Ni-có-man, The Answer, Second Chief by George Catlin. From the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The Original Residents of New Jersey

By Taylor Smith

The “grandfathers” or “ancient ones” as the Lenni-Lenape people are known, were the historic inhabitants of large swaths of the Northeastern United States. Originally occupying parts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, the Lenape suffered forced migrations and removal to reservations at the hands of European settlers. In fact, prior to the 1600s, the Lenape lived all over the Northeastern woodlands and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as noted on nanticokelenapemuseum.org. The Lenape trace their lineage to the Nanticoke or “Tidewater People” who resisted British colonial intrusion to the best of their abilities. The name “Nanticoke” references the Nanticoke River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

At the time of European contact in the early 1600s, the Lenape were estimated to number over 20,000 people. A powerful and influential tribe, early Dutch settlers sought to establish amicable relations with the Lenape through trade of tools, sugar, firearms, animal pelts, and fabric. Unfortunately, like most early contact between Native Americans and European immigrants, tribespeople were deceived and diminished by unfair trade agreements and the introduction of contagious diseases.

Dutch traders were established on the banks of the Delaware River by 1623. Swedish and Finnish colonists followed, significantly predating the arrival of German and English travelers in response to the establishment of William Penn’s colony. Familiar with the forests of Northern Europe, the Nordic immigrants cleared woodland in the new territory and introduced the use of the log cabin. What little is known of these early encounters between the Swedes and the Lenape is that both groups were independent, rugged individualists who practiced similar agricultural methods, rotating productive fields of crops along the banks of the Delaware River, according to paheritage.wpengine.com. In contrast, the Dutch were eager to establish business in the New World. They engaged in the trade of land, guns, and beads for beaver pelts. One of the most notorious transactions between the Dutch and the Lenape was the “purchase” of New York City in 1626.

Long before high rise buildings and endless concrete sidewalks, New York City was truly an idyllic island, scattered with hills and marshland and teeming with plant and wildlife. Oak and hickory forests dotted the landscape while black bears, wildcats, beavers, tree frogs, oysters, mink, brook trout, and bog turtles roamed free. In a 2020 New York Times article, ecologist Eric W. Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society, based at the Bronx Zoo, noted that wolves were known to live on Manhattan until the 1720s and whales were an important part of the local ecosystem.

“Mannahatta” (as it was referred to in the Lenape language) was a trading hub for the Lenape bands of tribes who regularly gathered on the island for the exchange of goods. Mannahatta was also the site of Lenape games and musical performances. The native dwellers certainly made use of the plethora of natural resources at their disposal. For example, soaring tulip trees were favored for making canoes and the rich soil and pond water was ideal for cultivating vegetables and oyster estuaries.  more

First TSPS Operators in US, Morristown, NJ, 1969. Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center. 

Did you or someone you know work for the Bell System in New Jersey?

In March 2022, Morven Museum & Garden will open an exhibition, “Ma Bell: The Mother of Invention in NJ,” that will explore the ways in which the company pioneered innovations that transformed all aspects of modern-day life.  more

Every year, in honor of Independence Day, Morven hosts a free event to celebrate its American heritage at the home-turned-museum of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

This year’s celebration will be different, but hopefully just as meaningful. Participants will not gather as they have in the past. While Morven’s historic gardens remain open for socially distanced events and the museum is typically open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the museum will be closed on Sunday, July 4.  more

Sylvia Beach standing with author Stephen Vincent Benét in the doorway of the Shakespeare and Company store.

PU Digital Project Explores the Iconic Bookstore’s Influence in Literary History

By Wendy Greenberg| Images courtesy of Shakespeare and Company Project, Princeton University shakespeareandcompany.princeton.edu

It was a place where writers and artists — many of whom were expatriate Americans — met and formed a community of their own. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris in the 1920s and ’30s was a home to many, a place to replenish the intellect and refresh the spirit, and even a place where mail was delivered. It was where literary luminaries such as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Archibald MacLeish may have crossed paths.

Shakespeare and Company was the creation of Sylvia Beach, who in 1919 arrived in Paris via Princeton, recognized a market for English language books, and offered encouragement and support to the writers who bought, browsed, and borrowed.

The bookstore closed in 1941, but Princeton University’s digital humanities venture, the Shakespeare and Company Project (shakespeareandcompany.princeton.edu), has brought the iconic shop to life once again.

A meticulous record-keeper, Beach kept addresses, logbooks, and lending cards that show what her lively community was reading between the two World Wars: James Joyce was reading about Oscar Wilde; Simone de Beauvoir was reading Ernest Hemingway; and Hemingway himself was reading about bullfighting. The information originated in the Sylvia Beach papers — 180 boxes in the Department of Special Collections, Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library.

