No. 102 April 2013
The authoritative source on early churches of New Jersey


About this site
We've created a database and photographic inventory on more than half the 18th & 19th century churches in the state and add to it each month. We welcome and solicit all contributions and suggestions from our visitors.

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Book Reviews


Each month I review a recent book, but from time to time I have noted some valuable older sources, (including a few that may be out of print) that should be known to the serious student of New Jersey religious and architectural history, or people who appreciate architectural photography. I take a very broad view of my topic, including anything related to, for example, early settlement, the architecture of Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania and other mid-Atlantic states, and other issues of American culture, so you may expect to see reviewed here books of unusual quality that are only tangentially related to the churchscape, such as the The Prairie Schoolhouse, reviewed below. The reviews will not normally be extensive; just enough to outline the range of the book and its significance, but sometimes I get carried away and will not be bound by a limited word count. Often I get carried in an entirely different direction and read nothing in a relevent field—currently the Greek Bronze age and the following centuries up to the Archic period is absorbing my attention. Lots of archaeology and philology and only occasional bits of architecture. An occasional diversion with exceptional biographies of Grant, Kennan, and Eisenhower, too, has also kept me from my assigned homework.
     As usual, I invite readers, especially research librarians, to call books and other materials to my attention which they feel deserve a broader audience. [N.B. No one has done so yet, eleven years after this site first went up, but I can see from the usage reports that the page gets many visitors each month so I'll keep it up as long as it amuses me.]
     Should you wish to order a book, you may simply click on the [underlined] title and that will take you directly to Amazon.com.

Brian Regan. Gothic Pride: The Story of Building a Great Cathedral In Newark. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012.
The book could just as easily have been labeled a biography of Jeremiah O'Rourke, the initial architect for the cathedral, although that would neglect the considerable information here on the diocese and its several significant characters and the extended information about Newark itself. The focus is on the building of the cathedral, of course, but personalities and finances play an outsized role in that story. And it is a fascinating one. Regan attributes several other churches to O'Rourke (Newark's St. Aloysius, for example) that I have, on good authority credited to others (in that case, Charles Edwards), but that is a minor matter. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the churchscape of New Jersey, especially Newark and Jersey City. The information in the footnotes alone are worth the price of the book.

Gretchen Buggeln. Temples of Grace: The Material Transformation of Connecticut's Churches, 1790-1840. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England,2003.
A comprehensive and highly readable work of considerable scholarship. Ms Buggeln examines in detail the involvement of building committees, fund-raising schemes, the competition between Congregational and Episcopal congregations, and even the disputes over whether churches ought to be heated with stoves in winter. (Who said it was easy to be a Puritan?) She draws on extensive archives of a handful of Connecticut churches, as well as letters, publications and other hard-to-find sources, especially for someone not living in Hartford or New Haven. The photographs and drawings are extensive and well-chosen. The book probably was more meaningful to me than an average reader because I lived across the street from the First Congregational church in Hartford for a couple of years. I don't remember ever going inside, however.

Gordon Wood. Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
If you are a serious student of American history, don't let the 778 pages of this book inhibit you—it's an exciting read (for the most part) and the author is able to build a good deal of suspense into his narrative even through we know how things turn out in the end. If you are enamoured of Thomas Jefferson, large sections will be discomforting; if James Madison is an intellectual hero, responsible more than anyone else for the genius of the Constitution, his record as Secretary of State and President will restore him to proper proportions. Washington seems a bit lost during his second term, and Adams is . . . well, Adams—a brilliant, vain, politically-inept when it comes to leadership in a fractious new government. But this is not a muck-raking account of the early years. Wood marshals his facts and his judgments are solid. Alexander Hamilton, for all his flaws, is far-seeing, Albert Gallatin almost his equal, and John Marshall, a cousin, personal enemy of Jefferson and ardent Federalist, comes across as a principled and evenhanded diplomat and chief justice. I think it will be difficult for historians to write about this period without constant reference to Wood's account.

David Sehat. The Myth of American Religious Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011

This is an important book. The author looks closely at the history of religious involvement in religion as well as secular questions—in all aspects of public life. He notes at the outset that he began as an evangelical, and that in the evangelical world to be a patriot and a Christian were often considered to be the same thing. Evangelicals "saw their religion as the source of America's freedom and its ascendant fortune." He currently sees American history not as a history of religious freedom, but as one of continuing religious conflict involving extended periods of religious coercion and a continual attempt to maintain religious power and control.

     He begins with an account of a successful prosecution in New Jersey in 1886 on two counts of blasphemy. The country's federal system permitted the states enormous power to regulate the health, welfare and morals of its residents, and until 1940, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment did not impose any limitation on a state's power to enact and enforce statutes against blasphemy. Sehat ranges widely through American history, legislation and legal interpretations to show that what he calls the moral establishment has been unusually effective in imposing its version of Protestantism on American life. I think he stretches his interpretation too far when arguing about the resolution of the industrial strife of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that so favored big business, but his perspective should not be readily dismissed. The country maintained an unofficial Protestant establishment by means of the common law, public education, and state religious tests for example. Sehat argues that the substantive protections for free exercise in the First Amendment, in fact, offered very little protection for minorities. The book is sure to stimulate vigorous debate among those interested in matters of law and religion. It's a fairly dense read, but should be considered essential for all serious American historians.

T. J. Jackson Lears. No Place for Grace. Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

There's something on every page here to argue with, but this is an important work of intellectual and cultural history. Lears is not a timid scholar, and had he been a graduate student in a seminar of mine decades ago, I have no doubt we would have had a lively time. His thesis is that among the Northeastern upper-class intellengensia (for the most part) a dissatisfaction with the banalities and unrealities of industrial and material progress brought about a yearning for either the intense physical experience advocated by Theodore Roosevelt or a rediscovery of the virtues of the hand-crafted and the medieval styles of a bygone period. He is critical, for example, of late-nineteenth century eclectic architecture, asserting that it reflects the "cultural confusion of men who no longer possessed a coherent vocabulary of symbols." I don't read architectural history and the motivation of architects or clients as he does—it seems to me there was a rediscovery among the former of the excellent work done by European architects of previous centuries, and of the desire on the part of the latter for a building that would affirm their refinement and affluence among their peers. Both were only a generation or so removed from the straightjacket of critics who insisted on correctness in the use of classical and Georgian models rather than an inclination to experimentation. But the matter is well-worth the argument, and the work as a whole is stimulating throughout.

