Rough seas

LIEUTENANT Matthew C. Perry guided the Shark, battered by a spell of “boisterous weather,” into Havana harbor for repairs. The damage to the schooner, though slight, signified that its next assignment, to police the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, was to be no easy affair. Of late the Shark and its steely skipper had helped deter … More Rough seas

The entrepôt

GULLS danced a ballet around the spars of the Mary Lord with a semblance of exultation at her journey’s end. Laborers and clerks, meanwhile, joined in their own peculiar revels, hefting wooden crates from the hold, inspecting and recording the cargo dockside, wheeling it away to a waiting storehouse. Chests of exotic shape and design … More The entrepôt

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 An unpublished memoir by William Whitehead confirms that the days of his life between ages 13 and 18, while unburdened by conventional schooling, were varied by pursuits no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