Besides running a bookstore and lending library for more than a thousand members (the lending library has cards for 653 individuals, but the logbooks reveal many, many more), Beach gained celebrity by publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922, when it was banned in the United States and England. In tribute to her, the road behind the Princeton Public Library is named Sylvia Beach Way. When she lived in Princeton, Beach resided on Library Place.

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Shirley Satterfield (at podium), president of the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, unveiled the first four Heritage Tour plaques and recognized the Society’s board of trustees (surrounding her) at a reception last March at Studio Hillier on Witherspoon Street. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

The Witherspoon-Jackson District Heritage Tour

By Donald Gilpin | Plaque designs courtesy of Studio Hillier

It was nothing less than the transformation of a vision into reality on Saturday morning, August 10, as a large contingent of church members, town leaders, and other participants proceeded from Morning Star Church of God in Christ on Birch Avenue, up Witherspoon Street to Mt. Pisgah AME Methodist Church and Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, then to the First Baptist Church of Princeton at John Street and Paul Robeson Place to witness  the unveiling of the first four of 29 Heritage Tour historic plaques.

“These black church plaques and the other plaques to follow are part of a reminder of the history of the Witherspoon-Jackson (W-J) community and the people, personalities, and families that once lived in this community,” said W-J Historical and Cultural Society President Shirley Satterfield, who led the tour and whose vision has inspired and driven the project to preserve the memory of Princeton’s 20th Historic District.  more

View of Nassau Street before Palmer Square, from Holder Hall.

The Fascinating History Behind Princetons Street Names

By Anne Levin | Photographs courtesy of Historical Society of Princeton

When it comes to the names of its streets, Princeton is a mix of the obvious and the curious.

It makes sense that there are streets named for specific landmarks, past and present. Spring Street was once the location of a spring and pond, where residents skated during winter months. The quarry that stood on the present site of Quarry Street supplied the stones used for several buildings on the Princeton University campus. Brookstone Drive runs parallel to historic Stony Brook, Old Orchard Lane was once home to an apple orchard, and so on.

But what about Tee-Ar Place? Lovers Lane? Broadmead?

The origin of these, and nearly every street name in Princeton, is the focus of Princeton: On the Streets Where We Live, written in 1990 by Randy Hobler and Jeanne Silvester. The book is an exhaustive survey delivered with a light touch, full of enlightening anecdotes and nuggets of information. Contemporary tour guide Shirley Satterfield, known for her informative walks through the Witherspoon-Jackson historic district, and Mimi Omiecinski, whose Princeton Tour Company leads themed tours throughout the town, both use the book as a regular reference. more

IN NEED OF SOME TLC: Drumthwacket, the New Jersey governor’s mansion, is being spruced up under the direction of First Lady Tammy Murphy and the Drumthwacket Foundation. From new parking areas to kitchen improvements, some changes are underway. (Photo by Virginia Hall)

By Anne Levin

With its six white columns and sprawling wings on either side, Drumthwacket is among Princeton’s most visually striking buildings. But the official residence of the governor of New Jersey, last occupied from 2002 to 2004 by former Gov. James McGreevey and family, is in need of some major TLC. more

FAMILY TRADITION: “I wanted to be part of the family’s legacy and the company’s legacy. It means everything. I am so proud to be here and to be able to learn from my grandfather and father, and the best people in the industry.” Andrew Siegel (right), shown with his grandfather Martin Siegel (center) and father Hank Siegel, represents the fourth generation of the Siegel family to be part of Hamilton Jewelers’ operation.

By Jean Stratton

Hamilton Jewelers is a Princeton treasure. A longtime Princeton establishment, it opened its doors here in 1986. Its history extends well beyond that date, however.

Founded in 1912 in Trenton, it was purchased by Irving Siegel in 1927. He laid the foundation on which his son Martin, and later his grandson Hank, built the thriving business that Hamilton has become today. more

The Ivy Club facade (Courtesy of Ivy Club)

By Anne Levin

In 1877, a small group of sophomores at the College of New Jersey — soon to be renamed Princeton University — decided to start a club where they could dine together and socialize. Renting rooms in a small brownstone and hiring a couple to cook and serve meals, the friends unwittingly began a tradition that has become a key part of the University experience.

From that first club, called Ivy, 18 more followed. The architecturally distinctive mansions that line Prospect Avenue and a section of Washington Road are the focus of The Princeton Eating Clubs, a lavishly-illustrated, diligently-researched book by Clifford Zink. Published last fall by the Princeton Prospect Foundation, it is full of  historical anecdotes and photographs from the clubs’ archives and libraries. more

By Lynn Adams Smith 

Photograph by Jeffrey E. Tryon

Back in 1968, Joanne Woodward purchased a Rolex Daytona watch for Paul Newman and had it inscribed “Drive Carefully Me.”  For the next 16 years, he wore the watch while acting in movies, fly fishing, and racing cars.

