pretty well for the British. After two weeks march, they arrived in Trenton around December 20. In this triumph the British failed to appreciate the significance of several things, however. Washington was hurriedly summoning six little colonial armies of five hundred to a thousand men each, to join him now that the intentions of the enemy were clear. Furthermore, the Whigs or rebels of New Jersey were aroused in the Pine Barrens of the South and the hills of the North; New Jersey was not nearly as Tory as it seemed during the initial march past the big houses along the Raritan. And, finally, the British and Hessian mercenary soldiers had indeed ravaged the countryside almost as much as the spinsters of the Whig patriot cause shouted out they had. Many neutrals were converted to rebels. The Quaker farmers were particularly upset by the activities of the camp followers, who pillaged curtains and other things not normally attractive to marauding soldiers. And the sharpshooters, both loyalist and rebel, were close enough to their own homes to dispose of other booty. It was a cakewalk down to Trenton, but it was not going to be the same coming back.

Washington was getting ready to defend the Capital in Philadelphia, and the wide Delaware river was the best place to do it. When Howe and Cornwallis reached Trenton, they found no boats available on the New Jersey side for miles up and down the river, artillery was planted in strategic places on the Pennsylvania side, ice was beginning to form on the river, it was cold, the December days were short. To them, Washington posed no particular military problem with his naked ragamuffins. Howe had some lady friends in New York, while Cornwallis was planning to spend a month in London before the spring military season. So the British generals made an overconfident miscalculation, and posted their troops in winter quarters, strung out in outposts from Perth Amboy to Trenton and down to Bordentown. A thousand Hessians were quartered in Trenton. By December 20th, it looked like a peaceful but boring Winter lay ahead.


Stories of New Jersey: Frank R. Stockton: ISBN-13: 978-0813503691 Amazon

Disorderly Retreat: From Trenton Back to Perth Amboy

{George Washington on a Horse}
George Washington on a Horse

A week later, they got a bad jolt; Washington declined to play by their winter rules. At the Battle of Trenton, Washington was 44 years old, six feet-four inches tall or more, a horseman and athlete of outstanding skill, and as the husband of the richest woman in Virginia, accustomed to housing, feeding, transporting and getting cooperation from two hundred slaves. All of those qualities may have been of some use in the battle. But after the Battle of Trenton, Washington also emerged as a remarkably bold and creative General. In the Battle of Trenton can be seen the elements of audacity, timing and courage that were notable in Stonewall Jackson, George Patton -- Virginians, both -- the Normandy Invasion, and the Inchon Landing. He forged, if he did not create, the American military tradition of inspired risk taking. And he did it with a collection of starving amateurs, up against the best Army in the world at the time. Probably without realizing it, his coming victory at Trenton also gave Benjamin Franklin in Paris a major enticement for the French King to support the American cause. Washington produced a significant achievement, but just to make sure, Franklin exaggerated it just as much as he could.

On December 21, Washington thought Howe was immediately going to sweep on through Trenton to Philadelphia. In a day or two, he saw that wasn't the plan, organized the famous re-crossing of the Delaware in bad weather, and caught and captured a thousand Hessians with a three-pronged attack which cut off their retreat and made resistance useless. The main military feature of this attack was not Christmas drunkenness among the Hessians, but the fact that General Knox had somehow transported eighteen cannon to the occasion. Nowadays, the event is marked by a reenactment on Christmas Morning, although it took place on December 26, 1776. The timing did not have to do with religious observance, it had to do with hangovers. To the great disappointment of his troops, he made them abandon the great stores of booze in Trenton because a second detachment of Hessians was in nearby Bordentown, and meanwhile he retreated back to the Pennsylvania side of the river. As might be imagined, Howe's Cornwallis promptly came charging down from New Brunswick to exact bitter vengeance. Instead of trying to rescue their comrades in Princeton, the Bordentown Hessians took off for New Brunswick. Defiantly, Washington taunted his enemies by again recrossing the Delaware to the New Jersey side, put up fortifications, just waited for them to make something of it.


Well, that's the way it was meant to seem. On the night of January 2, the two armies were facing each other with about five thousand men on both sides, but with the British much better trained and equipped. The Americans had the advantage of not being exhausted by a fifty mile forced march, except for about a thousand who had been deployed forward to skirmish and delay the British advance with sniping from the bushes. The Americans made a great deal of noise, and lit many bonfires behind their fortifications. But when they advanced the next morning, the British found out where the Americans really were -- by hearing distant cannon fire coming from Princeton, ten miles back toward the north.

Washington had slipped five thousand men wide around the enemy flank during the night, and had taken a parallel country road to Princeton where he defeated a rear guard of British at the Battle of Princeton. An infuriated Cornwallis wheeled his army around in pursuit, and the race was on for the supplies left undefended in New Brunswick. Washington might have been able to get there first, except his men were too exhausted, and he was afraid to risk his long-run strategy, which was to avoid head-on collisions with the main British Army.

So Washington went into winter quarters in Morristown still further to the north, and thousands of British soldiers were thus bottled up in winter quarters in Perth Amboy and New Brunswick, where scurvy, lack of firewood and smallpox gave them a few months to consider their miscalculations. But the most important action of all was getting the news to Benjamin Franklin in Paris, to tell the French king of the victory. Franklin even dressed it up a little.


New Jersey in the American Revolution: Barbara J. Mitnick: ISBN-13: 978-0813540955 Amazon

Historic Wasp-Waist of New Jersey
Sunday Drive

Speaking geologically, the Raritan River is a little trickle running along the path of what was once the northern entrance to Delaware Bay. In prehistoric days, southern New Jersey was a sandy barrier island. The gap gradually filled in along the route from Perth Amboy to Trenton, leaving sheltered harbors at both ends of a strip of unusually fine farmland attractive to early settlers. By the time of the Revolution, the strip was comfortably settled by rich farmers who tended to favor the Loyalist cause, while the pine barrens to the South and the hilly woods to the North were inhabited by newer immigrants who tended to be poor and hence favored the rebel cause. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin relates how, as boy, he came from Boston to Philadelphia by coming down from Perth Amboy (the capital of East Jersey) to Trenton and nearby Burlington (the capital of West Jersey), and then down the Delaware to Philadelphia. Later on, Washington was to retreat down the same path from his defeats in New York, hotly pursued by the British. After the battle of Trenton, Washington promptly chased the British back up the Raritan to New Brunswick and Perth Amboy, and bottled them up there, while establishing winter quarters in Morristown. Much later, when the British General Henry Clinton was later abandoning Philadelphia (which General Howe had captured by coming in the back door from the Chesapeake) the British marched back up the same Raritan waist of New Jersey by first crossing the Delaware to Haddonfield, going up the king's Highway to Trenton/Burlington, and then East to New Brunswick and the British fleet. This was the main highway of the middle colonies, and the persisting term "King's Highway" was once completely appropriate.

When considering the relationships between New Jersey's Raritan Strip and Philadelphia in later decades, the names of Aaron Burr, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Doris Duke, and Charles Lindbergh come up, along with a number of others whose tales need retelling. College football was invented in a game between Rutgers and Princeton, eighteen miles apart, and Woodrow Wilson started the movement to put an end to college fraternities, called eating clubs at Princeton. But the strip itself seems to have been glorified only by Thornton Wilder. His short play called A Happy Journey To Trenton and Camden has been a favorite production by the drama societies of Rutgers, Princeton and Lawrencevile for almost a century. As written by Wilder during the time when he was a school teacher at Lawrenceville, the occupants of a Model T rattle and bump along the strip, commenting on the passing scene. Both the play and the strip deserve more attention than they usually get.


THE NEW JERSEY SAMPLER: Historic Tales of Old New Jersey: John T. Cunningham ASIN: B0014NDDMO Amazon
The Pine Barrens: John McPhee: ISBN-13: 978-0374514426 Amazon
The Happy Journey to Camden and Trenton Play in One Act: Thornton Wilder: ASIN: B000IQXI0K Amazon

Howe's Choice: To Philadelphia, or Saratoga?

{General Howe}
General Howe

Nations at war traditionally vilify the leader of the enemy, and so Sir William Howe has usually been portrayed as a lazy, illegitimate uncle of the King, a womanizer lacking in military savvy, and a former parliamentary member of the minority party supporting peace with the colonies. But to go on this way is quite unfair to Washington, who outfoxed and out-generaled a tough and very clever soldier who was by no means a pushover, and who fought hard to win.

{Winter 1777}
Winter 1777

In retrospect, it can be seen that Howe's army was crammed into winter quarters on the Perth Amboy-New Brunswick bluff across the river from Staten Island in the winter of 1777, following the defeat at Trenton. Washington's troops were meanwhile in a fairly impregnable position around Morristown. If Howe went back along the Raritan toward Trenton and Philadelphia, he could expect to be butchered by snipers behind trees. If he embarked on his ships, he would be vulnerable during the two days of so required to break camp and load the ships. Washington's problem was actually just as bad. He had no way of knowing whether he had to defend against an encircling movement at Morristown, against a renewed invasion toward Trenton and Philadelphia, or against a quick movement at sea by the battleships. If Howe embarked, he might be going to Albany to rescue Burgoyne, or to Fort Lee to encircle Morristown, or to Philadelphia, or even to Charlestown. Any one of these choices would mean that Washington would have to hurry overland to catch him.

It now seems clear that Howe had decided it was safe to abandon Burgoyne. He might have tried to capture Philadelphia and get back to Albany by September, but evidently this seemed too ambitious and fraught with unexpected accidents, as events later proved to be true. Clear and unambiguous orders by Lord Germain in London were mislaid and never reached him. By implication, he was being told to use his best judgment. So he decided on a double option. He would send sorties out in all directions to keep Washington guessing and to entice him to come down from his mountain fastness into a pitched battle with British regulars. Failing that, he would get on his ships and take Philadelphia. Furthermore, Howe never told another soul what his plans were, except by sending a spy with misleading plans sewed into his coat, intending for him to be captured by the rebels. Washington, however, essentially refused to budge.

Staten Island 1776

Finally, Howe ordered an embarkation onto his ships, and actually loaded a contingent of Hessians on board. Although Washington was mistrustful of a trick, his officers persuaded him to attack the "vulnerable" British while they were loading onto the transports. As soon as Howe heard of Washington's movement he immediately issued orders to turn the whole army around and trap Washington. He thought he now had his chance to catch and destroy the Continental army.

As things turned out, it didn't work and Washington escaped with most of his troops. Fearful of another such trap, he then held back perhaps too long and helplessly watched the ships load, weigh anchor, and sail out to sea. Where were they going? Not another person on the British (or Loyalist) side knew the answer, and the ships were far out to sea, invisible, before they turned in whatever direction they were going. Was it North, or South?

A week later, word came to Washington that the fleet had been sighted off the mouth of the Delaware. It was time to move South, in a big hurry, on foot. Howe was going to go to Norfolk, but it wasn't even certain whether he was coming back up the Chesapeake, or going still further South to Charleston. It remained conceivable that he would wait for Washington to move his troops South, then double back to New York and Albany to Join Burgoyne.

As we now know, Howe did turn up the Chesapeake to land in the rear of Philadelphia. And then Washington also guessed right, and lined up his troops at Chadds Ford of the Brandywine Creek. Both of them were shrewd, and very quick. Howe had won a major victory with superior resources. But as we shall see, Washington wasn't through with him.


The Uncertain Revolution: Washington and the Continental Army at Morristown: John T. Cunningham: ISBN-13: 978-1593220280 Amazon

Battle of Monmouth

{General Charles Lee}
Battle of Monmouth

A moving army tends to get strung out on roads through unfamiliar territory, and when boarding ships leaves a steadily diminishing rear guard to protect the fleet. Thus, General Clinton's retreating British army presented an opportunity for Washington to harass them, take advantage of unexpected delays, and to be wherever they were going. So Washington ordered the Continental Army out of Valley Forge, to pursue the retreating British as they moved over the Delaware River to Camden, joining the King's Highway at Haddonfield, heading for Sandy Hook and the waiting ships of the British Navy. As both armies approached Monmouth Court House, Washington caught up with Clinton and ordered his deputy, General Charles Lee, to attack with an advance force that would hold the British in place until Washington's main force could catch up. Both armies had about 13,000 soldiers in strength, but only 9,000 of Clinton's men were engaged because of their strung-out deployment.

{Battle of Monmouth Map}
Battle of Monmouth Map

Washington's battle plan was therefore vindicated, and he next showed his characteristic ability to use terrain to his advantage. The New Jersey countryside breaks up into hills as it approaches New York harbor, and its valleys between hills tend to contain creeks at the bottom. Therefore, the retreating British were forced into narrowing valleys which exposed them to flanking maneuvers, but reduced the room for Washington to be outflanked. Lee failed to take such effective advantage of the terrain and made only half-hearted attacks on the British. When Washington and the main body of troops caught up with him, Lee was promptly relieved of command and later court-marshalled. In his place, Washington sent Nathaniel Greene around the enemy's southern flank, setting up four artillery pieces on a high hill, protected from British attack by a flooded creek. He was thus able to "enfilade" the British line, aiming cannon balls at the near end where they would bounce up the British line if they fell short, or land in the far end of the British line when they overshot. The cannons now look fairly small and puny, but with a well-trained crew of a dozen artillerymen each one could get off five to ten shots a minute. With four pieces of artillery they could drop twenty to forty shots a minute onto the confused and compressed formation of enemy troops. The battle went on all day, the longest battle of the Revolution.

Under the cover of darkness, Clinton withdrew his troops toward Sandy Hook, leaving six hundred casualties on the ground, two thirds of them British. The British could claim they achieved their objective of reaching the ships, but with greater casualties, and forced to withdraw in the face of discovering a much better-disciplined American army than they had ever faced. They acquired new respect for Washington, who demonstrated boldness and outstanding tactics, with a professionalism quite equal to their own.


New Jersey in the American Revolution: Barbara J. Mitnick: ISBN-13: 978-0813540955 Amazon

The Decision of Trenton (1782) Under the Articles of Confederation

{Trenton Makes the World Takes}
Trenton Makes the World Takes

AS the American Revolution drew to an end, the time arrived to settle the inter-state grievance of Pennsylvania and Connecticut over King Charles II's ambiguity about who owned Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley, including the city of Wilkes-Barre. However, if they were all going to be United States citizens, it didn't matter much whether the residents of Wilkes-Barre (as it was now known) were governed by the laws of Connecticut or Pennsylvania. But bloody grievances die hard, and slowly. The genteel debates envisioned by the Articles of Confederation were not not equal to settling blood feuds, but they tried. The two states selected judges to represent them, in a negotiated settlement which took place on neutral ground, Trenton, New Jersey. After protracted testimony and prolonged secret deliberation, the judges emerged with a very brief and unexplained decision: The Wyoming Valley belongs to Pennsylvania. Period.

Almost every scholar of this subject is convinced that the unwritten decision contained two other provisions. Connecticut was given a piece of Ohio, Western Reserve. And the Pennsylvania representatives privately assured the group that the Pennsylvania Legislature would in time recognize the land titles of the Connecticut settlers who were actually resident on Pennsylvania land. Unfortunately, it is hard if not impossible to enforce an agreement that is secret, and the Connecticut claim to Ohio was eventually eliminated, while the Pennsylvania promise to recognize the land titles of people whose ancestors killed our ancestors, was much delayed, watered down, and resented.

Day One: Camden to Cape May

{top quote}
Settlements for three centuries have clustered along both sides of the Delaware Bay, like beads on two parallel strings. {bottom quote}
Dr. Fisher

The Capital of southern New Jersey alternated between Salem and Burlington, and the King's Highway ran between them atop a clay ridge all of fifty feet above sea level. Colonial villages are strung along Kings Highway about ten miles apart, just like villages in the Midwest and for the same reason. That's about the distance a farmer's wagon could travel to market and return in one day. Travel by boat modified that somewhat. One unexpected feature: the marl clay ridge was eventually found to contain the first known dinosaur bones, still proudly on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences. We'll defer until Day Two describing the interesting origins of the coastal route on the Delaware side of the bay below the big river bend at Salem. In New Jersey the counterpart is the Del-Sea Drive, now rapidly fragmenting in response to school crossings and traffic. Although almost everything of interest is along these three roads, for this tour we propose taking President Eisenhower's interstate highway system, with side-trips as needed.

The retreating British Army ferried out of Philadelphia in 1778, went from Camden to Haddonfield and turned north on King's Highway. For this tour, we turn south from Haddonfield, pausing for a glance back at Camden. Poor Camden scarcely exists any more, but the battleship New Jersey is parked there, the waterfront view is awesome, and Walt Whitman's home is open to tourists. Once the home of ship building, Campbell's Soup, RCA/Victor, and the terminus of railroads at the ferries to Philadelphia, the town was first threatened by isolation by the Pennsylvania Railroad going down the other side of the river in 1839, but ultimately made economically redundant by the construction of the Ben Franklin Bridge in 1926. An interesting sociological study called Camden After the Fall relates how one futile effort after another to restore Camden after 1950 led only to riots and chaos; it's difficult to suggest anything which has not already been tried and abandoned. The present unstated but relentless approach is to tear the obsolete buildings down as they deteriorate, leaving vacant land which will eventually coalesce and become attractive to developers. Toll houses could be found along the turnpike to Haddonfield until 1960, but the automobile made Camden obsolete. What's left begins with the suburbs five miles away.

{New Jersey Line}
New Jersey Line

Haddonfield was a plain little Quaker town with undiscovered dinosaurs buried underneath it until the Revolution, when the fugitive New Jersey legislature met in the Indian King Tavern and created the State of New Jersey. Because the Pennsylvania/New Jersey fortifications of the Delaware River at Fort Mifflin/Red Bank blocked the British fleet, Hessians were sent to attack New Jersey's Fort Mercer from the rear, staying overnight in Haddonfield. One young Quaker, a famous runner, ran ten miles to alert the defenders of Fort Mercer, who then defeated the Hessian attackers the next day by pretending not to notice the Hessians until they suddenly turned around and ambushed them. Later on after the British occupied Philadelphia, General "Mad Anthony" Wayne rounded up cattle in Salem County and drove them to Trenton, then over to Valley Forge to relieve Washington's starving troops. The British responded to this with a famous massacre in Salem County by cavalry under Col. John Simcoe. So off we go to National Park, originally called Red Bank because of the reddish color of the clay riverbank at that point on the river, to see Fort Mercer. From here we travel to Salem, seeing its sadly dilapidated Colonial buildings, and the oak tree which was already famous among the Indians for its huge size in 1683. Along King's Highway we pass through Mickleton, Mullica Hill, and Woodstown, three cute little Quaker villages waiting to be overwhelmed as suburbs.

From here we go to Greenwich, named for Connecticut settlers, where Paul Revere stirred up a tea-burning party in sympathy with the Boston event, on his way to promoting even greater agitation in Philadelphia. Greenwich is sometimes referred to as a second Williamsburg, but what's here is original, not reconstructed. In passing, this tour takes us past Hancock's Bridge where Simcoe massacred those farmers who sold cattle to Anthony Wayne. That's biased local history speaking; in fact, Tory-Rebel reprisals were very bitter on both sides. Until ten years ago, this blood stained site stood alone in the lonely moors, but unfortunately it's pretty much built up and harder to find in the new suburbs than it was in the reeds.

From Greenwich we go on to Cape May, with a brief detour to Bivalve. The point about this stop is the perfectly gigantic pile of oyster shells left over from the days as a center of oyster harvesting. Notice the roads; they're paved with oyster shells. Oysters eat algae, sewage fertilizes algae. Overfishing the oysters caused rotting algae and bacterial overgrowth in the river. The result was depletion of the dissolved oxygen, dead areas for fish, murky water instead of a clear stream. It's an opportunity for oyster farming, but the vast piles of shells at Bivalve are a warning of how far we have to go before we restore the river.

Cape May was the first Atlantic Ocean beach resort, reached from Philadelphia and Tidewater Virginia by boat long before roads were usable. We are told Cape May was originally a separate barrier island, joined to the rest of South Jersey only later. It was once a whaling port, and the Quakers of the region were more related to Nantucket than to Philadelphia. Whale-watching is popular here, but dolphin sightings are more reliably frequent. As you would expect, this cute little place has many fine restaurants and hotels. The hotels are so authentic that strangers share common bathrooms the way they always used to do, so bed and breakfast places can be preferable for snootier tourists. Those whose great-grandparents once stayed in places like the Chalfonte, however, find it important to rough it in traditional summer places. The ocean currents "tumble" the small stones in the beach, so beach-walkers can amuse themselves looking for "Cape May Diamonds". Unfortunately, even the locals often have never heard of them, so you are probably on your own. From here, we take the forty-minute ferry ride to Lewes, Delaware.

