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 An unpublished memoir by William Whitehead confirms that the days of his life between ages 13 and 18, while unburdened by conventional schooling, were varied by pursuits no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

Vessels

ARRIVING in 1823 at Perth Amboy, William Whitehead could recall only one previous experience of travel by water: a crossing of the Hudson with his father on a shallow-draft, two-masted rig called a periauger or pettiauger. (The size and design of such craft were, like the name, variable.) If there had been another such excursion, … More Vessels

Arrival

TWO hundred years ago or more, the heights of Perth Amboy offered an unobstructed view of Raritan Bay. At the horizon the bay opened onto a vast ocean. Thousands had traversed it at the behest of conscience or commerce, some secure in their liberty, others bound in servitude, to populate this point of land to which … More Arrival