Railroads had a pervasive presence and an immense social, economic, cultural, and technological influence in late 19th and early 20th century New Jersey. Then as now, most people in New Jersey were within earshot, at least, of the sound of a train. Railroads likewise engendered a distinctive nomenclature, some of which have entered popular parlance ("derailed," "off-track," "build up a head of steam," "train of thought," "train wreck," and "end of the line"), and also influenced visual imagery. Significantly, one of the first feature films, The Great Train Robbery (1903), was shot in New Jersey. Many railroad-related problems familiar to the 19th-century public persist today: fare increases, service disruptions, accidents, noise, and government regulation. But aside from their many problems, railroads were a key element in the development of the state and the nation.
The All Aboard digital exhibition tells the story of New Jersey railroads from the early experiments by John Stevens on his estate in Hoboken to the heyday of passenger rail and freight transport of the early twentieth century. Other themes highlighted in the exhibition are technology, immigration, suburbanization, bridges and depots, and the development of agricultural, bedroom, and resort communities. The digital exhibition features images of rare broadsides, manuscripts, pamphlets, and photographs documenting the history of railroads in the Garden State from Rutgers University Libraries' collections. This digital exhibition is a version of the physical exhibition All Aboard! Railroads and New Jersey, 1812–1930, which was on display in the Special Collections and University Archives Gallery in Fall 2011. Many, but not all of the objects in the physical exhibition are included in the digital one. On the other hand, some additional items that did not fit in the physical exhibition appear in the digital exhibition. All Aboard! Railroads and New Jersey, 1812–1930 celebrates the publication of Railroads and New Jersey: A Bibliography of Contemporary Publications, 1812–1901 (Rutgers University Libraries, 2011) by exhibition curator David J. Fowler and the late Donald A. Sinclair.
The Rutgers University Libraries wish to thank Thomas Higgins, whose generous donation made this digital exhibition possible.
Dr. David J. Fowler, Special Collections and University Archives
Fernanda Perrone, Special Collections and University Archives
This digital exhibition has been made possible by a generous donation from Thomas Higgins. The curators would also like to thank Kalaivani Ananthan, John Brennan, Melissa De Fino, Chad Mills, Mary Ann Koruth, Sam McDonald, Jamie Maguire, and Caryn Radick for all their hard work in designing and mounting the digital version of the exhibition.