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Local History Department - Past Photos of the Month

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June 2017
Volunteer Nurses, 1917.

Continuing with the Library's commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the United States' entry into the Great War - World War I, here is a look at activity "back home." This photo captures a look at American Red Cross nurses recruiting women over 16 years of age for volunteer duty at home.

As wounded troops began to return home to receive medical care, the call went out to the women of America, who were eager to serve their country. The country needed new nursing volunteers to relieve the trained, graduate nurses leaving town to either serve at soldier hospitals to care and comfort the sick and wounded men, or those who were accepted by the Red Cross for Foreign Service in France.

The Red Cross arranged to train all new volunteers in "Home Care of the Sick" and "Elementary Hygiene Throughout the Country." The local Red Cross held classes starting in November 1917. The Home Nursing Classes consisted of fifteen lessons, three times a week for five weeks. For a class of ten students, the cost was $7, but would be only $5 if there were fifteen students.

Plainfield women, both Black and white, responded to the call. The course was held for $5 at the Red Cross Headquarters, located at 1107 Watchung Avenue, three days and/or nights a week. It was under the direction of Miss Budd, and all who passed the final examination successfully received a Red Cross certificate, which enabled the bearer to volunteer for service in convalescent homes for soldiers.

Photo ID: C10498 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

May 2017
Company K Group Photograph, circa 1917-1918.

Company K, Plainfield's Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard (NJNG) was one of the largest in it's Regiment. It was the first outfit from Plainfield called out for military service in World War I. It was led by Captain Charles A. Peterson. They were stationed at Camp Donelly in Trenton, before leaving for Fort Anniston, Alabama, on September 29, 1917. Several members went on to France by July 1918 with 113th and 114th Infantry Divisions.

Photo ID: C21650 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

April 2017
Vintage Handcolored Postcard of C.R.R.of NJ Station, Plainfield RR Station Looking East
Photograph by Edward A, Laing, ca. 1906.

The Plainfield Postcard Collection contains 2,000 postcards with 1,000 unique images. The Chase collection and the Ricketts collection make up the core of the library's holdings, depicting Plainfield in the early 1900s.

Postcard ID: P1881 - Part of the Plainfield Postcard Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2017
Signing of Union Agreement at 4th Street Dress Shop, August 1933.

In June 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) which established the National Recovery Administration (NRA). The NRA created codes of conduct for a variety of industries, including garment workers. These new codes regulated wages, hours, and the right to form worker unions (among other things). This had a tremendous effect across the country as great numbers of textile workers organized and went on strike, and practically shut down the industry.

In Plainfield, employees of local dress manufacturers and members of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, went on strike in August 1933 to receive the minimum required salary and regulated work hours as specified in the new NRA codes. As reported in The Courier News on August 17, 1933:

As the strike enters its second day, four shops in Plainfield are practically shut down. The first walkout occurred yesterday at 9 a. m. at the Raymond Dress Shop, 327 West Front Street, when 120 employees told their manager, Benjamin Fels, they were formally on strike.

They went to the Star concern at 501 Richmond Street. and after15 minutes of cajoling, induced the plant's force of 150 to join them. Later in the day, the entire staff of 35 women employed by the Rose Sports Wear Manufacturing Company, 114 East Fourth Street walked out, and 150 workers from the Acme Dress Company, 216 West Second Street, enlisted with the strikers.

An agreement was reached ten days later on 28th and employees went back to work on the August, 29, 1933..

This photo records the signing of the new Union agreement between local manager Louis Greenberg and the workers at the Rose Sports Wear shop.

Photo ID: C21296 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection

 

 

 

January 2017
Morning Gayety by John F. Carlson (1875-1945)
Oil on Canvas, circa 1930.

At the age of nine, Carlson emigrated with his family from Sweden to New York. In 1902 he won a scholarship to the Art Students League in New York City and six years later became assistant to the director of the league's summer school at Woodstock. Carlson was a proponent of painting directly from nature, and the countryside at Woodstock became an important source of subject matter for his landscapes. He was fond of painting winter scenes, and the compositional strength of trees in winter is evident in the library's two paintings.

Both of the library's Carlson paintings, along with eight other collection pieces, are included in the 2017 Netherwood Heights Neighbor's calendar, "The Artistic Riches of Plainfield."

Learn more about Carlson and the library's Fine Art Collection.

dec 2016

December 2016
Firemen - Fourth of July, 2016.

First Place Photograph, 2016 Annual Photography Contest, The Best of Plainfield: People, Places, and Things.

Photo by Gene Goldston

nov 2016

November 2016
Cedarbrook Park, 2009

2009 Annual Photography Contest, Four Seasons in Plainfield.

Photo by Joseph Stuczynski

oct 2016

 

October 2016
Bicycle Loop the Loop, May 1905.

The “Dreamland Carnival” to benefit Muhlenberg Hospital was immense. It covered nearly 5 acres of E. M. French’s show ground on West Fourth Street. Opening night brought 3,500 visitors under the glow of hundreds of electric lamps, bands, and automatic musical contrivances. 10,000 visitors were reported to attend the first Saturday! It was the biggest fair Plainfield had ever seen.

This image helped the library to promote the 2016 Tri-County History Fair held on October 22, 2016.

sept 2016

 

 

 

September 2016
Plainfield Public Library Receives 2016 Union County Grant Award

The Plainfield Public Library recently received a Union County Library Grant award of $7,764.00. The awards, given by the Union County Board if Chosen Freeholders, are to be used to broaden and strengthen children's programs in Union County libraries. Plainfield was one of twenty libraries to be selected for the award.

PPL will use the funds to support our new Museum Pass Program and a MakerCart. Read the press release here.

Photograph courtesy of ucnj.org/

book mobile 1972

August 2016
Plainfield Public Library Media-Mobile, 1972.

The Plainfield Public Library's Media-Mobile was a community outreach project that provided books and reference materials to the residents of Plainfield who were not able to visit the Library. In this photograph, from left to right, are Joyce Howard, Junior Library Clerk; Carol Stefanick, Coordinator; Anna Booker, Library Trustee and Member of the Advisory Council; Delois Howard, a Library patron; and Barney Keyes, Library Clerk Driver.

Photograph taken by Thomas Lowe for the Courier News.

fourth of july 1876

July 2016
Plainfield Fourth of July Parade Carriage on East Front Street, 1876.

This colorized image of a decorated carriage for the 1876 Plainfield Fourth of July parade (the Centennial celebration) was reproduced by Coronet Photos of Plainfield. The actual photographic print measures 16" x 20". The carriage is on the 100 block of East Front Street, in front of what would later become Hanewald's Bakery. Next door is Miller's Pharmacy, which would become Lion Shoes.

Photographic Preproduction circa 1960s - 1970s by Coronet Photos.

i had the blues postcard image

June 2016
I Had The Blues (Vintage Postcard), circa 1903-1906.

This souvenir leather postcard was designed by famed postcard artist, Raphael Tuck. This image of a nurse pushing a baby carriage escorted by two uniformed gents was used for souvenir cards across the United States. The "I had the blues" sentiment was a popular one to send while away from home.

Part of the Plainfield Postcard Collection

C657

May 2016
North Avenue Side of Plainfield Station C.R.R. of N.J. (Vintage Postcard), c. 1909.

Plainfield Railroad Station on North Avenue, view of north side, with horse-drawn carriages, motor car, and pedestrians. Postmark 1909. The station was built in 1902 and is listed on the state and federal register of historic places.

Photo ID: C657 - Part of the Plainfield Postcard Collection

P718

April 2016
Plainfield Public Library, c. 1915

Public Library-Carnegie Building (built 1912), front view behind trees and lawn. This postcard is postmarked April 1915.

Postcard ID: P-718 - Part of the Plainfield Postcard Collection

V7353

March 2016
Welcome Spring!

Photo ID: V7353 - Part of the 2009 4th Annual Photograph Contest exhibition Four Seasons in Plainfield. Photo by Bernice Paglia

C658

February 2016
8:30 A.M. Train to New York, C.R.R. of N.J. Plainfield, N.J.

Plainfield Railroad Station, view of morning commuter train in winter, looking west, circa 1909.

Photo ID: C658 - Part of the Chase Postcard Collection

postcard January 2016
Brook Scene, Plainfield, N.J., circa 1910s.

A colorful illustration of a brook scene in winter at sunset in Plainfield. This card was printed by Line & Co. in Elizabeth, NJ.

Photo ID: C929 - Part of the Chase Postcard Collection

V7000 December 2015
Netherwood Christmas, 2001.

A snow-covered Netherwood Train Station at holiday time. This photo by William Monroe won first place in the Library's first annual photography competition in 2006, "Plainfield In Focus: Photo-Documentation of a Changing Community.”

Photo ID: V7000 - Part of the Historical Photograph Collection

canned food drive

November 2015
Elks Canned Food Collection, 1946

The local Elks and Loizeaux Lumber sponsor a canned food collection "for the starving people of Europe." The man on the far right is Mr. Torbush, a Studebaker dealer. Canned goods include: Campbells Soup, UCO Grapefruit Juice, Hurff Vegetable Soup, Harris Crab Meat, Heinz Baked Beans, among others.

Every year Plainfield Public Library accepts non-perishable food items and pet food items from November 1 to December 31 as part of our annual "Food for Fines" program.

Photo ID: C21019 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection

P-1424

 

 

 

 

April 2015
West Front Street Trolley Scene, circa 1900s.

The first trolley (electric streetcar) came to Plainfield on August 9, 1892 replacing most of the city's mule-drawn vehicles. A front page Plainfield Evening News article described a large crowd of people lining up along Front Street to witness its maiden voyage. "The car is handsome, but small, and is finished in Royal Blue." There were two newspapers in town that battled heatedly about whether the trolleys were desirable or dangerous. The Constitutionalist ran an article "Triumphant at Last” on August 18, 1892 saying "Swift and safe transportation is at last an assured reality. The cars are noiseless and luxurious."

The Plainfield Postcard Collection contains 2,000 postcards with 1,000 unique images. The Chase collection and the Ricketts collection make up the core of the Llibrary's holdings, depicting Plainfield in the early 1900s.  

Learn more about transportation in Plainfield through the Library's On The Move online exhibit.

Image: Part of the Chase Postcard Collection, P-1424.

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September 2014
Residence for A.F. Van Horn M.D. Plainfield N.J., 1904. N.K. Aldrich, architect.

The Plainfield Public Library announces a new exhibition in honor of New Jersey’s 350th anniversary celebration (NJ350).  The library is displaying never-before seen examples from its collection of historical blueprints that date back to 1887.  The 70-piece exhibit consists of wall exhibits and display cases on both levels of the library.  The featured blueprints represent thirty-five different sets of drawings by 24 architects.  The oldest drawing on exhibit is of the Plainfield Golf Club dating from 1896. 

The Charles H. Detwiller, Jr. Architectural Drawings Collection contains over 16,000 sets of drawings, documenting over a century of residential and commercial architecture in the greater Plainfield area. This collection of blueprints that document the growth of a suburban community is unique in the United States.

Over 500 architects are represented, including architect George Ernest Robinson, who was a nationally known architect in firehouse design.  Plainfield’s Fire Headquarters building, designed by him in 1925, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Preservation of the aging documents began by the library in 1998.  The processing of the collection is still ongoing.  The cost of microfilming, digitization, and cataloging is entirely supported through grant funding and volunteer assistance.  Major funders include The Institute for Museum and Library Services; The New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State; the Plainfield Foundation; and the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library.

V7733

June 2014
East Front Street Storefronts, 1964.

Storefronts from 154-156 to 186-188 E. Front Street. Shops include The Surprise Store, Lucky Spot, Littman's Diamonds, Essel Paints & Wallpapers, and Wolfson's Curtains. A circa 1964 Pontiac Bonnevillle is parked at the curb. Down the street, on the ground level of the large Victorian-style building. are Ben's Bar & Grill,The Book House, and the Plainfield Lace Store.

The photograph was taken by Harold G. Morse, a local photographer active during the 1950s-1970s.

Photo ID: V7733 - Historical Photograph Collection

C40714

May 2014
Plainfield Motorcycle Club, 1916.

The men and women of the Plainfield Motorcycle Club pose with their bikes on Somerset Street in North Plainfield. As reported in the Plainfield Daily Press on April 17, 1916, "The Plainfield motorcycle club enjoyed its first ride of the season Sunday. The destination was Flemington. 25 members turned out for the ride, assembling at Jack Horner's store on Somerset Street...They mounted their steeds at 11 o'clock and were in Flemington by 1 o'clock, going there by way of Bound Brook, Somerville, and White House....

The photograph was taken in front of Horner's bicycle and motorcycle shop (center), the Randall Harness Company (left) and H. J. Pasch seller of meats, provisions and poultry (right), on 31-35 Somerset Street.

Photo ID: C40714 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection

L1805

 

 

 

 

April 2014
Dorothea Dix Lawrence in the Garden, circa 1902-1903.

Reina Lawrence took this photo of Dorothea Dix, her niece, playing in the garden when Dorothea was aged three or four. It was taken in the side yard of Reina’s home at  512 Stelle Avenue in Plainfield. Dorothea grew up to be a famous opera singer, folklorist, and recitalist. One of the most significant contributions she made to the world of music was publishing the book Folklore Songs of the United States in 1945.

Reina worked as freelance writer, contributor, and representative for Photo Era Magazine, The American Journal of Photography.  Through much of her career as a photographer, she produced silver gelatin prints from glass plate negatives.  Her photography celebrates Plainfield's architecture, gardens, and people. 

The Dorothea Dix and Reina Lawrence Collection is currently on display as part of the Library’s Notable Women of Plainfield exhibition. The exhibit will run through the end of May.


Photo ID: L1805 - Part of the Reina Lawrence Photograph Collection

V7441

 

March 2014
Thief!, August 2009.

Plainfield Photographer William Monroe won First Place in the "East Side" category for this photograph in the 2010 Annual Plainfield Photograph Contest: East Side, West Side, All Around The Town. This perfectly-timed photo of a squirrel in a red birdhouse was taken at 604 Sterling Street in Plainfield.

Mr. Monroe has won awards in many of the Library's photography competitions. He was featured, along with two other Plainfield photographers, in the Library's first Summer Invitational Photography Exhibition in July 2011.

Photo ID: V7441 - Part of the Historical Photograph Collection.

V7371

 

February 2014
Winter on the Farm, 2009.

Plainfield Photographer William Monroe won Third Place for this beautiful winter-time photograph of a small brick building next to large barn with snow on the ground at Peterson Farm, located at 1227 Cushing Road, in the 2009 Annual Plainfield Photograph Contest: Four Seasons in Plainfield.

Mr. Monroe has won awards in many of the Library's photography competitions. He was featured, along with two other Plainfield photographers, in the Library's first Summer Invitational Photography Exhibition in July 2011.

Photo ID: V7371 - Part of the Historical Photograph Collection.

C40134

 

 

 

 

 

January 2014
Jonas Lie leading children's tour in Art Gallery, 1921.

Artist Jonas Lie leading a tour of school children in the old Plainfield Library Art Gallery through an exhibit presented by Mr. Lie himself.

Jonas Lie (1880-1940) was born in Moss, Norway, the son of an American mother and a Norwegian father. He first studied art in Paris at the age of twelve. With the death of his father, Jonas moved with his mother to Plainfield in 1893. After finishing school in 1897, he worked full time as a textile designer to support his mother and sisters but continued his studies at night at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. By 1901 he was already exhibiting his paintings, and by 1904 was garnering the first of the many prizes he would receive for his work. Although he chose to live and work in the United States, and was later elected President of the National Academy of Design, Lie returned regularly to Norway to paint.

The painting, "Standing Alone," was originally owned by Eliza E. Kenyon, Head-Mistress of the old Plainfield Seminary and founder of the Kenyon School for Girls. Miss Kenyon gave the painting to her great niece, Eleanor Stimson Brooks, wife of noted literary critic and Plainfield resident, Van Wyck Brooks. Later, Mr. Brooks gave the painting to the Library as a bequest of his wife upon her passing. Other works by Lie can been seen at Plainfield's Drake House and All Souls Unitarian Church.

Photo ID: C40134 - Part of the Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

C20581

December 2013
Green Brook Park in Winter, circa 1940s.

Green Brook Park, on West End Avenue, is one of two county parks in Plainfield. The Green Brook runs through the park, which has banks on both the Plainfield and North Plainfield sides. Work on the park began in 1923 following an appropriations of $100,000 towards the purchase of fifty-two acres of land in the Green Brook valley on Plainfield's west end. The park was complete with a wading pool, playground, and sand box, as well as an athletic field and ball grounds. At one time there was a band stand, a bowling green, horseshoe courts, and more. Two small lakes provided skating and fishing. The dominant feature of the park was landscape, as shown in this beautiful photograph taken on a quiet winter day.

Photo ID: C20581 - Part of the Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

CN2100

November 2013
Plainfield Trolley, 1906.

The West Fourth Street Trolley No. 229 stops for a photograph on Watching and North Avenues. The motorman on the trolley is Peter Peterson. In civilian clothes at the left is Police Captain John Flynn (later chief). Policeman at right is John Kelly, a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary before coming to the United States. The little boy peeking out is Frank Mullin.

The first trolley (electric streetcar) came to town on August 10, 1892 replacing most of the mule-drawn vehicles. A front page Plainfield Evening News article describes a large crowd of people lining up along Front Street to witness its maiden voyage. "The car is handsome, but small, and is finished in Royal Blue."

Photo ID: CN2100 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Archive. The photographer has been identified as Mueller picture.

C21729 October 2013
Trembley Halloween Party, November 1, 1930.

A group of costumed party-goers, and a sleepy little clown, pose for a group portrait at Mr. and Mrs. Trembley's Halloween party. William and Hazel Trembley resided at 932 West 7th Street in Plainfield. This photo is part of the "Plainfield Celebrates!" exhibit on display in the Library lobby through October 2013.

The exhibit is helping to promote this year's Annual Photography Contest: Plainfield Celebrates. Join us on November 2nd to find out who won the 2013 contest.

Photo ID: C21729 - Part of the Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

C20414

September 2013
French School of Music Classroom, May 1939

The French School opened in December 1927 as the French School of Music on 514 Park Avenue in Plainfield. It was started by Yvonne Combe and Helene Pfieffer, two European musicians, who eventually came to reside in Plainfield. They offered teaching methods for piano and solfege developed by Combe in Paris. By 1940, the school had moved to 210 W. Eighth Street, where Mlle. Pfeiffer also resided.

Photo ID: C20414 - Part of the Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

V7346

August 2013
Summer Flowers in the Park

This photo of a flowering shrub in Plainfield Square Park on South Avenue was taken by Brian Cook in September 2009 for the Library's Annual Photograph Contest. The theme of the 2009 competition was "Four Seasons in Plainfield."

The 2013 contest theme is "Plainfield Celebrates!" The submission deadline is September 27, 2013. All are welcome to join in. Details and entry forms are available online here.

Photo ID: V7346 - Part of the Historical Photograpgh Collection

naturalization

July 2013
Naturalization Ceremony, July 3, 2013

In this photo, John Thompson, New Jersey district director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Adrian Mapp, two-term city councilman and Plainfield Democratic mayoral candidate, congratulates a newly naturalized citizen. The ceremony took place in the Anne Louise Davis Gallery at Plainfield Public LIbrary.

Read more about the event here.

I50964 June 2013
Madison & 5th, 1983

The year was 1983: Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American to be crowned Miss America, Run-D.M.C.'s debut single, "It's Like That" was the rap song of the summer, and Michael Jackson's Thriller topped the music charts worldwide.

In this photo, a group of young people, dressed to impress, enjoy a summer evening by watching a basketball game at the court on Madison and 5th. This photo was taken by Plainfield photographer, Irving Georges and is part of his Downtown Plainfield series. Georges' images document his life and the city's residents from the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The collection highlights adults and youth engaged in athletics, community events, and everyday activities. Mr. Georges was one of the photographers featured in the Library's Chronicles of Plainfield photography exhibition.

If you can identify any of the individuals in this photograph, please let us know.

Part of the Irving & Clotee Georges Photograph Collection.

may2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2013
May Day Fête at Plainfield Seminary, May 24, 1912.

The May Day Fête at the Plainfield Seminary was an annual event. In 1912, The Plainfield Daily Press and another local newspaper reported that 4500 guests gathered on the Seminary lawn to enjoy that year's merry-making. The celebration opened with a costumed entourage leading the way for the May Queen, Miss Ruth Timpson, who rode a white horse. These were followed by dancers and players of all kinds. The parade ended with a "motley throng of peasants, clowns, tumblers and a jabberwock." The Queen was crowned with a wreath of daisies, and then the main festivities began. The first dance, seen in the photo, was called, "The Winding of the May-Pole." Fifteen girls twirled around the flower-crowned May-pole in charming costumes of pink and blue. The May-pole was a tall pole erected in the middle of a clearing, decorated with flowers and long ribbons attached to the top.  Each girl held the end of a ribbon, and wove the ribbons in a pattern around the pole as they danced round and round. The dance celebrated youth and the changing of the seasons. Several acts followed, including more dancers, clowns, and a presentation of Shakespeare's "Pyramus and Thisbe" from A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Fete concluded with a cotillion figure (a patterned social dance, like a square dance) in which the whole school joined. Although the May Day tradition has pagan roots, this connection was minimized. Instead, celebrants enjoyed the flowers, music and dancing of a secular, community-oriented festival.

May Day activities like this were common in Plainfield, and America, since Victorian times. Over the years, a number of local clubs and organizations held similar celebrations in Plainfield parks, gardens, and estates. They were joyful celebrations with flowers, food, dancing, and "Bringing in the May." Flowers were woven into garlands and wreaths, posies for people to wear, and bouquets to fill May baskets, which were decorated heavily, and hung on doors around town.

Located on West 7th Street, near Park Avenue, the Plainfield Seminary building was constructed in 1855 and was known as “The Chestnuts.” At that time it housed the Opheleton Female Seminary, which was founded by E. Dean Dow.  Around 1867, Miss E. E. Kenyon, a prominent society lady and founder of the Monday Afternoon Club, and her sister, Mrs. Maxson, took over Opheleton. The Seminary, also known as the “Plainfield College for Young Ladies,” “Plainfield Seminary for Young Ladies and Children,” and “Miss Kenyon’s Seminary” had day students and boarding students.  Although the Seminary closed its doors on June 9, 1919, it had an active alumnae group which held meetings for many years. This photograph is part of the Plainfield Seminary Scrapbook Collection, which is comprised of three volumes dating from 1867 to 1923.

Part of the Historical Photograph Collection.

crescent

April 2013
Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church Choir, Pastor and Director, December 1891.

The Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church was founded in 1844 at 120 East Front in Plainfiield, in a modest building of the New England meeting house style. The first church was built in 1871 near the juncture of La Grande, Crescent Avenue and Broadway (now Watchung Avenue) on land donated by Job Male. The building was patterned after the Gothic churches and cathedrals of Europe. A fire in 1931 destroyed the church, with the exception of its exterior stone walls. It was rebuilt in 1934, with the addition of a clerestory.

The church was originally organized as the 2nd Presbyterian Church. The name "Crescent Avenue" was adopted in 1883, following its incorporation. The first pastor of the Crescent Avenue church was Rev. William R. Richards (1884-1902).

On Saturday, April 27, 2013, the Plainfield Cultural & Heritage Commission and Plainfield Cahmber of Commerce are co-sponsoring a tour of historic churches in Plainfield. During the month of April, Plainfield Public Library's Local History Department will present a related exhibition entitled, Building Faith in Plainfield: Exploring the City's History Through Its Houses of Worship. Over 100 photographs, vintage postcards, and related artifacts and ephemera representing 36 local houses of worship will be on public display throughout the Library. Materials date from the 1790s to the 1970s. The exhibition ran through June 2013.

march2013

March 2013
League of Women Voters, circa 1929.

The League of Women Voters of Plainfield is one of the oldest active leagues in the United States.  After a mass meeting on May 10, 1920 to form a Plainfield League, the first meeting of the League of Women Voters of Plainfield and North Plainfield took place on May 14, 1920 (three months to the day after the formation of the National League of Women Voters, and a mere one month after formation of the New Jersey league).  It was originally open only to women.  By September of 1920, over 3,000 women in Plainfield registered to vote after attending a citizenship school over the summer.  Dues were only 20¢ a year for a regular membership. There were departments for: Child Welfare, Social Hygiene, Women in Industry, Legislation, Citizenship, and Fair Price. There were standing committees for: publicity, finance, speakers, entertainment, and enrollment.  North Plainfield formed its own League in September 1953.

blizzard

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2013
Blizzard Hits Plainfield on March 2, 1914

On March 2, 1914, New Jersey was hit with one of the worst snow storms in twenty-six years. In Plainfield, telephone and telegraph service was crippled, there was no electric light or power, the city streets were piled deep in snow and both the trolley system and railroad were disabled.

People were forced to light their homes using candles and oil lamps. The Plainfield Daily Press reported that, "unusual precautions were taken by Fire Chief Doane to prevent the spread of any conflagration." Indeed, "the fireman of this city ... kept watchful vigil over lives and property..." throughout the storm. Luckily, only two small fires did occur, but were caught before they could spread.

In this photo taken amidst the swirling snowfall, Chief Thaddeus Doane (far left) stands with Mayor Percy Stewart. Two fire fighters are seated, covered in snow, on the Department's customized Dayton Motorcycle. The second rider provided extra weight for added traction during their patrol that day. The cycle was outfitted with a chemical tank, which used a combination of baking soda and acid to create a stream of water; this would be useful on small fires. Also on board was a regular fire extinguisher, a fire bell, a basket of hose on top, and probably an axe. Note the kerosene lantern on the side. Dayton motorcycles are very rare today.

Part of the Historical Photograph Collection.

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December 2012 - January 2013
"Winter" - - A Skating Scene. Drawn by Winslow Homer

This whimsical skating image from a wood-cut engraving on paper is by American artist, Winslow Homer. The original lithograph is approximately 11" x 15" and appeared in Harpers Weekly magazine on January 25, 1868. It was accompanied by an article on the preceding page entitled, "Skating-Overdoing It," which discussed the health-related benefits and risks of ice skating, and warned readers not to overdo it:

"Our young girls too are overdoing it, we suspect, in their skating parties. We should be sorry to say any thing against an amusement productive of so much innocent pleasure, and exercise so favorable to to health when properly regulated. It is essential, however, that the temptation to excess should be carefully guarded against. The competition of a skating race often leads to a prolonged and excessive strain on the muscles, full of risk to the peculiar organization of woman, and we know of many fatal results in consequence."

The Plainfield Public Library owns over seventy of Winslow Homer’s original wood-cut engravings that appeared in Harpers Weekly magazine from 1858 through 1874.  These engravings predate his important work in oil and watercolor.  In contrast to his majestic seascapes, they chronicle life in 19th century America in great detail, including winter scenes, fall harvest activities, summertime at the seashore, and a variety of popular holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas , St. Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July, and New Year’s Eve.  In short, life as it might have been lived in Plainfield.  The skaters depicted in this engraving are dressed similarly to those who could have been seen skating on Tier's Pond at this time.

Homer was born in Boston in 1836 and died in Maine in 1910. He began his career as a free-lance magazine illustrator in 1857 and won praise for many of his paintings - watercolors in particular. His first mature oil paintings, dating from 1862, were of Civil War subjects. In these, he was concerned with the effect of light and shade, much like the early French Impressionists of the same period. He lived in France for a year (1867), and the impact of Impressionist composition appears in many of his later works of all periods. Homer's work took him to many locations, which appear frequently in his paintings. In addition to the coasts of New England and Cullercoats, he also painted in the West Indies, and Long Branch, New Jersey.

Part of the Fine Arts Collection.

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April 2012
Mrs. Henrietta Herring's Garden, 1915.

Mrs. Henrietta B. Herring was the founder of the Plainfield Garden Club. She resided at 807 Third Street in Plainfield.

The Plainfield Garden Club (PGC) was established by Mrs. Herring, who met with 19 local ladies in April 1915 at the Plainfield Public Library to gauge interest in forming such an organization.  The Club was officially and enthusiastically formed one month later, in May, with 48 charter members.  Dues at that time were $2 per year.  By 1965, the membership had grown to 84, with dues of $25 to $30 based on membership type.  The PGC became an official chapter of the Garden Club of America in 1944.  Since its inception, the major interests of the Club have been conservation, horticulture, and botanical exhibitions. 

The Club is most notably credited with the creation and maintenance of four specific projects in the Plainfield community: The Shakespeare Garden, The Cornus Arboretum, The Iris Garden, and the Vest Pocket Garden; all but Vest Pocket Garden exist today.  The most well-known is the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park.  This garden was initiated by Mrs. Howard C. Fleming of the Plainfield Shakespeare Society and planted by the PGC in 1927.  Originally planned as a small project, it received strong backing by the local Park Commission. The Olmsted Brothers of Boston, the famous landscape architects, were hired to plot out two 100 foot beds with four additional flower beds.  The PGC members filled them with flowers from Shakespearean works, labeled them with botanical and folk names, as well as quotes and phrases of literary interest – a practice continued to this day.

In March 2012, The Shakespeare Garden became site #54 on New Jersey's Women's Heritage Trail.

Photo # V7617 - Part of the Plainfield Garden Club Collection

C21124

 

 

 

 

March 2012
Riding School, circa 1919.

Students and staff of a local riding school "ham it up" for a photograph. The ladies and girls are grinning - suppressing a laugh.

Plainfielders have had an interest in equestrian activities ever since the 1800s. For years, horseback riding was a favorite past-time of wealthy residents.  During the 1880s, clubs and organizations were formed to accommodate this local interest. The Plainfield Riding Club began in the 1880s. By 1893, there became a need for an actual school. Mrs. Percy Ohl took on this challenge and opened Plainfield's first riding school. She leased the Crescent Rink building, tore out the dance floor, and had it converted into a horse-riding ring. At the time, the Rink Riding School was the largest in New Jersey.

More schools and clubs opened up in the following decades. In the early 1900's Hugh Gormley's School on Kensignton Avenue opened and catered to women and children. In 1904 the Plainfield Riding and Driving Club was established. In the 1910s, Joseph Grandl purchased Gormley's school and It became the Kensington Riding School. The Park Riding School opened during the 1920s and was active into the early 1930s.

Photo # C21124 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

image

 

 

 

February 2012
Fourth Position [Limited Edition Print]

Plainfield artist Alonzo Adams grew up using the Plainfield Public Library, which is proud to own several of his original paintings and signed prints. The body of his work portrays contemporary Black lifestyles, "inspired by everyday sights and sounds that deserve immortality in a constantly changing world." His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at major public and private venues in the East, including Howard University and the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C. His works hang in the collections of Bill Cosby, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou and Senator Bill Bradley, among others.

Last February, Mr. Adams generously donated six prints of his artwork to Plainfield Public Library's Fine Arts Collection. In an effort to encourage Plainfield youth to "pick up a paint brush instead of a gun." He has plans to donate even more artwork, valued over $10,000, to various New Jersey organizations.

Part of the Fine Arts Collection

image

 

 

January 2012
Ice Skaters, circa 1910.

This old glass plate negative shows groups of people ice skating on a frozen stream in Plainfield's Cedar Brook Park. Skating has always been an enjoyable winter past-time. Tier's Pond (formerly Boice's Pond) was also a popular ice skating spot in Plainfield.

The wet collodion process, developed in the 1850s, was a photographic process that created "wet" glass plates as negatives that, exposed to light, could capture images for printing. The process utilized chemical salts which were dissolved in collodion, a solution of pyroxylin in alcohol and ether. It was poured onto a cleaned glass plate, and the plate was then placed into a solution of silver nitrate and water, which would convert the salts to silver iodide, bromide or chloride, depending on the salt used. Once this reaction was complete, the plate was removed from the silver nitrate solution, and exposed in a camera while still wet. It was developed with a solution of iron sulfate, acetic acid and alcohol in water. It was the first widely used photographic process which resulted in a negative image on a transparent photographic medium (such as glass).

Photo # C10580 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

Childrens

October 2011
The New Children's Library is Open, September 2011.

The newly renovated Plainfield Public Library’s Children’s Library, “the Reading Rainforest”, is our gift to the children of Plainfield.  Featuring a rainforest mural, new computers, a media center, puppet theater and a special area for tweens, the space emphasizes today’s environmental issues while paying tribute to the multiculturalism that is Plainfield .

 

T2050

[Caption: The Big Flood of July 30, 1889 | Somerset Street looking north 6:30 p.m.]

Visible in this photograph are the rooftop of Martin's Blacksmith Shop and the French's Fine Carriages building to the right. There are hanging signs on the left side of the street for the Farmer's Hotel and Haberle's Sigars (sic) and Tobacco.

A crowd looks on from the end of the street.

 

September 2011
The Big Flood of July 30, 1889.

In the summer of 1889, the city of Plainfield was ravaged by a great flood, which began with a tremendous torrent of rain on the afternoon of July 30th.   The mountainsides rushed with water that poured into the city. The flood swept through Wetumpka Falls and the gorge, and then on through Stony Brook, where it brushed through the Coddington Dam and ice houses. The Wilson Dam, and ultimately five others, also gave way.  The lower bridge connecting the Boice estate with Somerset Street was torn from its abutments.  The Stony Brook section was completely submerged. By 5 o’clock, the three dams at Feltsville were demolished, and the water poured into Plainfield.  Seeley’s paper mill was entirely destroyed and part of Tier’s Dam fell.

At that point, the flood forked in two. One side raged straight ahead and submerged the business part of the city. According to the Plainfield Daily Press, it "carried Martin’s blacksmith shop to the middle of Somerset Street, partly tore down French’s carriage factory and grist mills, twisted a Chinese laundry all about,... tore a gap thirty feet wide and ten feet deep through the street itself, and flooded the entire central section along the line of Green Brook." The residents of the tenement houses behind French’s Mills were rescued in boats!

The second fork changed the course of Cedar Brook back into its old bed which ran along Berckman Street through Richmond and Broadway.  The Park Avenue Baptist Church was partly submerged.

It was also reported that excited Plainfielders were up all night and in the streets; telegraphic communications were cut off. There were a few small washouts of the Central Railroad.  Although they were remedied, the trains were far behind time. Bound Brook was completely underwater. The 1889 flood was the worst natural disaster that New Jersey had seen in many years. Three people were drowned (none from Plainfield), and many crops and farm animals were lost.

Here's a photograph of what the scene looked like the following day after the water subsided.

Photo # T2050 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Photograph Collection.

V7484 August 2011
Quiet Rest, 2010.

This photograph of a quiet spot in Plainfield's Shakespeare garden in Cedarbrook Park won Honorable Mention in the Library's 2010 Photography Contest, East Side, West Side, All Around the Town. Heather Meyer Bissett, photographer.

Photo # V7484 - Part of the Local History Photograph Collection.

V7501

July 2011
Plainfield Porch Oasis - Welcome, Come In, 2010.

This photograph, taken by local photographer Elizabeth King, is one of Plainfield's beautiful porches. It won "Third Place - East Side" in the Library's 2010 Annual Photo Contest. Porches were an important part of our American lifestyle.  As the pace of life slowed to allow time for leisure, the porch took on both social and architectural importance. Check out more of Plainfield's porches in our online exhibit, Plainfield Porches, 1900-1950.

Photo #V7501 - Part of the Local History Photograph Collection.

V7372

June 2011
Autumn in the Shakespeare Garden, 2009.

This photograph of the Shakespeare Garden in Plainfield's Cedar Brook Park was taken by William Monroe for the Library's Annual Photography Contest in 2009. The garden was initiated by Mrs. Howard C. Fleming of Plainfield's Shakespeare Society and planted by the Plainfield Garden Club in 1927.  Originally planned as a small project, it received strong backing by the local Park Commission. The Olmsted Brothers of Boston, the famous landscape architects, were hired to plot out two 100 foot beds with four additional flower beds. Garden Club members filled them with flowers from Shakespearean works, labeled them with botanical and folk names, as well as quotes and phrases of literary interest – a practice continued to this day.

Photo # V7372 - Part of the Local History Photograph Collection.

VV60200

May 2011
Four generations of Vail women, circa 1934.

Formal portrait of four generations of Vail women: Elise Ditzel Leis, Ida Leis Steihl, Ida Steihl Vail and Marjorie Estelle Vail as a toddler. The Vail family was one of the first families to settle in New Jersey. The Vails have always been an integral part of the life of Plainfield, and were a dominate influence from its beginning.  Three of the original twelve Pioneers of Plainfield were Vails. 

Photo # VV60200 - Part of the Vail Photograph Collection.

C40658

April 2011
St. Mary's Columbus Cadet Corps Band, ca. 1920s.

This is a group photograph of the clergy, staff and student members of St. Mary's Columbus Cadet Corps band of Plainfield, NJ. Part of the larger, national organization, the Columbus Cadet Corps of Plainfield was formed by the Knights of Columbus in 1922, in collaboration with St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, to teach leadership skills to boys age 12 to 16. Reverend Walter A. Hennesey, Curate of St. Mary's from 1916 to 1935, was president. Concerts were often held at Columbus Hall on West Front Street. If you have more information about the Columbus Cadet Corps, please contact the Local History Department.

Photo # C40658 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

jury

 

 

 

March 2011
Women appear on the jury of the Plainfield District Court for the first time, April 13, 1921.

On April 13, 1921, women sat on the jury in the Plainfield District Court for the first time. Judge J. Henry Crane presided over the case, which was that of Ignacia DeFynfo, a real estate operator, who accused John Miklos and his wife of Rahway of unlawful detainer of a property. The defense attorney was John Stamler of Elizabeth and the attorney for the plaintiff was Irving Kunzman. The jury women, who sat in the front row, were Mrs. Florance Runyon, wife of State Senator William N. Runyon; Mrs. Florence Anthony, wife of Dr. William H. Anthony of Plainfield; and Mrs. Eva Van Hoesen, wife of Stephen G. Van Hoesen of Fanwood. The jury decided in favor of the defendants. During the proceedings, Judge Crane permitted Paul Collier and Henry Bryniarski to take a photograph of the jury and others in the court room. After the verdict was returned, each juror received a 75 cents juror fee. According to a Plainfield Courier News article the following day, "...the women expressed the opinion that it was not such a difficult matter to do duty, although Mrs. Anthony remarked that she could have accomplished much more if she had spent the afternoon at home." The other jurors who served that day were: Edward A. Laing, John Dahl, Lamar Van Syckel, George Edwards, Donald McInnis, Francis Wernig, Charles S. Thorp, James Harrison, and Charles Keller.

Photo # C40121 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

CN2080

 

 

 

February 2011
A heart as big as a house, February 11, 1938.

This photo shows the nearly completed construction of the Plainfield Humane Society on Rock Avenue. The five new outbuildings and the dog warden’s home (in the photo) were painted with large red hearts in time for Valentine’s Day. The buildings were decorated at the insistence of long-time benefactor and Plainfield resident, Samuel W. Rushmore. The grand opening was publicized in the daily newspaper with the phrase, "Have a Heart - Help Your Pals!"

The Society opened in 1933. The original shelter was broken down and in need of repair by 1938.  Rushmore, a local inventor, contributed several thousand dollars towards new veterinary equipment, and he personally installed the 54-foot sign on top of the hospital.  The new building became more than a simple shelter, but was devoted to the hospitalization of the city’s sick and injured animals. The Humane Society still operates and is located at 75 Rock Avenue. The photograph was taken by R. H. Sears.

Photo # CN2080 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Archive

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January 2011

Coretta Scott King speaking in Plainfield, November 1, 1980.

Coretta Scott King, widow of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., urges Plainfielders to reelect Jimmy Carter at a rally in front of the Democratic headquarters on Front Street in Plainfield. Mrs. King said,

"If we're going to have a government that's all inclusive - blacks, Hispanics - then all people must be involved."

In addition to human rights issues, she stressed the importance of voting and the Equal Rights Amendment. She also noted that President Carter has, "not done all the things he may have wanted or we wanted, but it takes time to change policy."

Listening behind her are (from left to right): City Council candidate William Merritt, Councilman Rick Taylor (Mayor of Plainfield from 1984 to 1989) and city Democratic Chairman Joe Montgomery.

Photo # CN1350 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Archive.

   

C20210

December 2010
Horse-drawn Sleigh in Snow, circa 1915-1920.
Horse-drawn sleigh in front of 772 Kensington Avenue; the sleigh is shown stopped on snow-covered street. A woman and child, covered in a bear skin blanket, are seated in the sleigh. Sleigh and horse were associated with the Plainfield Riding Academy, which was located across the street.

Photo # C20210 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Collection.

   
C40423 November 2010
World War I Soldiers Leave for Duty, circa 1916.
Local soldiers from Plainfield and Dunellen on a train departing from Plainfield Station. A couple embraces from the train window; the young man behind them is holding a bottle of Concord Grape soda. A sentiment of brotherhood from the film, "The Three Musketeers," which made its Plainfield debut in Proctor's Theater in March 1916, is expressed in writing on the side of the train.

Photo # C40423 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Collection
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CN1331 October 2010
Joe Black and Milt Campbell, 1952.
Joe Black (left), Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher and Plainfield High School graduate,
with Milt Campbell (right) on the occasion of receiving Newark A.C. trophies as top athletes of New Jersey. Black as No. 1 Professional Athlete and Campbell as No. 1 Schoolboy.
View more photographs in the online exhibit: Milt Campbell, Plainfield Champion.

Photo # CN1331 - Part of the recently acquired Courier News Photograph Archive.

 

   
Shakespeare

September 2010
The Shakespeare Club, May 1890.
Early members of The Shakespeare Club (later known as the Shakespeare Society) of Plainfield. This image was photographed by flashlight, a newly invented technology using a magnesium-coated wire in a glass globe to light the scene. This image was part of the Courier News "As It Was" series in the 1950s.

Photo #CN2087 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Archive.

 

   
I52907 August 2010
Tollver Girls in the Pool on Ironbound Avenue, 1975.
Neighbors of the Georges family having fun in the pool on a warm summer day. The house is located at 1050 Ironbound Avenue in Plainfield.

Photo #I52907 - Part of the Irving Georges Collection.
 
L1301

July Bonus 2010
Girls in the Garden, ca. 1900-1919.
Dorothea Dix Lawrence (right) and a young girl wearing fancy dresses by a fence in a garden. The house behind them is located at 501 Stelle Avenue in Plainfield.

Photo #L1301 - Part of the Reina Lawrence Collection.

 

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July 2010
Double Winning Float, July 4, 1949.
Passing in front a house West Front Street (at the corner of Plainfield Avenue); Drake House is to the left; hidden by foliage.

The Steuben Society of America’s Peter Muhlenberg Unit #398 float in Plainfield’s 80th Anniversary and Fourth of July Parade was awarded first prize in the most patriotic float division and third prize in the most appropriate division. The side banner reads, “Spirit and Patriotism such as theirs, made cities like ours possible.” Sign on back reads, “Gen. Von Steuben Society.” On this elaborate float are: Molly Pitcher, Revolutionary War heroine, and Betsy Ross, along with a scale model of Plainfield City Hall.  The model was designed and built by Ludwig Herrmann, chairman of the float committee. That year’s celebration witnessed a record sweltering heat of 104.4 degrees, which was accompanied by dust and rain storms that almost prevented the grand fireworks display that evening.

Photo by Harold Morse; Part of the Local History Collection

May & June 2010 - NO PHOTOS

Carnegie

April 2010
Plainfield Public Library's Carnegie Building Reading Room, ca. 1912.
The Plainfield Public Library was incorporated in 1881, following a resolution by the Plainfield Common Council. The first library was a rented room, in which the librarian began to build a collection of books and periodicals. Job Male, a Plainfield philanthropist and the first Mayor of Plainfield, offered to donate the land and a library building on the condition that others donate money and art works. The building was completed in 1886 and donated to the Library Board of Trustees. In 1912, a Carnegie grant funded an addition to the Job Male Library. As was typical of Carnegie library buildings, Plainfield's had an imposing entry staircase and an airy, light-filled Reading Room.

Part of the Local History Collection

 
March 2010
Ready for a Labor Day Parade, ca. 1870-1890.
Members of the Old Reformed Group, in various costumes, pose with their decorated bicycles on West Second Street at Madison Avenue for Plainfield's Labor Day Parade.

Photo #T2043 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Collection.
 
freemasons
February 2010
Freemasons in Plainfield, 1934.
This is a rare photograph of African-American Masonic lodges. Inscription reads, “Oriental Grand Lodge, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons and Orient Grant Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star annual state convention on June 27, 1934.” The groups are posed along West Front Street in Plainfield.  Standing prominently in the middle is the Montclair Chapter, whose banner reads, “Ruth Chapter / No. 310 E.S. / Organized May 1, 1913 / Montclair, New Jersey.”  According to the Courier-News, that year’s sessions began with a parade including both organizations.  The Masonic body met in the Moorland Branch YMCA and the Eastern Star organization met in Mt. Zion Church. 
Fifty-one Masonic lodges across the state were represented.  Both male and female members appear in ceremonial dress.

Part of the Paul R. Collier Collection
 
car with skiis
January 2010
Car with Skis, circa 1920.
Gertrude E. Adams Vail (1856-1927) and driver sitting in a Model T Ford that was modified with skis as front wheels and chains on rear tires.  The gas tank was moved from under the front seat to the rear, giving more traction, and ease of filling. The car was crank started. A cold ride in winter air!

Photo #VV60207 - Part of the Marjorie & Roger Vail Collection
 
December 2009
Tier's Pond with Skaters, circa 1870 - 1899.
Large group of skaters on Tier's Pond, with ice house and pavilion in background.

Photo #T2066 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Collection.
 
C10668

November 2009
Solider Outside Tent, circa 1917.
Plainfield Home Defense League

Photo #C10668 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Collection.

Historical note: The Plainfield Home Defense League was organized by Mayor Leighton Culkins in March 1917, it was equipped and ordered into active service April 6, 1917. Permanent organization with active and reserved classes, retained after Armistice.

 
October 2009
Plainfield High School Football, 1912.
Team photograph.
P. Frank Stone, photographer.

Photo #V7515 - Part of the Historical Photograph Collection.
 

September 2009
Tennis anyone?, circa 1905
A Tennis Group Picture taken on Elm Street in back of bridge.


Photo #T2007 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Collection.

 

August 2009
Swim party, circa 1930s
A large group of summer campers enjoys swimming, diving, a waterslide, and other activities in a lake, tents can be seen in the background.


Photo #C10840 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Collection.

 
June 2009
YMCA garden gnomes, 1938

Photo #C20690 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Collection.
 
stock car

May 2009
Stock Maxwell stunt car, August 1917
Maxwell stock car lands on its front tires after its huge jump of 50 feet from ramps; spectators line roadway. The stunt was performed by P. W. Gibbs of the Maxwell company to prove the "never-wear-out" ability of the car. This stock touring car was tested at Norwood and Mountain Avenues in North Plainfield under the direction of experts from M. & L. Auto Sales of West Front Street. It was reported that the car reached a speed between 40 and 50 miles per hour. The only damaged sustained to the car was a single broken headlight.
[Maxwell Motor Car Maxwell-Briscoe]

Photo #C10526 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Collection

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