This book is about the instances that are neglected by conventional history that make New Jersey unique and interesting.
He is a freelance writer who spent his whole life in New Jersey and lives in Bordentown.
One prevalent theme that Roberts discusses in the book is the fact that plenty of the historical figures in this book were not as appreciated as others. This also includes historical events being outshined by conventionally taught events like the Boston Tea Party. In which case, there was also a Tea Party in Greenwich and other parts of the mid-Atlantic colonies.
Roberts talks about New Jersey as the US state of innovation, meaning a lot of inventions found their origin in the state. Whether it is the hot-air balloon, the traffic circle, or the Colt revolver, New Jersey was the center of technological advancement. This was also the case with Menlo Park, which was the very place where Thomas Edison established his own innovation hub.
Another theme is the landscape of New Jersey itself as well as its natural phenomena. The book provides information about the nor’easters that hit New Jersey, with Hurricane Sandy being among them. I also liked the part where Roberts mentioned how New Jersey has weather extremities since it experiences harsh cold weather due to being close to the North Pole, but also warm weather due to being a coastal state and receiving the warm winds.
There are also particular locations that have strong connotations to them. In the case of the Pine Barrens, they are depicted as being an ominous frontier, with such legends as the Jersey Devil and Peggy Clevenger being associated with them. While Haddonfield is more intellectual, being associated with the Hadrosaur fossil and the founder of the town Elizabeth Haddon Estaugh.
When it came to the Pines, specifically, Roberts noted how in the past they always had this ominous background, as though removed from the rest of New Jersey society. They were the site of the Jersey Devil and the Kallikak family. People were convinced that people who lived in the Pines were inbred and multiracial during a time when Eugenics and racist attitudes were prevalent. Of course, the people who actually lived in the Pines lived there for a short time not because of any evil phenomena, but because they had iron-smelting jobs. When they were no longer needed, they moved elsewhere, leaving nothing behind but wilderness. Nowadays, the Pines are seen as a site for hiking, exploring, and bucolic wanderlust.
Roberts does write about how the New Jersey landscape is unique compared to the rest of the eastern U.S. coast. While the coast was originally a part of Africa, the land of New Jersey was created through a combination of erosion from the Appalachian mountains and the volcanic land formation. This process undertook millions of years alongside the continental drift.
As for the historical context behind the writing process itself, it is clear that Roberts wrote all of this in light of happenings, like Hurricane Sandy. It was also written following the writing of Discover the Hidden New Jersey decades earlier. This may have been done in order to shed light on how unique and underestimated New Jersey within American history, for the US state helped to bring America into modernity.
When it came to the nurse Clare Maass, there was a brief mention of Ronald Ross, who the author claimed discovered the link between mosquitos and malaria. It turns out that in his biography, he did not discover the link himself, rather it was his mentor, who had Ross continue the research and ultimately take credit for it.
I was hoping that Roberts would touch upon the myth behind the Jersey Devil, which was originally brought about by the conflict between almanac publishers Benjamin Franklin and Titan Leeds. This was delved into by historian Brian Regal of Kean University,
Connecting To The Previous Book
As far as the Pine Barrens are concerned within this book, it can easily relate to what ecologist Paul B. Sears wrote about in his book. In modern times, the Pine Barrens are seen as having a bucolic nature. Of course, Sears would argue that the vast wilderness is also important in preserving, since they serve a function to human society. Of course, Sears was more focused on the landscape in terms of agriculture, particularly among grassland and prairie soil.
The way that this book is organized is a bit bland, since it is arranged by sections, each detailing a positive part of New Jersey. However, I would have known that if there were headings before each section.
There is a lot of witty puns throughout this book, which helps considering how this book would have to be written to anyone interested in the state of New Jersey.
New Jersey does have negative public perception due to stereotypes brought about by The Sopranos and Jersey Shore. However, it can be changed so long as people who are susceptible to such beliefs are reminded that New Jersey was America’s innovation hub. That was clearly Roberts’ intention writing this book, though there is no strong introduction or conclusion to this book detailing those intentions.
Inspiration To Myself
Although I have started taking an interest in my home-state, I am specifically looking for instances that directly relate to the New Jersey itself; in other words, I am looking for contributions made within New Jersey by New Jerseyans regardless of whether they were born in the state or not. So, while the man who invented the concept of time zones might be interesting, he does not elicit my interest as much as the black doctor James Still or the discovery of a Hadrosaur in Haddonfield.
This is a primer to getting into the unique history of New Jersey. It is decent enough to read, yet it would not be for those who wish to have a more condensed yet mesmerizing introduction into the state.
Recommend This To…
Any New Jersey resident who may be embarrassed by the stereotypes that is made about New Jerseyans. Roberts would ensure them that New Jersey was extremely vital to America’s innovation.
- Nye, Edwin R. and Mary E. Gibson. “Ronald Ross: Malariologist and Polymath: A Biography.” St. Martin’s Press. 1997.
- Roberts, Russell. “Rediscover the Hidden New Jersey.” Rutgers University Press. 2015.
- Regal, Brian and Frank J. Esposito (2018). The Secret History of the Jersey Devil: How Quakers, Hucksters, and Benjamin Franklin Created a Monster. Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Regal, Brian. “The Jersey Devil: The Real Story.” Skeptical Inquirer. Vol. 37, No. 6. 2013.
- Sears, Paul B. “The Living Landscape.” Revised Edition. Basic Books, Inc. 1966.