The Black Times of ‘76

In the teeth of near defeat, Gen. George Washington pulled out miraculous mid-winter victories

In December 18, 1776, the American Revolution was near collapse. The commander in chief of its forces, George Washington, warned his brothers in Virginia that "I think the game is pretty near up," unless a new army were instantly recruited, which was not happening. In six months of shattering defeats, he had nearly lost the army he'd been given. Read more »

Date of Event: 
Monday, September 12, 1864

Shoobie Doo Wop

Planning a Trip to Wildwood

General: The Wildwood Chamber of Commerce ( / 609-729-4000) is a good place to begin. The Doo Wop Preservation League ( / 609-729-4000) grew out of the recent revival of architectural interest in Wildwood, much of it spearheaded by the late Steven Izenour, who brought architecture students to study the town. The league offers trolley tours, a downloadable map of all the remaining motels, and lots of links about mid-century doo-wop architecture. For souvenirs, consider vintage prints and postcards from .
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A hundred boardwalks, gone but not quite dead, await a new dawn

Right in the middle of Wildwood is an old Woolworth’s, locked up and closed. If you glance into the windows, you could mistake it for a storage space, though you might do a double take at the giant bear that waits, ready to attack, inside the door.

But if you stop and peer inside, you’ll see that it is packed with arcade games from the past century. It’s the result of a decades-long obsession of Randy Senna, a Jersey native who has devoted his life to preserving the midway games of his youth. Read more »


A New Jersey seaside resort struggles to save the architecture—and the memories—of the Eisenhower years


If you have 20 cents, you can recapture your childhood on the Wildwood boardwalk.Read more »

The Wizard Of Your Christmas Tree


The days were growing. shorter as the Christmas season of 1880 drew near. Many American families planned to decorate Christmas trees—a German custom that, although it had begun to catch on only a generation earlier, was spreading year by year. But travelers on the Pennsylvania Railroad in the early darkness of approaching winter were excited about a lighting display such as the world had never seen.

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“The City At The Nation’s Front Door”

Hoboken’s hardworking history exudes an undeniable gritty charm—and its view of Manhattan is incomparable.

On September 26, 1918, the Meuse-Argonne offensive began. The attack on the German lines in France lasted for 47 days, until the war’s end, and remains the longest battle in American history. During the assault, Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, made his troops a surprisingly blunt promise: By Christmas, he told them, they would be in heaven, they would be in hell, or they would be in Hoboken. Read more »

The Lady Brakemen

Consigned to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Garbage Run,” they fought their own war on the home front, and they helped shape a victory as surely as their brothers and husbands did overseas

All the new lady brakemen on the Pennsylvania Railroad were put to work on what was officially known as the Jersey Coast Extra List. The crew dispatchers referred to it as the Women’s List, and the male brakemen, who had been consigned to it before the women were hired, called it the Garbage Run. It was also known as the meat—as opposed to the gravy, the cushy sit-down jobs on the main line Washington Express, which paid three times as much for about one-tenth the work.Read more »


America looked good to a high school senior then, and that year looks wonderfully safe to us now, but it was a time of tumult for all that, and there were plenty of shadows along with the sunshine

It was a very good year. Certainly it was if you were seventeen. I was a senior in high school in 1954, a member of the class of January 1955, at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. They told us these were the best years of our lives, so we had better enjoy them. We all laughed at that, of course, but as I look back, they may have been right, particularly in September of 1954, when the first Thunderbird and the totally new 1955 Chevy V-8 lit up our limited horizons. Read more »

Visions Of My Father

You can rise fast and far in America, but sometimes the cost of the journey is hard to tally

FOR A LONG TIME I HAVE WANTED TO write about a vision of my father I experienced on a New York City subway train riding downtown to a literary meeting. As a historian I am skeptical of visions. I pride myself on my rationality, I rely on facts. But as a novelist I believe in visions. Now I see a way to tell the story in the context of other visions of my father that have pursued me lifelong. Read more »

The Money Maker

The Secret Service considered Emanuel Ninger a common counterfeiter. He saw himself as an American master of the impressionist school.

THE MOST PRESUMPTUOUS counterfeiter in American history was a blue-eyed, sandy-bearded, German sign painter named Emanuel Ninger. As a sign painter he was adequate; as an impressionist, a historic master. And a soaring egotist. Not for him the ordinary counterfeiter’s conceit that his bills were as good as the government’s. Ninger insisted his were worth more.Read more »