newark, new jersey

Image: The History of the Newark Sewer System
Image: The History of the Newark Sewer System

On each side of the Passaic stand
The finest factories in the land;
And looming up so tall and grand—
The stately river thereby spanned—
        A railroad bridge.
Back and forth the steam-car goes,
Now and then a whistle blows,
Underneath the water flows
        Down from Orange ridge.

Malaria comes and makes us shiver,
Chills and fever make us quiver,
Brought by winds that blow forever
From the marshes by the river—
        Flowing down to Newark bay.
Spacious streets and handsome parks,
Lit by bright electric sparks,
Under which the watchman harks
        To the drunken fray.

On one side of Broad street stands
A market with the finest brands.
Its stalls display both beef and lambs
And choicest fruits from sunny lands,
        And foreign States.
Up and down the people go,
Buying cabbages and so
Forth—what else we do not know—
        At lowest rates.

By the factories’ smoke veiled,
Laden down with many a bale,
Slide the great canal boats, trailed
By slow donkeys, which, unhailed,
        Leave the great sand-bar.
In the shops the people gaze,
Beauties there their eyes do daze
As they look within the maze
        Of Hahne’s great bazaar.

Many thousand little boys,
Who delight in making noise
When unconsciously we poise,
’Twixt stern reality and the joys
        Of sweet slumber,
Raise their voices shrill and clear,
Fill our startled hearts with fear,
Thinking there are dangers near
        Without number.

Newark, Sept. 3, 1886

Newark’s poor drainage and inadequate sewerage contributed to deadly recurrences of malaria, typhus and cholera. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the city finally confronted these deficiencies and, from only 49 miles of sewers in 1883, expanded the network to 310 miles by 1910. Portions of this system still operate today. The Newark Meadows, condemned as breeding grounds for fever-inducing mosquitoes, were drained and developed into the seaport and airport in the early decades of the twentieth century.

A clipping from the Newark Journal, which published these verses by “a precocious young miss of thirteen summers,” has a handwritten note identifying them as the work of Miss Frances Depue of Newark. The clipping is found in the scrapbook collections of the New Jersey Historical Society.

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