Cape Henlopen, on the Delaware side of the entrance to the bay, is south but appreciably to the east of Cape May. That means that a line directly west from Cape May points well inside the mouth of the bay, to Slaughter Beach, or Mispillion Point on the Delaware side. The ocean salt water turns to fresh river water at about this level, making for remarkably good fishing at certain times of the year. Furthermore, horseshoe crabs come ashore here on both sides of the bay to lay eggs. Birds who took off from South America months earlier swoop out of the skies to eat the crab eggs on the appointed day. Hawks pause in the woods to fly together in flocks over the bay, based on their own signals. Mispillion Lighthouse is the greatest place on the Atlantic fly-way for bird-watching, crab-watching, fishing and nature loving. But you have to know when to go there, and remember the best local hotels do get filled up at those times.


Paul Revere & The World He Lived In Amazon
Camden After the Fall: Decline and Renewal in a Post-Industrial City: Howard Gillette Jr.: ISBN-13: 978-0812219685 Amazon

Greenwich, Where?

{Greenwich NJ}
Greenwich NJ

If you sail north up the Delaware Bay, you would go past Rehoboth, Lewes, Dover, New Castle, Wilmington -- on the left, or Delaware side. On the right, or New Jersey side, it's a long way from Cape May to Salem, the first town of any consequence. That is, the Jersey side of the riverbank is still comparatively uninhabited. When the first settlers came along, with vast areas to choose among, it might have seemed attractive to settle on the Delaware side, because the peninsular nature of what is now called Delmarva (Del-Mar-Va) would provide land access to two large navigable bays, the Delaware, and the Chesapeake. To go all the way up the Delaware to what is now Pennsylvania would give trading access to a whole continent, so that eventually proved to be where immigration was headed. But as a matter of fact, the marshy Jersey shore seemed more attractive for settlement by the earlier settlers.

A settler has to think about starving the first year or two, because trees have to be cut down, and stumps pulled up, before the land can even be plowed. After that, comes planting and growing, then finally harvesting. Trees, behind which Indians can hide, are a bad thing all around in the eyes of a settler. The flat swampy meadows of the Jersey bank were just exactly what the Dutch knew how to manage. Dam up the creeks and drain the ground, and you will soon have lots of land ready for the plow, without any confounded trees. By the end of the seventeenth century, the English who had made the mistake of settling in rocky Connecticut finally saw what the Dutch were able to do, and came down to take it away from them.

{Greenwich scenery}
Greenwich scenery

That's why there is a Salem, New Jersey, and also a Greenwich, New Jersey. Greenwich ( around here they pronounce it green-witch) had 870 residents at the last census. It is one of the cutest little colonial villages you are likely to encounter. The local historians refer to it as an unreconstructed Williamsburg, drawing prideful attention to the fact that these houses were really built in the colonial period, and are in no way imitation reconstructions. The isolated charm of this place is in large part due to being surrounded by a maze of wandering creeks, so visitors by land travel don't get there in time for lunch unless they take great care to follow a local road map. If you arrive by water, it's no problem; just navigate up the crooked and twisting Cohansey River.

Although pioneer settlement was much earlier, the oldest house still standing in that rather damp area was built in 1730. Things are pretty much the way they were before the American Revolution, because the Calvinists who settled here were not prepared for the Jersey mosquito, which obviously is abundant in such a marshy area. With the mosquito comes relapsing (Vivax, malaria, black water (Falciparum) malaria, and Dengue Fever (graphically known locally as break-bone fever). As a matter of fact, encephalitis is also mosquito-borne. When you don't understand the insect carrier situation, survival in such an environment depends on local fables and lore, like going to the mountains for the summer after the planting season, and only returning at harvest time. That sounds to a New Englander newcomer like a superstitious cloak for lazy living, especially since masses of fish come up the river in teeming waves, looking for mosquitoes to eat. So, Greenwich is charming, but it never was thriving.

Working hard to find something to say about the town, it would appear that Paul Revere himself came riding into Greenwich in December 1774, urging the town to join their Boston relatives in the destruction of tea belonging to the British East India Company. Greenwich accordingly had a public tea burning on December 22. Since the more notorious Boston tea party took place on December 16, 1773, and the British Tea Act was passed in May, 1773, it is not exactly accurate to say the rebellion spread like wildfire. One has to suppose that the inflammatory tale told to the local farmers by Paul Revere was likely a little enhanced, since a careful recounting of the events in Boston suggests a number of ways the uproar might have been avoided if Samuel Adams and his friends had been less provocative. Or if Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson had been less flighty. Or for that matter, if Benjamin Franklin had restrained himself when he got hold of Hutchinson's letters at a critical moment when he was in London. In retrospect, the best model for behavior was provided by the Royal Navy; the whole Boston Tea Party was surrounded by armed British naval vessels, who did not lift a finger throughout the demonstration.

Anyway, little Greenwich had its minute of fame with a tea burning. Otherwise, it has had a very quiet existence for three centuries.


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Lambertville and Lewis Island

{Atlantic Shore Railroad}
Atlantic Shore Railroad

Recall that open Atlantic shoreline once stretched from Perth Amboy to New Castle, Delaware. Glaciers pulverized the nearby mountains and dumped a huge moraine of sand into the ocean, creating southern New Jersey as an offshore island in geological times. The bay silted up and eventually attached that island to New Jersey. The silting-up probably would have continued for another sixty miles, making Philadelphia a land-locked inland city, except that the true

Delaware River

Delaware River came tumbling down from the mountains to Trenton, turning sharply right and then maintaining an open shallow channel to the sea. From Lambertville to Trenton, the river drops over a series of small falls or rapids, easily visible except when heavy rains "drown" them.

Pennsylvania Railroad

So, geography accounts for the scenery and early history of the upper end of Delaware Bay. It's still a beautiful hilly countryside with small antique villages, sparsely populated in spite of two nearby cities. Water power at the Fall Line, and then anthracite from the upstate mountains once encouraged early industry in an area that was rather poor farm country. But the Pennsylvania Railroad then rearranged commerce so that a blossoming New Jersey industrial area withered into quaintness. The early railroads mostly all ran East-West along the rivers, since investors in Atlantic port cities obtained both finance and protection from their state legislatures; railroads had almost reached the Mississippi before any were able to establish North-South connecting spurs. A seaboard trunk line was almost impossible to imagine. Finally, a consortium organized by

J.P Morgan

J.P. Morgan bullied through a main trunk line running through the bituminous coal areas of Pennsylvania and on to the West, with the major port cities connected by the great Northeast Corridor of the Pennsy. This corridor would run on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. Industry on the bypassed New Jersey side would just wither and decline, and eventually so would the anthracite cities. Since the original colonies and states all ran from the ocean to the interior, each had vital political interest in resisting this outcome. Only a strong and brutal corporation could bring it off.

When George Washington was circling around Trenton to attack it on Christmas, a narrow spot up-river with a dozen houses on either side was called Coryell's Crossing or Ferry. That's now Coryell Street in Lambertville, linked to the other side of the river at New Hope, after first crossing a narrow wooden bridge to Lewis Island, the center of shad fishing, or at least shad fishing culture.

The Lewis family still has a house on Lewis Island, and they know a lot about shad fishing, entertaining hundreds of visitors to the shad festival in the last week of April. The river is cleaning up its pollution, the shad are coming back, but they unfortunately took a vacation in 2006. At the promised hour, a boatload of men with large deltoids attached one end of a drag net to the shore, rowed to the middle of the river, floated downstream and towed the other end of the net back to the shore. The original anchor end of the net was then lifted and carried downstream to make a loop around the tip of Lewis Island, and then both ends were pulled in to capture the fish. There were fifty or so fish in the net, but only two shad of adequate size; since it was Sunday, the fish were all thrown back.

But it was a nice day, and fun, and the nice Lewis lady who explained things knew a lot. Remember, the center of the river is a border separating two states. You would have to have a fishing license in both states to cross the center of the river with your net; game wardens can come upon you quickly with a power boat. But the nature of fishing with a drag net from the shore anyway makes it more practical to stop in the middle, where shotguns from the other side are unlikely to reach you. An even more persuasive force for law and order is provided by the fish. Fish like to feed when the sky is overcast, so there is a tendency on a North-South river for the fish to be on the Pennsylvania (West) side of the river in the morning, and the New Jersey (East) side in the evening. During the 19th Century when shad were abundant, work schedules at the local mills and factories were arranged to give the New Jersey workers time off to fish in the afternoon, while Pennsylvania employers delayed the starting time at their factories until morning fishing was over.

Somehow, underneath this tradition one senses a local Quaker somewhere with a scheme to maintain the peace without using force. Right now, there aren't enough fish to justify either stratagem or force, but one can hope.

Battleship New Jersey: Home is the Sailor


Home is the sailor, wrote A. E. Housman, Home from the sea. In this case, the sailor is the Battleship New Jersey. The U.S.S. New Jersey rides at permanent anchor in the Delaware River, tied to the Camden side. You can visit the ship almost any afternoon, and with reservations can even throw a nice cocktail party on the fan tail. It's an entertaining thing to do under almost any circumstances, but the trip is more enjoyable if you spend a little time learning about the ship's history. The volunteer guides, many of them still grizzled veterans of the ship's voyages, will be happy to fill in the details.

In the first place, the ship's final bloody battle was whether to moor the ship in the Philadelphia harbor, or New York harbor, when the U.S. Navy had got through using it. You can accomplish that and remain in the state of New Jersey either way, but there's a big social difference between North Jersey and South Jersey, so the negotiations did get a little ugly. Because of the way politics go in Jersey, it wouldn't be surprising if a few bridges and dams had to be built north of Trenton to reconcile the grievance, or possibly a couple dozen patronage jobs with big salaries but no work requirement. The struggle surely isn't over. Battleships are expensive to maintain, even at parade rest; if you don't paint them, they rust. Current revenues from tourists and souvenirs do not cover the costs, so the matter keeps coming up in corridors of the capitol in Trenton.

Home is the sailor, home from sea:
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:
Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will
And every fowl of air.

'Tis evening on the moorland free,
The starlit wave is still:
Home is the sailor from the sea,
The hunter from the hill.

A. E. Housman

Battleship design gradually specialized into a transport vehicle for big cannon, ones that can shoot accurately for twenty miles while the platform bounces around on the ocean surface. Situated in turrets in the center of the vessel, they can shoot to both sides. That's also true of armored tanks in the cavalry, or course, with the history in the tank's case of the big guns migrating from the artillery to the cavalry, causing no end of jurisdictional squabble between officers trained to be aggressive for their teams. Originally, the sort of battleship which John Paul Jones sailed was expected to attack and capture other vessels, shoot rifles down from the rigging, send boarders into the enemy ships with cutlasses in their teeth, and perform numerous other tasks. In time, the battleship got bigger and bigger so in order to blow up other battleships had to sacrifice everything else to sailing speed and size of cannon. Protection of the vessel was important, of course, but in the long run if something had to be sacrificed for speed and gunpowder, it was self-protection. There's a strange principle at work, here. The longer the ship, the faster it can go. Almost all ocean speed records have been held by the gigantic ocean liners for that reason. If you apply the same idea to a battleship, the heavy armored protection gets necessarily bigger, and heavier as the ship gets longer, and ultimately slows the ship down. As a matter of fact, bigger and bigger engines also make the ship faster, until their weight begins to slow them down. Bigger engines require more fuel, and carrying too much of that slows you down, too. Out of all this comes a need for a world empire, to provide fueling stations. Since the Germans didn't have an empire, they had to sacrifice armor for more fuel space and more speed, to compensate for which they had to build bigger guns but fewer of them. Although the British had more ships sunk, they won the battle of Jutland because more German ships were incapacitated. When you are a sailor on one of these ships, it's easy to see how you get interested in design issues which may affect your own future. An underlying principle was that you had to be faster than anything more powerful, and more powerful than anything faster.

The point here is that the New Jersey, as a member of the Iowa class of battleship, was arguably the absolutely best battleship in world history. At 33 knots, it wasn't quite the fastest, its guns weren't quite the biggest, its armor wasn't quite the thickest, but by multiplying the weight of the ship by the length of its guns and dividing by something else you get an index number for the biggest baddest ship ever. The Yamamoto and the Bismarck were perhaps a little bigger, but the New Jersey was at least the fastest meanest un-sunk battleship. Air power and nuclear submarines put the battleship out of business, so the New Jersey will hold the world battleship title for all time. Strange, when you see it from the Ben Franklin Bridge, it looks comparatively small, even though it could blow up Valley Forge without moving from anchor.

One story is told by Chuck Okamoto, a member of the Green Berets who was sent with a group of eight comrades into a Vietnamese army compound to "extract" an enemy officer for interrogation. When enemy flares lit up the area, it was clear they were facing thousands of agitated enemy soldiers, and Okamoto called for air support. He was told it would take thirty minutes; he replied he only had three minutes, and to his relief was told something could be arranged. Almost immediately the whole area just blew up, turned into a desert in sixty seconds. The guns of the New Jersey, twenty miles away, had picked off the target. The story got more than average attention because Okamoto's father was Lyndon Johnson's personal photographer, and Lyndon called up to congratulate.

A number of similar stories led to the idea that naval gunfire might have destroyed some bridges in Vietnam which cost the Air Force many lost planes vainly trying to bomb, but, as the stories go, the Air Force just wouldn't permit a naval infringement of its turf. This sort of second-guessing is sometimes put down to inter-service rivalry, but it seems more likely to be just another technology story of air power gradually supplanting naval artillery. Plenty of battleships were sunk by bombs and torpedo planes before the battleship just went away. If you sail the biggest, baddest battleship in world history, naturally you regret its passing.

Tourists will forever be intrigued by the "all or nothing" construction of the New Jersey. Not only are the big guns surrounded by steel armor three feet thick, the whole turret for five stories down into the hold is similarly encased in a steel fortress. This design traces back to the battle of Jutland, where a number of battle cruisers were blown up because the ammunition was stored in areas of the hold not nearly so protected as the gun itself. Putting it all within a steel cocoon lessened that risk, and had the side benefit that when ammunition accidentally exploded, the damage was confined within the cocoon. It must have been pretty noisy inside the turret when it was hit, sort of like being inside the Liberty Bell when it clangs. But not so; stories have been told of turrets hit by 500 pound bombs which the occupants didn't even notice. The term "all or nothing" refers to the fact that the gun turrets are sort of passengers inside a relatively unprotected steering and transportation balloon. In order to save weight, most of the armor protection is for the gun. That's a 16/50, by the way. Sixteen inches in diameter, and fifty times as long. With the weight distributed in this odd manner, the Iowa class of dreadnought was more likely to capsize than to sink. Accordingly, the interior of the hull is broken up into watertight compartments, serviced by an elaborate pumping system. Water could be pumped around to re-balance a flooded hull perforation, certainly a tricky problem under battle conditions.

Camden Riversharks

{Canden RiverSharks}
Canden RiverSharks

Just about the cutest baseball park anywhere is Campbell's Field, best seen out the windows of the PATCO highspeed train as it crosses over the Ben Franklin Bridge into New Jersey. It's a regulation-size playing field with gleaming green grass, but comparatively small seating capacity. It's a great novelty to sit in the front row and have the umpire come over to chat, or to scold one of the players for spitting chewing tobacco. As told by Joel Seiden to the Right Angle Club, the performances of the home team Camden Riversharks is more about serious entertainment than serious baseball. On certain nights, there are fireworks, and free strawberry sundaes, and comedy. The finger food is cheap by professional sports standards, so it's a great place for dads to take their Little Leaguer sons.

About three quarters of the audience usually come from New Jersey, and that's where team loyalty centers. There is hope that when the tramway to Pennsylvania finally gets built, or possibly the gambling casinos, more traffic will come over from Philadelphia. The greatest advertising comes from ordinary commuters, looking down from the bridge on a summer evening. A typical audience will be 3700 fans, rising to about 6000 on weekends.

{Campbell Field}
Campbell Field

Although Campbell Field has a band-box new sparkle to it, it's had something of a bumpy financial history. It was built by Steve Schilling for $20 million with a promise to support yearly losses up to a million dollars annually. Unfortunately, he died young, leaving a will that prohibited further support, and sort of a tangled financial structure. As part of an effort to stimulate a Camden renewal, the Delaware River Port Authority loaned $8.5 million, Rutgers Camden owns the field, and Sovereign Bank put up a mortgage. Investor groups have expressed interest, Sovereign Bank has threatened foreclosure, and wrangles which have very little to do with baseball have dominated the private affairs of the team.

Because of the exemptions from antitrust which are exclusively available to organized baseball, no minor league team affiliated with a major league team may play within fifty miles of a major league team. Therefore, the Riversharks are an unaffiliated team, playing in the Atlantic League of Independents. However, this creates a source of revenue from selling promising players to major league scouts (Price: $5000). Since there is a top salary limit for players of $3000 a month, most players have a second job. They are professionals, but not exclusively professional. About 7 players are bought every year.

So, everybody involved stuggles just a bit, but it adds to the gossip and buzz. So, take a trip on the PATCO train to the City Hall Station and walk three blocks, or take it to the Broadway Station and then the Riverline down to the field. Lots of fun.

Riverline: Camden and Amboy Revival

A map of the Riverline.

The RiverLine, a sort of diesel-powered overgrown trolley car line, has just opened on the Conrail tracks from Camden to Trenton. It runs every 30 minutes in both directions, but unfortunately stops at 10 PM to let Conrail run freight trains at night. That's almost a perfect fit for the two operations, although it can leave baseball fans stranded at a night game at Campbell Park, or concert goers at the Tweeter Center. The trains are running fairly full, partly because of their novelty, and partly because of the initial decision not to collect the $1.10 fare on Sunday, but mostly because the Riverline proved to be a better idea than anyone realized it would be. It's considerably cheaper for Philadelphia commuters to Wall Street to take the Riverline and transfer to New Jersey Transit at Trenton, for one thing. Even Amtrak encourages that, because high gasoline prices have filled up the Amtrak trains.

It's well worth an historical excursion on the RiverLine, which runs on the former right of way of the Camden and Amboy RR, the first railroad in New Jersey, chartered in 1830 by Robert L. Stevens. A genius of many talents, Stevens invented the iron rail which looks like an inverted "T," held in place by a system of plates and broad-headed spikes. The system is still in use today. Stevens also devised the use of wooden cross ties rather than granite ones, finding they resulted in a smoother ride. In 1834, he joined forces with another many-talented genius, Robert F. Stockton, who had earlier constructed a canal from New Brunswick to Trenton. Stevens then built a railroad beside the canal, subsequently extending it from Trenton to Camden. Stockton ran ferry boats from Perth Amboy to New York, and from Camden to Philadelphia. The full trip from New York to Philadelphia took nine hours, a remarkable improvement over horse-drawn competition. The partnership also got the Legislature to confer monopoly rights, so the arrangement was highly profitable as well as an engineering marvel. Sixty years later, the Sherman Act would declare such monopolies to be crimes, but in 1830 they were considered a clever way for Legislatures to stimulate risky investment. The Pennsylvania Railroad bought the partnership and its monopoly in 1871, but preferred to bridge the Delaware River at Trenton, so the towns and track along the Jersey side of the river soon dwindled away. The RiverLine now provides a pleasant one-hour excursion along the riverbank, down the main streets of some cute little towns, past some remarkable woods and wilderness up near Trenton, and past Camden's urban revival at the other end.

Look Out For That Ship!

{top quote}
Tales of the Sea abound, even a hundred miles from the ocean. {bottom quote}

We are indebted to the President of the Maritime Law Association of the U.S., Richard W. Palmer, Esq., for both a strange definition, and an amusing story. An "allision" is a collision between a ship and a stationary object, such as a bridge or a dock. As you might imagine, the ship is almost invariably at fault, mainly through errors of the pilot, although hurricanes and other severe weather conditions can make a difference. Moving ships have been running into stationary objects for many centuries, and almost every allision contingency has been explored. Ho hum for maritime law.

The Delair railroad drawbridge over the Delaware River at Frankford Junction is just a little different. It was built in 1896 when the Pennsylvania RR decided it needed to veer off from its North East Corridor to take people to Atlantic City. For reasons relating to the afterthought nature of the bridge, the tower for the drawbridge is located half a mile away, out of direct vision of the ships going through. Also, a late development in the history of the river was the construction of U.S. Steel's Morristown plant, bringing unexpectedly huge ore boats from Labrador to the steel mill. The captains of the ships pretty much turned things over to the river pilots.

{Delair Railroad Drawbridge}
Delair Railroad Drawbridge

Shortly after this service was begun, the inaugural ore boat Captain had a little party with some invited guests. So it happened that the Commandant of the Port, the Admiral in Charge of the Naval Yard, and other equally high ranking worthies like the head of the Coast Guard were on the bridge of the ore boat, taking careful notes of the procedure. The ship tooted three times, the shore answered back with three toots. In real fact, they were connected by ship-to-shore telephone for most of the real business, but this grand occasion called for authentic nautical ceremony. Three toots, we're approaching your bridge. Three toots back, come ahead, the coast is clear. The admirals scribbled it all down.

