- Mount Holly
Come hear author and historian Joseph G. Bilby talk about his new book, 350 Years of New Jersey History: From Stuyvesant to Sandy. Autographed copies will be available for purchase.
In 2014, New Jersey celebrates its 350th birthday, recalling the day in 1664 when a British force sailed into New Netherland waters and captured the Dutch colony’s capital of New Amsterdam without a fight. The colony’s new master, James, Duke of York, handed off the sparsely settled land across the river to two of his cronies, initiating a centuries-long saga of New Jersey political squabbling down to the present day.
A more positive New Jersey heritage is the state’s diversity. An initial population of English and Dutch settlers, free and enslaved African Americans and Native Americans, merged over the centuries with waves of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe and, in more recent years, all over the world. It is no mere coincidence that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are located in New Jersey waters.
Through three and a half centuries of war (the “Jersey Blues” have served in every conflict from King James’ War in 1694 to Iraq and Afghanistan) and peace, New Jersey’s people have had their ups and downs, transitioning from agricultural to industrial and postindustrial economies; pioneering steamboats, railroads, electric lights, traffic circles, transistors and drive-in movies along the way; and recovering from setbacks with a brash boosterism belying the storyline that the state is merely a byway between New York and Philadelphia.
New Jersey has been home to outsized personalities in political, military, economic, entertainment and social fields, some still widely known, others unfairly forgotten, including Elizabeth Haddon, “Scotch Willie” Maxwell, Joseph Bloomfield, Aaron Burr, Sam “Jersey Jumper” Patch, Sam Colt, William Still, Phil Kearny, Leon Abbett, Alice Paul, Thomas Edison, John Draney, Albert Einstein, Moe Berg, James “Jimmy Buff” Racioppi, Curtis Culin and Bruce Springsteen—not to mention the fictional Tony Soprano, played by native “Jersey guy” James Joseph Gandolfini Jr.
Joseph G. Bilby was born in Newark, New Jersey, received his BA and MA degrees in history from Seton Hall University. He is retired from his position as Supervising Investigator for the New Jersey Department of Labor, has taught military history on the community college level and lectured widely on Civil War and New Jersey history. He is currently part time Assistant Curator of the New Jersey National Guard and Militia Museum in Sea Girt, New Jersey and a freelance writer and historical consultant. He is the author, editor or co-author of seventeen books and over 400 articles on New Jersey history and folklore, military history and Outdoor subjects in both Internet and print venues and also a columnist for The Civil War News and New Jersey Sportsmen News. He has also contributed to the Encyclopedia of New Jersey (Rutgers University Press, 2004), and has recently co-authored, with James M. Madden and Harry Ziegler, 350 Years of New Jersey History: From Stuyvesant to Sandy for the History Press.
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