Exploring the History of New Jersey and Beyond!

Architecture, National Park Sites, Local Sites, and More!

Where to?

Somerset County, Morris County... even Cape May County!

No Place is too Small...

What may seem minute and insignificant is what makes history!

Redcoats!

Not only do I like to write about history - I love covering events too!

Spread the History!

Help bring awareness to the historic sites in your area.

From historic figures to historic places...

I want to teach America just how significant New Jersey is!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Weekend Historical Happenings: 6/30/12 - 7/1/12



WEEKEND HISTORICAL HAPPENINGS
Know about a historical event happening in your area? 
Send me an email to let us know!
Be the first to find out about these events on Facebook!



Saturday, June 30, 2012 - Byram Township, Sussex County
Waterloo Canal Day


Come visit Waterloo Village between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm for a day in this historic Morris Canal town. First-person interpreter Richard Pawling will portray canal boat captain John Hummel. Other events include: Boat rides on the Morris Canal, Smith's Store - a furnished canal-era store with hands-on activities, blacksmithing, see the operating gristmill, guided tours of 1859 Methodist Church, the Canal Museum - with exhibits and videos, featured exhibit: Canal Era in America, and guided walking tours of the village.
http://www.canalsocietynj.org/waterloocanalday.html


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Saturday, June 30 - Browns Mills, Burlington County
Moonlight Walk at Historic Whitesbog Village

Whitesbog Preservation Trust (WPT) will host a moonlight walk at Historic Whitesbog on Saturday, June 30, at 7 PM. By the soft glow of moonlight, walk through the dark, mysterious pines, along white sugar sand roads, to the shimmering cranberry bogs. The air will be alive with birdsong. The leader will offer stories of the people who built Whitesbog, the local "Piney" folk, and the more recent American immigrants, all of whom worked here to make it one of the most successful agricultural enterprises in New Jersey. The Moonlight Walks were featured as one of the "Best of South Jersey" attractions by SJ Magazine, and have been referred to as "almost magical" in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Saturday, June 30 - Flemington, Hunterdon County
Hunterdon Historical Society's Book Sale

A book sale at the Hunterdon County Historical Society, 114 Main Street in Flemington, on Saturday, June 30 is a must for anyone interested in history. The sale is from 8 am to 2 pm. Cash or checks required; no credit cards accepted.

They are offering about 300 books, with pricing ranging from $1 to $150. Most books in the sale fall in the $8 to $12 price range; another group is priced from $20 to $40. 

Subjects range from athletic training in 1877 to the treatment of ailments in 1885, and the military expeditions of Gen. John Sullivan in 1799, Sheridan's military campaigns in 1870, war heroes from 1776, 1846 and 1861, old farming practices, antiques, houses, Western Indian tribes, and much more. Several books focus on New Jersey, covering genealogy, modern battles, farm and business directories, and folk stories. 


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Saturday, June 30 - Princeton, Mercer County
Old Time Baseball

25 Valley Road, Princeton Regional Schools Field. Travel back to the 1800s for a competitive match of old time baseball, with the Flemington Neshanock taking on the Diamond State Club of Delaware. The players don period uniforms and play barehanded, using 1864 or 1873 rules. This FREE event also includes a short lesson on the history of the game and a recitation of "Casey at the Bat." (Rain or shine, except in extreme weather conditions.) 609-921-6748 x 102, or visit www.princetonhistory.org.

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Saturday, June 30 - Montague, Sussex County
House Tours

The Montague Association for the Restoration of Community History (MARCH) will open the circa 1790 Foster-Armstrong House and the Nelden-Roberts Stonehouse, at 501 Route 206 for Sunday afternoon tours. Both are situated within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Montague, NJ and were originally part of the Tocks Island Dam acquisitions. These two sites are utilized by MARCH and portray the area's heritage.

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Sunday, July 1 - Wall Township, Monmouth County
Celebrate Independence Day at Allaire Village!

