Sunday, September 28, 2014

Eastern Europeans Arrive in Trenton


Arthur L. Finkle



The East European immigration began in the late 1870s, was composed mainly of Russian, Polish, and Hungarian Jews. They organized the synagogues Achenu Bnai Yisroel (1883); Anshei Emes (1891); Ahavath Israel (1909); and Poaley Emes (1920). For all Congregations, see Appendix III, page 259

Jacob Barker immigrated to the US in 1880 and arrived in Trenton in 1881. He and his wife raised seven children. Jacob was one of the founders on Congregation Brothers of Israel. One of his sons, Rufke owned a slaughterhouse and eventually opened a meat market. Monty, another son, was the ‘though’ guy. Meyer Stark arrived from Lithuania via Scotland in 1883. Another founder was Simcha Lavine, he arrived in Trenton in 1895. He raised five children: Sophie (Nathan Siegle); Toby (Popkin), Isaac (Lavine’s Department Store; and David (Grocery store. Eventually, all the boys opened Lavine’s Department Store at 187 S. Broad St.
Jewish education was conducted by private teachers until Brothers of Israel Synagogue founded a Hebrew school in 1893. Later, in 1945, it became part-time day school, under the leadership of Rabbi Issachar Levin, serving the Trenton community from 1927 to 1969. In 1969 it became the Trenton Hebrew Academy. Renamed in 1981 as the Abrams Hebrew Academy (named for a local foundation that made a significant endowment to the school), it moved from Trenton to Yardley, PA in the 1980’s.

The main reasons for the immigration to USA were to flee the harsh Russia anti-Semitism policy, the coercive and discriminatory 25-year military service, lack of economic opportunity and the pogroms.

By the May Laws poof 1882, Jews were restricted to live in the Pale of the Settlement in what is now Lithuania, Russia, Romania and the Ukraine. In addition, one on seven Jewish boys was conscripted into the Tsar’s Army (1 in 10 non-Jews). Length of swerve – 25 years!

General laws applicable to Jews included: (1) the family of a Jew who evaded military service was assessed a fine of 300 rubles; (2) capturing a Jew who evaded military service yielded cash reward of 50 rubles.
 Between the years 1874 and 1892 (excluding 1883 for which no reliable figures are available), a total of 173,434 Jewish recruits were drafted. See Dan Leeson, Military Conscription In Russia    
in the 19th Century leeson@aspen.fhda.edu

Moreover, if the child were less than 16, then the term of his military duty from age 12 to 18 was another six ‘tacked-on’ more years up to age 18. Insidiously, the Kahal, a semblance of the Jewish ruling committee in each community, was the agent of the government to present these new conscripts, under penalty of fine or increased conscription for the community.  Severe restrictions  were placed on the number of Jewish doctors and lawyers (The Legal Bar went from 22% to 9% in a year); cannot use machinery; cannot sell items made out of one’s own shtetl; quotas and Gymnasia’s Academic High Schools) and Universities.

Indeed, Simon Dubnow expounds on the effect of these oppressive May Laws of 1882:

The May Laws of 1882 also temporarily forbade the issuing of mortgages and other deeds to Jews, as well as the registration of Jews as lessees of real property situated outside of towns and boroughs; and also the issuing to Jews of powers of attorney to manage and dispose of such real property. Further, “Jews are forbidden to transact business on Sundays and on the principal Christian holy days; the existing regulations concerning the closing of places of business belonging to Christians on such days to apply to Jews also." See Paul Kriwaczek, Yiddish Civilization: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation, Vintage Books, NY, 2005.




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Trenton: The Small Industrial City


Trenton: The Small Industrial City

Arthur L. Finkle

Trenton became a leading industrial center 1847, with advent of the Trenton Iron Company. Cooper-Hewitt's "Universal Mill", became the first to manufacture wrought iron beams to fire-proof buildings. It made beams for Nassau Hall, the Harper Publishing Company, Cooper Union in New York, and the dome on the Capital Building and the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.

Another turning point in the industrial history was the opening of the John A. Roebling cable wire plant, with Abraham Cooper’s urging. Cooper convinced Roebling that he would give him a good deal on his iron and the transportation links from Trenton were a natural for easy and inexpensive freight deliveries. (Delaware and Raritan Canal; Pennsylvania Railroad, Camden and Amboy Railroad)




By 1870, the Roebling plant produced seven hundred tons of wire rope annually, and employed eighty-five people. They produced materials for the George Washington Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. During World War I and II and the Korean War, they produced weapons. One of their contributions was the manufacture of huge steel strands which hoisted 5,000- ton platforms of ocean radar stations upon 150-foot legs. These were used in the Atlantic to provide advance warning of enemy aircraft. One was placed at George's Banks, east of Boston, another near Nantucket Island, and another near Texas. The Roebling’s contributed enormously to the prosperity and fame of Trenton, and in turn, all of Mercer County profited.