Mosette Broderick. Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America's Gilded Age. New York: Knopf, 2010.

I just received this book from my daughter so haven't completely finished it yet. An article in the New York Times says it is "the only modern work to examine the career of the reflective, often depressed McKim, perennially in the shadow of his flamboyant and equally troubled partner, Stanford White." McKim, who grew up in Llewllyn Park, is responsible for St. Peter's church in Morristown, the old Penn Station, the Morgan Library, and also for some large villas in Elberon. He may have designed the exceptional Elberon Memorial Chapel there; my initial skepticism has been severely eroded by this book. The book is fascinating if you are interested in the period, but jumps around a lot between buildings, family connections, business deals, and stories of scandals, nervous breakdowns, alcoholism, and general debauchery. The people for whom the big stone palaces in New York and Newport were built come across as a pretty shabby lot, in spite of their money. Very useful to understand how a major architectural firm worked in the late 1800s.

W. Barksdale Maynard. Architecture in the United States, 1800-1850. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

This is a well-illustrated chronological review of the development of American architecture from the age of Jefferson to the antebellum period. Its strength is the case it makes for the dependency on American architecture on English precedents and writings. Philadelphia buildings get their due, and even New Jersey merits an occasional mention; that's unusual because the history of American architecture could easily be written without a single reference to any structure here, with the sole exception of Burlington's St. Mary's Church. This is a fresh look at a number of buildings and practices; although many of the important structures treated in all histories and included here, Maynard has something new to add in every case.

 

Benjamin L. Carp. Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007
The author argues that the American Revolution began in the cities—in the waterfront of Boston, the taverns of New York, the homes of the affluent in Charleston, and the public spaces of Philadelphia. These places were the locus of argument and, most significantly, of mobilization against the established order. When the British occupied the cities, they immobilized them—town meetings were limited, the people had little or no voice in the selection of juries, and the militia and committees of correspondence had to shift to the countryside. The cities, which had been the crucible of opposition to Parliamentary supremacy, lost that role when they were abandoned by the Patriots and the hinterlands became the soul of the Revolution. It was only decades later, after the cities had re-invented themselves by concentrating money, interests and parties, that they again became the centers of political mobilization.

 

Ryan K. Smith. Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs in the Nineteenth Century. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Most people's knowledge of anti-Catholicism in the nineteenth century is largely circumscribed by the Know-Nothing party of the 1830s, and the prejudice against the Irish that persisted well into the twentieth century. What is almost unknown is how much our religious architecture was influenced, directly and indirectly, by Catholic architecture and anti-Catholic attitudes.
      Gothic architecture in this country was initially not particularly associated with Catholicism [there is a very early Gothic church in Troy, NY that may have been Episcopal], but with the broader ideal of the "picturesque" that in the 1820s-30s drew for their inspiration for rural landscapes and cottages on medieval sources. Those, naturally, were Gothic (and Catholic), but in a overwhelmingly Protestant county, few people made that association. Smith claims that by the 1840s or so, "Churches, jostling for a place in an increasingly market-based society, began to experiment with more theatrical touches." And medieval sources were available, especially with an influx of European-trained architects and artisans experienced in construction work..
     From 1820 to 1850, the Catholic Church grew from about 195,000 members--less than four percent of the nation's total number of Christians—to 1.75 million, becoming the largest religious body in the United States. That surprising growth challenged an innate sense of Protestant destiny, Smith claims. Antipathy to things Catholic (and Church of England) conflicted with the trend towards increasing refinement and ornamentation in religious architecture, which is exactly what people saw in the Gothic style. "The local Romanists were challenging the other churches with a specific architectural program" in their use of romantic buildings and ornamentation. "Beyond an enthusiasm for Gothic architecture, one Protestant church after another broke with tradition to employ symbolic crosses, to decorate sanctuaries with flowers and candles, to worship with robed choirs, and to celebrate regular feats and festivals. . . . Near the end of the nineteenth century, the appropriation [of Catholic symbols and practices] reached a successful conclusion, as crosses, stained glass, robed choirs, Easter flowers and the like lost their exclusive Catholic associations and became synonymous with church worship in America." Smith barely nods to the Ecclesiology Movement and High Church tendencies as a hearth of the interest in Gothic elements, but the juxtaposition of anti-Catholicism and adoption of Gothic elements is fascinating.
      Presbyterian and Congregational elders sought an alternative to Gothic, as that became increasingly identified with Episcopal and Catholic churches; they found it in the Romanesque (also Catholic, by the way), but many of the 1860-1870 churches combine Gothic and Romanesque elements, and it is doubtful most American could tell the difference, which often came down to the shape of the window arches..

 

Walter A. MacDougall. Throes of Democracy; the American Civil War Era, 1829-1877. New York: Harper Collins, 2008.
MacDougall’s initial survey of American history covered the period from 1585 to 1828; it was in in-depth look at a number of little-known aspects of our history—the surprising (to me) significance of credit and especially debt in the early republic. Here again he always seems to have a fresh perspective. He asks who were the liberals and the conservatives in the two-party system that developed around the age of Jackson, then summarizes, saying “If one adopts twentieth-century definitions it might appear that the libertarian Democrats (Jackson and company) were the conservatives and the statist Whigs the liberals. . . . In regard to ethnic and religious tolerance the Democrats would appear the liberals, since they embraced Catholics and immigrants. But in regard to education and social reform the reverse would be true.” He argues that the term “Jacksonian democracy” is rather futile to try to apply to the period, when national elections were won by “cobbing together disparate and sometimes contradictory blocs of voters.”
      MacDougall closes the book with a chapter on radicals, Klansmen, barons and bosses, noting that the “post-Civil War generation was not distinctive for being greedier or more lawless than others, or because government failed to regulate business in new ways. It was distinctive because the sudden spurts of industrialization, corporatism, urbanization, immigration, and nationalization of markets threw up new temptations for ambitious businessmen and politicians, while at the same time posing new challenges that American law and culture were not yet equipped to address.” Doesn’t sound that much different from the current era.