Allaire Village, Inc. invites you and your family to a day of fun andcelebration at the 1836 Independence Day Celebration at Historic Village at Allaire, located in Allaire State Park. The event is Sunday, July 1st, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This special living history event will take visitors back in time to our young nation's 60th birthday- a time of great prosperity and national pride. There will be a $5/car entrance fee to the state park; admission to the Independence Day celebration is free.




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Sunday, July 1 - Lambertville, Hunterdon County
Farm Chores at the Holcombe-Jimison Museum

July 1, Molly the Cow and hand-cranked ice cream featured their regular tour 2 pm tour. See how baskets were made, fruit was sorted, fields were ploughed, paper was printed, and brooms were made. What did the mall look like when your great-grandmother was a girl? What is a PHONE BOOTH? Make a feather computer duster to take home. Find out who a Tithing Man was! Holcombe-Jimison Museum, 1605 Daniel Bray Highway (Rt. 29) Lambertville, NJ. 

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Sunday, July 1 - Morristown, Morris County
Civil War Living History

On Sunday July 1st visitors are invited to visit a living history program in the garden of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum. Reenactors with the 27th NJ Company F will be available to meet visitors, answer questions and share camp life information with visitors to the museum garden. This small camp will include a battlefield surgeon and an officer's tent set up. This demonstration is presented in conjunction with the final day of the "Gone for a Soldier:" Jerseymen in the Civil War exhibit. Macculloch Hall Historical Museum in collaboration with the New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee (NJCW150) presents this major exhibit which commemorates the participation and heroism of Jerseymen in a major turning point in U.S. history. The exhibit brings together for the first time nearly two hundred objects from the Civil War from over thirty museums, historical societies, and private collections.





"The cranberry bog would serve as lawn” - Whitesbog Village

"The cranberry bog would serve as lawn.”
Whitesbog Village, Browns Mills, NJ
Written by NJ Historian

When one thinks of the Pine Barrens and southern New Jersey, visions of the Jersey Devil, winding sand roads through pine trees, and cranberry bogs come to mind. However, there is one achievement that comes out of the Pine Barrens that is often overlooked but is of national prominence.

Whitesbog water tower - Constructed 1924
Whitesbog, in the southern New Jersey Pine Barrens, was once a classic company town. In its heyday, the surrounding bogs yielded thousands of barrels of cranberries and blueberries every year, harvested and processed by about 600 seasonal workers. The village, built between 1890 and 1925, was a self-sufficient hub, with worker housing, a general store, pay office, processing and storage buildings, and a schoolhouse. Elizabeth Coleman White, in 1921 successfully cultivated the nation’s first blueberry crop with Frederick Coville. To understand how Ms. White got to this crowning moment, one must first examine the broader scope of agriculture in the pinelands region. The first cranberry bogs in New Jersey are thought to have been cultivated in the 1830s by Benjamin Thomas at Burrs Mill in Burlington County. It was not until the 1850s that efforts at cultivation proved successful and the cranberry boom began. In 1857, a farmer from New Lisbon, Colonel James A. Fenwick, purchased 108 acres south of Hanover Furnace.  In 1879, he bought an additional 490 acres south of his bogs creating a 600 acre tract. 

Whitesbog Fields Today
In 1846, Joseph Josiah White, was born at his father’s farm in Springfield Township, Burlington County.  At the age of 14 he was given a parcel of land from his grandfather Restore S. Lamb.  The land consisted of 100 acres on Rake Pond near New Lisbon, 30 of which J.J. found suitable for cultivation. The land needed many improvements over the next seven years before a crop could be harvested. He later acquired his brother’s 100 acre tract which he incorporated into the Rake Pond Cranberry Company, sold stock, and at the age of 27 became a successful farmer and businessman.

It was at the Rake Pond bogs that he met Mary A. Fenwick, James Fenwick’s daughter and they were married shortly thereafter. J.J. and his wife spent their first winter together writing a book on cranberry culture. He wrote the text and she drew the illustrations. The book, “Cranberry Culture,” became a standard guide in the cranberry industry.