John A. Roebling moved his wire rope operation from Pennsylvania to Trenton. Cooper had convinced Roebling that Trenton was an ideal spot for an infant industry. He reasoned that Trenton's transportation network was excellent, and wire (iron) could be bought from the Cooper-Hewitt Plant.

Roebling observed steel rope made in Britain and then in Germany to bail water out of coal mines. To find a cost-effective, safe, tensile strength wire, Roebling experimented, twisting wire by hand. He finally arrived at three ‘three sized construction techniques,’ in which the defects of six-strand ropes are compensated by combining wires of different diameters. He ultimately wound up with 19 strands.

Recognizing wire rope business potential, Roebling, with an incentive from Abram Cooper, owner of an iron mill, created a steel wire factory near the Delaware & Raritan Canal in the Chambersburg section of Trenton in 1849. In Trenton, he designed suspension bridges utilizing his wire rope and cable technology.
See Thesis







The Roebling enterprise had outgrown their bustling factory space in South Trenton. In 1905, it purchased 35 acres in the Chambersburg area near Broad St. It also built a company town for the express purpose of manufacturing the steel to be turned into bridge rope.

With the varying supply of iron wire from foreign sources, the company built its own by creating a model industrial town along the Delaware River in Kinkora, ten miles south of Trenton. Now named Roebling, NJ, the corporate enterprise built a huge plant, with blast furnaces and rod mills. To house its workers, it built 800 houses, a school, a hotel, and recreational facilities.

The third Roebling generation availed themselves of the booming trolley cable business and the underground cable business.

First World War necessitated the production of submarine netting used in the English Channel and fine wires for airplane rigging.

 By the end of the War, both Charles and Ferdinand had died. Their nearly fifty years of efforts in the family business had transformed JARSCO from a local firm with less than 100 employees in 1870 to over 8,000 employees during the First World War. The annual sales of JARSCO products had likewise soared from $250,000 to over $47,000,000 in 1918.

In the 1920's and 30's, the third generation of Roebling’s installed the main cables and suspender ropes and cables for the Bear Mountain Bridge, the George Washington (opened 1932) and the Golden Gate (1937). The business report of 1931 shows that Roebling employed 2,800 workers, more than four times any other firm.

During the early 1940's, Roebing again became a major supplier of wire rope products for the war effort.

In 1952 the Roebling’s sold its business ventures to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I), with headquarters in Pueblo, Colorado. CFI ran the Roebling plants until the early 1970's when foreign suppliers with lower labor costs made the domestic production of wire rope uncompetitive.


Roebling’s Contributions
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John A. Roebling was also a devotee of Georg Friedrich Hegel. He lived the creed:

"This is the vocation [engineering] of our own and of every age: to grasp the knowledge that already exists, to make it our own, and in so doing to develop it further and raise it to a higher level; in thus appropriating it to ourselves we make it something different than it was before."
Georg Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)



John A. Roebling's Sons Company, Blue Center, (company periodical), Trentoniana Collection, Trenton Public Library. John A. Roebling's Sons Company, Division of Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, CF&I Steel Manufacturers Biggest Wire Rope Ever Made, Press Release, February 13, 1968.
Mumford, John Kimberly, "Outspinning the Spider: The Story of Wire and Wire Rope," Robert L. Stillson Co., New York 1921

Two other industries contributed industrial Trenton - rubber and ceramics. The rubber industry began in 1850 (Jonathan H. Green; Alan Magowan) in 1868, the Whitehead Brother's Rubber Company began as the oldest rubber mill in the United States.

The ceramics industry

The Pottery industry began 1799 when John Stiles McCully opened the first permanent pottery factory. In 1853, Taylor and Speeler began making yellow Rockingham ware. In 1872, Thomas Maddock first successfully manufactured glazed earthenware, making Trenton "Staffordshire of America.,"



Ceramic Art Company



Lenox plates





Kelley Marie Hatch-Draper, Wired for Business: The Roebling Story. Unpub. Thesis (East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN,  2011)
Mumford, John Kimberly, "Outspinning the Spider: The Story of Wire and Wire Rope," Robert L. Stillson Co., New York 1921

John A. Roebling's Sons Company, Blue Center, (company periodical), Trentoniana Collection, Trenton Public Library. John A. Roebling's Sons Company, Division of Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, CF&I Steel Manufacturers Biggest Wire Rope Ever Made, Press Release, February 13, 1968.