As the ship approached the point of no-return, beyond which it can no longer stop or turn in time to avoid an allision, the people on the bridge were astounded to see a train crossing the bridge ahead. Several toots, loud profanity on the ship to shore phone. No worry, answered the bridge, we'll lift the drawbridge in plenty of time. But half a minute later the bridge controller made the anguished cry that the drawbridge was apparently rusted and wouldn't open, to which the captain shouted, "This ship is going to take away your blinkety blank bridge and sail right through it".

At this point, the pilot took matters into his own hands, and violently threw the rudder hard left, swinging the ship sideways, and soon nudging the bridge with some damage, but nothing like the damage of a head on allision. Lawsuit.

The attorneys for the railroad were pretty high-powered, too, and had piles of legal precedents to cite. But they were quite unprepared for Dick Palmer to put the Commandant of the Port on the witness stand, reading slowly and painfully from his very detailed notes about the conversations on the bridge, about the approaching drawbridge. And so, Philadelphia can claim to have one of the very few instances where a ship ran into a bridge -- and the court found the bridge to be entirely at fault.

South Amboy Explodes


South Amboy, New Jersey, is a waterfront industrial town on a remote promontory behind Staten Island, jutting into lower New York Bay. It's across the Raritan River from historically important Perth Amboy, but it's fair to say that few people ever heard of South Amboy until sunset on May 18, 1950, when they suddenly heard a lot. An entire freight train, five lighters, and a railroad pier suddenly exploded and disappeared. About twenty-five people were never seen again; the largest piece of metal from the explosion was only about a foot in length. A significant part of the town was leveled, steeples were knocked off churches, and windows were broken in five surrounding counties. Considering what caused it, it seems remarkable that so few people were killed. The explanation usually given is that the explosion blew straight up and straight down; the distant windows were smashed by pressure implosion.

When Pakistan split off from the rest of India, there were bloody migrations in which millions of people died. So Pakistan bought the rights to the design of certain land mines to protect its new borders, and contracted with a firm in Newark, Ohio to manufacture the mines. Two trainloads of these explosives were shipped from Ohio to a railroad pier owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad in South Amboy, to be lightered out to a waiting cargo ship and sent to Pakistan. The first of these two shiploads sailed off uneventfully, and on May 1, 1950 the second shipment had already left Ohio and was under way, when the Coast Guard suddenly declared the South Amboy pier to be closed and forbidden. As the train chugged slowly eastward, frenzied negotiations took place with Admirals in Washington. There was plenty of time, because the train moved very, very slowly and it was detoured over six different railroads to Wilmington Delaware, where the Hercules Powder Company had packed two freight cars with dynamite, which were to be hooked onto the end of the train as it inched its convoluted way to South Amboy.

The method of packing the land mines was of some importance during the huge litigation which inevitably followed. Land mines were packed in cardboard boxes about six feet long, divided into six compartments. Our own Army regulations about such things state that never, never should fuses be packed in the same carton with the mines. However, this particular shipment had five mines to a carton, with the fuses in the sixth. It was later argued that this particular arrangement proved harmless in the first of the two Pakistan shipments, but there was testimony that defective fuses were removed from those boxes and passed back up the line, where those deemed satisfactory were re-packed in the cartons which were in this, the second shipment. A fuse, by the way, does not quite describe these objects, which were screwed into a hole provided on the bomb part. They contained a spring and a steel ball in a tube; when the gadget was cocked it was held by a hare-trigger. The idea was that the pressure of stepping on the mine shot the steel ball into the ball of explosives, and boom.

The railroad ammunition pier, for some reason called The Artificial Island, consisted of two rail lines extending a quarter mile from land, but no structures. Stevedores transferred the boxes from the train to the lighters, and then five lighters took the partial shipments out to the anchorage where the ocean freighter was waiting. The deck of the lighters was lower than the train tracks, so a wooden ramp was laid from the freight car to the lighter, resting on several mattresses on deck. It all worked on the first shipment, didn't it?

Well, it didn't work this time, and we have no way of knowing who stumbled or dropped something; we only know it all went sky-high. For this, the ship-owners were delighted because it is a well-established principle of Admiralty law that unless the ship was in contact with the owners, their liability is limited to the value of the damaged vessel. Under conditions of total disintegration, that means the lighters had a liability of zero. But there were six railroads, the Pakistani government, the Coast Guard and the two manufacturers of the explosives available to sue. Everybody had insurance, so a dozen insurance companies were involved. All of the victims and hundreds of people with property damage, all had lawyers; everyone agrees that many lasting friendships were established among lawyers who were milling around. Finally, the judge declared this case just had to be settled, or else it would continue for the rest of everybody's lifetime. The total amount of the claims submitted came to $55 million. Obviously, the settlement would be for less than that, but settlements are kept secret and you are not supposed to know how it turned out.

So, the question that remained was this. If everybody was insured, why not let the insurance companies haggle about who owed what to whom. Why did all of those railroads have lawyers hanging around? Well, the answer is a lesson for all of us. You need a lawyer to watch your insurance company's lawyer, because once a claim action begins, you and your insurance company develop a conflict of interest.

New Jersey Ponders a Rising Sea Level

{Future House Styles?}
Future House Styles?

A certain gentleman in a professional position to dominate conversations about rising sea levels, is afraid of being sued, and requests his name be withheld from the following. Let's just call it hearsay, suitable only for conversational banter.

If the icecap now sitting atop Greenland should melt, it can rather easily be calculated that sea level would rise to the point where the Delaware River would be 83 feet deep. The Army Corps of Engineers would then probably have more urgent matters to attend to, but at least they would no longer have to cope with deepening the channel to 40 feet. If the Antarctic ice cap should then melt on top of it, the sea level would rise an additional 220 feet, resulting in a Delaware River 300 feet deep. There might be some dry real estate on top of Blue Mountain, but not much else on the Atlantic seaboard would be dry, so there would likely be the additional problem of keeping other people from climbing up to sit in your perch. Perhaps the hawks would bring you something to eat.

A more immediate issue relates to the barrier islands. It is thought the crumbling of mountains into the sea accounts for the sandy beaches of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts; the more recent mountains along the West coast have not progressed to the point of piling up enough sand to start the process. The cycle of barrier islands is as follows.

Barrier islands, if left undisturbed, will gradually migrate toward the land mass behind them, filling up the intervening bay, and eventually adding to the mainland. But that's not the end of the cycle, because the continuing wave and tidal action will generate a new barrier island further out to sea. When the new island reaches a critical equilibrium with the waves and storms, it begins the cycle of deterioration all over again. Presumably the sandy lowlands of southern New Jersey, the Delmarva Peninsula, and most of Florida are the result of many cycles of barrier islands adding themselves to the mainland. Presumably the process will run out of sand some day, but not soon enough to worry about.

When affluent people build showplaces on the barrier islands, a great deal of concrete is laid on the island surface for roadways and parking lots, as well as jetties and other desperate efforts to prevent erosion from destroying the beaches, beachfront property, and real estate values. This process is much more active and rapid than most sunbathers seem to imagine. There are channel markers and monuments of the 18th century that are a mile or more out to sea in the 21st century. Almost a mile of beachfront has disappeared at Cape May and Cape Henlopen in Delaware. Lots of other real estate has been swallowed, but records of historical markers at the mouth of the bay have been more diligently maintained. The residents demand that sand be dredged and dumped on their beaches to keep even with the destructive forces at work. All of this ultimately useless resistance to Nature costs a great deal of money. Those who observe the contest between the protests of the King Canutes and the resistance of other New Jersey taxpayers to rising taxes, estimate that around 2040 the cost of interrupting the barrier island cycle will become so burdensome that taxpayers will successfully put a stop to resisting natural beach erosion. The political uproar will surely be horrendous, so there is good reason for oceanographers to avoid going public with these inconvenient truths. And all of this doomsday talk, by the way, ignores the issue of global warming, which will surely make it all the worse.

Where Do Shad Go, When They Aren't Around Here?


S ome day, we're going to clean up our rivers, and then maybe the shad will come back. Since every female shad produces a couple hundred thousand eggs a season, when the shad come back, there could be a lot of them. We now know some things George Washington didn't know about shad. For example, they all go to the Bay of Fundy, once a year. All of them, whether they spawn in North Carolina, the Delaware, or the Connecticut River.

By tagging them, it was learned that shad swim at a depth of several hundred feet, apparently seeking a certain amount of darkness, which is in turn related to the growth of algae and plankton, their favorite food. So, when the surviving shad go back down a spawning river to the ocean, they head North in a huge counter-clockwise ocean rotation, adjusting their depth to the degree of darkness. Just about the time summering Philadelphians start packing for Bar Harbor, the shad also reach the Bay of Fundy, which is muddy and dark. Fundy is famous for its unusually high tides, so the turbulent water achieves the shad's desired degree of murkiness at about thirty feet instead of the normally deeper waters of the cyclic migration in the open ocean. People who know about these things say that just about every shad on the East Coast passes through the Bay of Fundy in late spring. In the fall, the fish turn around and start to go South again, maybe following the sun, maybe seeking a desired temperature, or both. Somehow or other, this pattern of migration helps them escape predator sharks and seals, as judged by that wholesome entertainment, the examination of stomach contents. Look out for sharks and seals in the open ocean, but striped bass are the big enemies of fingerlings in the spawning rivers. The Hudson River curiously has lots of striped bass lurking among the abandoned piers, and so does the Chesapeake. The Delaware also has a few stripers around the mouth of the Rancocas Creek; go ahead and fish 'em out.

{level strokes}
level strokes

All of this brings us to a suggestion for our tourist bureau. Shad don't eat much when they are on a spawning run, but they will strike at a lure. That is, you don't use worms, you do fly-casting. If we ever got anything approaching the old shad runs in the Spring, you could expect thousands and thousands of eager fly-casters to flock to the Delaware, filling up our marinas, hotels, restaurants and cabarets. You wouldn't need to advertise a river teeming with eight-pound action-eager fish; the news would spread like magic. The best proof of this claim can be found on the only river on the East Coast which continues to have a classic shad run. The existence of this river was told to me as a sworn secret, but the invitation to try it was given with the assurance that "every single cast results in a strike".

And here's the zinger. Except for that one secret stream, the Delaware is the only major river on the East Coast that doesn't have a dam between the ocean and the spawning grounds. Once these fish have picked a river, they keep coming back to it, forsaking all others. The situation positively cries out for Federal assistance, and the lure-casting fishermen of America demand no less. Presidential elections have been won and lost on less important issues than this one. But just one dedicated congressman could do it, particularly if he sits on the Committee on Fisheries. Bring back our shad and get rewarded with lifetime incumbency that even Gerrymandering can't dislodge.

Helis the Whale

Download the video player from
{Beluga Whale}
Beluga Whale

Helis the beluga whale, male, 12 feet long, said to be 30 years old in a species with a life expectancy of about 35, made an appearance in the upper Delaware River in the spring of 2005. A scar on his back was recognized as having been seen on the St. Lawrence River, where Beluga whales are more commonly observed. Needless to say, there was a local sensation, with crowds of whale-watchers along the banks of the river, sharing binoculars, and buying special whale cookies, t-shirts and the like from opportunistic vendors. Helis arrived April 14, 2005 in time to pay income taxes, go to Trenton, cruising Trenton to Burlington and back, eating shad. Experts saying he is happy as a clam, shad fishermen grumbling a little. Crowds of excited people tried to take snapshots of themselves with Helis in the background.

He stayed with us another week, going back and forth between Burlington and Trenton. Not many other events took place, so the newspapers had front-page stories by Beluga whale experts, sought out for fifteen minutes of fame. Will he come back? How big do Belugas get to be? Frantic calls by reporters obtained the information that Belugas like icy arctic waters, seldom travel alone or this far south. Suggestion was made that Helis may have been banished by the male whales he usually swims with, but others pointed out the unusually good shad run this year and conjectured Helis was an adventurous loner who had discovered a private river of goodies.

{Cape May NJ Map}
Cape May NJ

We were informed that lots of whales are sighted off Cape May every year; there's a rather large whale sight-seeing industry. Mammals don't breathe the Delaware pollution, but like other mammalian swimmers, they swallow some. So here's a sign that river pollution maybe can't be too bad.

{St. Lawrence Seaway}
St. Lawrence Seaway
(click to see in Google Earth)

The French Canadians call him "ee-lus" but don't expect that to catch on around here. What's helis mean, anyway? This seems to be the most southern sighting of a Beluga. Reminds us that Kingston New York, a hundred miles up the Hudson, used to be a big whaling port. that Ahab of Melville's Moby Dick was a Quaker, Nantucket variety. Cape May Quakers are related to them more than to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. After all, Philadelphians are whale-lovers.

Unless someone harpoons Helis, we are all hoping he will bring back lots of his friends next year. Even the shad fishermen recognize that if the whales are searching for shad, there have to be a lot of shad to be attractive. And the whale-memento industry will surely be ready for them.

Heron Rookery on the Delaware

{Great Blue Heron}
Great Blue Heron

When the white man came to what is now Philadelphia, he found a swampy river region teeming with wild life. That's very favorable for new settlers, of course, because hunting and fishing keep the settlers alive while they chop down trees, dig up stumps, and ultimately plow the land for crops. As everyone can plainly see, however, the development of cities eventually covers over the land with paving materials; it becomes difficult to imagine the place with wild life. But the rivers and topography are still there. If you trouble to look around, there remain patches of the original wilderness, with quite a bit of wild life ignoring the human invasion.

{Heron Nests}
Heron Nests

Such a spot is just north of the Betsy Ross Bridge, where some ancient convulsion split the land on both sides of the Delaware River; the mouth of the Pennypack Creek on the Pennsylvania side faces the mouth of the Rancocas Creek on Jersey side. In New Jersey, that sort of stream is pronounced "crick" by old timers, who are fast becoming submerged in a sea of newcomers who don't know how to pronounce things. The Rancocas was the natural transportation route for early settlers, but it now seems a little astounding that the far inland town of Mt. Holly was once a major ship-building center. The wide creek soon splits into a North Branch and a South Branch, both draining very large areas of flat southern New Jersey and making possible an extensive network of Quaker towns in the wilderness, most of whose residents could sail from their backyards and eventually get to Europe if they wanted to. In time, the banks of the Rancocas became extensive farmland, with large flocks of farm animals grazing and providing fertilizer for the fields. Today, the bacterial count of the Delaware is largely governed by the runoff from fertilized farms into the Rancocas, rising even higher as warm weather approaches, and attracting large schools of fish. My barber tends to take a few weeks off every spring, bringing back tales of big fish around the place where the Pennypack and Rancocas Creeks join the Delaware, but above the refineries at the mouth of the Schuylkill The spinning blades of the Salem Power Plant further downstream further thin them out appreciably.

Well, birds like to eat fish, too. For reasons having to do with insects, fish like to feed at dawn and dusk, so the bottom line is you have to get up early to be a bird-watcher. Marina operators have chosen the mouth of the Rancocas as a favorite place to moor boats, so lots and lots of recreational boaters park their cars at these marinas and go boating, pretty blissfully unaware of the Herons. Some of these boaters go fishing, but most of them just seem to sail around in circles.

{Amico Island}
As Seen From Amico Island

Blue herons are big, with seven-foot wingspreads as adults. Because they want to get their nests away from raccoons and other rodents, and more recently from teen-aged boys with 22-caliber guns, herons have learned to nest on the top of tall trees, but close to water full of fish. And so it comes about that there is a group of small islands in the estuary of the Rancocas, where the mixture of three streams causes the creek mud to be deposited in mud flats and mud islands. There is one little island, perhaps two or three acres in size, sheltered between the river bank and some larger mud islands, where several dozen families of Blue Herons have built their nests. One of the larger islands is called Amico, connected to the land by a causeway. If you look closely, you notice one group of adult herons constantly ferries nest building materials from one direction, while another group ferry food for the youngsters from some different source in another direction. At times, diving ducks (not all species of ducks dive for fish) go after the fish in the channel between islands, with the effect of driving the fish into shallow water. The long-legged herons stand in the shallow water and get 'em; visitors all ask the same futile question -- what's in this for the ducks? The heron island is far enough away from places to observe it, that in mid-March its bare trees look to be covered with black blobs. Some of those blobs turn out to be herons, and some are heron nests, but you need binoculars to tell. When the silhouetted birds move around, you can see the nests are really only big enough to hold the eggs; most of the big blobs are the birds, themselves. There are four or five benches scattered on neighboring dry land in the best places to watch the birds, but you can expect to get ankle-deep in water a few times, and need to scramble up some sharp hills covered with brambles, in order to get to the benches. In fact, you can wander around the woods for an hour or more if you don't know where to look for the heron rookery. Look for the benches, or better still, go to the posted map near the park entrance south of the end of Norman Avenue. There are a couple of kiosks at that point, otherwise known as portable privies. Strangers who meet on the benches share the information supplied by the naturalists that herons have a social hierarchy, with the most important herons taking the highest perches in the trees. That led to visitors naming the topmost herons "Obamabirds", and the die-hard Republicans on the benches responding that the term must refer to dropping droppings on everybody else. That's irreverant Americans for you.

There is quite a good bakery and coffee shop just north on St. Mihiel Street (River Road), and the new diesel River Line railroad tootles past pretty frequently. That's the modern version of the old Amboy and Camden RR, the oldest railroad in the country. It now serves a large group of Philadelphia to New York commuters, zipping past an interesting sight they probably never realized is there because they are too busy playing Hearts (Contract Bridge requires four players, Hearts are more flexible). However, there's one big secret.

The birds are really only visible in the Spring until the trees leaf out and conceal them. Since spring floods make the mud islands impassible until about the time daylight savings time appears, there remains only about a two-week window of time to see the rookery, each year. But it is really, really worth the trouble, which includes getting up when it is still dark and lugging heavy cameras and optics. Dr. Samuel Johnson once remarked that while many things are worth seeing, very few are worth going to see. This is worth going to see.

And by the way, the promontory on the other side of the Rancocas is called Hawk Island. After a little research, that's very likely worth going to see, too.

Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Trial


In 1935, Bruno Hauptmann was executed for kidnapping the baby of America's "Lone Eagle". Swarms of competing police and reporters made chaos of the scene, and Charles Lindbergh made it all worse by dealing directly with the crime underworld. Even today, some question the guilt of Hauptmann, and even whether the baby is really dead.

We are indebted to George Hawke, who went to prep school near the scene of the crime, for becoming an expert, perhaps the preeminent expert, on the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Trial. Charles Lindbergh, the son of a midwest pro-German congressman, flew an airplane alone across the Atlantic in 1927. He became instantly famous, wrote a best-seller called Alone, became Colonel Lindbergh, married Anne Morrow the daughter of Senator Morrow of New Jersey. That's how in short order they came to settle in Englewood, New Jersey, and also could afford an elaborate country place in Hopewell, Hunterdon County. That put them physically at the northern edge of the Philadelphia region at least on weekends, although psychologically they remained part of the New York scene, where many people attracted to publicity seem to gravitate. In 1932 they had a 19-month old son, John, who one evening disappeared from Hopewell, apparently kidnapped.

{Charles Lindberg Home}
Charles Lindberg Home

What followed was a Keystone Kops Komedy in the midst of a publicity storm. The local, county, and state police, plus the FBI struggled with each other for the fame of solving the case. Newspaper reporters from all over the country swarmed down the little country road to set up shop. To illustrate the consequences, a home-made ladder was found sixty feet from the house, but no fingerprints were found by the first investigators. By the time the last investigators were done, the ladder had 150 sets of fingerprints on it. Police involvement on all levels can be summarized as a frenzy to be first to solve the case, followed in time by a frenzy to avoid being known for failing to solve it.

Although most of us eagerly following the case were unaware of it, the Colonel decided to take matters into his own hands. As a new celebrity, he was surrounded by many new best friends, and it was suggested to him that he should put out feelers into the Underground, the Mafia Mob. He would pay a ransom, and no questions would be asked. Somehow, a Bronx school principal, Dr. John Condon, was designated to respond to feelers, among them a particularly likely one, from a man who demanded to be met in a cemetery at night. As proof that the baby was still alive, the cemetery lurker sent Dr. Condon the baby's sleeping suit. Ransom was then paid in cash, unmarked, but entirely in gold certificates which had stopped being issued after President Roosevelt took us off the gold standard. The serial numbers carefully recorded. The extortionist then disappeared from sight, and the baby was never heard from again.

As time passed, two things happened. A partially decomposed baby's body was found buried a couple of miles from Hopewell, although it must be admitted it was only a quarter of a mile from an orphanage. The baby's pediatrician could not identify the body, although at the trial others claimed to make such identification. The baby's skull had been fractured, but several detectives had been seen turning it with sticks. The other development was that gold certificates bearing the recorded serial numbers began turning up in the Bronx.

