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As was the case with many of the original American colonies, New Jersey's life as an agricultural state was tenuous at best; thin, rocky soil made it difficult, sometimes impossible, to grow good crops, and crop failures were often the rule rather than the exception. The institution of slavery was beginning to die out in the Northeast for several reasons, one being the dicey agricultural situation; slaveowners were not able to make money when even the most dedicated, hard-working slaves couldn't coax anything to grow out of the ground. So New Jersey was a natural place for the Industrial Revolution to gain a foothold. As early as 1778, one of the original Founding Fathers, as well as future Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was said to have stood at the Great Falls at Paterson, New Jersey and predicted a future of great industrial power for the fledgling nation. Great Falls' silk-producing mills would later come to be known as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, earning it the name "Silk City" even as local merchants explored ways to expand into textiles, firearms, and locomotive manufacturing.
Although names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Carnegie typically surface immediately when discussing Industrial Age business, there were many things going on in New Jersey that typically don't make it into the traditional American history textbook. Although known primarily among American schoolchildren for his work with the lightbulb, Thomas Edison's many of the nearly 1100 patents for new inventions were developed based on work he did in New Jersey. A gentleman named James Hoy was responsibile for the success for the Trenton Cotton Factory, and the family partnership of Jesse Waln and Robert Waln, were able to extend their mercantile business from New Jersey to the West Indies when all was said and done.
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