History

The area which includes the Town of Harrison was originally part of a land grant given to Captain William Sandford of the Barbados Islands. The 30,000 acre grant was situated between the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers, and extended from Newark Bay to what is present day Rutherford. Sandford named the region "New Barbados Neck," after his home. He sent his nephew. Major Nathanial Kingsland to enter into an agreement for the purchase the land from Unami Indians, a branch of the Leni Lenapi Indians, the original inhabitants of the area.
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In 1825, the New Jersey Legislature, whose attention was chiefly occupied in cutting up territories into townships and counties, changed the names of New Barbados Neck into the Township of Lodi, in the County of Bergen. Since Lodi was part of Bergen County, matters dealing with county government and courts had to be taken to Hackensack.

In 1840 the inhabitants of the Township of Lodi joined with present day Secaucus, Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken and Union City, and petitioned for the creation of a new county due to the great distance which the petitioners had to travel to reach the count seat in Hackensack. This appeal resulted in the creation of Hudson County and the first mention of Harrison occurs in the law which was passed February 22, 1840. The Township of Harrison was thereby established.

First Harrison Town Committee Meeting


The first Harrison Town Committee Meeting was held April 16 at the Lodi Hotel. Legend has it that Harrison was named after William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States, who was elected in 1840.

At that time, the present Town of Kearny, was included in the Town of Harrison. The people residing in that territory were by a large majority Republican in politics, but their vote was regularly overcome by the large Democratic vote in Harrison. They, therefore, sought to bring about the division, that they might secure independence and a greater influence in local affairs.

General N N Halstead succeeded in getting the necessary laws passed in Trenton, and in March 1867, Kearny became a separate Town, which included East Newark at that time.

The Borough of East Newark was established by a vote of the citizens of the lower end of Kearny lying between the Erie Railroad and Harrison. Being dissatisfied with the existing town government, they voted on July 3, 1895, to separate following the example set by Kearny in separating from Harrison almost thirty years before.

The Beehive of Industry


Harrison quickly gained a reputation as the "Beehive of Industry." Even before the Township was originated, the area was alive with industrial growth. The first steam engine in North America was set up in the Schuyler Copper mines, to help drain water from the mines. It was in 1912 that President William Howard Taft, stumping for re-election in New Jersey, coined the Town's motto. After Harrison officials successfully lobbied to have the President include Harrison on his tour, they arranged a reception which drew over 6,000 people, who braved pouring rain to see the President. Taft, addressing the residents, told them "You have reason to be proud of this Hive of Industry." The slogan was quickly picked up for the town's use.

Industries


Situated near major rail facilities, and possessing a large waterfront. Harrison was favorably situated to trade. Some of the industries which called Harrison home included:
  • The Crucible Steel Company
  • Driver-Harris Company
  • The Edison Lamp Works
  • Hartz Mountain
  • Hyatt Roller Bearing
  • Nopco Chemical
  • Otis Elevator
  • The Peter Hauck Brewery
  • The RCA Company
  • Worthington Pump and Machinery
In 1882, 6 years after Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park perfected the incandescent bulb, Edison Light Works opened up their factory at Bergen St, and Fifth Avenue in Harrison NJ. As electric light became popular, demand for bulbs increased dramatically. When this location opened there were on 150 workers, but by 1912, 4000 people worked in this single plant. In 1929 the plant was phased out, and its operations were moved to other plants in the country. In 1930 R.C.A. bought the property, and began to manufacture radio tubes. R.C.A. was very successful, and expanded the plant to cover 9.5 acres, with 26 buildings. They made over 3 billion radio tubes at this location. The R.C.A. employee base consisted of more then %80 woman, providing employment for women in Harrison's industrial age. New technology was forcing the radio tube out of existence, and in 1976 the plant closed its doors. The site is presently occupied by the Harrison Plaza Shopping Center.

As the U.S. moved into the 20th century, these facilities played a major role in development of revolutionary new products for both the private and public sector. These industries reached a peak during World War II. The small town of Harrison, about only 14,000 residents, had more then 90,000 workers commuting into it on a daily basis.

Distribution Point


Harrison is a most important distributing point, due to its proximity of the largest Eastern Metropolitan cities. It has unsurpassed access to the largest ports and railway terminal facilities and direct short haul trucking over super-highways to the Ports of Newark and New York. The Town is within 15 minutes of Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the busiest air terminals in the world, and 17 minutes to New York City via the PATH trains.

Operating Plants


Some of the larger plants operating in Harrison include:
  • APL Corporation
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield
  • C.S. Osborne and Co.
  • Campbell Foundry
  • Clayton Container Corporation
  • Federal Casters Corporation
  • Guyon General Piping Co.
  • Harrison Baking Co.
  • Henkel Corporation
  • Hockmeyer Equipment Corporation
  • J. Supor Trucking and Rigging
  • Lechters Kitchen
  • Public Service Electric and Gas Co.
  • Spiegel Trucking Co.
  • Trader Horn
  • The Tri-Chem, Inc.

Education


Education in Harrison was established before the Revolutionary War. The Present High School was opened in 1962 and accommodates 700 students with the most modern facilities, including a beautiful auditorium, a gymnasium, and a swimming pool.

Senior Citizen's Center


A program was established for Senior Citizens with the building of a Senior Citizen's Center in 1978 containing the most modern facilities. Meals are served to the senior citizens during the week days and bus service is available for shopping and other purposes.

Federal Housing


Federal Housing is available in Harrison for low and middle income families in two of the best kept Housing Projects in the nation. These projects consist of the 214 dwelling units at Harrison Gardens and 54 units at Kingsland Court apartments.

Outdoor Recreation


An excellent park and playground system provides facilities for all outdoor sports and well trained supervisors to plan the activities of the youngsters' leisure time. We are also fortunate to have a Community Center located at the site of the former Warner Theater, offering the citizens of Harrison a variety of recreational activities.

Government


Harrison is fortunate to have a fine Police Department. In addition, the Harrison Fire Department has been trained to provide emergency medical service as well as to fight fires.

The present form of government consists of a Governing Body consisting of eight members of the council, presided over by Mayor Raymond J. McDonough, who took office on January 1, 1995. Mayor McDonough was preceded by Frank E Rodgers, the nation's longest tenured Mayor having taken office on January 1, 1947.

Traditional Values


The Town of Harrison is fortunate to have a history rich in tradition. Despite the changes our Town has undergone, our people's values are still the same: strong family life, respect for the law, belief in education and devotion to God.

Public Library


At Harrison Public Library we provide services to approximately 15,000 patrons from the Town of Harrison and the neighboring community of East Newark. Our Services are listed on this website. Please feel free to browse either electronically or come in person. We look forward to making your acquaintance, and serving your library-related needs.

Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Plan


The Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Plan represents one of the great opportunities for redevelopment in the State of New Jersey. While many former industrial areas in the State and the nation have undergone revitalization, the Harrison Redevelopment Plan has the potential to be a project of world class scale. The designated redevelopers have submitted plans which call for an array of uses that capitalize on the presence of the Harrison PATH Station and the Passaic River.