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Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey 07030

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Hoboken History - 1900 - 1970's


This history was taken from the book "Gritty Cities", Mary Procter and Bill Matuszeski, authors, Temple University Press, 1978.

In the early 1900's Hoboken was becoming important as a transportation center. The Delaware Lackawana and Western railroad terminated in Hoboken and commuters from New Jersey to Manhattan used the Hoboken Lackawana ferries, which remained in service until the sixties. The PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) Tube was finally opened in 1908 after thirty years under construction. Major European steamship lines, such as Hamburg-American, Holland- American and Scandanavian, began to use Hoboken's piers and turned Hoboken into a major trans-Atlantic port. Bars and restaurants flourished from the waterfront business. One of these, the Clam Broth House is still an attraction.

The first World War began the time of troubles. From 1914 to 1917 seventeen German ships were immobolized at Hoboken piers under harbor neutrality acts. When the US entered the war in 1917, the US government seized the piers, eliminating hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenues, for which the city finally received token compensation in 1950. Further revenues were lost from liquor licenses when the government closed bars within a half mile as part of the establishment of a port of embarkation for troops to Europe. Worst of all, the prosperous German community was destroyed. Part of the city was under martial law and Germans were sent to Elllis Island. Thousands of Germans left Hoboken.

By 1920 Italians outnumbered Germans among the foreign born and Hoboken was becoming known as an Italian City. Manufacturing, shipbuilding and the docks remained important. Increasingly, however, the waterfront was plauged with crime and racketeering.

Apart from the soldiers, who knew Hoboken in both World Wars, the American public got its strongest impression of the city from Elia Kazan's 1954 movie On the Waterfront. The script, by Budd Schulberg, won Best Story and Screenplay - presented by: the Academy Awards , was based on a 1948 New York Sun series of articles about waterfront corruption. The film is the story of the uncovering of a waterfront crime, and used actual dockworkers as extras. Kazan hired bodyguards to protect him throughout the filming on location in Hoboken. Some $30,000 had to be added to the budget to cover payoffs to Hoboken landlords charging exorbhitant rents. Terry, the character played by Marlon Brando, was based on an actual labor union informant named Arthur J. Browne.

Today the shipyards are dead. The enormous Port Authority piers have been closed since 1975. Numerous residential and commercial developments are underway in their place.

"City Fathers" - Robert Frank

© Robert Frank
"City Fathers - Hoboken, NJ" 1955