Barrel Storage House - Constructed 1911
In 1882, Fenwick died, naming J.J. as sole executor and manager of the cranberry property.  J.J. moved back to New Lisbon and began acquiring adjacent tracts and added to the 600 acre farm.  In 1912 when the Fenwick tract was joined with the White tracts under J.J. White, Inc., his holdings totaled over 3,000 acres with about 600 acres in cranberries. At this time, White’s cranberry farm was not only the largest in New Jersey, but a model for cranberry farms throughout the country.

Mary and J.J. had four daughters. Their oldest was Elizabeth, born October 5, 1871. After graduating in 1887 from the Friends Central School in Philadelphia, she went to work in the family business. In 1911, around her 40th birthday, White began a public campaign to defend cranberry growers against charges of child labor abuse. Her efforts were successful, sealing her reputation as a leader in the all-male New Jersey cranberry business. At about the same time she read a United States Department of Agriculture pamphlet on blueberry culture. The blueberry pamphlet inspired her to contact botanist Frederick Coville that same year to ask for help in developing strains of local blueberries that could be cultivated alongside the cranberry bushes. Finally in 1916, the two successfully propagated and cross-fertilized the nation’s first cultivated crop of blueberries. Elizabeth had spent years exploring the woods, asking local residents about berry size, vigor, texture, productivity, and time of ripening in order to identify wild blueberry bushes with the most desirable traits.

Elizabeth White
She was the first woman member of the American Cranberry Assocation and helped organize the NJ Blueberry Cooperative Association in 1927. White’s interest in agriculture did not end with blueberries. She formed a company called Holly Haven, Inc., which sold many varieties of holly, Pine Barren plants and a rare magnolia called Franklinia. After White's death in 1954, her relatives continued growing cranberries on a smaller scale, but the labor intensive blueberry business was abandoned. Today, New Jersey ranks as the second largest cultivated blueberry producer in the United States. Whitesbog Village was sold to the state in the 1960s and is now part of the Brendan Byrne State Forest. The Whitesbog Preservation Trust has leased the property from the state since 1982.

Today, Whitebog Village contains a collection of twenty-eight buildings from the time period when Elizabeth White was in charge of the property. Suningive, Elizabeth White’s home, has been preserved and restored to its former splendor. White sited her large farmhouse to face the bogs. In her own words, "The cranberry bog would serve as lawn.” Suningive's ground floor, contained an office and a small infirmary. Injured workers were often treated by White, who had studied nursing.

Suningive, Elizabeth White's home - Constructed 1923
A worker’s cottage has also been restored, demonstrating the conditions under which seasonal laborers may have lived. Other homes on the property have been restored and are rented as a source of sustaining the historic property.

The village also contains a school house and general store/post office. It was a true company town, sufficient of serving and housing its population.

Whitesbog General Store/Post Office - Constructed 1924
The 1918 cranberry experiment substation has recently been restored and is set up to resemble how it may have appeared in the early 1920s. The building itself is a Sear’s Sectional Building – the Sunburst model. It included a large front room, two rear rooms, and a screened porch. The substation was under the direction of Charles Beckwith. 

Cranberry Experiment Substation - Constructed 1918
Interior of the Cranberry Experiment Substation  
The triangular field behind the substation where the first cultivated blueberries were grown is currently being restored, after years of no maintenance. Some of the original blueberry bushes planted by Coville and White remain.

Whitesbog also had two seasonal worker’s villages, Rome and Florence. The villages contained homes for workers and a community building. The villages were demolished in the 1960s by the State of New Jersey and today only remnants of foundations remain.

1930s era photo of the cookhouse and barracks in Village of Rome at Whitesbog
Whitesbog has a bright future ahead of itself and is a monument to the woman who dedicated her life to improving agriculture. Thanks to the efforts of the non-profit, all of the remaining buildings have been stabilized and numerous former blueberry fields on the property are being restored so that future generations of New Jerseyites can understand the experimentation and innovation that took place at Whitesbog a mere 100 years ago.

