Our man in London

SELDOM are scholars, scientists or other devotees of learning able to practice their devotions apart from institutions, whether it’s by choice or necessity that they work with or under them. The power wielded by the likes of learned societies, religious organizations, schools or governments at any level, and their shifting propensities to foster or frustrate … More Our man in London

Native sense

WILLIAM A. Whitehead’s East Jersey under the Proprietary Governments1 opens with a map of New Jersey, but a map of long and complicated pedigree. Its placement at the front of this octavo volume is itself a cause of some perplexity. The frontispiece was lithographed from the meticulous pen-and-ink tracing of a section of a much larger … More Native sense

Scot’s Model

THERE’S no second chance to make a first impression, and this had all the makings of an audacious debut. Notices of a new historical society for New Jersey, emanating from the busy pen of its corresponding secretary, had barely reached the meeting rooms of other learned associations around the country. Now they, and the wider … More Scot’s Model

Field work

CONVENING in January 1846 at the place of its birth to celebrate the New Jersey Historical Society’s first year, members could look back with satisfaction, and look expectantly ahead. They reviewed the Society’s achievements over the past eleven months, chose officers for the year to come–a formality, as the incumbents were re-elected without exception and … More Field work

Meetings of minds

LONG after the event, William A. Whitehead recalled how, through the 1845 founding of a historical society for New Jersey, he penetrated a circle of “several prominent gentlemen … whom I had never met before.”1 By many standards, Whitehead would have been regarded as an interloper. The men who gathered in Trenton that February worked … More Meetings of minds

Try, try again

MORE ancient and enduring than New Jersey’s status as a Revolutionary battleground has been its contest for self-definition. The state is often coarsely cast as suffering a kind of bipolar disorder, forever torn between the megacities it faces across its two frontier rivers. The nature of that struggle is of course far more complex, variously … More Try, try again

Lights and shadows

HISTORY was, ironically, news in New York City during William A. Whitehead’s first years living there. His initiation into the New-York Historical Society’s holdings (a membership in that body would have to wait some years more) came just as it was awakening from a long period of slumber. But far from being the preserve of … More Lights and shadows

Dust and din

IN the presence of friends and fellow votaries of history assembled in an upper room of the National Newark Bank, the normally serene William A. Whitehead confessed to having suffered from “something like outraged feelings.” A half century earlier, he had stood in awed silence at the sepulchre of the man who “gave a new … More Dust and din