1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jersey City
JERSEY CITY, a city and the county-seat of Hudson county, New Jersey, U.S.A., on a peninsula between the Hudson and Hackensack rivers at the N. and between New York and Newark bays at the S., opposite lower Manhattan Island. Pop. (1890), 163,003; (1900), 206,433, of whom 58,424 were foreign-born (19,314 Irish, 17,375 German, 4642 English, 3832 Italian, 1694 Russian, 1690 Scottish, 1643 Russian Poles, 1445 Austrian) and 3704 were negroes; (1910 census) 267,779. It is the eastern terminus of the Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, the West Shore, the Central of New Jersey, the Baltimore & Ohio, the Northern of New Jersey (operated by the Erie), the Erie, the New York, Susquehanna & Western, and the New Jersey & New York (controlled by the Erie) railways, the first three using the Pennsylvania station; and of the little-used Morris canal. Jersey City is served by several inter-urban electric railways and by the tunnels of the Hudson & Manhattan railroad company to Dey St. and to 33rd St. and 6th Ave., New York City, and it also has docks of several lines of Transatlantic and coast steamers. The city occupies a land area of 14.3 sq. m. and has a water-front of about 12 m. Bergen Hill, a southerly extension of the Palisades, extends longitudinally through it from north to south. At the north end this hill rises on the east side precipitously to a height of nearly 200 ft.; on the west and south sides the slope is gradual. On the crest of the hill is the fine Hudson County Boulevard, about 19 m. long and 100 ft. wide, extending through the city and county from north to south and passing through West Side Park, a splendid county park containing lakes and a 70-acre playground. The water-front, especially on the east side, is given up to manufacturing and shipping establishments. In the hill section are the better residences, most of which are wooden and detached.
The principal buildings are the city hall and the court house. There are nine small city parks with an aggregate area of 39.1 acres. The city has a public library containing (1907) 107,600 volumes and an historical museum. At the corner of Bergen Ave. and Forrest St. is the People’s Palace, given in 1904 by Joseph Milbank to the First Congregational church and containing a library and reading-room, a gymnasium, bowling alleys, a billiard-room, a rifle-range, a roof-garden, and an auditorium and theatre; kindergarten classes are held and an employment bureau is maintained. Among the educational institutions are the German American school, Hasbrouck institute, St Aloysius academy (Roman Catholic) and St Peter’s college (Roman Catholic); and there are good public schools. Grain is shipped to and from Jersey City in large quantities, and in general the city is an important shipping port; being included, however, in the port of New York, no separate statistics are available. There are large slaughtering establishments, and factories for the refining of sugar and for the manufacture of tobacco goods, soap and perfumery, lead pencils, iron and steel, railway cars, chemicals, rubber goods, silk goods, dressed lumber, and malt liquors. The value of the city’s manufactured products increased from $37,376,322 in 1890 to $77,225,116 in 1900, or 106.6%; in 1905 the factory product alone was valued at $75,740,934, an increase of only 3.9% over the factory product in 1900, this small rate of increase being due very largely to a decline in the value of the products of the sugar and molasses refining industry. The value of the wholesale slaughtering and meat-packing product decreased from $18,551,783 in 1880 and $11,356,511 in 1890 to $6,243,217 in 1900—of this $5,708,763 represented wholesale slaughtering alone; in 1905 the wholesale slaughtering product was valued at $7,568,739.
In 1908 the assessed valuation of the city was $267,039,754. The city is governed by a board of aldermen and a mayor (elected biennially), who appoints most of the officials, the street and water board being the principal exception.
Jersey City when first incorporated was a small sandy peninsula (an island at high tide) known as Paulus Hook, directly opposite the lower end of Manhattan Island. It had been a part of the Dutch patroonship of Pavonia granted to Michael Pauw in 1630. In 1633 the first buildings were erected, and for more than a century the Hook was occupied by a small agricultural and trading community. In 1764 a new post route between New York and Philadelphia passed through what is now the city, and direct ferry communication began with New York. Early in the War of Independence Paulus Hook was fortified by the Americans, but soon after the battle of Long Island they abandoned it, and on the 23rd of September 1776 it was occupied by the British. On the morning of the 19th of August 1779 the British garrison was surprised by Major Henry Lee (“Light Horse Harry”), who with about 500 men took 159 prisoners and lost only 2 killed and 3 wounded, one of the most brilliant exploits during the War of Independence. In 1804 Paulus Hook, containing 117 acres and having about 15 inhabitants, passed into the possession of three enterprising New York lawyers, who laid it out as a town and formed an association for its government, which was incorporated as the “associates of the Jersey company.” In 1820 the town was incorporated as the City of Jersey, but it remained a part of the township of Bergen until 1838, when it was reincorporated as a distinct municipality. In 1851 the township of Van Vorst, founded in 1804 between Paulus Hook and Hoboken, was annexed. In 1870 there were two annexations: to the south, the town of Bergen, the county-seat, which was founded in 1660; to the north-west, Hudson City, which had been separated from the township of North Bergen in 1852 and incorporated as a city in 1855. The town of Greenville, to the south, was annexed in 1873.