In 1984, Newman’s daughter Nell was dating James Cox.  One summer day Cox was helping to repair a treehouse on their property, when Newman casually gave him the watch. more

By Doug Wallack

Photography by Charles R. Plohn 

“Here we were taught by men and gothic towers democracy and faith and righteousness and love of unseen things that do not die.” — H.E. Mierow, Class of 1914

So reads the inscription in the arch of Princeton University’s McCosh Hall. It’s not entirely clear how Gothic towers inculcated such lofty virtues in students, but it is clear to anyone who visits campus how the University’s architecture could exercise a powerful influence on them. more

By Wendy Plump

Photographs Courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton

Unusually, there is a great deal to envy in this community that has seen so much struggle through the centuries. Who would not want to grow up in a world embraced by a few boundary streets where everyone knows you and will make sure you are well looked after? Buying penny candy on Leigh Avenue. Fishing in Stony Brook. Being shushed into your home at 9 p.m. by elders who don’t want you to come to trouble. It seems a kind of sanctuary.

On the other hand, it is a place that embraced slavery, a northern Jim Crow town—“spiritually located in Dixie,” as Paul Robeson has said—where some of the earliest residents were bought and traded and some of the latest were barred from restaurants and stores because they were black. more

By Anne Levin

Photography Courtesy of The Historical Society of Princeton 

World War I had been raging in Europe for three years when the United States finally declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917. By the time the armistice was signed over a year later, this global conflict of massive, devastating proportions had claimed more than 17 million lives. more

The Tradition Continues

Photography by Charles R. Plohn 

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By Doug Wallack

Art by James McPhillips/JayMcPhillips.com

Sometime in April of each year—typically just in time for campus preview visits for accepted high school seniors—the cold, grey damp of winter at Princeton University gives way to a brilliant spring. Dogwood flowers and daffodils grace the grounds with flecks of gold, and white and pink. Saucer Magnolias bloom, lining the newly verdant up-campus lawns. Following their campus’s botanical lead, students emerge too, and all life at the university becomes more visible. Professors hold classes on the steps of the sundial in McCosh Courtyard, and students take their reading outside. The odd frisbee or slack line appears. more

Photography by Robert Manella, Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty

The First in an Occasional Series

by Anne Levin

Back in the late eighteenth century when the Rev. John Witherspoon was the sixth president of Princeton University, he was known to end his work day at Nassau Hall when he saw a light in a front window of Tusculum, his 
country house and tenant farm located just a mile to the north. According to a local legend, one of Witherspoon’s daughters would light a candle in that window, letting her father know it was time to close up shop and head home. more

by Wendy Plump 

It is possible to be cowed by Beatrix Farrand even now, over 100 years since her first landscape commission at Princeton University and half a century since her death. There is much to be thankful for in the sylvan, living landscape she put in place to give an austere campus a greener aspect. Two hundred years ago the university was practically a field; there were no trees at all around Nassau Hall. Farrand‘s influence remains most evident today in the twisting blooms of wisteria that climb the great Gothic walls of the Graduate College each spring. Or the Wyman House rose garden. Or the sugar maples and beeches that accentuate—rather than compete with—the university’s soaring architecture. Or for that matter the entire, park-like character of campus. more

By Anne Levin

If you attended a charity auction to benefit McCarter Theatre, Trinity Counseling Service, Princeton Charter School, or any number of other organizations in town last spring, you probably encountered Sebastian Clarke. He’s the lanky, personable guy who runs the show, rattling off the numbers and “filler words” to coax bidders higher and higher—but always with a light touch. more

Photos courtesy of Cranford Millburn Camera Club

Send us your best shots of NJ by January 20, 2017 for the chance to be in the next issue of Urban Agenda Magazine!

By Sarah Emily Gilbert 

You might have photographed your favorite Jersey diner. Perhaps you’ve snapped a picture of a secret trail in the Garden State. Maybe, you’ve taken an image of a historical location in NJ, or better yet, a historic moment in your life. If you’ve shot a picture of New Jersey that represents your personal vision of the state, we want to see it! more

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Photo Credit: @shopterrain

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

There is one good thing about the sun setting at 4:30 p.m. in December: Christmas lights. A hitherto dark and dreary time, dusk becomes a period of holiday cheer as neighborhoods light up to showcase their Christmas trees, red ribbons, and wreaths. Here, we provide some outdoor decoration ideas to make the season even brighter. For more holiday inspiration, head to the Hopewell House Tour and Quilt Show on Sunday, December 18 from 1 – 4 p.m. more