Part of the American History and Genealogy Project


Paterson Passaic County, New Jersey

Paterson, with a population in 1905 of 111,529, ranks third. It owes its existence to the Passaic Falls, which afford the finest water power in the State. Alexander Hamilton saw the possibilities of the section, and, in 1791, secured from the New Jersey legislature an act incorporating a society, which by means of elaborate plans in-tended to develop the water power and lay the foundations of an important city. The scheme, however, made no headway until 1831, when Paterson, named for Governor William Paterson, who signed the act incorporating the city, was cut off from the old township of Acquackanonk. The city was incorporated in 1851.

Paterson has prospered to a remarkable degree. It was long famous for the manufacture of locomotives. Its superb triumphs of mechanism have gone to every part of the globe. When Commodore Perry made his first visit to Japan, in 1853, he laid a short railway track, over which a small locomotive and cars were run. The Japanese were filled with admiring wonder, for never before had they seen anything of the kind. The engine had been specially ordered for this exhibition from Paterson.

In 1902 a conflagration destroyed the business center and a large portion of the residential district of Paterson. The year following, a flood desolated the city, and in the year succeeding that, a cyclone spread death and destruction on every hand. The property loss from these visitations amounted to $12,000,000. The sympathy of the whole country, and of peoples across the ocean, was stirred.

All the kind offers of help, however, were gratefully but sturdily declined. Paterson set an example for municipalities elsewhere by refusing to receive any aid from out-side sources. With splendid vigor, courage, and wisdom, the city repaired its waste places, and upon the ruins of the old, erected a greater city than existed before.

The city leads all others in the Union in the silk industry and ranks third in manufactures. Its principal products are those of the foundry and machine shop, cotton and linen thread, flax, hemp, and jute goods, paper, and chemicals.

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