Inside the worker's cottage

Additional photos from my trip to Whitesbog on Pinterest
Audio
Whitesbog Village Podcast (right click and choose "save target/link as" to save to your hard drive)

For More Information:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Weekend Estate Sales: 6/29/12 - 7/1/12



.WEEKEND ESTATE SALES
Click on each link for more information on the estate sale!
Find something neat at an estate sale? Let us know!
Hosting an estate sale? Send me an email to be featured in our weekly post!
Be the first to know about these sales on Facebook!

Antique & Collectibles
Middlesex, NJ 08846



Decorative Pieces
 Bedminster, NJ 07921



Lots of fine China
 Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922


Civil War sword and military items
 Colonia, NJ 07067



China & Sterling
 Wayne, NJ 07470


Decorative Antiques
 Montvale, NJ 07645


Stirling Silver
Belvidere, NJ 07823

For more estate sales near you: estatesales.net

Friday, June 22, 2012

Weekend Historical Happenings: 6/23/12 - 6/24/12


WEEKEND HISTORICAL HAPPENINGS
Know about a historical event happening in your area? 
Send me an email to let us know!
Be the first to find out about these events on Facebook!


Saturday-Sunday, June 23-24 - Cold Spring Village, Cape May County
Cape May Quilt and Fiber Show

quilt
Historic Cold Spring Village is featuring all things fiber arts at its 'Spin to Stitch' weekend, to be held June 23rd - 24th. Open from 10am until 4:30 both days, the event features demonstrations and vendors of all fiber arts including, quilting, spinning, weaving, knitting, basketry, lacemaking, crocheting and more. Vote for your favorite quilt on Saturday, learn about historic quilt-making techniques and view historic quilts on display. Enjoy various exhibits, interactive activities and "yarn-bombing" at the Friends' Pavilion. For more information, call (609) 898-2300, ext. 16 or e-mail cjuechter@hcsv.org.

Historic Cold Spring Village is a non-profit Early American open-air living history museum located at 720 Route 9, three miles north of Victorian Cape May and four miles south of Rio Grande, exit 4A from the Garden State Parkway. Hours of operation are 10am-4:30pm. Admission during the season is $10 for adults, and $8 for children ages 3-12. Children under 3 are admitted free. For more information on Historic Cold Spring Village hours, events, private affairs, membership or volunteering, please call (609) 898-2300, ext. 10 or visit www.hcsv.org.



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Saturday, June 23 - Browns Mills, Burlington County
29th Annual Whitesbog Blueberry Festival

Blueberries
Enjoy Pinelands folk music, great festival food, walking/wagon tours, country crafts, local artists, lectures, exhibits, lots of activities for children, an Old-time General Store, all in an interpreted 1920′s company town! Celebrate the Centennial of the Cultivated Highbush Blueberry.

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM


Whitesbog is located at 120 N. Whitesbog Road, Browns Mills, N.J. 08015. http://www.whitesbog.org

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Saturday, June 23 - Cape May, Cape May County



Antique and Fine Crafts Fair

Come browse among the many dealers at the Antiques and Fine Crafts Fair on Saturday,  June 23, 2012 (rain date 6/24) in West Cape May (Wilbraham Park, Broadway and West Perry Streets) from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sponsored by the Greater Cape May Historical Society. Proceeds benefit the Colonial House Restoration Fund. Call Joan Green (609) 898-1236 for additional information. Free parking. Rain date June 24.

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Saturday, June 23 - Cape May, Cape May County
Founders Days 2012 @ the Cape May County Museum

9:00 am to 11:00 am -  Self guided tour of local cemeteries. We will provide you with a map and list of names found in each cemetery and you can choose to visit those of most interest to you.


11:00 am - Ralph Boerner , Phd. will present "The Ecology of Atlantic Coast Barrier Islands." Learn how the end of the last ice age and the melting glaciers in north Jersey caused the formation of the islands on the coast of Cape May County.  This is really early county history.

