Yum-Yum, Tootsie Rolls & Chocolate Bunnies on Motorcycles:
A Sweet History of Hoboken
Before the “Cake Boss,” Hoboken had a rich (and tasty) history of manufacturing sweets — in factories and in family-owned shops. This exhibit, which is currently on view, recalls the days of the Jersey Cream Malts, Wonder Bread, Hostess Twinkies, Tootsie Rolls, Baker’s Coconut, Log Cabin syrup and more. Visit the Museum to see the multi-media exhibit and sign up for Sweet Tours held on Saturdays at 10 a.m. to experience the sweet world of Hoboken that still lives on today.
Macy’s Studio, New Jersey
For over 40 years, the colossal fairy tale characters that float through the air in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were created right here in Hoboken in a former Tootsie Roll factory. This exhibit opened the door to the magical world that several generations of skilled artist-alchemists have lived in — the men and women who turned drawings into clay, clay into scale models, and models into intricate floats and airborne sculptures.
A History of Our Changing Relationship with Other Hoboken Residents
Did you know that John James Audubon painted watercolors of bats that he captured here in Hoboken, or that P.T. Barnum’s circus animals were transported on trains that terminated in our city and sometimes escaped and ran wild through our streets? This exhibit was filled with tales of how horses, pigeons, chickens, dogs and cats were a large part of Hoboken life.
Greetings from Hoboken: A Postcard History
The “Golden Age” of postcards just happened to correspond with Hoboken’s growth spurt, from 1890 to 1910, when our population grew from 43,000 to more than 70,000. During this time, Hoboken was home to three European steamship lines and postcards were the inexpensive and fun way to stay connected with family and friends.
Destination Hoboken: The Great Ocean Liners
of Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd
From the mid-1900s until the U.S. entered WWI, Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd dispatched a steady stream of passengers onto Hoboken’s piers. With sumptuous interiors for first-class travelers and cheap rates for third class, the German Imperial Fleets encouraged millions to make the trans-Atlantic crossing. This exhibit featured artifacts from private collections around the country.
City Edge: The Hudson County Landscapes of Tim Daly
Twenty-seven years of Hudson County paintings and drawings by longtime Hoboken resident and artist Tim Daly were showcased at this exhibit. Daly’s shadowed acrylic paintings and pastels revealed indeterminate City margins — the blurred intersections between our built landscape and our meadows, fields and wetlands.
On the Waterfront Starring Hoboken, New Jersey
The Museum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the release of the film On the Waterfront, which was shot almost entirely here in Hoboken in 36 days. The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Actress (Eva Marie Saint), Best Director (Elia Kazan), and Best Story and Screenplay (Budd Schulberg). Hoboken longshoremen were cast as extras.
History of Theatre, Vaudeville & Movies in Hoboken
During the late 1800s, Hoboken had an active theatre life. By the sheer volume of theatre names alone you can appreciate the interest. There was the Germania Theatre, Empire Theatre, Wareing’s Hoboken Theatre, Cronheim’s Theatre and Summer Gardens, the Star, the Bijou and the Lyric. Street vendors sold roasted shelled peanuts from their carts provoking one theatre to post: “It is earnestly requested that the patrons of this Theatre will refrain from eating peanuts, it mars the performance and annoys the audience.”
Surveying the World: Keuffel & Esser + Hoboken, 1875-1968
Keuffel & Esser, a German precision engineering instrument manufacturer, provided tools that explorers and builders relied on for expeditions as far as the North Pole and for engineering marvels such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Panama Canal. K&E’s rapid growth matched the expansion of the nation’s industrial base, selling more than 10,000 items from nearly 300,000 square feet of office and factory space in Hoboken. (The photo shows a manual portable calculator for feet, inches and fractions of up to 64′s of an inch).
