Progress and place

FOR all that it has gained or lost in the tides of politics and war, Perth Amboy’s history attests to the power of place, the environment’s ability to span time and distance through the agency of human memory and motivation. For so many who spent the bulk of their lives elsewhere–and William Whitehead was by … More Progress and place

The hero’s welcome

CHARACTERS famous and obscure helped shape the thoughts and deeds of William Whitehead. Of the famous, none was more universally adored than the French nobleman who took America’s side in the Revolution. Whitehead, though born a half century after him, clearly shared in the popular regard for the Marquis de Lafayette. When Lafayette set foot on … More The hero’s welcome

Useful pleasures

IN the shaping of character few factors exert more influence than the pastimes of youth. An unpublished memoir by William Whitehead confirms that the days of his life between ages 13 and 18, while unburdened by conventional schooling, were varied by pursuits no less formative in his development or significant for his “future usefulness.” Fair … More Useful pleasures

A nest of families

ON a recent Sunday I was a spectator at the arrest of the Governor of New Jersey. Devotees of Perth Amboy history have taken the chief executive into custody regularly since 1976, commemorating Royal Governor William Franklin’s capture two hundred years earlier. These reenactments have never dislodged any incumbent office holders, which is perhaps to … More A nest of families

Marginalia

WHITEHEAD must have cherished the natural attractions of Amboy Point, which was not just the home of his teenage years but a refuge from the less wholesome cities where he later worked and lived. Yet even before his first glimpse of Perth Amboy human activity had already so altered the coast and nearby woodlands that to summon up the … More Marginalia

Birth of a bank

THERE are two ways to sail from Newark to Perth Amboy. A boat leaving Newark Bay may head east through the Kill Van Kull, south through The Narrows and then southwest, skirting the seaward coast of Staten Island. A shorter but more sinuous course threads its way southward along the meandering Arthur Kill. The Whitehead family took one of these routes, both … More Birth of a bank

The Castle

ECLIPSED early in its development by other colonial ports, Perth Amboy never became the New World metropolis of its founders’ dreams. Antiquarians in William Whitehead’s day could be excused for their disregard of a place with “no crumbling castles, no time-worn battlemented walls, nor monuments of fallen greatness” to meet the eye.1 The town seemed to … More The Castle