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A Guide To Its Present And Past
Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of New Jersey
American Guide Series

Originally published in 1939
Some of this information may no longer be current and in that case is presented for historical interest only.

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Jersey City
Part 7

The city adopted the commission form of government in 1913. In that year Frank Hague, a Democrat who began his political career as a city hall janitor, (Though the title was City Hall Custodian, the actual job description was Director of City Hall janitors -- a post that controlled several dozen patronage jobs, editor's note.) was elected one of the commissioners. Four years later he became mayor, and he has since been continuously reelected by huge majorities. In addition to the mayoralty, Hague has held a vice chairmanship in the Democratic National Committee since 1924.

The per capita cost of government in Jersey City, listed as $65.80 in 1936, is the highest among the larger New Jersey cities. A well-publicized item in Jersey City's budget is the police force. Newark has 1,162 policemen, or 2.6 per 1,000 population, while Jersey City has an estimated force of 1,000, or 3.2 per 1,000. Jersey City's police force, in addition to its usual duties, has prevented picketing and meetings for the purpose of union organization. Hague was once a close friend of labor leader Theodore Brandle. Brandle admittedly managed to become a union officer and officer of an employers' league so that he could "serve both sides" at the same time. While Brandle was becoming a millionaire labor leader with Hague's backing, Hague himself was not opposed to labor organization in Jersey City. But when Brandle refused to call off a strike of iron workers against the open shop contractors for the Pulaski Skyway in 1932, Hague charged that he was a "gorilla labor leader." Almost immediately after this denunciation Brandle's union agreed to accept his resignation by a vote of 359 to 1. Since that time Hague's attitude has been openly anti-union. During 1937-8, after seven trade unionists had been jailed without a jury trial for distributing handbills, national attention was drawn to the issue of civil rights in Jersey City. The American Civil Liberties Union, and the CIO, brought joint suit against Hague and others of the city administration to secure court orders permitting the exercise of civil liberties.

In October 1938 Federal Judge William Clark handed down a 15,000 word decision enjoining city officials from interfering with the plaintiffs' right to distribute leaflets and display placards similar to those exhibited at the time the suit was instituted. He upheld their right "to be and move freely in Jersey City," and "to address public meetings in the parks." The decision was hailed as a sweeping victory by the plaintiffs, while Hague pointed out that the ordinance requiring permits for public meetings had been upheld, and that the city would continue trying to keep "radicals and Reds" out.

The Medical Center, outstanding for size and equipment among New Jersey hospitals, is partly supported by Jersey City. The city also conducts the Special Service Bureau, a plan for the treatment of juvenile delinquency that has the approbation of social welfare workers throughout the country. The bureau coordinates the activities of the police and the board of education, saves young offenders from the stigma of a police record, and maintains a behavior clinic.


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