Anne M. Lynden. The Photographs of Frederick H. Evans. Los Angeles: Getty Museum, 2010.
To anyone just barely knowledgeable about the history of photography the name Evans will conjure up images of the Southern sharecroppers who inhabit the book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men—those of Walker Evans; but to others, more serious about photography's slightly older history, the name on the title of this book will resonate strongly. Evans (1853-1
943) was the master of English and French cathedrals, but he made many fine portraits, landscapes, and a number of intimate views of Richard Morris' Kelmscott Manor. Most know his work largely through the seven images that were published in Steiglitz's Camera Work in 1903 or the Aperture monograph published in 1973. Evans worked in platinum prints, which to the contemporary eye may appear lacking in contrast and the deep blacks that make a picture "pop." The extended mid-tones of the platinum process have their own charm. We think of his images largely as ones of stone, but as much as that, they are images of atmosphere—the filtered light coming through the ancient windows of the cathedrals or the trees of Deerleap Forest. I used to work in platinum-paladium, and after seeing this book, with its wonderful reproductions, I'm motivated to reprint a few of my recent images in platinum.

John H. Wigger. Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

This study is ostensibly about Methodism between 1750 and 1850, but it is as much a close look at American culture, attitudes and the social changes wrought by the Revolution. Wigger begins by noting the extraordinary growth in Methodist adherents—from fewer than 1,000 in 1770 to more than 250,000 by 1820, far outstripping Congregational and Presbyterian membership. He examines the organization and its management at some length, particularly the dependence on itinerant preachers and the circuit system. The style of preaching and the demographics of the audience were far more significant than the religious doctrines in accounting for the growth. Wigger makes frequent comparison to Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptist practices, and, of course, to the role of the church vis a vis slavery in the North and the South. As the county became more affluent, the Methodist rise to social prominence was swift. Methodist preachers had to adapt (
OK, compromise may be a better description) some of their values and ways to reflect the growing desire for "refinement," which meant something other than the simple life that Asbury had prescribed. That can be seen with the rise of Nathan Bangs and the desire among even small congregations for grander, increasingly ostentatious churches. A fascinating study of American culture.

Sherry Pace (author & photographer) and Richard J. Cawthon (
caption writer). Historic Churches of Mississippi Jackson, Ms: University Press of Mississippi, 2007.
One hundred thirty-three of the state's churches, meeting-houses and synagogues are pictured here in full color, all built between 1820 and 1930. Many will be familiar to readers from other states; there are fine examples of all the important national styles—Georgian,
Neo-classical, Greek, Gothic and Romanesque Revivals, as well as the late-nineteenth century stick and carpenter gothic. Moreover, a number erected after the 1860s drew on plan books, some issued by a denomination's central body, and others by architects, including Richard Upjohn and Benjamin Price of Atlantic Highlands (NJ). There are regional idioms of design and construction here that may strike “Yankees” as exotic, or at least of a different vernacular than we are used to in the mid-Atlantic. That alone would make this book a worthy companion to others that focus on a single geographic area (Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Cape Breton, Chicago, and Philadelphia) that have been reviewed here. The essay that opens the book—a survey of Mississippi's religious architecture from 1820 to the 1930s—is exceptionally well-informed and judicious. Cawthon, who was the chief architectural historian at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, draws concise observations and generalizations about the traditions and plans of the major periods. I will probably plagiarize some of his particularly apt phraseology where it fits New Jersey churches in my own books. The brief captions for individual churches cite the date of construction and often the architect, as well as labeling the building with an appropriate category for its architectural style. Whereas a few of New Jersey's old churches have been lost to late twentieth-century fires, the toll taken by recent hurricanes has touched Mississippi much harder, and Cawthon calls attention to several of the notable structures that have disappeared. That's a nice touch.
     The churches are grouped by their location, with the cities and towns arranged alphabetically. That is less useful to me, as I would have preferred a chronological organization that might enable me to grasp the changes in style, scale and function as they evolved over the 110 years included here; it may be entirely appropriate for Mississippians seeking a particular church, however, so that should not be regarded as a serious flaw. The index is limited to the town names, and does not include architects or denominations or architectural styles, and that is unfortunate, I believe, given the interest that architectural historians should have in this book. Pace has been very successful in eliminating all telephone poles, automobiles, street signs and the other detritus of urban civilization, and I am ambivalent about that. It makes for a prettier picture, of course, but somehow seems a bit surreal. I hate to see a white van parked in front of a church I'm trying to photograph, but I don't mind the telephone poles and signs when I can't avoid them, and I refuse to “Photoshop” them out of my images. Pace or Cawthon may have selected churches that have not been significantly altered or encased in aluminum siding, or Mississippi simply has not experienced the pattern of construction-addition-renovation that we in New Jersey have. That's an author's prerogative, of course, but we wind up with a sort of “most authentic original churches” rather than a representative sample. I have no argument with that approach —it's simply different than what I have chosen to do on this website.
     The book underscores two generalizations—the pervasiveness of national styles in religious architecture, regardless of region—a resident of Absecon might have difficulty distinguishing the Methodist church there from the Baptist church in Woodville, MS, for example, and the delightful inventiveness of local builders and architects who created a regional idiom in Mississippi that is quite different from that of New Jersey, or New England or the upper Midwest.


Mary N. Woods. From Craft to Profession: The Practice of Architecture in Nineteenth-Century America. Berkeley, Ca: University of California Press, 1999.