12:00 pm - Re-dedication of the monument to the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims. This monument was moved from mile marker 7.9 on the Parkway to  a new site at the museum this past winter and we will mark the occasion of its new location.

12:30 pm - Lunch break. Lunch will be available at the Museum for a small fee or visit one of our local restaurants.

1:30 pm - Genealogy update and workshop in the Alexander Library with Genealogist Lois Broomell and Library Coordinator Sonia Forry. Lois will discuss the latest indexes available to the public and she and Sonia will assist with your personal genealogical research.

3:00 pm - Laurie Thomas will present a program on "Uncovering our Dutch Heritage." Due to the Anglicization of many names, our Dutch roots may be unknown. 

4:00 pm - Glenn Bingham will teach you how to go about "Plotting Old Deeds." Where do you begin when the deed says start at Mr. Brown's cedar tree? Learn the trick to interpreting these deeds with this hand-on workshop. We will have some tools available but if you have a compass, protractor and/or ruler, please bring them with you.

6:00 pm - Old Time South Jersey Barbecue We'll be serving barbecued chicken, steamed clams, corn on the cob, Jersey tomatoes, homemade potato salad, cole slaw and more.

All programs are free and open to the public. Barbecue tickets are $25.

All events take place at the Cape May County Museum, 504 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House, NJ.  For more information, please call 609-465-3535 or www.cmcmuseum.org 

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Saturday, June 23 - Allaire Village, Monmouth County
Allaire Village's Annual Summer Flea Market

Allaire Village Incorporated is hosting a Summer Flea Market Saturday, June 23 from 8:00am to 3:00pm. The event is held in the Show Field of Allaire State Park. With more than 100 vendors displaying new, used, and collectable treasures of all types, there will be something for everyone! The rain date for the event will be Sunday, June 24. There is a $5 parking fee for this event.


Patrons of the Flea Market will wish to visit the restored 1830s iron-manufacturing community known as the Historic Village at Allaire. There will be no admission charge to the Village for Flea Market attendees. 

The Historic Village at Allaire is located in Allaire State Park at 4265 Atlantic Ave (Route 524), in Farmingdale, Monmouth County, NJ. For more information, contact the Allaire Village office during business hours, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 732-919-3500 or visit www.allairevillage.org.

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Sunday, June 24 - Allaire Village, Monmouth County
Time to go back to School- 1830s style!

Allaire Village, Inc. will present "School Days at the 1830's Howell  
Works" on Sunday, June 24. Children of all ages (and curious adults) will get a taste of what it was like to attend school in the year 1836 at the Historic Village's Carriage House. Two separate 45-minute sessions will be  conducted. School sessions are at
1:00, and 2:30 p.m. This will be a day of fun for you and your
family!

Students will be instructed by the schoolmaster and the able assistant, Ms. Johnson, in the Lancasterian method. Much to their delight, unruly students will be subjected to the "punishments" of the early 19th century. 

All students will leave with a small reward, as was custom in the Lancastarian teaching system and an understanding of New Jersey's early education history.

Following lessons of the day, children are invited to participate in an 1836 recess! Ninepins, jacks, graces, stilts and other childhood delights can be enjoyed with our villagers on the Village Green. A period storyteller will share stories of the past and parents and children alike are welcome to lend an ear to their tales of a world long past.

From 12 noon- 4:00 p.m. visitors are encouraged to visit the villagers in their homes and learn about the role of children at the Howell Works in 1836. Visit our various tradesmen and learn about the life of a young apprentice in the shop, perhaps even meet a few. 

Historic Village at Allaire is located in Allaire State Park at 4265 Atlantic Avenue/Rt 524, in Farmingdale, Monmouth County, off Exit 98 of the Garden State Parkway and off Exit 31B of Interstate 195. For more information contact the Historic Village at Allaire office during business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 732-919-3500 or visit our website at www.allairevillage.org.