{Bruno Richard Hauptmann}
Bruno Richard Hauptmann

Bruno Richard Hauptmann was apprehended at a filling station after passing a ten dollar bill of the ransom money, and when his house was searched, $14,000 more was found hidden. The police had their man. To say that the house had been searched thoroughly was quite an understatement, but a number of detectives said there was no visible disturbance in the attic. Later on, a rung of the homemade ladder found at Hopewell was found to have exactly the same grain pattern as a piece of attic floorboard, now found to be missing in the Bronx house. Although there was testimony that Hauptmann had been beaten with a hammer, he was deemed a highly suspicious character. He had a criminal record in Germany, and was in this country illegally after jumping ship.

{Lindberg Trial}
Lindberg Trial

The Trial of Bruno Hauptmann in the Hunterdon County Courthouse at Flemington was a tumultuous circus. The state of New Jersey spent well over a million dollars on the prosecution, while Hauptmann spent $2900 on his defense, most of it provided by a newspaper, and most of it spent on a defense lawyer who appeared before a jury of farmers dressed in a cutaway, wearing a Carnation and Spats, and who told people in a bar that Hauptmann was anyway guilty. That lawyer seemed visibly inebriated much of the time, and often walked down the main street with a girl on both arms. Miles of new telephone wire were strung into the courthouse area for the reporters, and two switchboards were provided.

There were legal difficulties. At that time in New Jersey, kidnapping was only a misdemeanor, so accidental death in the course of kidnapping was not a capital offense. The Lindbergh Kidnapping Law was hastily enacted to make kidnapping a federal felony, but for the purposes of this trial it was necessary to prosecute Hauptmann for the crime of Burglary of the sleep suit, with accidental death in the course of that burglary. Hauptmann steadfastly, and to some convincingly, denied everything. He was keeping the gold certificates for a friend.

The jury was understandably confused by all this, but it looked to them as though Hauptmann was surely guilty of something, perhaps extortion, and for all the jury knew Congress would now pass a special law about that, too. The defense did not make enough of the sleep suit, but all the jurors surely knew that such garments could be bought in any department store. There was even some question whether the Lindbergh Baby might not be dead at all, but the fact remained that Hauptmann was definitely guilty of something. He was electrocuted, and the newspapers made a great fuss about that, too.

Unintended Consequences for Advanced Placement

The Nov. 23, 2004 Wall Street Journal writes that "Elite High Schools Drop AP (Advanced Placement) Courses," thus taking me back to 1943, when I guess I started the idea now being dropped.

Allan Heely

The then Head Master of The Lawrenceville School, Allan V. Heely, came around to Yale to visit recent graduates in their college freshman year. For secondary school principals that would, in itself, be quite a novelty today. We certainly considered it a novelty to have him actually buy us a beer, since six months earlier we would have been instantly dismissed from school without hope of appeal, just for one provable beer. The alcohol issue to one side, I can see in retrospect that the Head Master made a serious effort to socialize with his senior students, inviting them to tea every afternoon, and coffee after Sunday chapel. What might sound like quaint Victorian ceremonies to an outsider were in fact conscious efforts to create a role model of the mythical Renaissance Man. He and the school chaplain played piano duets and sang witty songs of their own composition. He brought in famous guests from New York and Philadelphia, and made them perform as conversationalists. Jacques Barzun and John Erskine were memorable examples. I can even see in retrospect he was displaying his elegant talented wife as an example of the sort of woman we were urged to marry. To visit his graduates in their early formative years in college was entirely in keeping with his concept of education as the basis for character development. There was even a quote from J. P. Morgan: "Brains don't make success, character does."
Yale University

Well, for all his effort to be friendly, when the Head Master visits you at college it's a little hard to know what to talk about. So, to be helpful, I pointed out that the science courses were not smoothly integrated between secondary school and college. An example was the contrast between my roommate (Peter Max Schultheiss, now Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Yale) and me. Pete had scored 100 -- no mistakes on any quiz, all year -- in both Chemistry and Physics, whereas I had not taken either course at Lawrenceville at all. Yet, here were both of us in the same Freshman introductory courses at Yale, required before more advanced courses could be taken. Naturally, Pete had an easier time of it, but at the end of the year we were at the same point, and we both felt he had wasted his time taking the same courses twice. Why couldn't Lawrenceville make an arrangement with Yale to waive the requirement for some introductory courses, saving educational time for something else?

Mr. Heely did a lot better than that. At that time, ninety seniors from Lawrenceville went to Princeton every year, a hundred seniors from Andover went to Yale, and about the same number went from Exeter to Harvard. A pleasant dinner was arranged for the three headmasters and the three University presidents, at the conclusion of which the deal was done. Advanced placement was put into effect. As I understand it, the AP system gradually spread, and last year 14,900 secondary schools offered Advanced Placement courses. You could play around with those numbers and conjecture several million college person-years of education were put to better purposes over the last 62 years. It's a real nice feeling to believe that one twenty minute conversation by two eighteen year old boys could have such a useful effect.

So, now what's the problem with these elite high schools, that want to drop AP courses? It's hard to speak on their behalf, but I'm in a unique position to know the original idea has twisted out of shape a little. The original purpose was to eliminate mandatory repetition of introductory college courses, but nowadays competition for admission is so ferocious that repetition is considered a very smart thing, to beat the system. It works up and down the educational system, awarding a high score for coasting through a course the second time. Advance placement thus becomes a bribe not to do that, and the power of the bribe is prestige for admission to some higher level. With 15,000 high schools (like Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon) claiming to provide superiority, there has to be accreditation, and for that there has to be a standardized test. Before long, the curriculum is dominated, not by what the teacher thinks is superior, but by what is likely to be on the accreditation test. In effect, we get a French-like system in which the bureaucracy dictates what is best for the Leaders of Tomorrow. That's quite different from the time when outstanding secondary schools produced an unusually good product, and colleges were asked to recognize it. It's hard to say who's been corrupted here; probably everybody, because it's mass-produced accreditation. If you want to evaluate whether to permit more or fewer waivers for a certain school, you need to evaluate earlier waivees when they reach Junior or Senior level in whatever college had previously done some waiving. Only at that longitudinal point in the process is it possible to conclude whether the waiving of repetitious introductory courses had been useful or harmful.

Underneath all of this is the self-fulfilling prophesy that graduation from a handful of elite colleges will assuredly lead to success in life. If what we need are leaders who are vicious competitors, practiced in circumventing hurdles on the way to getting to the top, credentialism is perhaps a regrettable necessity. But if, as Mr. Morgan said, it's character that matters, gaming the system is not a completely ideal way to promote it.

Preppies of the Future?

Sir Peter Hall

Modern western civilization had its origin, or revival if you prefer, in the Italian town of Florence six or seven hundred years ago. The rise and fall of Florence makes a case example for the two preeminent scholars of civilizations, Peter Hall and Arnold Toynbee. Both of them, for obvious reasons, are British. Toynbee intones the theme that civilizations destroy themselves by overextending their best features. Peter Hall makes that into less of a one-way street. Civilizations flourish in the first place because of competitive tension between two conflicting aspirations; eventual victory by either one starts success on a path of unrestrained decline. In slightly different ways, both of them predict that success leads to failure. Not that failure inevitably follows success, but that notable failures are usually caused by success.


Florentine civilization grew out of the interaction, conflict, and intermarriage, of pugnacious aristocrats with sly calculating merchants. For a time, an optimum balance was achieved, and Florence dominated the Western world. Centuries later, much the same thing happened to England as feudalism grappled, first with Elizabethan maritime buccaneering and subsequently with the Industrial Revolution. That's where Eton comes in.


For American purposes, it is enough to focus on two Etonian mottos. Lumping both reckless aristocrats and scheming merchant princes, Eton exists "to exert a civilizing influence upon those who are destined to rule." Eton expresses no pretense about diversity or talent; Eton is not a trade school, a place to make useful contacts, or an elevator for upward social mobility. Labour governments of course do not share such attitudes, enduringly defended by Wellington's proclamation, that "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." That school aspires to teach more than Latin or trigonometry; it teaches duty and courage. And, as needed, it works. The graduate of a similar school Winston Churchill, reminding the nation that never have so many owed so much to so few, was delivering a subliminal illustration that leadership grows from education in many different ways.

Derek Bok

So things had not changed much in several hundred years, from Florence to Eton. It became accepted that a nation needs leaders who are smart (no charges of Light Brigades, please), it also needs unflinching bravery, in various combinations at different moments. And then, a research institute very near Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and two Harvard presidents, Conant and Bok, added a new requirement just before the Second World War. By devising multiple choice tests whose results seemed to parallel later academic success in college,


it became possible to identify myriads of ordinary American children who seemed to have equal or greater potential than the children of wealth and success. If the leadership pool needs to be enlarged, that's where new entrants should come from. Besides, examples have always abounded of the children of famous people who, even with an outstanding education, bitterly disappointed their expectations. Perhaps, by the application of scientific testing combined with judicious financial aid, it might be possible to civilize the unmentionable social Darwinism long visible in competitive concentrations of hormonally active youth. Without being too obvious about it, perhaps we could create a race of supermen by placing genetically superior candidates of both sexes together, train them well, and let propinquity do the rest. As this tacit system has evolved over nearly a century, the inbreeding has come to depend less on the hidden factors which encouraged success in the parents, and more on whatever genetic skills are linked to adolescent success in multiple choice examinations. And the expansion of this idea into the unused talents of girls is genetically thwarted by the tendency of professional women to have fewer children by delaying the birth of the first child; a sort of reverse Darwinism induced by prizing professional talents over reproductive ones.

Eric Hoffer

The American pragmatic way, and the scientific method, both attempt to make decisions by seeing what works. Eric Hoffer, the San Francisco writer, once visited Lawrenceville and pointed out one thing that definitely works. Rich men, he said, marry beautiful women. And so, their children tend to be unusually handsome. It's a circular system that is undeniably at work. Without any conscious scheming by sociologists, an unnerving pragmatism is already at work getting more of whatever it is we need, into leadership positions. Unfortunately, this fiendishly clever system for influencing the genetic choices of promising candidates cannot unequivocally claim to produce long-term success. Like the British royal family, it seems to some the proportion of failed marriages is too high in our system, the incidence of recreational drugs and alcohol is too great, and the number of graceful drifters too numerous among the alumni. Perhaps that is only invidious opinion, based on contrasting unusual opportunities with the ultimate consequences for a fundamentally normal collection of people. Perhaps, if we were truly objective, we might discern a second-generation production of Nobel Prize winners, Senators, Presidents, Olympic champions that might well justify the opportunities bestowed on the bloodlines. What Lawrenceville may need, to defend itself, is a systematic longitudinal study of outcomes that would demonstrate, let us say to Princeton, that more of our graduates are entitled to admission there. Or, maybe, that's the wrong goal entirely. Perhaps graduates of Lawrenceville, Andover and Exeter don't need Yale, Harvard and Princeton . Perhaps they need a different sort of college. Maybe they should skip college entirely, and go on to graduate schools. Instead of being preparatory schools, perhaps they should be finishing schools. There was a time when rich men married beautiful women; the time is coming when beautiful women seek out nerds to marry. Society has not charged academia with a duty to promote such an outcome, once suggested by Bernard Shaw to the beautiful chorus girl. "What if we produced children with my looks and your intellect?"
SAT test

Or, perhaps a longitudinal study would show something even more important, best perceived by ones who passed through the system before there was a SAT. Perhaps the basic premises of the SAT score need to be confronted, along with the cerebral ideals of Presidents Bok and Conant. Perhaps, beyond a certain point, higher SAT scores just lead to more schizophrenia and depression, or other counter-productive outcomes of inbreeding. Perhaps we should have another look at J. P. Morgan's system for identifying leaders. That old walrus-nose swept schoolishness away. "Brains don't make you rich," he snorted. "Character does."


A Study of History Arnold J. Toynbee ISBN-13: 978-0195050806 Amazon
Cities in Civilization: Peter Hall: ISBN-13: 978-0394587325 Amazon
Why the Private School?: Allan V. Heely: ASIN: B000GR1QS2 Amazon

Two Pacifists: Einstein and Eddington

Einstein and Eddington

Very few claimed to understand what Einstein's Theory of Relativity was all about, but everyone could understand that giving a wartime Nobel Prize to a conscientious objector on the ememy side was political dynamite. It was not entirely a clear case; Einstein had indeed been a C.O. and was indeed the only member of the 94-person Prussian Academy to refuse to endorse the War. However, he had such a long history of taking the unpopular side of every argument that it was not certain whether he opposed the war or was merely sticking his thumb in the Kaiser's eye. At the same time, the most promising English astrophysicist, Arthur Eddington, was petitioning as a Quaker to be granted alternative service rather than be compelled to fight. Since Eddington was just about the only person claiming to understand and endorse Einstein's incomprehensible idea, it did not seem convenient to the British government to seem to endorse a German claim to enormous scientific achievement. It was decided to agree to Eddington's draft exemption on condition he conduct his own proposal for a definitive test of the theory. According to this idea, light coming from a distant star should bend as it went past the sun. This proposal had the hidden advantage that a test could not take place until the 1919 eclipse of the sun, visible only from Africa or Brazil.

Isaac Newton

The experiment was hailed as a success, and a Nobel Prize followed shortly afterward, even though there were storm clouds over Brazil, and technical difficulties in Africa resulted in a rather blurred obscurity which would have baffled the public except for the enthusiastic acclaim of the only distinguished English scientist likely to understand the experiment. As telescopes have improved over the intervening century, it is now possible to observe the gravitational pull of much larger celestial bodies than the sun on light which is coming to the earth from much more distant stars. Therefore, even schoolchildren can today see photographs of pinpoint starlight twisting into arcs of light while passing distant galaxies. Einstein the German has triumphed over Isaac Newton the Englishman, although the heady triumph probably did somewhat go to the heads of both Einstein and Eddington. Eddington the birthright Quaker allowed himself to be knighted, Einstein endorsed the dubiously pacifist uprisings in Palestine, Eddington made a career of explaining puzzling scientific theories to the appreciative public. The direction of all this became clearer as some of the new theories Eddington promoted were discredited, and Einstein's pacifism has certainly become clouded by later thermonuclear events which he had a large hand in promoting.

Of the two, Einstein has proved to be the greater scientist, but Eddington would have been a scientific luminary without any association with the German, perhaps even a greater one without inevitable comparison between the two. Einstein spent the last 23 years of his life on the fringes of Philadelphia, at Princeton, but Philadelphia had little consciousness of his presence.

The Victor Talking Machine Company

Thomas Edison gets credit for inventing the phonograph around 1880, but what he invented was a concept of scratching a roll of tin foil with a needle. The approach wasn't really feasible, and Alexander Graham Bell modified it to scratching a wax cylinder. That was somewhat better, becoming the basis for the Dictaphone single-use system which persisted for several decades. But both Bell and Edison went on to more promising things. Meanwhile, a man named Charles Cros wrote an article in 1887, quite astutely describing the whole process we now know as the phonograph record.

Meanwhile, a young machinist from Dover, Delaware was puttering around with various steps in the sound recording process, and in 1900 was ready to found the Victor Talking Machine Company at 10th and Lombard Streets in Philadelphia. But while Eldridge Reeves Johnson had big trouble patenting Charles Cros's prior discovery, he was nevertheless destined to be gloriously successful with Victrola records in ways later Philadelphia inventors were destined to fail, utterly, with the computer. The Patent Office pointed out that while Cros had the theory right, he never even made a working model of his idea. His inaction had no right to be called "prior art", but was more aptly called an "abandoned experiment".

{Victor Company}
Victor Company

Johnson, on the other hand, worked out all the many practical difficulties in the road of developing a useful and salable product. The size, shape and composition of the phonograph needles, the best speed of rotation of the platter, the motors to make it run uniformly, the best way to magnify the sound, the way to create a metal master, from which many cheap wax impressions could be made. And so on, fighting with competitors and patent claimants, just about every step of the way. With the great good fortune to make ten early recordings of Enrico Caruso for a trivial payment, the Victor Company was soon on its way, and had to move its plant to Camden, where there was more room to spread out and grow. The Philadelphia Orchestra enjoyed huge financial royalties and climbed into the first rank in world orchestras, greatly facilitated by the near-by convenience of the Victor recording studios. Philadelphia became a music capitol where once it had been a Quaker city that didn't much approve of music.

As things happen in the technology industry, Victrola records were hit hard by the advent of radio, which also largely originated in Philadelphia. Inventories of unsold products suddenly piled up, and poor old Eldridge Johnson was reluctantly forced to sell out to RCA, the Radio Corporation of America. Johnson was paid $23 million to cash out of his business -- in March, 1929. If he had waited another six months, his prosperity for a life's work would have been meager.


{John Roebling}
John Roebling

The common image of John A. Roebling comes across a little hazy about details, but seems to consist of going down with the Titanic at the age of 31, with being born in Prussia in 1837, with getting the "bends" while building the Brooklyn Bridge, and first sighting General Robert E. Lee's invading army from a balloon, then dragging a cannon up Little Round Top. The obvious inconsistencies in this image do not prove they are fictitious, they prove that Roebling was several people. Mostly this composite centers on Johann Augustus Roebling and his three sons, but spreads out to a large and highly talented family. Roebling achievements are not those of a bee, but of a beehive.

Johann was a younger child in a large Prussian family living a hundred miles south of Berlin. The region had been ruled under Napoleon for seven years, creating much of the centralized governance we now call "Prussian". Following centralized orders, its school had been designated to be expert in science and engineering. Johann was particularly good at math and was singled out for intensive training in math and science, later sent to Berlin for advanced training in engineering. While there, he fell under the influence of the philosopher Hegel, who proclaimed that anyone could be anything he wanted to be, but opportunities were particularly good in America. Since Berlin went on to become the world center of electrical engineering, the world would probably have heard more of Johann Augustus Roebling even if he had remained at home; but he was going to do big things in the steel industry, so off he went to Pittsburgh. Things went rather well for him there, especially after he substituted wire rope for hemp rope in pulling canal boats over the Allegheny mountains. From that point on, John A. Roebling concentrated on perfecting and manufacturing wire cable, on which he held several key patents, and moved his business to the head of the Delaware Bay at Trenton, strategic in sales location between New York and Philadelphia.

{Wire Rope Factory}
Wire Rope Factory

Although his company would eventually build an open hearth steel mill, the Roebling enterprise always retained a central focus on steel cables made of steel wires bound together for flexibility and strength. The plant next door in Trenton, the Cooper, Hewitt Co., created the steel I-beam and thus was central in the construction of skyscrapers. Roebling supplied steel cable for elevators, without which skyscrapers would have been limited to six or eight stories. The wires within the cables start from what we can now visualize as the childs toy Slinkies (also a Roebling product,by the way). The trick to making such coils into cables was to find a way to straighten them out, which Roebling devised and patented, using a wheel arrangement to twist the wire as it unwound. Later, the wires were galvanized and compressed together. If the cables were used to carry electricity, it was necessary to cover the cable with rubber insulation as part of the manufacturing process. Eventually, over fifty different processes needed to be perfected and employed to create large quantities of non-brittle uniform cable product at low prices. Apparently, the central problem in manufacture was to smooth off burrs in the wire and meanwhile keep the assembly scrupulously clean. Roebling learned how to overcome all of the many problems in this deceptively simple-looking process, which eventually meant that the main problems remaining were in designing of factories rather than designing of cables. During the taming of the west, he produced barbed wire; during the rise of mass agriculture, he devised ways to use wire binders for sheaves of wheat. During the rise of electricity, he provided insulated wire and cable, first for the telegraph and then for the telephone. He even recognized the best business model; make huge profits during the first few years of a new product, then cut prices. By far the most famous product of the Roebling company was the suspension cable in suspension bridges.

Indeed, many people associate the Roebling name with bridge building, even though wire cable was and continued to be the central activity of the company. It was characteristic of the Roebling energy and engineering skill that he saw that if he wanted to sell cable, he had to show others how to use it, and he essentially took over the design and construction oversight of the twelve largest suspension bridges in the country. Unfortunately, his foot was crushed in a construction accident and when he died, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge had to be turned over to his son Washington Roebling. Washington in turn became badly crippled by caisson disease, the "bends", and hands-on oversight was conducted in large part by his wife, following meticulous instructions by her partially blinded husband.

{Brooklyn Bridge}
Brooklyn Bridge

The work of building and designing factories for the company fell to Washington's brother Charles, and since the company was constantly changing focus in order to exploit new product lines, it was a prodigious task, always under time pressure. What's more, the main factories burned to the ground at least six different times, probably from arson in at least several cases. The Roeblings all worked like dogs for endless hours, well into old age. There was comparatively little ostentatious display of wealth, and when US Steel offered to buy them out, they declined an offer equivalent to one fifth of the value of US Steel itself. That was during an economic downturn; Roebling was probably worth half of the value of US Steel. Andrew Carnegie might sell out, but not the Roeblings.

George Washington once reversed the Revolutionary War just up the street from the Roebling plant, and John Roebling's son was named after him. Roebling was a patriot and an active Republican. But there was enough Prussian in him to prefer German workmen, and to hate unions. When the company grew large, he was forced to hire immigrants from what he called the Hapsburg Empire, although he never completely trusted them. Judging from his writing, he regarded unions as merely trying to take away control of the company without investing in it, certainly without earning it. Surviving numerous fires, recessions, and wartime demands for expansion without profit, it was plainly obvious that when times were tough and money had to be raised, there was no one except the owner to produce it. It is not difficult to imagine the hatred in the minds of union leaders, confronting a family that regarded lowered wages during a depression as normal and necessary. In the Roebling view, standing up to worker protests in such circumstances was simply a test of character, something an owner simply had to find the courage to do.

{Roebling Village 1930}
Roebling Village 1930

When it became necessary to build a huge new plant at some distance downriver, the Roeblings had to contend with a shortage of labor in a region without houses. So they built a company town which they declined to name Roebling but the railroad named the stop Roebling anyway. Using engineering skill that had made Roebling the world leader, the homes were inexpensive but elegant for the time, and even today. The company had to build stores, streets, schools, and everything else a town needed. The new headaches of this project took time and attention away from the central business of making steel cables, and Washington Roebling once wrote it was enough to drive you crazy.

So, guess what, the unions felt they had to take the lead in complaining and forcing the Roeblings to make changes. Guess what happened next; the Roeblings just sold it and walked away.


The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy, Hardy Green ASIN: B003XKN7MW Amazon

Trapped in a Casino

{Secret Passages}
Secret Passages

Everyone who reads a detective novel or sees a James Bond movie is familiar with secret passages and hidden protection devices that suddenly trap the unwary. You aren't supposed to know about these things, but in real life, lots of people have had to know the secret, because it takes builders, architects and workmen to create it. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian emperors may have buried workmen alive to preserve the secret of secret passages, but nowadays that sort of thing is discouraged.


Since nowadays gambling casinos are bought and sold like a bottle of milk, some of the people who just have to be told the secrets of casinos are real estate appraisers; from one of them the following tidbit derives. Casinos try not to have any windows, so the serious slot machine players won't notice the passage of time, and maybe gamble all night when so inclined. It is therefore no surprise the ceilings and walls are usually mirrored, to make these windowless caverns seem gay and cheerful. The casino operator doesn't want anyone to go home for any reason other than running out of money, and depends heavily on the wisdom of Adam Smith, who once said, "The more you gamble, the more certain you are to lose."

{Adam Smith}
Adam Smith

Unfortunately, these palaces of pleasure attract a fair number of cheaters, who attempt to win by memorizing the cards that have been played and changing their bets with the changing odds of what remains unplayed in the deck ("card counters"). Others are more mechanically talented and drill holes into the works of slot machines with battery-driven portable drills, for later accomplices to insert metal rods into vital wheels and whatnot on the inside. And so on. So, the mirrors on the ceiling are one-way mirrors, with people observing what goes on below, and cameras recording every action of everybody. In this modern age, some casinos can bring up videos of what happened on a particular machine at a given time, several years ago. This elaborate recorded surveillance can be used to unravel the activities of visiting crooks, who quite often do their work over a period of some time, coming back to the same machine for another step in their fiendish schemes. Now, there's another consideration at play here. The casino operator does not want a commotion on the gambling floor when some crook is accosted, because that tends to divert dozens of gambling addicts from their incessant gambling in order to watch the excitement. This would definitely be a violation of Adam Smith's law of gambling, and hence would subtract from the value of stopping the crook who was caught. No good.

{Casino Video Surveillance}
Casino Video Surveillance

So, the merry men up above on the other side of the mirrored ceiling will merely watch and record the activity of the miscreant below, apparently letting him get away with it. But sooner or later the crook has stolen enough, or has to go the bathroom, or for some other reason leaves the casino floor. Bang, the door behind him closes and locks, and the door on the other side of the trap is also locked. Thus, without any fuss or muss (maybe) the crook is observed by witnesses, recorded on camera, and tucked away in a security chamber until such time as the security guards can arrive to advise him of the management's disapproval of his behavior. Just exactly what does happen when one of these people is caught is not something they need to tell a real estate appraiser, so unfortunately I have to leave it to your imagination.

Trenton's Tomato Pie Cult

{Trenton's Tomato Pie}
Trenton's Tomato Pie

The ingredients of a pizza pie are so simple it comes as a shock to learn the Italian community of Trenton, New Jersey, is fanatic about putting the cheese on the dough first, and then tomatoes on top. That's the way an authentic Trenton pizza is supposed to be made, rather than the conventional method of tomatoes first, cheese on top. To emphasize the point, these pizzas are determinedly referred to as tomato pies. And to tell the truth, there is a minor difference in the taste of the product made that way. As this more or less trivial issue is dissected and debated in great detail, an important fact about ethnic food emerges.

Be patient while each ingredient is examined. The crust will rise more in the warm summer than the winter, so it's thicker after it's baked. There is a faint fermentation taste which is more pronounced with a thick crust, but everyone in Trenton agrees this is a minor point. Everyone is also in agreement that most brands of Mozzarella cheese taste about the same. Tomatoes with seeds or without, or homogenized or chunky, make a minor difference. What is ultimately the essence of a Trenton tomato pie is that the cheese is put on top of the dough first, the tomatoes next spread on top, and the pie is then baked in the oven. Not everyone would notice the difference in taste, but it's definite, and in Trenton it's important. However, the locally acknowledged historian states his opinion that the thing that makes Trenton pies distinctive is not the ingredients, but the customers.

The employees of the shop know and respect the regulars, who tend to come to the same shop at least once a week, and call out the bakers by name as they enter. When they order a tomato pie, they give the name meaningfully, almost threateningly. According to the local historian, when the sons and grandsons of the shop owners move out to the suburbs and start a pizza shop in the strip mall, it isn't long before the tomatoes go on first, cheese on top. That's the way teenagers in the burbs are used to pizzas, and that's the way they expect to get them. As John Wanamaker used to say, the customer is always right, so the social rule which emerges is that ethnic food is not shaped by ethnic cooks, but by ethnic customers. To carry the idea a step farther, ethnic food isn't food, it's the old school tie.

State Capitol Think Tanks

{top quote}
States rights will be neglected as long as state governments remain so second-rate. {bottom quote}

Setting aside one's political party preferences, it is hard to deny the considerable increase of new and sophisticated ideas generated by the Republican party in the past twenty years. For fifty years before the Reagan Revolution, it was quite the reverse. All of the bright new ideas -- good and bad -- seemed to bubble out of the Democratic Party, while the Republicans just sulked and muttered. Even when Eisenhower swept the Democrats out of power, he was mostly riding a crest of idea fatigue. Leave us alone for a while. Thirty years before that, Harding came into office promising a "Return to Normalcy". The country does occasionally get fed up with pesky innovation, but for nearly a century we became accustomed to ideas ("reform") coming from the left, resistance coming from the right.

Yes, the pendulum does swing back and forth spontaneously. And yes, Adolf Hitler inadvertently stirred the American intellectual pot by chasing the Austrian school of economics to our shores, primarily landing at the University of Chicago. Nevertheless, a case can be made that it was the establishment of a number of think-tanks in Washington which brought conservatism to life as a positive force. The model was already in place, at the Brookings Institution and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In each case, a very wealthy man decided to endow an institution for the promotion of ideas congenial to himself or his religion. In the case of Bamberger the department store mogul, the think tank was mainly created to house one man, Albert Einstein. While Bamberger and Brookings were liberals, their model was copied by Otis at the American Enterprise Institute, Coors at the Heritage Foundation, Koch at the Cato Institute.

It does not seem to have occurred to the existing think tanks that one of their favorite ideas might be accomplished internally, within the think tank world itself. That idea is devolvement of power from centralized Washington to the fifty various state governments. Anyone can see, on any weekend, that urban Washington DC has outgrown its blood supply. The traffic jam out on Fridays is matched by equal paralysis on Monday morning as the crowd returns to work. In spite of a splendid highway system, designed at least in part with emergency evacuation in mind, the place is both unlivable and dysfunctional as a place to work. Twice each week, the Southern half of the East Coast is cut off from the Northern half by this gigantic traffic jam, just as effectively as if Generals Lee and Grant were conducting battles there. Components of one administrative department are cut off, not only from other departments, but from other components of the same department. The headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services are eight miles away from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, and thirty miles from Medicare headquarters in Baltimore. The headquarters of the whole country are cut off from the rest during the working week, and essentially deserted on weekends. The need to decentralize the federal government in some way is a case that can be made on physical issues alone, quite ignoring the philosophical issues of states rights, local autonomy, or shortening the chains of command.

And yet, it must be admitted. State governments are just terrible. They are almost all located in small one-industry towns, at a considerable distance from population centers, universities, business and commerce. Almost no state capitol has a good airport or good air service. The hotels are mostly despicable. As for entertainment, there is essentially nothing for a visitor to do, there. It doesn't matter how this came to be the case, but Illinois provided us with an insight into the process when Abraham Lincoln helped some railroad and real estate interests by dropping the state capitol in Springfield, naturally enriching a large number of local landholders, thereby. The state capitals used to be in Philadelphia, New York and Boston; now they are in Harrisburg, Albany and Springfield. The elected representatives clearly prefer to do their work out of sight, and because it is out of sight it can be incompetent, corrupt and unaccountable to anyone. It is a hopeless task to move the capitals back into the sunlight because the legislators prefer it to remain this way. But because state government are such a hopeless mess, it is unthinkable to devolve federal functions to them.

It's probably useful to remember that our Constitutional Convention was motivated to transfer as much power as possible from state legislatures to the central government. That turned out to be just a few powers, so the framers assumed that the vast majority of government would take place in state capitals. That's how things were under the Articles of Confederation, but unfortunately included watering the currency and passing debt-forgiveness laws. Control of the currency and regulation of private contracts, at least, should remain out of the hands of the state legislatures. When state governments were instruments for both starting the Civil War and resisting Reconstruction, furthermore, the victors became even further determined to weaken state government effectiveness. But moving the department of Agriculture to Nebraska and the Department of the Interior to Colorado, or the National Archives to Philadelphia and the Department of Defense to Austin are examples of devolving functions to different areas of the country rather than to different electoral bodies, and they all sound like things which might be feasible to move, just to relieve the traffic in Maryland and Virginia.

But here's a different place to start: if state governments flee from the sunlight, let's chase them with sunlight. Who knows a likely billionaire, able and willing to start a think tank in the sticks? If it works, perhaps others will imitate it. Every state capital city ought to have at least four think tanks. Unfortunately, there are at least forty which have none at all.

New Jersey: A Keg Tapped at Both Ends (1)


When Ben Franklin referred to New Jersey as a keg tapped at both ends, he was speaking of the land traffic down its eighty-mile waist, connecting the ports of New York and Philadelphia.Trenton is located at the northernmost navigable point of the Delaware River, and Perth Amboy (the original capital) is tucked behind Staten Island in New York's outer harbor. New Jersey continues to connect the two metropolitan areas, but today with rail and highways following somewhat different paths. Either way, Franklin's quip continues to apply to the sociology and politics of the former Garden State.

Frank Mazzei, chief of the legislative library of the Statehouse in Trenton, appears to be the world's expert on early New Jersey history. From him we learn the first constitution of the state was an informal sort of thing, whose authority derived from the personal reputations of the men who wrote it, leaders of the rebellion or otherwise notable in the region in 1776. Under the circumstances, the rebels against the king were very concerned to limit the powers of the new Governor to little more than a clerk or administrator. Real power was given to the Legislature, who made laws mainly in response to petitions from the populace. New Jersey had very low taxes. As time went on, there were several revised constitutions, and the 1966 version has ended up creating the most powerful Governor in the nation -- and the highest taxes, plus a $58 billion unfunded debt for state employee pensions.

{top quote}
Trenton has an urban revival but -- so far -- very few visitors tour the much-restored Statehouse. It's worth a trip. {bottom quote}
Dr. Fisher

Incidentally, the power of citizens to introduce legislative bills by petition may possibly persist, but has definitely been forgotten. The source of the Governor's power lies in two abilities: to appoint the top officials of the state including the Supreme Court, and to excercise a "line item" veto. It really seems extraordinary that two vague provisions would lead to such a profound change in the nature of the government, but here's a stern warning about some similar proposals currently noised about on the federal level. The Republic has fumbled its way into a delicate balance among the three branches of government; anything which gives one branch the power to appoint the other, or to defy the wishes of the other, upsets that balance. New Jersey's Supreme Court is restrained in its ability to thwart the actions of either the Executive or the Legislative branches by finding its own appointment in the hands of the Governor; unlike similar Federal appointments by the President to the U.S. Supreme Court, the New Jersey Justices must retire at the age of 70. That seems like a small difference, possibly even a good one. But in the case of Justice Stevens, George Bush would achieve 6-3 decisions instead of 5-4; that would make a big difference. The votes might even still be 5-4, but points at issue would migrate further toward the President's position.

{The State House of New Jersey}
The State House of New Jersey

Similarly, a line item veto would greatly diminish the power of the U.S. Congress, because it limits the ability to compromise. There are many situations where two bills, each of which would surely fail, are welded together into an omnibus bill which effectively passes both of them. There are other situations where a critical vote in Congress is purchased at the cost of some egregious pork barrel favor to a hold-out member. It's easy to see why editors and commentators screech with outrage at such contemptible tactics. And in fact the underlying point is that the Congressional leaders who sacrifice their principles in order to advance a significant proposal, know that even better than outsiders do. It hurts, you must hold your nose, but it must nevertheless be done. This is a price that leaders of a republic must pay for progress and one reason so few are willing to engage in it. The astonishing point about the New Jersey experiment is that the line item veto does not save money, it effectively results in unrestrained spending, increased taxes and public indebtedness. If someone would write an eight-hundred page book instead of a three-paragraph editorial on the topic of the line-item veto, reporters in the gallery might be less disposed to malign the American system. What's greatly underestimated in American politics is the relentless energy with which politicians will exploit even the smallest subtle change in the rules. That generates two strong forces: a reflex opposition to changing the rules in the slightest degree; and a constant scheming to change rules for purposes other than the stated ones.

{The Indian King Tavern}
The Indian King Tavern (Haddonfield)

In an era when we are endlessly reminded that America is a nation of laws and not of men, it is disconcerting to learn that the New Jersey legislature considers over 11,000 new laws a year, and enacts about 300 of them. Just to record the three hundred laws would fill a thousand-page book, which even a full time lawyer would have difficulty reading, let alone remembering. In this connection, a story is told of the law about driving while sleepy. If it's illegal to drive while intoxicated, then surely it should be illegal to drive while too sleepy to remain alert. The New Jersey legislature debated the fine points of this idea, eventually deciding that it should be illegal to remain at work for more than 24 hours. It took longer than that to pass the legislation, so the legislature found itself in the position of making it illegal -- for itself to drive home.


Camden After the Fall: Decline and Renewal in a Post-Industrial City: Howard Gillette Jr.: ISBN-13: 978-0812219685 Amazon

New Jersey: A Keg Tapped at Both Ends (2)

{top quote}
The New Jersey legislature first fought for Independence, then about debts, then railroads and corporations, and now -- about debt, again. {bottom quote}

The New Jersey legislature ratified the Declaration of Independence in the Indian King Tavern of Haddonfield, then moved to Princeton and ever since has been in Trenton. The Statehouse in Trenton is the second oldest in the nation, after the one in Annapolis, although it has grown like a snail with the original building nestled inside many additions. In one sense it is totally unique; it's the only state capitol in the nation where you can look out a window and see another state. It's right on the water's edge of the Delaware, a hundred yards from those Hessian barracks that Washington surprised in 1777.

{Rivals, North and South}
Rivals, North and South

In its early years the legislature concerned itself with raising troops during the Revolution. After that, it spent a great deal of time settling debts to pay for the Revolution. From that arose the traditional rivalry, even hostility, between the northern and southern halves of the state. To some degree this reflects the two original provinces of East Jersey (Scottish Quakers) and West Jersey (English Quakers), but the Quaker character persisted much longer in West Jersey. The northern half, with many Dutch settlers spilling over from New York and Congregationalists from Connecticut, evolved into mainly a population of debtors; debtors enjoy inflation, because it cheapens the cost of their repayments. The southern half of New Jersey, persistently Quaker in settlement, was where creditors lived; creditors want to recover the value of the money they risked, so they hate inflation. The Mason Dixon line, extended, would cross southern New Jersey. However, it was the northern half of the state which favored the Confederacy during the Civil War, whereas the Quakers in the south were strongly opposed to slavery. Later on, irritation over permitting Atlantic City gambling was one of various issues which eventually prompted South Jersey to try to secede from the northern spendthrifts; the secession proposition was actually on the ballot in the late Twentieth Century. Up until 1966 the Republicans always dominated the Senate, but that was because each of the 21 counties had one senator, and you can't gerrymander county lines. Then, it was deviously proposed that the state should be re-divided into 40 numerically equal Senatorial districts (i.e. instead of counties); the Senate has had a Democratic senatorial majority more or less ever since, in spite of numerous Republican majorities in state-wide elections. The legislative districts in the Assembly are re-apportioned every ten years to respond to the new census; it is close to the facts that the subsequent gerrymandering of that decennial reapportionment effectively forecloses the politics (and predicts the agenda outcome) within the Assembly for each subsequent decade. In recent years, state Congressional delegations have all become increasingly polarized as a result of partisan gerrymandering. New Jersey leads the way in this unfortunate process: the Assembly and the Congressional delegation are polarized in what has become a national pattern, but in addition, its state Senate is permanently gerrymandered by substituting "districts" for "counties", and redrawing the boundaries in the state constitution.

{The Amboy and Camden Railroad}
The Amboy and Camden Railroad

Over time, the early legislature devoted most of its time to chartering corporations, because there were no universal corporation laws and each new corporation required a separate legislative charter. During the early Industrial Revolution a great many new businesses sought the authority to limit investor liability. Each corporation had its own enabling act and hence its own deal, its own set of rules and conditions open to limiting amendments by competitors or favorable restatement at the urging of lobbyists. Along came the first railway in America, Stevens's conception of the Amboy and Camden Railroad. The New Jersey legislature, no doubt persuaded by private inducements, not only gave the Amboy and Camden permission to use eminent domain to acquire its right of way, but also conferred a perpetual tax exemption, and perpetual railroad monopoly. For the next fifty years, the legislature then concerned itself with hardly anything except railroad matters. As Willie Sutton said about banks, that was where the money was.

{Pennsylvania Railroad}
Pennsylvania Railroad

Perpetual is a pretty unambiguous adjective, of course, and it might be an interesting topic in judicial gymnastics to observe how the state would get itself out of the impossible economic straight-jacket of conferring a perpetual monopoly on only one railroad. It proved achievable however, when the proprietors of a new Stanhope Railroad slipped exemptions and enabling legislation for itself into one of the thousands of corporation bills which flooded through the legislature, unread by anyone except the authors. After the Governor who also hadn't read the bill, signed this sleeper into law, the uproar was predictably loud and accusatory. In a sense, the wrangle about New Jersey railroads was not finally settled by the legislature at all but by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which crossed the Delaware at Trenton, and went south to Philadelphia along the Pennsylvania side of the river. New Jersey had not only lost the advantage of railroad competition, it had essentially lost all of the main North-South railroad traffic made possible by improved bridge construction methods. Almost all rail traffic was East-West, and the Pennsylvania RR soon captured national dominance. Among other things, railroads thus avoided the expensive hidden costs of going before the New Jersey Legislature. New Jersey preferred to seek a new constitution with a new organization of matters, but one thing about New Jersey never seems to change. Between eleven and twelve thousand bills are still introduced, every year. Overloading the attention of the legislators creates the main opportunity for corrupt politics in all legislatures, and is the central strategy for its concealment. It's even worse that New Jersey actually passes about 300 laws a year by sitting for a hundred hours in plenary session: the legislature sits for 30 or 40 three-hour sessions in the afternoon each year, usually Monday and Thursday, from November to May. We try to be a nation of laws and not of men, but it would be hard to praise the application of that truism in New Jersey, where quite obviously the Governor does most of the governing, and deciding, and dispensing. Recent Governors have evidently preferred to borrow money rather than pay any attention to balancing a budget, since New Jersey has gone during fifty years from having no income or sales tax to having the highest of them both, and the highest property taxes, plus $50 billion in debt. Let's repeat the central point: the thing which will matter for a decade is how the legislature gerrymanders the voting districts after the 2010 census. A second source of corruption is the severe limitation of individual political contributions, combined with a lack of limits of donations to the County political machine; the machine totally dominates all New Jersey nominations, and by gerrymandering can ignore the general elections. The public has discovered that this process leads to the second-highest state tax rate in the nation, and wealthy people are fleeing to other states in noticeable numbers. Since wealthy people pay a disproportionate share of taxes, the disappearance of this tax source throws a major tax burden onto those with lower incomes. As this process spirals out of control, something about it must change.

Rancocas Valley: Mt. Holly, Eayrestown, Medford

{Rancocos River}
Rancocos River

The southern half of New Jersey, once called the Province of West Jersey, is sandy and flat, mostly not more than twenty feet above sea level. So, there is an extensive lacy network of slow-moving branches to the several creeks and rivers draining the area. Some of these rivers drain toward the Atlantic Ocean, some drain the other way to the Delaware; it scarcely makes much difference. Almost as soon as the Quaker proprietors settled the area in the Seventeenth century, the broad Rancocas River (draining into the Delaware) stood out as a wonderfully protected region to settle. The Rancocas wanders through the woods, but is tidal all the way to Mt. Holly, which later even became a ship building center. That's now the centrally located county seat of Burlington County, from which several branches extend in various directions. One southerly branch drains the water coming from Medford Lakes, once a summer cottage community miles deep in the Pines, now a place for fancy houses with lakes in the backyard. The cute little nearby town of Medford has a Braddock Tavern, reminding visitors that General Braddock stopped off here on his way to his own ambush at Fort Duquesne in the French and Indian War. The Medford-Mt. Holly Road follows the southern branch of Rancocas creek, running through somewhat broken ground greatly resembling Northern Virginia. And, that resemblance is enhanced by a number of horse farms with white-board fences, many of them looking quite historical, and very well manicured. Here's a drive worth taking, especially in late April when the trees are just budding out, the grass is green, and the azaleas are blooming. Starting in Mt. Holly, which is recognizably colonial but unfortunately somewhat under-maintained, you can recognize that the road once started at the Three Tun Tavern, of colonial fame. The confluence of creek branches made a natural place for a farmers market in the center of the road. A short distance down one of the branching streets of Mt. Holly is the red-brick home John Woolman built to keep his daughter from moving away with her Philadelphia husband. We talk more about John Woolman in another section of Philadelphia Reflections.

{Rancocos Map}
Rancocos Map

One of the interesting features of the "lost" colonial community along the Mt. Holly-Medford Road grows out of the Rancocas curving east toward the ocean and then branching south. That means that if you drive from Haddonfield or Camden to the ocean beaches you go through the pine woods and then come upon this ancient Medford community before you re-enter the pine barrens and go on toward the ocean. That gives the impression the Medford area was somehow a lost frontier, when in fact it was a part of one of the oldest settlements in the state. It's a strip community, running along the banks of the Rancocas from Medford to Mt. Holly; houses along the banks, farmland stretching behind the houses. Most people on the way to the shore just go through the traffic light and keep on going without realizing what they are missing. And, indeed, if all that traffic stopped to browse, it would quickly ruin the place.

Along the Medford-Mt. Holly Road is seen an occasional McMansion, with "Atlantic City" sort of written all over it, but in general the houses are pretty upscale and restrained. There is a nursery farm which must stretch a full mile, full of flowering shrubs and trees, looking very manicured and attractive. To some extent, a nursery improves a neighborhood, since it supplies lots of flowering shrubbery ideal for the local soil conditions. But in a larger sense, a nursery is almost always bad news for a neighborhood. Every time a plant is dug up and sold, it takes away a bushel of topsoil. No farmer would normally consent to such treatment of his most valuable asset, so the sale of property for nurseries is a sign the farmers are selling out, urban development is looming. Unfortunately, this certainly also means the novel hidden river community in the pines is on the brink of being wiped out. Tourist visits are, well, now or never.


The Pine Barrens: John McPhee: ISBN-13: 978-0374514426 Amazon

Burlington County, NJ

{Burlington County Map}
Burlington County Map

Burlington County used to be called Bridlington. It contains Burlington City, formerly the capitol of West Jersey, which is how they styled the southern half of the colony, the part controlled by William Penn. In colonial times, the developed part of New Jersey was a strip along the Raritan River extending from Perth Amboy, the capital of East Jersey, to Burlington. To the north of the fertile Raritan strip, extended the hills and wilderness mountains; to the south extended the Pine Barrens loamy wilderness. The Raritan strip was predominantly Tory in sentiment, while the remaining 90% of the colony consisted of backwoods Dutch farmers to the north, and hard-scrabble "Pineys" to the south, except for the developments farmed by Quakers. The Quakers had ambiguous sentiments during the Revolution, leaving conflicts between pacifism and self-defense to individual discretion. The real fighting mostly went on between the Episcopalian Tories and the Scottish-Presbyterian rebels, both of which were sort of newcomer nuisances in the minds of the Quakers. The warfare was bitter, with the Tories determined to hang the rebels, and the rebels determined to evict or inflict genocide on the loyalists. Standing aside from such blood-letting of course inevitably led to loss of Quaker political leadership. When East and West Jersey were consolidated by Queen Anne into New Jersey in 1702, the main reason was ungovernability, with animosities which endure to the present time in submerged form. Benjamin Franklin's son William was appointed Governor through his father's nepotism, but when he turned into a rebel-hanging Tory, his father extended his bitterness about it into a hatred of all Tories. The later effect of this was felt at the Treaty of Paris, where Ben Franklin would not hear of leniency for loyalists, striking out any hint of reparations for their property losses. In a peculiar way, the factionalism resurfaced at the time of the Civil War, where the slave-owning Dutch in the North came into conflict with the slave-hating Quakers in the South. The problem would have been much worse if the Jersey slave holders had been contiguous with the Confederacy, but it was still bad enough to perpetuate local sectionalism. A few decades ago, it was actually on the ballot that Southern Jersey wanted permission to secede.

{James K. Wujcik}
James K. Wujcik

Under the circumstances, when James K. Wujcik wanted to work for progress in his native area, he avoided any ambition to enter State politics, and concentrated his efforts on Burlington County. He is now a member of the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington County, along with four other vigorous local citizens. Most notable among them is William Haines, the largest landholder by far in the area, whose family still controls the shares of the Quaker Proprietorship. Membership on the Burlington County Board of Freeholders is a part-time job, so Mr. Wujcik is also president of the Sovereign Bank. We are indebted to him for a fine talk to the Right Angle Club avoiding, with evident discomfort, much mention of state politics or sociology.

{Congressman James Saxton}
Congressman Saxton

Burlington is the only New Jersey county which stretches from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean, including the Pine Barrens occupying 80% of the land mass in the center; fishing and resorts dominate near the ocean, and former industrial areas along the river. Much of the area has been converted to agriculture for the Garden State, but about 10% is included in a National Preserve. The population has doubled in the past fifty years, so urbanization is replacing agriculture, which had earlier displaced wilderness. The county includes Fort Dix and Maguire Air Force Base, strenuously promoted for decades by now retired Congressman James Saxton.

Somewhere in the past few decades, Burlington became quite activist. Although many tend to think of real estate planning as urban planning, this largely rural county went in for planning in a big way, deciding what it was and what it wanted to be. Generally speaking, its decision was to replace urban sprawl with cluster promotion. The farmers didn't like invasion by McMansions or industries, while the towns lost their vigor through tax avoidance behavior of the commuter residents. Overall, the decision was to push urban development along the river in clusters surrounding the declining river towns, while pushing exurban development closer to logical commuting centers, leaving the open spaces to farmers. Incentives were preferred to compulsion, with a determination never to use eminent domain except for matters of public safety. To implement these goals, two referenda were passed with 70% majorities to create special taxes for a development fund, which bought the development rights from the farmers and -- with political magic -- re-clustered them around the river towns. The farmers loved it, the environmentalists loved it, and the towns began to revive. The success of this effort rested on the realization that exurbanites and farmers didn't really want to live near each other, and only did so because developers were looking for cheap land. Many other rural counties near cities -- Chester and Bucks Counties in Pennslvania, for example -- need to learn this lesson about how to stop local political warfare. Corporation executives don't want to live next to pig farms, but pig farmers are quite right that they were living there, first. When this friction seeps into the local school system, class warfare can get pretty ugly.

{Burlington Bristol Bridge}
Burlington Bristol Bridge

In Burlington County, they thought big. The central project was to push through the legislature a billion-dollar project to restore the Riverline light rail to the river towns, along the tracks of the once pre-eminent Camden and Amboy Rail Road. It was an unexpected success. During the first six months of operation, ridership achieved a level twice as large as was projected as a ten-year goal. Along this strip of the Route 206 corridor, the old Roebling Steel Works are becoming the Roebling Superfund Site, now trying to attract industrial developers. The Haines Industrial Site, originally envisioned as a food distribution center, was sold to private developers who have created 5000 jobs in the area. Commerce Park beside the Burlington Bristol Bridge is coming along, as are the Shoppes of Riverton and Old York Village in Chesterfield Township. As Waste Management cleans up the site of the old Morrisville Steel plant across the Delaware River, a moderate-sized development project is becoming an interstate regional one.

No doubt there will be bumps in these roads; the decline of real estate prices nationally is a threat on the horizon, because it provokes a flight of mortgage credit. It works the other way, too, as banks decide to deleverage by reducing outstanding loans; this is the way downward spirals reinforce themselves. And anyone who knows anything about all state legislatures will be sceptical about political cooperation in a state as tumultuous as New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Railroad destroyed the promise of this state once; some other local interest could do it again. Nevertheless, right now Burlington County looks like a real winner, primarily because of effective leadership.

Port of Philadelphia

{Ports of Philadelphia}
Ports of Philadelphia

When federal appropriations are doled out, it is a great advantage for the Port of Philadelphia to appeal to six U.S. Senators. However, the overlapping control of port operations can come close to paralysis. In short, we may have less chance of agreement on what we want -- but a greater chance of getting it. Right now, the ports of the world are struggling to adjust to revolutions of containerized cargo and gigantic oil tankers, plus political pressure from concern about the environment.

Some of the main arenas of our gladiator fights are as follows:

DRPA: The Delaware River Port Authority operates several large bridges, the PATCO high-speed subway line, and the cruise terminal, all leading to control of potentially large sources of revenue. The 1992 Congress expanded its charter to include the economic development of the port region.

SJPC: The South Jersey Port Corporation owns two marine terminals in Camden, and is planning a third in Paulsboro.

DSPC: The Delaware State Port Coorporation operates the Port of Wilmington, DE.

PRPA: The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority has little to do with city politics, but is an arm of the state government of Pennsylvania, operating 7 marine cargo facilities, and planning more.

In addition, every county, city, and town along the riverbank has some degree of authority. Every business and union involved in regional or international trade is desperate to protect its interest in the politics of port regulation. Lately, the Homeland Security Agency has taken a large role. Scientists, engineers, fishermen, oil refinery operators, economists, and others abound. The newsmedia convey their own opinions and the opinions of others. Opinions abound, because most issues about ports are important.

In addition to the traditional cargoes of coal, petroleum, iron ore and forest products, which are mostly declining in importance, the rising cargoes include meat, cocoa beans, and South American fruit. General, or casual, cargo tends to be more valuable than bulk cargo, but greatly complicates the Homeland Security risks. The ratio of imports to exports is important, because it is expensive to have a ship return empty. Shippers will therefore favor a port where there are expectations of return cargo. Oil tankers are particularly likely to return empty, since their ballast is mostly river water; but, who knows, perhaps global warming will make dirty river water seem valuable to some tropical oil producer. A quirky problem is that most of the crude oil entering East Coast ports is currently coming from Nigeria, a notoriously corrupt nation. This has led to a thriving business of car-jacking in the Philadelphia suburbs, with the stolen cars promptly packed in empty containers returning to Africa.

Of the 360 major American ports, the Delaware River ranks second in total tonnage shipped, and eighth in the dollar value of the cargo. Every year, 2600 ships call into our port, which claims to employ 75,000 people. According to Bill McLaughlin of the PRPA, the future of the port will depend on the settlement of three major disputes:

1. Deepening the Channel. The historical natural level of the river is 17 feet, artificially deepened to 40 feet up to the level of the Walt Whitman Bridge. It sludges up by two or three feet every few years, so dredging is a continuous issue. The enlargement of tankers and container ships has led to a need to deepen the channel to 45 feet. It is true that the Wissahickon schist pokes up at Marcus Hook and will have to be blasted out, but mainly the issue is dredging up the gunk on the river bottom, and hauling it away somewhere. In Delaware Bay below Pea Patch Island, the bottom is sandy and hence valuable. The State of Delaware has plans for riverfront development, and would actually like to have the 8 million tons of sand, so no problem. The 7 million tons of clay and silt which must be dredged out of the upper Delaware River channel for a 45-foot depth is more of a problem, but uses can be found for most of it. Or so the Pennsylvania representatives maintain; the New Jersey representatives led by Congressman Rob Andrews say it would be an environmental disaster to dump a thimbleful on New Jersey. Feelings get pretty hot in these things. The Haddonfield representative is portrayed as selling out his district in order to further his own state-wide aspirations, acting on the orders of North Jersey politicians who dominate New Jersey politics, who want to lessen competition with the Port of New York, which also shares a border with New Jersey. Feelings are not soothed to see the Port of New York deepening its channel to fifty feet while resisting forty-five in the Delaware port.

The document currently at the center of this interstate dispute is called PCA, the Project Cooperation Agreement. New Jersey won't agree to sign the proposal, which contains clauses to remove the DRPA from authority and replace it with PRPA(essentially transferring control and revenues from Philadelphia to the State of Pennsylvania) as the "non-federal sponsor". PRPA would then enter into a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers to get the work done.The price, probably low-balled, is $219 million, to be compared with the Port of New York's dredging price (probably high-balled) of $50 billion. There are, of course, a great many features of this political negotiation which are unlikely to appear in print.

2. Southport. The grand plan for the Philadelphia Port is to center on an intermodal complex of piers, railroads, and highways which would extend as a continuous terminal from the Walt Whitman Bridge to the old Naval Yard. No doubt this idea is linked to the round-the-world concept of Philadelphia as a way station from India to Vancouver, overcoming the empty return cargo problem by never looking back. Good luck.

3. Monetizing the Port. Like the turnpikes, ports could be sold to private investors. Of course, that could extend to selling the property to foreign investors, triggering the nationalist reaction readily observed when port management was once offered to Abu Dahbi. It could well give a new meaning to the expression, being sold down the river, but who knows maybe it's a good idea. When you criticize motives it never bothers real political pros, because it's simple to say you don't have such motives, and who knows. But the people seriously involved in government finances say they most fear that the do-gooders will be allowed to sell or lease publicly-owned facilities to improve the financial balance sheet. And then the pros will just take the money and use it to pay interest on more borrowing.

Gunk, 27 Million Tons of It

Henry Hudson

When Henry Hudson reached the mouth of Delaware Bay in 1609, the river was so full of snags he simply went up to what is now the Hudson River in New York rather than try to wiggle his little sailboat up the Delaware. By 1900, there had been enough dredging and removal of islands that the channel was 17 feet deep all of the ninety miles up to Philadelphia. One of the consequences was that the new river edge was down at Delaware (Columbus) Avenue, rather than up at Front Street. When you make it deeper, the width of a shallow river often narrows.

Now, the proposal is to deepen the channel to 42 feet, a number mandated by present size of cargo container ships. Another limiting factor is the construction of the bridges, so the Port of Philadelphia is moving South of the Walt Whitman bridge. That's potentially of great value to the longshoremen who live in that region, although whether it will really bring prosperity is up to them, depending on whether they restrain their aggressive wage and work-rule proposals. There are serious students of the Philadelphia economy who maintain that the economic decline of Philadelphia is more traceable to the intransigence of the longshore unions than to any other factor. Since that comment is specifically made in comparison with the railroad brotherhoods, it is a dramatic accusation indeed.

If you deepen the channel to 42 feet, 800 feet wide (1300 feet at bends in the river), you can be calculated to bring up 27 million tons of sludge. You have to dump that stuff somewhere else, and the current plan is for Philadelphia to build a retaining wall out into the river next to the Packer Avenue terminal area, and dump Philadelphia's share of the stuff behind it. In time, the water will drain out of the gunk, and quite a few acres of dry land would make its appearance. Some engineers question whether the force of the river would permit this. Environmentalists have objections to this project relating to stirring up pollutants lying dormant on the river floor, but without likely effect on the tin ears of those who are presently congratulating themselves on obtaining Federal money to accomplish this "big dig".

The really serious obstructions are coming from the State of New Jersey, which would acquire 9 million tons of gunk as their fair share. Right now, New Jersey is raising taxes and cutting state spending because of a budget deficit, so they are not anxious to take on another big project, particularly one whose benefits will have to be shared with Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was momentarily sympathetic with this problem, until it was learned that New Jersey is actively promoting a FIFTY foot channel in the Hudson River. Immediately it becomes obvious that there is not enough money for two projects, and there are more New Jersey voters up near the port of New York than down around the Port of Philadelphia. Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have Democrat governors, while New York has a Republican one. Ordinarily, this would be a decisive point, but the preponderant location of voters up in North Jersey seems to trump that. Keep watching the Saturday papers, on the editorial page down below the fold, the place newspapers ordinarily reserve for retractions, apologies, and local political truths.

What's going on here is an attempted exploitation of geographical advantages. Philadelphia is at one of three navigable openings in the Atlantic coast barrier islands adjoining the New York-Washington megopolis, or five openings if you call it a Boston-Richmond megopolis. Obviously, a seaway opening in the middle is superior to one at the ends, so it really comes down to a New York and Philadelphia competition, with Baltimore a poor third because European ships have to go down to Norfolk and then come come back up the Chesapeake, like Lord Admiral Howe in 1777. There's a huge amount of rail and truck traffic North and South, so crossing the T with ocean traffic arriving in the middle could make quite an economic center. Passenger rail traffic from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and beyond is pretty anemic, but freight traffic is healthy and could be more so with cargo supplied by container ships. This is the dream, New York is the enemy, New Jersey is the villain, and the longshoremen are the main beneficiary. It is even possible to imagine eighty dollar per hundred in wages for Workman's compensation, but that would be cynical.

Because of the New Jersey problem, proposals have been made to fill up abandoned coal mines with dredging sludge, and let the water seep out wherever it please. Somehow, this isn't thought to be practical, and other suggestions seem to be very welcome, a rather unusual circumstance in itself.

Let's ask ourselves whether we want to return Philadelphia to its old industrial mightiness, or whether we want to encourage the development of a service economy, computers and all that. One way to measure success in the container cargo race is to count the unloading cranes. Philadelphia has about five of them, and most of the time they are sticking straight up, unused. There are many times that many in Seattle, and in Yokohama there are over a hundred. The port of Kobe has far more, too many to count as you go past on the bullet train. However, there's a secret truth about container ships. When they get to Seattle, there is no cargo to fill them with for a return voyage, and in fact the empty container pile-up is a rather serious problem. Bill Gates is shipping lots of software to Japan, but it doesn't fill cargo containers, and the economy of the region is going to have high transportation costs until someone figures out a bulk cargo product to ship from Seattle. This is exactly the situation of a century ago when the New York Central, the Baltimore and Ohio, and the Pennsylvania RR were battling it out for transcontinental supremacy. The Pennsy won that battle, because oil was discovered in Bradford Pennsylvania, and refineries were built on the Schuylkill to process the oil. The Pennsy had thus found a round-trip cargo for filling its empty East-bound freight cars, and it beat out the other two railroads which didn't. Cheaper freight rates became possible, and therefore other industries prospered in the region.

Right here is a topic which somebody at the Wharton School had better start talking about. No matter how much software and other service industry prosperity a city region may support, it has to find a way to supply bulk cargo to all those container ships that are bringing in the BMW's for the service industry hotshots to drive.

Meanwhile, what does New Jersey do with 9 million tons of gunk?

Reforming Health Reform (2009), New Jersey Style

{Congressman Robert Andrews}
Congressman Robert Andrews

A single e-mail to constituents, and no other communication visible to the general public, announced a town hall meeting with our Congressman, Bob Andrews, on the campus of Rowan University, from 6 to 8 PM, August 24, 2009. The subject was to be Health Care Reform Legislation. On arrival, it was hard to find the auditorium in the square mile of new college campus, and only a small sign entitled "Event" indicated the place to park. Lots of cars.

By counting seats in a row and multiplying by the number of rows, the University Auditorium held 3000 people, but at 6PM it was difficult to find a vacant seat. The doors were almost blocked by two lines of people standing to speak at microphones in the center of the hall, snaking all the way out past the television cameras and then out the door. These people were strangely silent, preoccupied but not rude, apparently rehearsing their speeches. In the lobby outside the doors, several workers were distributing posters showing "Thank You!", checking people off on lists of some sort. Many of those who got posters were wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with something or other.

{Rowan University}
Rowan University

When I finally got a seat inside, it was behind a whole row of such T-shirted poster-holders, mostly but not entirely of the black race. The Congressman was giving a little speech to the effect that he was one of the committee members who wrote the bill, so of course he had to support it. Strange, that as a member of Commerce and Labor he was working on a bill which traditionally is the province of the subcommittee on Health, of the Ways and Means Committee. In any event, that gave him the ability to explain some of the language which was a little too hard to understand. Several in the audience shouted out something unintelligible at that point, but mostly the audience sat in silence, waiting for the questions. He soon opened it up for questions, because he wanted to know what his constituents were thinking.