The emphasis is on New York, Chicago and Philadelphia architects and their practices, but the depth and scope of the book—from colonial times to the early twentieth-century is excellent. Woods begins with Robert Smith and the master builders of the late colonial period, provides interesting details on Benjamin Latrobe and other immigrant architects, then works her way through the antebellum era when architecture began to come of age in this country. She shows the ambivalent relationship among builders, contractors and architects—how some transitioned themselves from house carpenter to architect and others, fearing their inability to make a living in pre-Civil War America as an architect, stayed grounded in the artisan trades. As industrialization gained speed, and the amassing of capital kept pace, architectural practices developed, and partnerships became the dominant pattern in the large cities. When success followed, larger enterprises, sometimes with dozens of draftsmen, copyists and even engineers were brought into the firm. McKim, Mead & White play a major role in the last half of the book, but Upjohn's practice is well represented, too. The book may be of only marginal help in understanding church-building practices (there is no mention of Keely or O'Rourke, for example, or the sponsorship/patron relationships within the Catholic and Episcopal churches), but it is invaluable for an overall understanding of the forces that shaped the development of professional architects and their practices in the nineteenth century.


Steven Waldman. Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America. New York: Random House, 2008.

I bought this book with high expectations that it would add something to the debate about the religious attitudes of the citizenry at the time of the American Revolution and during the immediate decade thereafter. I was disappointed. The emphasis is on a handful of founders (Adams, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and Madison), with occasional reference to others (Witherspoon, Mason) and even there the analysis is not always deep, but usually superficial. I think his judgment is generally solid, however. There is extended treatment of Madison's arguments, as there should be, but his treatment of the “established church” in most of the colonies is too brief and in the case of New Jersey, simply incorrect. There is almost no treatment of the role of the Presbyterian or Reformed churches (the only ones with a strong central authority), either in the Revolution or in the debates on the First Amendment.
      Throughout the book he uses the device of contrasting the claims of current evangelicals with those of the secularists, showing how the claims of one or the other are overstatements that need to be qualified. That is a productive approach, although Waldman often uses the assertions of the best-known of the evangelicals (Falwell, Focus on the Family, LaHaye), for example, instead of those whose understanding is more subtle. There is scant recognition (two sentences in the chapter on the fear of Anglicans) that at the time of the Revolution more than 75% of the people in the county had no religion, or only the most tenuous connection to any church, or that deism was a powerful strain in the colleges by 1800. Because John Adams asserted that religion and the fear of British religious meddling, as much as taxation, was the cause of the Revolution does not make it so, Adams to the contrary notwithstanding. He asserts that the Great Awakening was the major cause of the growth of dissenting sects when it was immigration, of course, initially, and later the religious fervor that preceded the Second Great Awakening. Compared to the aftermath of the religious revivals such as the Cane Ridge meeting in 1801, the Great Awakening had relatively little impact on the formation of new sects, or even on the founding of new congregations. Certainly that was true in New Jersey which was the locus of one of the major strains of the Great Awakening.
     Some redeeming elements should be noted—the account of Patrick Henry's argument against the overturning of the Two Penny Law in Virginia (1763) is too brief for me, but interesting. Madison's work on adoption of Virginia's Statute of Religious Freedom is also brief, but informative. "By the standards of twenty-first century conservative evangelical Christianity", he concludes that "Washington was not Christian." That freshness alone merits attention to this work. Waldman is the founder and editor-in-chief of beliefnet.com.


Jeanne Halgren Kilde. Sacred Power, Sacred Space: An Introduction to Christian Architecture and Worship. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
This is a survey of Christian architecture based on how the nature of the service and the power relationships between clergy and congregation changed over almost 2000 years. In recent times, the three fundamental aspects of church design, she says, are awareness of space, use of truthful and unadorned materials, and the evocative use of light. In the late 19th century, in contrast, many Catholic congregations adopted styles that signaled various nationalist identities— Italian immigrants, for example,erected not the popular Gothic but neoclassical churches that alluded to their Roman heritage. Her reading of buildings is fresh, and you may find yourself saying, "Of course—why didn't I see that?"

J. C. Furnas. The Americans: A Social History of the United States, 1587 - 1914. New York: Putnam's, 1969.

I've dipped into this book a half dozen times since I received it as a gift from my mother-in-law almost 40 years ago, but until last month had never sat down to read it cover-to-cover. In spite of its 1,105 pages, it's an easy read. Some aspects are covered briefly (travel across the state of New Jersey in the 1700s) and some get extended treatment (the different waves of immigration). His perspectives are often fresh and expressed in a journalistic, sometimes provocative style. No matter. There are assertions which perhaps should be qualified, but nothing where a reader would go seriously wrong.
I don't think the book is still in print, but used copies can be found on Amazon.com.


Maxwell MacKenzie. Abandonings: Photographs of Ottertail County, Minnesota. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark Publishing, 1995.

I should have reviewed this fine little book years ago for it covers the county in Minnesota where I was born; although I spent very few years there, it is a landscape I am quite familiar with. Landscape is not quite the right word for the contents, for there is an old barn or farmhouse in virtually every image here—sometimes the same building shot in different seasons. Even if I hadn't been born there I would want to add this book to my library, for it is a fine example of what can be done with a modest subject on a modest scale.


Daniel Walker Howe. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. New York: Oxford, 2007
Howe begins his account of the 30 years between the end of the War of 1812 and the aftermath of the Mexican War with a nod to Thomas Hobbes, saying “Life in America in 1815 was dirty, smelly, laborious, and uncomfortable.” On the other hand he notes that most owned land, taxes were low, and there were no titles or abbots. Over these years the percentage of the population considered urban increased from 7% to 18%, but the real tension was not that of a increasingly industrialized society in a nation of small farmers, but of the conflict between the Slave Power with its limited-government philosophy of Jefferson and Jackson on the one hand, and the expansionist, use-federal-government to build canals and roads, etc approach of Clay and the New Democrats. The book, which was just awarded the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, is an economic, social, cultural, and political exploration of a defining period that began with the “Era of Good Feeling” as it was known when I was in high school, and ended in the highly-partisan and sectional-based conflicts, dominated by the Southern states judging every measure by the test of its effect on the curtailment or extension of slavery. In many ways it is a depressing history, replete with the perfidy of Jackson towards the Indians, and the trashing of the Constitution by several of the state governors while the federal government looked the other way. The conflict over the Second Bank of the United States, which I once thought was central to the period is more than a footnote, of course, but certainly not the defining event. In Howe's view (according to my reading) that may have been adoption by the Democratic Party of the 2/3rds rule which essentially gave the South veto power over any Presidential candidate. If you are interested in that time frame, this is a fine work.


Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

I am an unabashed admirer of Dawkins—his attitudes, his learning and his writing style. The Selfish Gene has had an enormous impact on evolutionary biology, and Dawkins coined the term "meme," which is now in widespread, even popular usage. I have previously reviewed his book, The Devil's Chaplain, and mentioned The Ancestor's Tale on this page, and now I am delighted to recommend his latest book. It would outrage many, if they were to read it, because Dawkins is, of course, the most prominent atheist of the day, filling a role much as Robert Green Ingersoll did at the end of the previous century. The Economist said this is an irreverent book, which is a bit of an understatement. It is a howlingly blasphemous book, in which he calls the god of the Old Testament "a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." And that's just for starters. He has several interesting chapters, including one on the roots of religion, which might be read with profit even by the religiously-committed, and a couple where he takes on the creationists. In this day of religious extremism, his chapter on fundamentalism and absolutism are worth a moment's reflection.


Claus Mroczynski. Sacred Places of the Southwest. New Hope, PA: CBM Publishing, 2006.

There are dozens of photographic books about the Anasazi and the southwest, mostly in full color, but few as beautifully produced as this black-and-white collection. The images include all the standard sites but are fresh, although I am not particularly attracted to the high contrast style Mrocynski has adopted. If you are interested in photographing architecture, you'll want to examine this work closely.


Alan K. Lathrop. Churches of Minnesota: an illustrated guide. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

A nicely illustrated guide to 108 old and contemporary churches in my home state. I wasn't paying much attention to churches when I was growing up, so all but a few are fresh to me. I even found the church where my mother would have been baptized. The photography (by Bob Firth) is excellent and there are a dozen color plates as well as the fine black-and-white images. The author has done a better job than I have of tracking down the churches' architects and builders in most cases, and far more congregations in Minnesota have obtained National Register designation than New Jersey. The architectural idiom is not much different than we would find in the mid-Atlantic, but, on the whole, fewer of these churches are crowded into small lots, even when they are located in the city. If you have a connection to Minnesota, or just are interested in the religious architecture of the country, this is warmly recommended.


David L. Holmes. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. New York: Oxford University Press. 2006.

We have made the point before that America at the time of the revolution was not a religious country. Only about 10% of residents, even in Puritan New England, had any formal connection to a church, and in spite of the perception that elected officials even then peppered their public remarks with references to the Almighty, very few were practicing Christians. The religious diversity of the middle colonies (which includes New Jersey) had a more shaping influence on our nation's institutions than any set of religious beliefs or dogmas. Those who came seeking religious toleration for their own practices for the most part denied similar religious freedom to others, but the diversity of sects and the pervasive indifference to religion by a majority made it impossible for even the most militant believers to impose their doctrines on the federal government. (But some of the New England states still collected taxes to support the Congregational church into the early decades of the nineteenth century.)
     Those who read the religious slogans on our coinage, or who take the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance literally, may believe that the founding fathers also had a paternal connection to the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of today. Holmes book examines the religious beliefs of the major founders and finds a range of belief therein. He sets up categories from non-Christian deism to orthodox Christianity and wedges all the familiar names into one of the bins. This is not entirely satisfactory because of the weight he assigns to certain actions, but his knowledge of solid. Participation in an Anglican vestry, for example, which all aspiring public figures did as a matter of course in Virginia, is not evidence that the individual was a believer. A similar pattern obtained in the Reformed churches here—men didn't join the church until they were 30 and married, when it was assumed they would take on some "civic" responsibilities. There is much solid history and a useful corrective to the libel that the county was founded as a god fearing nation.
     Jon Meacham, Newsweek editor, also has a recent book on the topic—American Gospel: God, the Founding fathers, and the Making of a Nation. Don't bother.


Camilo José Vergara. How the Other Half Worships. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2005.

I've often thought an inventory of the modern vernacular churches in a single city like Trenton or Paterson would make a fascinating photographic project. Mr.Vergara has done something very like that. Drawing on urban neighborhoods in Camden, Newark, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit, he has assembled more than 300 photographs of contemporary houses of worship, signs, iconography and vernacular religious art, as well as the bishops, ministers and ordinary people of those mostly black and Hispanic communities. He interviewed dozens of those people and offers snippets of the conversations that tell much about the religious sensibilities and agendas of that subculture. There is no attempt at analysis or generalization, nor perhaps any needed, for the images offer strong testimony of a resilience, even in the face of crime, unemployment and poverty.


Garry Wills, Henry Adams and the Making of America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Wills has written extensively about American history, generally using a focus on documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist papers, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address) to illuminate major figures, events and the cultural forces that shaped them. This book is ostensibly about Henry Adams' major work on the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison (available in the two volume Library of America edition), but it is actually a retelling of that period (1801-1817). Wills quotes from Adams, summarizes his narrative, explains his perspectives and something of Adams' methods, but adds much additional information and his own interpretation of Jefferson and Madison—as well as of John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams, James Monroe, and others. This is not a substitute for reading Adams (yes, I know—at 2,700 pages most people would be glad of a substitute) but a companion volume, sort of a commentary and appreciation. If all you have read of Henry Adams is his often gloomy Education, you may be surprised at Adams' narrative skills. Wills deserves our appreciation for his attempt to resurrect a neglected masterpiece of historical writing, and a neglected period of our history.