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Sunday, June 24 - Walpack, Sussex County
Geology Lesson

The Walpack Historical Society presents Walter Spink, speaking on the geology of Walpack and the surrounding area. Walpack M.E. Church, Walpack Center. Bring apicnic lunch (noon).  


Meeting and speaker at 1:00 p.m. Questions? 973-948-4903.

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Sunday, June 24 - Morristown, Morris County
Civil War Book Signing

On Sunday June 24th Macculloch Hall Historical Museum is pleased to welcome S. Thomas Summers to sell and sign copies of his book "Private Hercules McGraw:Poems of the American Civil War." This book signing is held in conjunction with the museum's current exhibit "Gone for a Soldier:" Jerseymen in the Civil War. Presented in partnership with the New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, this exhibit brings together for the first time about two hundred objects from the Civil War from nearly thirty museums, historical societies, and private collections. Mr. Summers will be available to sell and sign books to museum visitors between 1pm and 4pm.

Macculloch Hall Historical Museum preserves the history of the Macculloch-Miller families, the Morris area community, and the legacy of its founder W. Parsons Todd through its historic site, collections, exhibits, and educational and cultural programs. It is located in the heart of Morristown's National Historic District. The Museum is open to tour the house and view exhibits on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. General Admission: Adults $8; Seniors & Students $6; Children 6 - 12 $4. Members and children under 5 are free. The last tickets for admission are sold at 3 p.m. For information, call the Museum weekdays at (973) 538-2404 ext 10, visit www.maccullochhall.org. Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, 45 Macculloch  Ave., Morristown, NJ 07960. 


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Sunday, June 24 - Freehold, Monmouth County
"Local Suffering from the Battle of Monmouth and Tory Raids: The Razing of Freehold and Tinton Falls"

As part of its "Historically Speaking" lecture series, Monmouth County Historical Association is pleased to 

welcome Michael Adelberg to speak on Sunday, June 24 at 2:00pm.  The lecture  will be held at the Association's Museum and Library, located at 70 Court Street, Freehold, NJ 07728.  Mr. Adelberg will offer information about collateral damage that accompanied the Battle of Monmouth campaign, including the arson of a dozen homes near Freehold.  This information has never been presented in a public  
forum.

Mr. Adelberg has been researching the American Revolution in central New Jersey for the last twenty years. He is the author of three books, including the newly published The Razing of Tinton Falls: Voices of the American Revolution, and the award-winning American Revolution in Monmouth County: The Theatre of Spoil and Destruction. His essays on the American Revolution have appeared in leading scholarly journals such as The Journal of Military History and The Journal of the Early Republic. Adelberg has presented his research at numerous forums, including the David Library of the American Revolution, the New Jersey Historical Commission's New Jersey Forum, and public television's NJToday. To learn more about Mr. Adelberg, please visit his web site at  www.michaeladelberg.com.

The lecture is open to the public and admission is free.  Refreshments will be served.  Please call 732-462-1466 for further information or to let them know you will attend. 

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Sunday, June 24 - Hoboken, Hudson County
Tunnel Talk

4:00 p.m., Tunnel talk: The Last Three Miles author Steven Hart will discuss the riveting saga of the roads and bridges connecting the Holland Tunnel to the rest of the country. Hoboken Historical Museum, 1301 Hudson Street, Hoboken; 201-656-2240; www.hobokenmuseum.org.





Weekend Estate Sales: 6/22/12 - 6/24/12


.WEEKEND ESTATE SALES
Click on each link for more information on the estate sale!
Find something neat at an estate sale? Let us know!
Hosting an estate sale? Send me an email to be featured in our weekly post!
Be the first to know about these sales on Facebook!

Antique Country Furniture
Asbury, NJ 08802


Art & Antiques
 Kinnelon, NJ 07405



Asian Antiques
 Flemington, NJ 08822



Vintage!
 Fort Lee, NJ 07024




Victorian Furniture
 Clifton, NJ 07012


Primitive Antiques
 Ho Ho Kus, NJ 07423


For more estate sales near you: estatesales.net

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

eBay Items up for Sale!