Although a few inevitably wandered off the point, questioners were confident, moderately deferential, remarkably effective. No matter how it was stated, and no matter how it began ("I have always voted for you, Congressman"), they were at the microphone to run a sword into him. To some extent, posting the entire bill on the Internet has changed politics. One old man, reading from his papers, said that page 343 says, etc; to which the harassed Congressmen blurted out, "That isn't true!" And the old man held his ground, "Oh, yes, and what else isn't true, that's written in the bill?"

Our congressman represents a working-class district, as clearly illustrated by his previously running for Congress without opposition. In searching for the reason this solidly Democrat audience was so antagonized, one gathers they generally have Unionized health benefits, and feel threatened that insuring the "illegals" will be paid for by impairing their own insurance. Somehow they feel that anyone who denies it is lying to them. ("It isn't what's in the bill, it's what will be in the bill ten years from now.") Except for college professors, they have the most luxurious health insurance coverage in America, and are accustomed to boasting of it. Somehow, this privileged position drowns out their envy of rich people. When told that only the top x% of the country would have its taxes raised, one man bore right in on the Congressman. "You never heard anyone asking a poor man to give him a job". (Yeah, right, right on, Yeah.)

Although the people in red shirts holding posters put up a fight for fifteen minutes or so, they soon subsided out of recognition of who owned the room, and the remaining three hours of "questions" were almost uniformly negative. After an hour, the television cameras left the room, and at that signal the people in front of me wearing red shirts, also left. After a succession of speakers praised physicians somewhat excessively, a couple of physicians got up and made a poor showing at the microphone. One of them, a fat woman, had the poor judgment to tell these folks that many diseases like diabetes were self-inflicted, but later heard that it would help if our President would himself stop smoking and leave the rest of us to mind our own business. Two women who proclaimed themselves single mothers were no better treated..

At 9:30, a meeting scheduled to end at 8PM still had a thousand people in the audience, and fifty at the microphones. But I had had enough. They made their point. All that remains is to see how fairly the television editors extract significant clips, and to find out how the rest of the nation feels.

LATER FOOTNOTE: As matters turned out a few months later, this national legislation had more of a local New Jersey effect than the audience could have guessed. Mandating health insurance for 30 million uninsured, Obamacare accomplished it for 15 million of them by forcing them into the state Medicaid program, which is widely acknowledged to be the worst program in American medicine, because it is the most under-funded. New Jersey residents are firmly opposed to anything which would raise their already high local taxes, and will focus intently on the attempt in the coming lame-duck session of Congress (November 2010) which intends to transfer federal money to states to pay for Medicaid, and which is given only the narrowest chance of success.

Detroit Makes, Philadelphia Takes

Junk Yard

Let's look at the economics of a junkyard in a business-school way. Derelict auto bodies worth $80 a ton at current prices can be profitably converted into $235 worth of scrap metal, provided the cost of doing so can be kept below $155 a ton. The Camden Iron and Metal company is able to do so for $115 in expenses, and so reaps a profit of $40 a ton . That's not to mention the relief the owner of a useless car feels when the derelict hulk is taken off his hands, or the relief the City feels in ridding itself of thousands of vehicles abandoned in various alleys and public places. Or the worth to the steel mills of being able to produce new metal at a reduced price compared with starting with iron ore and limestone. Or the benefit to our balance of trade from being able to export the motor blocks and transmissions salvaged intact from the wrecks, leading to foreign motor cars of a quality that may, or may not, withstand impartial examination..

Camden Iron and Metal, Inc. is crawling with engineers who help cope with the currently dwindling steel content of contemporary autos, and the consequent increase in non-ferrous metals, glass, plastic and whatever. The most profitable component of the salvage company thus lies in a subsidiary, Innovative Recycling Products, Inc. The copper content of scrap used to be a headache, but is now a revenue center, for example. There once was a time when scrap iron was chopped up and buried in landfills. Nowadays, people are getting rich digging up such landfills and mining the scrap metal. There are other problems you probably wouldn't imagine, such as the disagreeable discovery that lots of those crushed auto bodies have dead dogs locked in their trunks.

It's big business, where a single crane, of which this company has a great many, costs $1 million, and the grinding mills and purifiers cost much more, last only a year, and must be maintained or replaced. There is an increasing plastic content in cars, so that stuff is ground up, pulverized, and burned to produce energy to run the shredding operation. Trucks bringing in scrap for processing typically run all night on the highways, which reduces the public profile of the salvage operation but increases its 24-hour efficiency. When metal is torn apart, internal friction creates 2000 degree heat, cooled by water, producing huge clouds of steam. The closing of the Bessemer Steel Works reduced the local market for scrap steel, prompting more exports of scrap, and stimulating more search for ways to salvage other ingredients of the scrap. Increasingly, the purification of the raw material has thrust the scrap processors into the role of a pre-processing step in the steel industry. Just as slaughter houses used to boast of using all of the pig except the squeal, hardly anything is now left of the bodies of discarded autos except for the unattractive scrap heap. Hey, if every housewife admires the idea of household recycling, maybe they can grow to love auto body recyclers.

And then, friends, this is Philadelphia so politics enters in. It has come in the form of visits from the Governor who wants the shredder to move to the waterfront, but who also has a struggle with New Jersey over dredging the river channel to balance in his mind. So, sometimes expensive relocation proposals are made, partially implemented, and then suddenly abandoned for reasons best known in Harrisburg and Trenton. It's conjectured that a central issue in this scrap iron struggle is the high price charged for electric power by New Jersey utility monopolies, tending to drive the scrap salvagers over to Pennsylvania. Since macing utilities is a central feature of modern urban political financing, it's equally possible that Pennsylvania power is produced at a subsidized loss in this struggle, or that New Jersey is concealing its tax burden within electric bills. One would have to know more facts to form an informed judgment, in a situation where facts are hard to come by.

Starving the Beast of Early Retirement

{Chairman, Ben Bernanke}
Chairman, Ben Bernanke

Inflation-targeting, unless someone is keeping a big secret from us, is the only arrow in the quiver of a nation's central bank, in our case the Federal Reserve. A strong case that the Federal Reserve should acquire no other duties, rests on the fear that any new duty might conflict with holding inflation on target (at present, 2% per year). The recent adventure of the present Chairman, Ben Bernanke, into "Quantitative Easing" illustrates that diluting and confusing the role of the Federal Reserve will tempt the Executive Branch to poach on its independence. In this particular case, the adventure was the purchase of vast amounts of bad loans in order to remove them from the economy, never mind the future problem it will create of re-selling those loans to someone. Mr. Bernanke is lending credibility to the outcry of Representative Ron Paul (R, Tx) that the Federal Reserve should be abolished entirely.

{Kenneth S. Rogoff}
Kenneth S. Rogoff

Maintaining price stability (Inflation targeting) rests on Alan Greenspan's simplification of Milton Friedman's "monetary" theory that you can combat inflation or deflation by appropriate adjustments of interest rates and the money supply. Greenspan's further insight was that you needn't measure "monetary aggregates", you just have to measure inflation itself and react like a helmsman with a compass. Until 2008 it looked as though Greenspan had won the argument, by avoiding a deep recession for seventeen years, in the so-called "Great Quieting". Inherent in this helmsman theory is a deeper theory that all episodes of deflation (depression, recession, whatever) are merely over-reactions to inflation; avoid inflation and then forget about deflation. Still further behind this analysis is the observation that all governments at all times are pushing toward inflation, count that as an immutable law. The blunder of holding interest rates too low in 2001-3, for example, has been blamed as deliberately inflating in order to combat the Dot-Com crash of 2001 for political reasons; by this reasoning, rescue of the DotCom dip led straight to the 2008 Subprime plunge. There is thus evidence that monetary effort by the Federal Reserve is powerful enough to control inflation, provided other branches of government abstain from political interference. In the long run, however, the Fed can only smooth out wobbles in the main trajectory. As Rogoff has shown, all crises whether of currency, banking, commodities or securities, are pretty much the same, and caused by unwise borrowing. Avoiding inflation is enough to prevent recession, since government pressure to inflate can be counted on. Paul Volcker may have proved the issue in another way in 197_. During the Carter Administration, the country experienced "stagflation", we had inflation and unemployment at the same time. Improving one might seemingly make the other worse. But, dismissing the whole mess as inflation in disguise, Volcker promptly jacked up interest rates a great deal -- and both inflation and unemployment then went away. What seems proven is that stagflation is just a variant of inflation and should be treated by sharply raising interest rates.

If inflation targeting is as powerful as that, and as simple as that, what could go wrong? One present worry is that so much American money has fallen into foreign hands that the Federal Reserve could lose control. There is a second source of danger. Broadly speaking, this concern is that public opinion might demand inflation -- or policies which would surely cause it -- and in a democracy the time might come when the Federal Reserve would have to give people what they demand. James Madison warned us about that. In a democracy, it's their country to ruin if they please.

{Fringe Benefits}
Fringe Benefits

New Jersey increased the number of state employees and their fringe benefits. As is so often the case, these state employees and their union became the core voting bloc for the party in power, usually Democrats. Not only are there a remarkable number of employees in each of the local offices for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for example, but New Jersey included the local municipal and school employees (mainly police and school teachers) in the state health and pension system, a decidedly unusual step. These were not trivial costs. Longer life expectancy makes pensions and health care more expensive. Just how a ten-mile ambulance ride gets to cost $1700 is a related story, passed over here. And then, a few years ago it seemed like clever bookkeeping to float a bond issue to bring the state pension system up to full funding. Long term full funding tends to mean a stock portfolio, buying stocks with a bond issue is like buying stock on margin. By a stroke of timing, the booming dot-com stock market promptly crashed, taking New Jersey's margined stocks down even faster. In a sense, not only has the state raised the reimbursement of its workers, it has guaranteed them for life.

New Jersey has always had high real estate taxes, now painfully high. But Jersey residents once could console themselves they had no sales tax and no income tax. Now, NJ sales and income taxes are nearly the highest in the country, and just about every other form of state taxation is at unsustainable levels. Doesn't matter, the state is running a $5 billion deficit and will run a greater deficit for as long as anyone can predict. Forbidden by the courts to borrow money, it's not easy to see what the Governor can do except raise taxes some more. Well, perhaps there is one thing, if the unions will let him. He can extend the retirement age of state employees from present age 55, to age 75. Having retired at age 81 I have little sympathy, and have even written a long essay praising the joys of late retirement.

But let's see him try to do that without anyone noticing.

Go to Delaware, Elephants?

{Dead Elephant}
Dead Elephant

No one is supposed to know where elephants go to die, but if they are smart as people say they are, my suggestion is to search for dead elephants in the state of Delaware. Most taxes, and estate taxes in particular, are considerably lower, there. At least this was the message Christopher J. Topolewski, Esq. conveyed to the Right Angle Club recently. His firm, West Capital Management, has prepared a table comparing the taxes in the three states that come together at the southeast corner of Pennsylvania, which for residents of the Philadelphia area are within easy commuting distance of each other. Although Delaware has a marriage penalty (one couple is taxed more than the sum of two singles), it has no estate tax at all, no sales tax, and a property tax rate only half that of Pennsylvania, only a quarter of that in New Jersey. For residents of New Jersey there is almost no tax which is not lower in Delaware, but ex-Pennsylvanians would then have to be careful to die or cohabit, since ordinary income tax and capital gains taxes are higher in Delaware than Pennsylvania. If you must die (and who doesn't?), go die in Delaware.

This was a situation specifically contemplated as a way to discipline greedy state governments, by James Madison when he was formulating the U. S. Constitution. And there is evidence it is working. By happenstance I once encountered an official of New Jersey taxation, who told me that 43% of New Jersey taxes are paid by 1% of the population. And that 1% was moving out of the state as fast as it could. If it does, the other 99% of New Jersey residents will find their taxes rising by 43%. West Capital reports that taxation as a percent of income is 1.23% in Delaware, 3.46% in Pennsylvania, and 5.82% in New Jersey, suggesting that a selective flight of the 1% would raise the state taxes of everyone else by 43%, and thus make state taxation as a percent of lowered average income rise to roughly 20%. Relating total income to total tax revenues would be an even better way to detect hidden indirect taxes, such as overtaxing utilities in the knowledge it will be passed on to the consumer. Armed with even partial information, it becomes easier to understand why New Jersey would evict a governor who had been Co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, during a financial crisis. If a financial whiz can't change this, maybe it requires a meat ax.

This is a time of growing restlessness about public spending, and Tea Party revolts are likely to accelerate during the remaining nine months before the next election. Conjecture is growing about a coming deadlock between a Republican Congress and a Democratic President, lasting at least two more years. What might emerge from a strong third party congressional delegation is too arcane to discuss. But at least the Republicans who leave can console themselves they are selectively raising the taxes of Democrats.

It seems almost inconceivable that professional politicians would demonstrate such a forest of tin ears as to let this happen, but the rest of Mr. Topolewski's talk just heated up the fire. His long-scheduled talk was designed to give guidance about the new estate tax laws, but he found himself confounding his audience with the news that there are no new estate tax laws; in fact, there will be no estate tax laws at all after this year unless they emerge from the congressional gridlock we already have. Which apparently will be followed by a gridlock we can scarcely imagine. Imagine asking your lawyer to write a will which straddles the contingencies that there will be no law, that there might be a continuation of the present one, or there might be some new law of quite uncertain wording. One of the suggestions offered is to allow your executor the discretion to accept or disclaim certain hypothetical provisions.

And that brings up an old story. William Penn was the largest private land owner in the history of America, possibly the whole world. He had a trusted agent, who gave him an enormous pile of papers to sign. A busy rich man like Penn is regularly confronted with a discouragingly large number of routine legal documents to sign. So, Penn signed them all, not noticing that one of the various papers in the pile gave the entire state of Pennsylvania -- to his agent. The outcome of the ensuing uproar was that Penn spent six years in debtors prison.


{Moving Truck}
Moving Truck

FOR many decades, at least since the Second World War, the Northeastern part of the country has been losing population. And business, and wealth. In recent years, New Jersey has been the state with the greatest net loss, and the Governor who is making the greatest fuss about it. Statisticians have raised this observation to the level of proven fact, although lots of people are even moving into New Jersey at the same time. This is a net figure, and it remains debatable what sort of person you would want to gain, hate to lose; so it's hard for politicians to be certain whether New Jersey's demographic shifts are currently a good thing or a bad thing.

Take the prison population, for example. Most people in New Jersey would think it was a good thing if the felons all moved to some other state, because it would imply less crime and law enforcement costs. But one of the major recent causes of a decline in violent crime seems to be the universal presence of a portable telephone in everyone's pocket. Just let someone yell, "Stick 'em up!" loud enough, and thirty cell phones are apt to emerge, all dialing 911. On the other hand, cell phones are the universal communication vehicle for sales of illicit drugs and other illegal recreations, and the increase in automobile accidents is a serious business for inattentive drivers. Add to this confusion the data that capital punishment is more expensive for the State than incarceration is, and you start to see the near futility of knowing what is best to have more, or less, of.

What the Governor and his Department of Treasury mostly want to know is whether certain taxes end up producing a good net revenue for the State. That is, whether more revenue is produced by raising certain taxes more than others, or whether some taxes are a big component of the Laffer Curve, causing revenue to be lost by driving business, or business owners, out of state, in spite of the immediate revenue gain. The studies which have been done are fairly conclusive that executives tend to be most outraged by property taxes, since they have a hidden effect on the sale price of the house, and the amount of money available for school improvements. At least at present levels, a Governor is better off taking abuse for raising income or sales taxes, even though the apparent tax revenue might be the same as a rise in property taxes. Since property taxes are mostly set by local municipal government, while sales and income taxes are usually set by state governments, a decision to raise one sort of tax or another can have unexpected consequences, or require obscure manipulations to accomplish.

Some politicians who believe their voting strength does not lie in the middle class, would normally want to hold up property values, not taxes, because the data show that higher home prices drive away the middle class and in certain circumstances are positively attractive to wealthy ones. Higher prices appeal to home sellers, at least up to a point. Wealthier people who are buying houses are likely to have an old one to sell; that's less true of first-time home buyers or people presently renting. Certain issues can even be reduced to rough formulas: a 1% increase in income tax would cause a 1% loss of population, but a 5% loss of people earning more than $125,000. A $10,000 increase in average home prices, on the other hand, causes a net loss of population, but mostly those with lower income. One important feature of tinkering with average home prices and property taxes is that these effects are "durable" -- they do not fade away over time.

{Laffer Curve}
Laffer Curve

New Jersey is financially a bad state to die in, but the decision to move to Delaware, Florida or Texas is often made over a long period of years in advance of actually doing it. It has been hard to compile statistics relating changes in inheritance tax law to net migration of retirees, and to present such dry data in an effective manner to counteract the grumblings that rich people are undeserving of tax relief, or dead people are unable to complain. But rich old folks are very likely to own or control businesses, and if you drive them out of state, you may drive away a considerably larger amount of taxation relating to the business in other ways. This is the underlying complaint of Unions about Jobs, Jobs, Jobs; but state revenue also relates to sales taxes of the business, business taxes, employee taxes, real estate taxes on the business property, etc, etc. Sometimes these effects are more noticeable in the region they affect; the huge population growth of the Lehigh Valley in recent years is mainly composed of former New Jersey suburbanites, who formerly earned their income in New York. The taxes of three different states interact, in places like that.

The audience of a group I recently attended contained a great many people who make a living trying to persuade businesses to move into one of the three Quaker states of the Delaware Valley. The side-bar badinage of these people tended to agree that many of the decisions to re-locate a business are based on seemingly capricious thinking. The decision to consider relocation to the Delaware Valley is often prompted by such things as the wife of an executive having gone to school on the Main Line. Following that, the professional persuaders move in with data about tax rates, average home prices, and the ranking of local school quality by analysts. Having compiled a short list of places to consider by this process, it all seemingly comes back to the same capriciousness. The wife of the C.E.O. had a roommate at college who still lives in the area. And she says the Philadelphia Flower Show is the best there is. So, fourteen thousand employees soon get a letter, telling them we are going to move.

And, the poor Governor is left out of the real decision-making entirely, except to the degree he recognizes that home property taxes have the largest provable effect on personal re-location. And lowering the corporate income tax has the biggest demonstrable effect on moving businesses. But the largest un-provable effect is dependent on the comparative level of the state's inheritance tax.

Atlantic City, Brigantine and the N.I.H.

{Steel Pier}
Dr. William Osler

It would only be honest to say that Atlantic City was a rundown mess after World War II, cheap, sleasey and dispirited. But for academic medicine during a period of thirty or forty years, one small nook of A.C. was the most exciting place in the whole world. Only during several days at the beginning of May, however. The reason it was so attractive to scientists was that beach hotels were cheap and dilapidated; Atlantic City probably contained the worst on the East Coast. The Haddon Hall was an exception, rather elegant and far too expensive for most physicians in training; research is a young doctor's game. The medical profession's annual beauty contest for medical research was headquartered in Haddon Hall next door to the Steel Pier, surrounded by hundreds of cheap lesser hotels. The professors all stayed at Haddon Hall, but few others could afford it. Indeed, resident physicians from Philadelphia mostly found it cheaper to commute from home for ninety minutes than to stay overnight, residents and fellows from more distant cities stayed in the dumpy hotels. Nobody in that age group had much money to spend, so the commuting Philadelphians didn't miss out on much night life at the shore by going home every night.

{Atlantic City Skyline}
New Atlantic City Skyline

Before the spring meetings got popular after World War II, the hundred members of the most elite society of academic research professors on the East Coast assembled in Haddon Hall, all of them quite able to afford to stay in the headquarters hotel. This had been going on since William Osler founded it in 1885, at first in Washington, and then migrating to Atlantic City. As medical research began to flourish, the society grew a little, but at a pace too slow to keep up with the growth of medical scientists, so a second group of "Young Turks" formed a competitive society which met the next day, and ultimately a third group, the "Young Squirts", felt excluded by the old has-beens, and met on the third day of what eventually turned into a week-long parade of scientific presentations, each ten or twelve minutes long, starting before normal breakfast time, lasting until 10 PM, with occasional breaks. That is to say, the medical papers that everybody wanted to hear grew from thirty or forty a year to nearly a thousand. If a young fellow did well, the older professors would notice, and he would get employment offers. That kept the eminent older doctors around for the whole session, and provided an informal ranking of the worth of the program. Everybody wanted to advance up the ranks of prestige, and this system roughly sorted them out. However, it was an exhausting experience just to sit through all that and listen; the old professors tended to drop out and go home a little early. No matter how many outstanding papers were clamoring to be heard, no one could endure more than a week of straining for attention. It was strictly forbidden to present a paper which had been published or presented anywhere else, so it was usually difficult to guess in advance whether a paper was likely to be exciting. You could go home early if you wanted to, but at the risk of missing the real block-buster of the year, tucked away on the program with a bewildering scientific title. The younger wise-apples had a formula, that if one paper in three was outstanding, you were having a good meeting; you just had to grit your teeth and try to stay awake during the other two-thirds. Still, that got to mean that the reward for pursuing this grinding ordeal was to go home after learning about three hundred outstanding scientific advances that no one else knew about; knowing three hundred cutting-edge things that other doctors didn't know really did put you well ahead of the pack. Keep that up for ten or twenty years, and notable differences among colleagues would relentlessly emerge.