Marian Card Donnelly. The New England Meeting Houses of the Seventeenth Century. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1968.

The significance of the meetinghouses in early colonial New England has a mythic importance in our literature and history; they are found in the works of Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville, of course, but have also been portrayed on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post, Life, and National Geographic as an embodiment of our democratic values. This fine short work traces the development of the New England meeting house to English village traditions rather than to the experimental northern European Protestant architecture such as are found in the octagonal and square meetinghouses of the earliest Dutch Reformed (and even early Quaker meetinghouses) in this state. The text is well-supported by numerous photographs and drawings, many from England and a few from the continent, and the regular reader of this website will find several buildings in New Jersey that echo those built a hundred (and more) years before ours.


Roger Kennedy.
Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase. New York: Oxford, 2003.
The plantation system is Kennedy's bête noir in this wide ranging account of the economy and politics of the south during Jefferson's political ascendancy. He is critical of the plantation mentality of Jefferson's class, who felt it was cheaper to move on to new lands than to use good farming practices. That mentality led to a dependence on foreign markets, single crops, the expansion of slavery and ultimately, to civil war. He is unsparing in his criticism of what he calls Jefferson's persistent and deep anti-black animus, which he feels in turn affected Jefferson's dislike of industrialization and of cities in general. "Throughout most of his career, Jefferson was too constrained by prejudice against artisans and multiracial towns to give support to urbanization in the South" (with the exception of Eli Whitney's cotton gin and the manufacturers in Richmond) . . . "The slaves seemed ungrateful and the yeoman unworthy".
Kennedy's reading is broad and deep, as it is in his other books reviewed here, but he makes frequent assertions about Jefferson's motives and psychic needs which I find are often unsupported. I have no argument with his characterization of the effects of the plantation system, but the overriding impression I take away is one of regret for what might have been for blacks, Indians, and the early republic.


Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart. Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Far from being one of the three unmentionable subjects in polite conversation, religion has moved to the center of many social as well as political and national security conversations. One can hardly avoid articles on the role of evangelicals in Republican politics and science education, or the radical Muslim disaffection with anything western. Most Americans are unaware of the role of religious parties in India, or even in the Netherlands and Germany. So this timely work on the present role of religion worldwide provides a dispassionate, if overly theoretical analysis. The authors are political scientists, not divines or sociologists. Their data comes from polls conducted in more than 80 countries over a twenty year period (1981-2001). They examine topics ranging from the role of religious parties in national elections to the basis for personal belief systems.
      In spite of the apparent potency of the evangelicals in recent U.S. elections, the evidence suggests that religion has lost its decisive authority over the lives of adherents even in the United States. Secularization has extended furthest in Europe; undeveloped countries, especially below the equator, have yet to feel the full force of modernity and so remain largely traditional in their belief systems and in the influence of those systems on their culture. The authors trace the growing irrelevance of religion in the modern world to the fact that the more secure people become in the developed world (not just in terms of the necessities of life, but in the belief that the world is essentially orderly and predictable), the less they depend on religion. Religion, meanwhile, retains its authority among the less secure but faster-growing populations of the third world. “The result of these combined trends,” the authors conclude, “is that rich societies are becoming more secular but the world as a whole is becoming more religious.” That is not a new interpretation, of course; it is at least 2,000 years old, dating perhaps to Lucretius' argument that “fear made the gods.” Their exploration of the roots of religion is somewhat unsatisfactory, and is certainly not the last word on the subject. In the months since publication, some researchers claim to have discovered a “god gene,” that predisposes (some) people to a belief in god. That is almost certainly nonsense, as though religiosity had some adaptive value in the savannah a hundred and fifty thousand years ago. But this is an interesting book; one, I suspect, that no elected official in this country is likely to read.


Jeanne Halgren Kilde. When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Oxford, 2002.
The thesis of this book is that a new relationship between preacher and congregation demanded a new architecture—an auditorium rather than a temple—and the rise of evangelical denominations in the mid-nineteenth century meant that the traditional basilica-style would give way to the new.
      In the 1830s a popular revivalist minister named Charles Grandison Finney drew thousands to his meetings. A group of supporters renovated a New York City theatre to provide a better setting for the kind of performance he offered. They soon built a new church in the classical amphitheatre plan for him—the Broadway Tabernacle—the first church of its kind in the United States, according to Kilde. That plan was soon copied by hundreds of churches, mostly those with evangelical leanings, but eventually by almost every denomination (no Anglicans, Quakers or Catholics in the nineteenth century). By the end of the century, most large mainstream Protestant congregations had embraced the style. The newly rebuilt First Baptist Church in Morristown and the Presbyterian Church of the Redeemer (now United Presbyterian) in Paterson are fine examples. The exterior might be Gothic, Romanesque, or even Byzantine, but the interior was something new in religious architecture.
     Most of the examples the author draws upon are large churches, generally from the midwest, but the case she makes is convincing. She doesn't appear to be aware, however, that the amphitheatre plan was adapted to even modestly-sized churches, of which we have many in this state. The only major criticism I have is that in her focus on Finney, there is apparently no recognition of the antecedents of the amphitheatre design in the early Reformed churches in the Netherlands and here in New Jersey.
Evolutionists would call that convergence—an independently arrived at solution to a niche or opportunity.


Jeffrey Howe. Houses of Worship: An Identification Guide to the History and Styles of American Religious Architecture. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 2003.

This is a chronologically-organized survey of churches, synagogues, temples, and houses of worship of all kinds, including contemporary buildings. The book includes capable definitions of a wide variety of styles and has many plans, schematics, and other line drawings. There are images of recycled buildings and mobile houses of worship, but the book is particularly strong in its representation of the modern period. Although there is ample explanation of various architectural styles, there is insufficient attempt to trace influences, or even to identify particularly influential designs. That is perhaps a niggling point for most readers, but an important one for those fascinated by the development of American architecture.
     The photographs are almost all in full color, although there are some old black-and-white photos. Most of the images were taken with a 35mm camera, as they exhibit the standard parallax/converging verticals problem endemic to that format. Lots and lots of very nice images, in any case. The book includes a glossary, a decent bibliography, and a nice section on leading architects. As usual, New Jersey is under-represented—I think I counted only 2 or 3 churches from our state in the book—but that seems to be the general consensus regarding the merit of our religious architecture.


Roger Moss, author, and Tom Crane, photographer. Historic Sacred Places of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

Fifty exceptional churches, meetinghouses and synagogues are treated in this fine book that is a companion of sorts to the publisher's Historic Houses of Philadelphia by the same author and photographer. To select only 50 from the 16,000 houses of worship in the city means that those included here are not going to be representative of the range of architectural traditions that shaped the city or the larger regional area it influenced; that is not a criticism of the book, but an observation. What we are given is a selection of the very best design, construction and preservation of eighteenth and nineteenth century religious architecture. The photography is exquisite—I am insanely jealous—and the text is informed, balanced, and wide-ranging. One can find the inspiration, or at least a strong parallel, for many of New Jersey's churches in the pages of this volume, although that is not the reason you might want to buy the book. It is an exceptional work, beautifully designed and produced, and we have nothing like it in our state.


Catherine W. Bisher, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl Lounsbury, Ernest H. Wood III. Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

This is a chronologically-organized account of North Carolina building practices from earliest colonial periods to the twentieth century. It moves from the rudest user-built structures through artisan-built homes and public buildings to those erected by contractors and "undertakers," many of whom engaged architects from Philadelphia and New York. The authors discuss sawmills, brickmaking, and the use of manufactured windows, sashes and other elements that once were made by skilled artisans. Until the coming of the railroads, availability and transportation of building materials were significant issues for most major projects. The builder-client relationship is thoroughly explored with reference to many specific buildings. With the exception of the widespread use of slave labor and the effect of distance from the fashionable centers of New York and Philadelphia, there is little here that could not apply to New Jersey. An exceptional work of scholarship that has no parallel for our state.
      Bisher is also the lead author for a three volume work on the architecture of the state: A Guide to the Historic Architecture of [Eastern/Piedmont/Western] North Carolina. University of North Carolina Press, 1996. It is a shame that neither Rutgers nor Princeton has produced a comparable work, useful for scholars and tourists.


Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American Republic. Cambridge: Harvard, 1990.

Butler's book is almost 15 years old, but it remains unsurpassed, particularly as an account of the revivalist spirit of the mid-nineteenth century. He places that spirit in the context of its (mostly) English background, filled with lively detail, anecdotes and hard data. The early years of religious practice in Virginia and Massachusetts are fascinating; there were more than 200 witch episodes in the colonies that preceded the Salem witch trials, for example, and Butler explores the fixation with magic and the occult in both seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. The African spiritual holocaust is the topic of another extensive exploration, and we see its effects even in this age. He examines the sources of what he calls "the myth of the American Christian past—one of the most powerful myths to inform the history of both American religion and American society." Later churchmen, he says, sought to sacralize the American revolution, in spite of the deist and enlightenment views of most of the founders, in order to harness the religious authority being abandoned by the state. An interesting explanation with considerable relevance today. This is a rich, thoughtfully considered work of historical scholarship and interpretation.


Richard Dawkins. A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003
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Of all the people writing on science, Dawkins and Lewis Thomas are the most fascinating, but Dawkins is more likely to challenge existing beliefs of every sort: scientific, societal and religious. In this collection of essays he writes of genes, memes, September 11, irrational beliefs, evolution, and cultural relativism. In discussing whether science and religion are converging, he notes that "when it comes to Baal and the Golden Calf, Thor and Woden, Poseiden and Apollo, Mithras and Ammon Ra, [modern Christians] are actually atheists. We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in." His essay on Viruses of the Mind could be read with profit by parents, professors of logic, psychologists, and even platform preachers, but that is too much to hope for. Highly recommended.

      Dawkins has another new book just out, entitled The Ancestor's Tale. It's an exposition of our evolutionary ancestry, filled with engaging facts and explanations of all kinds of little critters. Schoolboard members inclined towards creationism (Intelligent Design, I think they are now calling it) could benefit by a careful reading, but that, also, is too much to hope for.


Adam Nicolson. God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible. New York: Harper Collins, 2003.
Eminently readable account of the political and religious situation at the succession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne. James, the Protestant son of a Catholic queen, ruled a strongly Presbyterian Scotland while waiting for Queen Elizabeth to die. England had survived the Protestant-Catholic persecutions of Edward's and Mary's reigns, but dissent was rife within the Anglican church. Much greater significance was given to the word by Puritans and Presbyterians than to the sacraments and ceremonies of the Anglican church, and each sect seemed to use a different Bible. A new translation (the King James version, naturally) was one response to the factionalism (as well as a product of it) dividing English Protestants. Although the author focuses on a half dozen of the most significant of the Translators, his real topic is the political milieu and its influence on the language of the new translation.


David Hackett Fischer. Washington's Crossing. New York: Oxford, 2004.

Every battle of the Revolution has a book to chronicle its leading figures, activities and significance, but no one has done a better job with any battle than this book on the events leading up to the two(!) battles of Trenton and the battle of Princeton. Fischer argues persuasively that the events leading up to the battles in New Jersey convinced many that the rebellion was close to being washed up, but that by spring, many British officers were convinced they could never win the war—a stunning reversal. He refutes the canard that the Hessians in Trenton were drunk following traditional Christmas revelries and shows the significance of the foraging war that the New Jersey militia as well as Continental troops carried on between January and March 1777. The contrast between Washington's leadership—relying frequently on open discussion of alternatives with his senior staff—and that of the top down style of command by British and German generals is emphasized, as well as the resistance to direction by American Continentals and militia (they needed leadership but could not be commanded).The book contains 19 excellent maps and 150 pages of notes, weather reports, order of battle, and even a fascinating discussion of the several paintings of Washington crossing the Delaware. If you like local history with national significance, this is the book for you. It is a treasure.