The Tubes: Rails under the Hudson
In 1874, the PATH as we know it today began with the building of a tunnel 60 to 90 feet beneath the Hudson River. The project was the first to use artificially pressurized air and an air lock system in tunnel construction. After building 1,200 feet of brick-lined tunnel, the workers, known as “sandhogs,” met soft silt — and a blowout (escaping air) occurred, claiming 20 lives, 18 from Jersey City and 2 from Hoboken. Brick linings were changed to cast iron rings along with other technological improvements, and by 1908 the first tube service began between Hoboken and 19th Street. President Theodore Roosevelt signaled the Jersey City powerhouse to turn on the power for the first train.
100 Hoboken Firsts
The first order of Nabisco’s Oreo cookies came from Hoboken in 1912. This is one of 100 firsts that the Museum celebrated in this exhibit based on the book by Jim Hans, Museum founder and historian. Others include the invention of the zipper and the first patented ice cream cone. The exhibit, which is mounted on wheels, was later moved to Stevens Institute of Technology and can still be seen in the main level of the library.
Frank Sinatra Fame: A Hometown Celebration
The Museum celebrated Frank’s 80th birthday with an exhibit filled with early photos of Frank with friends, with fans, and with family. Accompanying the exhibit was a special film screening of a Frank Sinatra documentary. Pick up a copy of the Frank Sinatra Walking Tour map and learn more about Hoboken’s favorite son or click on the abbreviated Google Maps version: Frank Sinatra Walking Tour.
Antonio Jacobsen, Marine Artist of West Hoboken:
Selections from the John J. McMullen Collection
Variously called a “ship portraitist,” “the Audubon of ship painters,” and the leader of the “Hoboken School of marine painting,” Antonio Jacobsen was one of New Jersey’s most prolific artists. Arriving in New York in 1873, he first sought his fortune in Battery Park, as did many recent arrivals. He started sketching the ships that plied New York Harbor and soon earned a living painting ship portraits. He produced between 4,000 and 8,000 paintings, mostly of ships. Around 1880, Jacobsen settled his family in a comfortable home on Palisade Avenue in West Hoboken (now Union City) with an expansive view of the Hudson River.
Play Ball! The Making of a National Pastime
You know Hoboken is the birthplace of baseball, but did you know that Nat “Iron Man” Hicks was the Hobokenite who single-handedly revolutionized the game with his new-fangled catcher’s technique? Or that New Jersey was once home to minor league teams with Babe Ruth and Red Rolfe? Or that New Jersey helped advance the proliferation of African-American baseball leagues in Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken and Trenton? This exhibit marked the 150th anniversary of the first organized game of baseball, which was played on Hoboken’s Elysian Fields.
Frank Hanavan: Painting the Town
This exhibit featured over 40 realist paintings of Hoboken icons and street scenes that were painted over a decade by local artist Frank Hanavan. Using a technique popularized by the Impressionists, Hanavan paints outdoors to capture natural light and shadows. Viewed together, his paintings show entire neighborhoods over time. To further show the evolution of time, some late 1800s and 1900s photos were paired with the paintings.
The City of Hoboken: 1855 – 2005
The Museum celebrated Hoboken’s 150th anniversary with a two-part exhibit. The first exhibit led off with Hoboken’s incorporation on March 28, 1855, when the city’s population was less than 7,000. It showed how the city’s institutions and infrastructure were built, and looked at the significance of Hoboken’s houses of worship, social organizations and its importance to the war effort during WWI. The second exhibit covered the Great Depression, the growth and decline of industry, transportation, and the lives and legacies of the city’s mayors through documents, maps and artifacts.
Signs and Traces
Collected together, signs from the 1800s and 1900s told stories of Hoboken’s past, including the ship building industry, the manufacturing companies, and the ever changing ethnicity of the town. On display was the “last drop” from the 1938 neon Maxwell House coffee cup, an oversized metal key that once advertised a Willow Terrace locksmith’s shop, and a hand-carved wooden sign promoting a pipe seller.
Heaven, Hell or Hoboken: A City Transformed by World War I
This exhibit brought to life the story of how Hoboken coped with the wrenching changes demanded by its designation as the U.S. Army’s main port of embarkation for Europe in 1917. The text for the exhibit was researched and written by Historian Dr. Christina Ziegler McPherson, who described the government’s alternating use of persuasion and coercion in ramping up the manpower resources needed to wage war.
