This Post Originally Published On Pages 78 & 79 (Last Inside Pages) Of November 30, 2023 Issue of Shore Local, Southern New Jersey’s Free News Magazine.
When I grew up in Atlantic City, I and my “Boomer” generation learned a lot of our local history. In elementary school, we visited the Somers Mansion in Somers Point and were told the story of Richard Somers and the Tripoli Pirates.
We also went to the old Jeremiah Leeds house on Leeds Place in Atlantic City. There we learned how this was the only house on the whole island until Jonathan Pitney built his railroad.
At family and other social gatherings, we heard old timers talk about the men who built the Boardwalk, the Million Dollar Pier and the big hotels. We heard about the big storms that washed away the Brigantine Bridge in 1938 and the Heinz Pier in 1944.
Today, those old timers are gone. Their stories are all but forgotten. Very little local history is taught in our public schools today. Schools and teachers today are evaluated by how well their students do on standardized tests. Those tests don’t recognize local history.
To make things worse, most schools today teach a “woke” history of America. That history rarely mentions that for some 350 years, America was known and admired throughout the world as “The Land of Boundless Opportunities”. Stories of men and women of all races and ethnic backgrounds who achieved spectacular success in and around Atlantic County for years are not considered “politically correct”.
That is why we prepared and published this Liberty and Prosperity 2024 Teaching Calendar. It does far more than help you plan and remember appointments and events.
For each month, we tell the stories of important, but mostly forgotten events and personalities from the past in South Jersey.
We begin by describing the remarkable “Concessions and Agreements” that created the British colonies of New Jersey in 1664. These documents protected individual rights and limited the powers of government more than a hundred years before the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
For January, we tell stories of Quakers who settled here. They were persecuted and jailed in England because they gave women non-traditional leadership roles, and opposed war and slavery. Many came to South Jersey. They included John Townsend who settled in Cape May, and John Somers who came to Somers Point. Here they built new and prosperous lives for themselves without slaves. They only settled on land that was not claimed by any Native Americans, or voluntarily sold for a full and fair price.
For February we tell the stories of Col. John McKee, George Henry White, Alma and Clifton Washington and Sarah Spencer Washington. These were all slaves or the children of slaves who left racism in the South and came to Atlantic and Cape May Counties during the “Great Migration” after the Civil War. McKee became a millionaire who built McKee City by English Creek Road in Egg Harbor Township. White was a successful lawyer, Congressman, and banker who built Whitesboro in Cape May County. Alma and Clifton Washington came to Atlantic City with nothing. However, they soon built and owned Wash’s Inn, a local landmark for years. Sarah Spencer Washington opened a small hair salon on Baltic Avenue in Atlantic City. Within ten years, she owned a multimillion-dollar national cosmetics empire.
March tells the true story of Commodore Kuehnle, Nucky Johnson and their real Boardwalk Empire. April tells of how Jonathan Pitney and Sam Richards built their 54 mile railroad and the first hotel in Atlantic City in less than a year. May tells the stories of Skinny D’Amato and his 500 Club and Harry Schultz of Schultz Men’s Clothing. Similar interesting and informative true stories are told for each of the next seven months. We also list our sources for each story so you can easily learn even more details and related stories on your own.
Our calendar is a perfect holiday gift for every friend and family member. However, young people and students seem to appreciate it the most.
We invite you to support this project by buying our calendar for $20 for a batch of ten. However, the main purpose of this project is education, not fundraising. We invite you to pick up as many calendars as you need from a number of locations. Ask for them at any branch of the Atlantic County library system. They can be picked up any time from the plastic bin by the steps of our office at 453 Shore Road in Somers Point, New Jersey.
If you would like us to send you a calendar, simply leave a voicemail with Seth Grossman at 609-927-7333 or email us at email@example.com. Please also contact us if you can help us distribute our calendar through any school, library, historical society or other organization in your community. Thanks!