{Steel Pier}
Old Steel Pier

From the lounge of the Haddon Hall, with non-members forced to stand in the back, the meeting moved to the 2000-seat movie theater in the Steel Pier, at about 1950. Things then came to an equilibrium; the movie theater was never completely full. We were told there were seven or eight even larger auditoriums on the Steel Pier, but it was never necessary to move to them. The first four years I attended these sessions I was being paid no salary at all, and most of my contemporaries were only getting token amounts beyond room and board. The eminent professors who were real members of the top society would find their way to front-row seats where they could ask questions, having had a chat with colleagues at breakfast in the Haddon Hall. But they had once been impecunious, too, and wore their brand-new Ivy League plaid jackets rather uncomfortably. Doctors who (gasp) worked for drug companies also gave signs of affluence, but they tended to drift over to the barber shop and have a shoeshine, where they picked up the gossip for their employers. Over a period of fifty years, I can recall first hearing of the wonders of several new antibiotics, a strange chemical called cortisone which seemed to cure rheumatoid arthritis, the introduction of the birth-control pill, the introduction of polio vaccine, the first drugs in the treatment of tuberculosis, and a vast array of novel explanations for disease phenomena that had seemed mysterious for centuries. In those days, a year without a new medical miracle was a very lean year, indeed. During this interval, the basis for curing at least thirty common diseases was first presented at the Spring Meetings in A.C., and since then medical practice looks nothing like it did in 1947.

Ten Passenger Jitney

Gradually the audience changed, too. At first, the people presenting papers came from at most ten medical schools, and mutterings of discrimination could be heard. In fact, it was plainly true, because only about ten schools had any extra money to fund research. When this news reached the U.S. Senators from the Mid and Far West, federal research money started to be spread around more evenly, just like the distribution of Senators. It was the appointment of one of the members of the original small nest of clubs to the Directorship of the N.I.H., the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, which really got the research spigot to flow. The point man was James Shannon, who knew what was what in cutting-edge research, and he sat there in the audience making up his mind who was who. For all the time of his directorship and for long afterwards, he enforced, really enforced, the rule of "no political influence in research grants". Lots of congressmen came to the N.I.H. with the news that their relatives had such-and-such a disease, and so they thought more money should be diverted to research in that area. Nothing doing. Shannon held the keys to the kingdom, and he knew it. He had a deft feel for how much money the research industry could usefully absorb, and then he went to Congress and demanded it. The purity of this process has frayed at the edges somewhat as the amounts of money grew to what is now thirty billions of dollars a year. Most experiments unfortunately fumble or fail, so a lot of money gets spent on blind alleys before someone gets it right. It takes a tough-as-nails idealist like Jim Shannon to survive the temptations of an N.I.H. Director, and among the temptations is just to give up and give out money indiscriminately to people who want to count all the grains of sand on the beach. If your idea was a good one, you got all the money you could possibly spend; if the idea was mediocre, in those days you got nothing at all. On the other hand, the estimation of overhead costs is something other mortals can quibble about. Shannon demanded and got about a third of the grant money to be given to the medical school administrations. That was barely enough in a research establishment emerging from the Depression of the 30s, and the World War. However, now that the pipeline is filled, it is increasingly doubtful that ten billion a year needs to go to administrators; the bean-counters took over, and the results are more open to criticism. After all, after someone finds a cheap cure for cancer, some disadvantages of perpetuating an aging retiree population start to emerge, and may outweigh the arguments for spending quite so much doing it. That may well be what the advisors to President Obama are growling at, but for now the example of his nose poked into the hornet's nest of favoring research for certain population (voter?) groups will restrain others who were once inclined to agree. After cancer is cured, perhaps then everything will seem different.

{Diving Horse}
Dr. James Augustine Shannon

Well, let's tell one story out of many that could be told. Around 1965 there were two competitive polio vaccines rumored to be in the pipeline. Jonas Salk had an injection method, and Albert Sabin had an oral vaccine. Anyone who had watched children run shrieking from a needle knew that Sabin had the preferred method, but Salk got to Atlantic City two years earlier than Sabin. The auditorium was filled with rumors of very dubious precision to the effect that Salk had used unfair methods to get to the stage of public announcement. For example, it was growled he gave the vaccine to the Russians to test, but they were afraid of it and gave it to the Poles. Regardless of such scurrilous gossip, which is here repeated only to show how hysteria can occasionally agitate even scientists, when Salk gave his paper at the Steel Pier, the standing ovation was thunderous. And so, as the meeting broke for dinner the crowds migrated over to a huge seafood restaurant named Hackney's and watched the new scientific hero get a little tipsy in public. That seemed to revive the rumors which became even less factual. But there is no doubt that by the time Sabin stood at the same podium and gave his presentation of the oral vaccine, the crowd had switched to his side, the ovations were unlike anything the scientists had ever heard. Anyway, as emotions now settle down in retrospection, we are all pretty happy that polio is nearly eradicated from all but a few corners of the earth, and these two men are both responsible for it. But so is Jim Shannon responsible for it, and he never got the ovations he deserved.

{Mr. Peanut}
Mr. Peanut

When the gambling casinos came to A.C. the cheap boarding houses were swept away, doctors in research were incidentally better paid, and the Spring Meetings migrated back to Washington. The dumps on the beach have been replaced by gleaming multistory hotels, the place looks much more prosperous. Doctors are in a position to know about the drug and alcohol addiction, the venereal disease and crime among the casino employees, and the personal tragedies among the gamblers. But anybody can see the new buildings and the clean streets. When a group of eight of us took a nostalgic trip to revisit the place, no doctor even mentioned the idea of going in to drink and gamble -- even the suggestion was preposterous. So we wandered over to Brigantine where there appears to be a large retirement community, where gambling and drinking seem equally unlikely. The elementary school in which we heard a talk about the old days was splendid beyond anything I remember in an elementary school. Among the audience the questions revealed there were many former employees of the old A.C., people who ran shops to sell salt water taffy, fudge and the like to crowds on the boardwalk. Some of them may have once driven Jitney buses, or pushed sightseeing wheelchairs. But not one of them showed the slightest sign of recognizing that on the first weekend in May, every year, a crowd of nerdy-looking serious fellows would move into familiar boarding houses for a few days, remaining mostly invisible during daylight hours. That was the academic doctor crowd, if anyone had bothered to ask, pouring into the Steel Pier movie theater, having the time of their lives listening to medical history being made. After a week they all went home, and nobody in A.C., later Brigantine, paid any attention to any of it. After all, A.C. is about salt water taffy, right?

There She Goes, Miss America

{Miss America 1921}
Margaret Gorman, Miss America 1921

Atlantic City has long been a summer resort, crowded with people on the boardwalk by the sea. But families suddenly disappear at Labor Day, when the kids go back to school. So, in 1921 the merchant community hit on an idea to extend the busy season an extra week, by having a big beauty contest on the week following Labor Day. The early Miss America contest struggled for a year or two, and then became an established annual national ritual. The hotels and boardwalk did indeed stay crowded for an extra week, during which a publicity campaign was conducted to build up anticipation for the big Saturday night event. The preliminaries included interviews and mini contests, for the bathing suit division, the evening gown division, arguments about official state representation, occasional scandalous behavior, parades in open convertible cars, and whatnot and whatnot. Behind the scenes, there were little local battles, including a grim determination not to have a negro girl represent a state from the old Confederacy. Since only one Jewish girl ever won the contest in eighty years, there were probably other issues in other states, hidden behind the curtains. Smoking and drinking were prohibited but scarcely non-existent, as was getting married or pregnant; much of the fuss about these lesser moral issues was probably intended to cloak the event with high moral tone, counteracting some unfortunate early beginnings of the pageant, and the exciting laxity traditionally associated with summer resorts by the ocean. But they aimed at, and succeeded in attracting, a certain kind of audience.

{Convention Hall in Atlantic City}
Convention Hall in Atlantic City

For months before the pageant by the sea, preliminary contests were held throughout various states to select the local Queen, Miss Arizona, Miss Mississippi, Miss Delaware and so on. The people involved in these local contests duly trooped to Atlantic City to see the big event and cheer their candidate. Over time, it became clear that some states worked really hard on this effort; MIssissippi was a notorious big spender, and a consistent big winner, but others were almost as determined to win. The grassroots campaign was largely centered on small town high schools, but the effort was conducted by a great many local women, mostly middle-aged and often quite homely, who somehow got control of local beauty politics and ran the local contests. Over the years, two of these groupies had been nurses who worked in hospitals where I was a consultant, and I got to watch their enthusiasm bubbling under the surface. One woman had worked for years as a night nurse. The sort of person who sleeps all day and works all night tends to be a little odd, often slightly hostile. But when I asked this ancient battle axe every year about the contest, she immediately blossomed and went on for half an hour about the gossip surrounding this year's contestants and winner. There was something about all this which was like the fantasies of playing with dolls, fulfilling unfulfilled dreams. If you pause to think about it, that enormous convention hall in Atlantic City wasn't filled with school kids after Labor Day; the school kids were back at school. Although the publicity was all about kids and giggles, the real fans were dreaming of days long past, perhaps as former beauties, more often only wannabes, their dreaming only intensified by knowing for a certainty that this success would never be theirs.

It was this self-delusion quality which the promoters of the contest never seemed to get through their heads; after all, the pageant was created and promoted by local merchants who mostly aimed to sell salt-water taffy to the rubes. Radio, and then television, gave the Miss America contest a big publicity push, and then eventually used up its material. When the casino crowd moved into A.C., the non-gambling ladies playing with dolls quickly demonstrated they didn't gamble, in fact would sass the serious gamblers for their idiotic behavior losing money as fast as they could. TV ratings, contest attendance, and publicity began to fall off rather seriously. The idea was tried that perhaps women now wanted careers, so "points" were awarded for talent shows, musical performances, and brief contests about current events. Foo. That's not what the audiences wanted. So the contest moved to Las Vegas, and the date was shifted to January, a slow time for casinos. The awards were shifted from national tours and opportunities for screen tests, to the awarding of college scholarships. Unfortunately, most of the contestants were already in college, or married, and the scholarships were in fact mostly used to pay off trailing debts from colleges already attended.

So Miss America, now regularly a black woman but seldom a Jewish one, continue to be fodder for the sponsors and promoters of the pageant. But whereever it goes and whatever its modifications, the Miss America contest is never going to return to former glory until it learns who its real audience is. The lonesome, middle aged lady who dreams of playing dolls with live dolls.

And then, Miss America went away. Some other city has her. Atlantic City lost her. And there she goes, Miss America.

Front and Back Covers, Haddonfield, New Jersey

{Borough of Haddonfield, Camden County}
Borough of Haddonfield, Camden County
Haddonfield in Camden County
Map of Haddonfield NJ
{Map of Haddofield}
{Greenfield Hall}
Greenfield Hall
{Indian King Tavern}
Indian King Tavern

The King's Road

Harry Kaufman is now long gone, but for decades he represented the volunteer spirit of Haddonfield, and the earnest, innocent happy way it contributed the essence of conflicted memories of its Revolutionary origins. The last time anyone counted, there were forty-two direct descendants of Elizabeth Haddon living in the borough, for example, and in a quiet determined manner they keep alive the Quaker heritage of a non-Quaker town. For example, Harry made his living as the public relations officer for the milk industry. During World War II the Nicholson family who arrived here before William Penn still had a vast dairy farm with its own port on the Cooper River. It was located where Stoy's Landing Road crosses Grove Street, where there used to be something called the Race Track Circle, in honor of the Garden State Race Track which followed the dairy farm, and preceded the big-box shopping center which is still there, without the circle. New Jersey still has over two hundred traffic circles, and those who grew up here remember them as part of the New Jersey heritage, each one characteristically having a diner restaurant, also a Jersey invention and tradition.

Harry Kaufman may not have started the Plays and Players of Haddonfield, but he certainly sparked it to a near-professional level in a town of 7000 people. The orchestra and the ballet company are particularly outstanding at the moment, the soloists on the stage quite good, although they never made the grand European tour which is thought to be the prerequisite for getting into the big time. Harry was the life of any party, and particularly good at composing little ditties, never quite getting around to stringing them together into a musical comedy until the 250th anniversary of the town. Even then, it is recalled he was shy and reluctant, and had to be pushed a little. Since The King's Road appeared shortly after Oklahoma! transformed, even revolutionized, American musical comedy, it was not only the model but the stimulus for a similar comedy celebrating the beginnings of our little state. The plot was a simple one of a conflicted love affair. The striking innovation of Oklahoma! was to crowd most of the show's songs into the first act, repeating snatches of their themes as sort of Wagnerian background commentary throughout the remainder of the play. The other innovation of what was originally called Green Grow the Lilacs was the addition of Agnes DeMille's ballet company to emphasize the real historical theme with light-hearted music. Since I was one of the original reviewers for Oklahoma! in its New Haven tryouts, I can remember the revolutionary impact of that play, very well.

Harry had to go to the Historical Society for authentic details of the conflict between attraction for Revolutionary aspirations for Liberty, and loyalty to the earlier sufferings of Quakers for their pacifist leanings. Some Quakers deserted their faith to join the Revolution, and other Quakers tried to convert the Hessian soldiers. And still others were loyal to the King of England. The Revolution was almost won at this moment, as the British occupants of Philadelphia had abandoned their supplies to attack, and had to get to the British fleet, bottled up in the lower Delaware River by fortifications at Fort Mifflin and Fort Mercer on the Jersey side of the river. The Hessians had been sent to attack Fort Mercer from the rear, passing through Haddonfield and stopping one night before going on to what we now call National Park. While the Hessian officers were being entertained by John Gill with discussions of the futility of war, Jonas Cattell slipped out of town and ran to alert Fort Mercer of its danger. The guns of the Fort were turned around, and the defenders pretended not to notice the approach of the Hessians until they were ambushed and largely destroyed. If Fort Mifflin on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River could have held out, the starving British might have had to surrender, but that didn't happen. In any event, the New Jersey Militia did its part, and little Quaker Haddonfield helped them in a sort of characteristic Quaker way. With a ratta-tat-tat and a fiddely dee, the rag-tag swallow-tail Jersey Militia got all the credit.

The play does not emphasize that the State of New Jersey was founded at the Indian King Tavern during these commotions, or that General Washington starving at Valley Forge sent Mad Anthony Wayne to circle up and around Trenton to drive a herd of cattle back from Salem County, two hundred miles back to Valley Forge. The British sent Captain Simcoe down to Salem County to massacre the Quaker farmers who provided the cattle. These later developments are only mentioned in its anthem to "Generals Wayne, LaFayette and Pulaski", and every good resident of Southern New Jersey is supposed to know what that is all about.

The Quaker historian Rufus Jones established the enduring tradition that this split is what ultimately reduced the Quakers from the dominant religious group to a small religious sect in the three states once owned by William Penn, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Related to such turmoil was the claim that more battles of the Revolution were fought in New Jersey than in any other state; if you include the large privateer navy going to sea from the Jersey Pine Barrens, that is probably true. And every twenty-five years or so, we have to put on a revival of "The King's Road", and just show 'em.

Fisher on TV

As I was rushing out of my office tonight, trying not to be late for a gathering of constituents, I was suddenly confronted by a nice young lady holding a piece of paper, closely followed by a young man with a big professional TV camera. I like to think they were lying in wait for me, but more likely they were haunting the Starbucks across the street.

The question was fired at me, what did I think about Governor Christie suing the Supreme Court about gay marriage? I had to admit I don't watch TV all day long, so I hadn't heard about it. Well, do you think it is appropriate for the Governor of a state to sue the Supreme Court? Huh, do you? Caught totally by surprise by a question I don't know much about, I answered, or mumbled, that it seemed to be a lawyer's question, and I'm not a lawyer. I do know that the U.S. Supreme Court will refuse to take a case unless the plaintiff can show he has sustained personal loss of some sort. But I don't know anything about the New Jersey Supreme Court or its rules, and the whole thing seems to me to be above my pay grade. Or something like that.

If I had had more than ten seconds to think about it, I might have said, "What you really are asking me is Don't you think Christie is a bad, insensitive person?" And my answer to that question if put a little more plainly, would be, "No, I like Governor Christie a lot and I trust a former U.S. Attorney to know the fine points of law better than I do, so I support him."

And if I am wrong, and the real question you are asking me is Am I gay? Then, my answer would be, "No, I'm not gay one bit. But I am inclined to let other people do as they please, as long as it is harmless to others."

And if the hidden question is do I approve of people being gay, I would have to answer that if everybody became gay, it's pretty hard to see how the human race would survive. Now could I ask you a question. Who are you, and who is paying you to ask me slanted questions?

Follow-up, written the next day: The next day's newspaper gave an entirely new slant to this little episode. It seems the decision was made by the Superior Court, not the Supreme Court, and Governor Christie appealed the decision, he did not sue anybody. So the whole interview process was a put-up job, slanting the attention away from a record-breaking court decision to Governor Christie, who was dutifully responding to a Superior Court ruling which overturned a state law. All the rest of it was either intended to shift attention, or else to tangle me up in a confused reaction to some events which did not happen at all.

In that case, let me state my central position. Governor Christie is a great guy, who definitely needs to win re-election November 5. And I am running for the role of Assemblyman for the 6th District, prepared to help him in every way I can.

Some Tax Cuts are a Shell Game

New Jersey sometimes has the highest income tax in the nation, sometimes has the highest property tax, and sometimes both. Right now, they are both obscenely high. The proposal to "lower" property taxes by shifting them to income tax, is a sham.

In fact, it's already been done. Go to any one of the fifteen treasurers of the fifteen municipalities in the 6th Legislative District, and he will tell you -- the state budget already pays half of the expenses of the local towns, and it does so with money it gets from income taxes. Since I pay both taxes, I don't see how it lowers my tax costs at all.

And since the shell game has already been played once, it's entirely possible it can't be done a second time. The bond market will see the income taxes rising, go into a panic, and lower the New Jersey bond ratings. If we get to the point where we can't borrow any money from the bond market, we have really reached the end. There's really no alternative to cutting expenses, and for practical purposes that means shifting state pensions from defined benefit to defined contribution. That's 401(k) we are talking about. Maybe we can save some money by putting a stop to double and triple-dipping the pensions from successive jobs, and putting a stop to escalating the last year before retirement with overtime work. Maybe the COLA doesn't have to be so rich. Maybe. But the big money is in the type of pension we pay.

Pretending we are doing something substantial by shifting property taxes to income taxes is only an election-year shell game.

Election Night Celebrations

The State of Delaware has its special election phenomenon of Returns Day, dating from Colonial days when people active in politics gathered in Georgetown waiting for the election returns to be counted and announced, and then celebrated. In a day when electronic balloting and vote counting have speeded things up, things have changed everywhere, but traces remain.

The tradition is now that the "head of the ticket", the Governor or Senator running for election will gather a large crowd in a hotel meeting room on the night of the election, about two hours after the polls close. Supporters are rewarded with drinks and eats, reporters gather for comments, and the television station interviews interminably, waiting for the results to be announced. Official results are slow to arrive, having to go through more certification steps, but district and precinct leaders keep an open telephone line to headquarters, relaying the results, especially the local results, to the headquarter celebrations in various local hotels. At the local headquarters end of the lines, someone keeps an ear glued for ballot results to be announced. Nowadays, the party faithful are gathered in a taproom, all right, but the whole place is filled with people holding a cell phone to their ears while they eat pizza with the other hand. Nearby, of course, is a stein of beer. So, the room erupts with sudden huzzahs every few minutes, and at other times people are reassured that later returns will reverse an unfavorable trend. When final results are announced, the losers make concession speeches. Winning politicians always arrive late to the party, are greeted with cheers, and proceed to make a victory speech. And then leave.

One by one, the ranks of the party thin out, until the room is empty except for the barmaid.

Running for the Assembly, Only in Philadelpia

When I had to confess my defeat (by 5%) at a local club in Philadelphia that I belong to, I had to tell the group why I had been running for the Assembly. Finally, one friend with a puzzled look asked, "I never heard of running for election to the Assembly. I always thought membership was inherited."

Another friend had to tell him that it wasn't that Assembly, with dancing and all, it was the political one in New Jersey.

Only in Philadelphia, could you imagine such a conversation.

great site, just one thing though, why have you used Copley's painting of the Battle of Jersey on 6 January 1781, when a small British Garrison defeated a French invasion of the island of Jersey as an illustration for the War of Independence which happened 5 years before ???
Posted by: Ian Le Sueur   |   Jan 10, 2008 3:14 PM

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