United Decorating Company, 1899-1997
The Museum celebrated the 98th year of The United Decorating Company, one of the oldest businesses in continuous operation on Washington St. When Robert Kirchgessner opened his store in 1899, he provided flags for political rallies, rented costumes for party goers, and sold wacky novelties to the young. When the staged productions at the Rialto and Empire Theaters closed, the store bought their costumes and rented them out for masquerade balls. The entire Kirchgessner family worked in the business and the Museum honored the 78-year-old grandson who continued to run the store, which is at 421 Washington St.
Up & Down the River: A History of the Hudson, 1609 – 2009
The steamboats and sailboats seen in this view overlooking Manhattan can both pay tribute to Colonel John Stevens of Hoboken. In 1802, he devised the first steamboat. In 1809, his steamboat was the first to make an ocean voyage. In 1811, he created the first steam ferry. In 1822, he built the first ferry slip. In 1844, he established the New York Yacht Club. And, in 1851, his yacht, the America, sailed across the Atlantic to compete in an international race — and was the first winner of what became the America’s Cup.
Every Object Tells a Story: Selections from
the Museum’s Permanent Collection
With over 50,000 items in our collection, this exhibit celebrated the Museum’s 20th anniversary in 2006 by featuring an eclectic array of objects from the predominant categories in our archives, including a mercury vapor bulb, police files, and business giveaway items such as calendars, ink blotters and street signs imprinted with logos. The centerpiece was a giant 8′ x 32′ mural depicting Hoboken in 1864, commissioned by the Port Authority in 1956 to commemorate a pier renovation project. Our holdings continue to grow with objects, documents, maps and photos in the categories of industry, mom-and-pop businesses, city government, and cultural life.
Hoboken Then & Now
This exhibit contrasted early-1900s photographs with photos of how those buildings look today. Do you recognize the photo above? It’s the building at 412 Washington Street that most recently was home to Blockbuster Video. Back in 1907, it was the Odd Fellows’ Hall, a fraternal organization that held meetings, dances and award ceremonies. Then its facade was altered when it became The Lining Store, whose name can still be seen at top of the building.
Hoboken Tunes: A Musical History of Hoboken
Do you recognize this hybrid instrument? Ukelin expert Bob Buzas demonstrated the quirky musical instrument once manufactured in Hoboken, where Guild guitars were also made for a while. Hoboken’s best-known musical export, of course, was favorite son Frank Sinatra, whose long, illustrious career covered an entire wall of the exhibit. But other musical notables called Hoboken home, such as Stephen Foster (“Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” was composed here); “Blind Tom” Wiggins, a piano prodigy and former slave; and the team of James Rado and Gerome Ragni behind the smash Broadway musical, “Hair.”
Jenny Lee: Stories in Steel
Hoboken’s vacant industrial properties have provided a haven for artists over the years, including the prominent Malaysian-born multimedia artist, Jenny Lee, who had a studio in the abandoned Maxwell House factory for a few years. In 2002, the Museum hosted an extensive retrospective of her sculpture, made mostly from steel, industrial detritus, wire and found natural elements from the local environment. Art critics likened them to everything from musical instruments to medieval armor and to traces of Hoboken’s maritime industries.
From Another Time: Hoboken in the 1970s
The 1970s were a cruel decade for many industrial communities, as manufacturers closed aging factories across the Rust Belt, and after the shipping industry shifted operations from Hoboken to deep-water terminals in the 1960s. But Hoboken not only survived, it made it through the decade with much of its historic architecture and vibrant community traditions intact. The exhibit and companion book explore how Hoboken thrived, illustrated by the stark black-and-white photography of Caroline Carlson, John Conn and Benedict Fernandez, which captured the spirit of the local residents. News clippings, talks by key community leaders and a doctoral dissertation by professor Martin Bierbaum detailed the city’s revitalization, which was largely funded by the Johnson administration’s Model Cities program.