Items up on eBay this week!
Click on each link for the eBay page!
More items always going up.
Stay updated about new items on Facebook.



Starting Bid: $3.00
Vintage, 1940


Starting Bid: $8.99
1897 Antique Novel



Starting Bid: $10.00
A&P Coffee Services


Starting Bid: $15.00
Manufactured in PA!


Starting Bid: $7.00
Tin Collectors Delight


Starting Bid: $4.00
Postmarked 1938


Starting Bid: $7.00
In protective plastic



Starting Bid: $10.00
July 21st Issue


Starting Bid:$10.00 
July 28th Issue


Mucking Around Edison’s Lab

Mucking Around Edison’s Lab
Written by NJ Historian

Thomas A. Edison personified the age of invention, America’s new frontier in the late 1800s. Though he was best known for the phonograph and incandescent lamp, perhaps Edison’s greatest invention was a new way to invent: the industrial research and development laboratory. Today, his largest lab complex is preserved in West Orange as a National Historical Park. At West Orange, Edison perfected his phonograph, developed motion pictures, a nickel-iron-alkaline storage battery, and many other devices and technologies. Edison earned 1,093 U.S. patents in his lifetime, most for innovations that came out of the West Orange lab.

Edison's West Orange Lab Complex
The West Orange laboratory complex was ten times the size of the Menlo Park lab in present-day Edison. The lab complex was built between 1887 and 1888. The complex looked like a small college campus. The three-story main building held a research library, machine shops for building models, space for experiments and various research projects, and Edison’s office. On the grounds were separate buildings for chemistry, physics, and metallurgy. The main building held a store room which contains objects and materials from all over the world, including tools and parts, plus turtle shells, elephant hide, and other oddities. Edison collected everything imaginable to reduce wait time on projects and to ensure that his employees had everything they needed to experiment with. Edison’s employees would “muck” through all these artifacts, thus they became known as “muckers.” Edison spent most of his time in the lab, often working overnight and taking quick naps in his library on a cot installed by his wife Mina. He was also known to sleep on work benches.

The storeroom.
At one time the complex and surrounding buildings were filled with 10,000 employees from around the world. Edison had his researchers work in teams - as opposed to the lonely scientist we may imagine - and his concept of taking an invention from idea to distribution in one place was unique for the time. The first floor of the main building held the heavy machine shop, which drove the massive machinery of Edison’s inventions. Upstairs, the Precision Machine Shop, Drafting Room, Photography Studio and Music Studio demonstrate the breadth and depth of Edison's operation. It was in the music room that the some of the world’s greatest singers and musicians gathered to record their sound for Edison.

Edison's private office.
In 1892, Edison built the Black Maria, the world’s first motion picture studio. Mounted on a turntable and with an opening near the roof, the entire building could be turned to take full advantage of the daylight for filming. His staff filmed everything from ballet to boxing.

The Black Maria - movie studio
Later in Edison’s career, he tried new things; a technique for poured concrete buildings, a fluoroscope to view x-ray images, methods for manufacturing large quantities of chemicals, huge machines for extracting iron from ore and for manufacturing cement. His final research was for a domestic source for rubber. Edison tried using goldenrod for that purpose and it can still be seen in the chemical laboratory today.

Chemicals in Chemical Laboratory
Edison died in 1931 and shortly thereafter the labs closed. The site reopened in 1948 as a museum. Edison National Historic Site was established in 1962; in 2009 it became Thomas Edison National Historical Park and the main building underwent a $13 million restoration including new exhibits. The sheer size of the site’s archival material is impressive: 400,000 artifacts, 5 million documents, 48,000 sound recordings, 10,000 rare books, 3,000 lab notebooks, and 60,000 photographs.


Additional photos of my trip to Edison's West Orange Lab on Pinterest

For More Information: