The demand for supplies in the Civil War brought New Jersey prosperity that continued into a postwar boom period. This boom accelerated the shift in population from rural to urban areas. Large numbers of immigrants continued to arrive from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe. In 1880 immigrants made up one-fifth of the population, and by 1910 more than half the 2,587,167 residents of New Jersey were foreign-born or the children of immigrants.
The burgeoning population placed great demands on the farmers. In 1864 the legislature had created the State College of Agriculture at Rutgers University. Subsequently the lawmakers added a State Agricultural Experiment Station from which scientists relayed modern cultivation and husbandry methods to farmers throughout the state. Poor land was gradually set aside for dairy and poultry farms. The more fertile soil was made to yield abundant vegetable crops. Besides feeding their own state, New Jersey farmers began sending produce to New York City and Philadelphia.
The greatest force behind the postwar boom was the railroad. In 1871 the Stevens family leased their railroad lines to the Pennsylvania Railroad, but the Pennsylvania’s monopoly ended in 1873, when the state was opened to competing lines. Track mileage nearly doubled, and a coastal line was built, fueling the growth of seaside resorts. Aided by easily corrupted politicians from both parties, the railroads exerted tremendous influence in the legislature. But they were forced to share power with the new industries that set up headquarters and factories in New Jersey.
The modernization of the transportation system, the large skilled labor force, and proximity to markets, as well as lenient corporate laws, attracted industrial titans to New Jersey. By 1875 John D. Rockefeller, the founder of the giant Standard Oil Company, had refineries in Bayonne; inventor Isaac Merrit Singer had opened a sewing machine plant in Elizabeth; and Joseph Campbell and Abraham Anderson had established a soup company in Camden. Bridge-building pioneer John Augustus Roebling was producing steel bridge cables in Trenton, and John W. Hyatt was making celluloid in Newark. The brilliant inventor Thomas Alva Edison established laboratories in Menlo Park and West Orange.
New Jersey’s lenient corporate laws also attracted industries that purchased their corporate charters in New Jersey but conducted their business elsewhere. These charter fees greatly aided the state’s economy and reduced the tax burden on citizens, but they gave New Jersey the notorious reputation as the “mother of trusts.” Abuses by trusts, corporations organized to eliminate competition and control entire industries, led to passage of antitrust laws in many other states. By 1904, 170 of the nation’s 318 largest trusts were chartered in New Jersey, some after having been ruled illegal in other states. Among these were the seven largest trusts in the nation: American Sugar Refining, Standard Oil, Amalgamated Copper, American Smelting and Refining, Consolidated Tobacco, U.S. Steel, and International Mercantile Marine.
New Jersey saw an influx of wealthy industrialists, most of them commuters who lived in palatial homes in Somerset, Morris, Monmouth, and Essex counties. Their lives contrasted sharply with the miserable working conditions and housing of the factory workers who were crowded into the slums of Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, Trenton, and Camden. Because the big trusts controlled both political parties, labor unions found it difficult to organize in the state. As early as 1828, textile workers in Paterson, including children, staged a strike, but labor reforms were slow to follow. In 1851 the legislature excluded children under age ten from factory work. In 1877 the state required all salaries to be paid in lawful money, not paper scrip issued by employers. A law to compensate workers injured on the job was passed in 1911, and in 1933 the state passed its first minimum wage law.
The Paterson strike was the first of many bitter and often futile struggles between labor and management in New Jersey. Many strikes were broken with violence by company-hired detectives with the aid and cooperation of local police. Gradually such unions as the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers gained in membership. However, the trade union movement met violent opposition well into the 1930s. The Paterson silk strike of 1913 became a landmark in the struggle of workers to win collective bargaining rights throughout an industry.
Agriculture was greatly transformed by big-city markets. From 5,230 sq km (3,250 sq mi) tilled in 1879, cultivation steadily dropped to 2,900 sq km (1,800 sq mi) by 1929. Yet the number of agricultural workers remained roughly the same. Surviving family farms became larger operations, with substantial investments in outbuildings and machinery. Hog, cattle, and sheep raising were often replaced by production of poultry and eggs, fruits and vegetables, and milk for nearby city markets. By 1900 Union County farmers specialized in pumpkins, squash, string beans, and tomatoes. Large dairies sprang up, including one that would emerge as a brand name, Tuscan Farms. Growing flowers for market had been virtually unheard of, but by the 1890s, greenhouses were built in counties within wagon distance of the cities. Morris County became a center of rose culture, while Bergen and Passaic horticulturists raised potted plants and cut flowers. “Agribusinesses,” large-scale farming operations by corporations, also appeared in New Jersey. In South Jersey, Campbell Soup operated a vegetable farm and canning factory in Moorestown, and the 809-hectare (2,000-acre) Del-Bay farms in Bridgeton employed 700 workers (who stayed in 100 tenant houses) in peak season. "New Jersey" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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