Thanks to the new focus of my Vintage Photo Wednesday series on New Jersey, I’m learning some really interesting things about my home state. For instance, the town of Roosevelt — located roughly 20 miles east of Trenton — was established as Jersey Homesteads in 1937 as one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s many New Deal initiatives. So you can probably guess where the name came from.
In early 1933, Title II, Section 208, of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) created the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, the purpose of which was to decentralize industry from congested cities and enable workers to improve their standards of living through the help of subsistence agriculture. Jersey Homesteads was unique, however, in that it was the only community planned as an agro-industrial cooperative which included a farm, factory and retail stores, and it was the only one established specifically for urban Jewish garment workers, many of whom were committed socialists.
That factory (emphasis mine) was in fact a garment factory, and is documented through numerous photos available from the Library of Congress. While the factory and the co-op ultimately failed to last through World War II, it nonetheless is a fascinating glimpse into my state’s past.
So today’s photo, while it doesn’t show the factory, shows a group of people (presumably workers and their families) on their way to the factory on opening day. It was taken in August 1936. Click for the full size.
A few fun details to point out:
- The make of this moving truck is Studebaker.
- I love the pioneer theme on the homemade “Jersey Homesteaders” sign.
- The H. Levinson moving company was located at 808 Blake Ave. in Brooklyn, New York. This is confirmed by the “B’N” abbreviation and the telephone number (DIckens 2-4173). DIckens 2, aka 342, was the Brooklyn exchange number starting after December 1930. The company does not appear to be in existence anymore.
Note: The LoC entries all cite the location of Jersey Homesteads as Hightstown, but I’m not entirely certain why. The two towns are close together, but all the history of Jersey Homesteads I’ve seen make no mention of Hightstown.