Walter A. McDougall, Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History - 1585-1828. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.
This book is a highly-readable and fresh look at well-known events and people, as well as the less-well known, including significant figures like Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, General Nathaniel Greene, and his enchanting wife Caty. McDougall is particularly scathing in his judgment of the military prowess of General Thomas Sullivan (who seems to be highly regarded in the western part of the state and in Pennsylvania). Names we may recognize but not place, such as the War of Jenkin's Ear, are quickly sketched and given a significance. In some cases where events are well known there is little narrative—the battles of the Revolutionary War or King Phillips War, but there is enough to get a good sense of the event and the larger context. Perhaps that is what McDougall does best—to place people and events in a context.
     New Jersey, as usual, gets short shrift, but this is not all about Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia, either. He does work in a few events in most of the colonies, although usually in so few words as to gloss over any subtleties. The disputes in this colony over quit rents and land titles is not really mentioned, although it was at the core of colonial politics for a generation and certainly had implications for the Crown's dealings with the colony.
     It is not altogether an uplifting account, as his narrative is rife with bribery, cronyism, collusion, all kinds of sharp-dealings, as well as brutality and cheating, especially of Indians. But we knew that, of course; it just plays a more central role in McDougall's account.
     Too much emphasis is placed on the Masonic connections, in my opinion, and too little on the rich texture of local politics, which often had a disproportionate impact on national politics because of the way senators were chosen. He gives much emphasis to the role of religion (maybe too much), as well as its place in American society, apart from any role in economic and community development. In that respect, he does not seem to take cognizance of the low percentage of religious affiliation in the decades before 1820—one might be left with the impression that church membership was always high, even if members were not usually pious or observant.
     The author notes the astonishing fecundity of the settlers and the rapid growth in population of the western and border states between 1790 and 1830; it was not just the coastal cities that were growing through immigration but "natural" increase due to the large families and (apparently) decreasing infant mortality.McDougall is clearly an admirer of Hamilton and critical of Jefferson, who comes across as lazy, highly political, and unprincipled. To his credit, there is nothing of Jefferson's liaison with his slave which generally seems to be the center of much contemporary interpretation of the man.
     He places America's foreign activities, land purchases, wars and economic development in a context of European (mostly English and French, of course) activity, but there is too little on the impact of the West Indies, especially the Barbadian connections. He offers less emphasis on the "democratic" impulse in the western territories and states— those opposed to authority, patronage and pretensions, and more on party politics and the influence of specific personalities. Thus, it seems to me he leaves the impression that abolitionist sentiment arose out of nowhere in the form of an amendment to a bill admitting Missouri as a state. In this he skips over the role of the agitators, churches of the north, and the reforming classes.
     The book includes an unusually good account of the development of regional economies—mining, tobacco & cotton, canal-building, and the railroads, and of the machinations that often went into raising capital, borrowing, and obtaining charters, subsidies, and monopolies. The precarious financial condition of most states, as well as men of great estates, is a sub-theme. If the role of debt has not been examined by scholars of the early Republic, this work suggests it would be a good lode to mine.
     One particular revelation to me is that midwestern states—Indiana, Ohio, Illinois—were substantially settled by southerners; McDougall says of Indiana, "a northern state settled by southerners posing as westerners." Yet parts of these states were centers of the Free Soil/anti-slavery movement by the 1850s, a period not treated in this volume of what is intended to be a three volume work. Professor McDougall is off to an auspicious start. If you are interested in giving just one book on American history to a serious reader, today this is the book to give.


Maxine Lurie & Marc Mappen, eds. The Encyclopedia of New Jersey. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004.
An encyclopedia ought to do three things: provide quick answers to factual questions about a topic, sketch an overview of the major aspects and dimensions of the topic, and serve as a jumping-off place for additional research. In that respect, the new Encyclopedia of New Jersey is a creditable and substantial reference work—and a very good deal at less than $50. It is loaded with thematic maps and tables and most articles include brief bibliographies that can be the basis of more extensive reading. There are good articles on each religion that outline the history of that denomination in the state, and articles on every municipality that usually provide something of the history, major employers, significant events, as well as basic geographic and demographic data. There is more than sufficient emphasis on popular culture and current events so that it is a browser's delight, and the history articles are thorough enough even for someone who is well-read to benefit. Highly recommended. (In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the article on "religious architecture.")


Nathan O. Hatch. The Democratization of American Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989
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Serious students of early nineteenth century American religious history will long have treasured this book, but I am late to the party, having spent my time when it was first published trying to understand how adults learn. Now that I know that, I am ready to turn to loftier issues. [N.B. That was intended as ironic, folks.]
     The book is studded with intriguing observations and generalizations about the Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening, but the author's focus is really on the activities and appeal of the mass movements represented by the Methodists, Campbellite/Christians, Baptists, the black churches, and the Mormons. He notes that "the fundamental religious quarrel of the late eighteenth century was not between Calvinist and Arminian . . . , evangelical and freethinker, but between radically different conceptions of the Christian ministry. As respectable clergymen in these turbulent years reiterated their confidence in learning and civility, potent strains of anticlericalism welled up with the bounds of the church, challenging the right of any special order to mediate the gospel." This was part of a pattern of Jeffersonian democracy, where even the unlettered considered their opinions were as good as those of the educated. One result was the multiplication of religious sects; another was that there was a shift in orientation from seeking conversions to building an organization from the ground up, which may be a persistent strain in the fundamentalist movements even today. Increasingly, he notes as an example, the core of Methodist leaders were professional organizers, sent out to call churches into existence rather than waiting for a call from a church to come to them. "These roving evangelists would go from house to house, if necessary, looking for anyone who would listen." Hatch closes his account with an epilogue that is highly relevant today—the recurring populist impulse in American Christianity which has deeply polarized not only religion, but also social and political affairs. An exceptional work of history.


Robert Guter and Janet Foster (authors); Jim DelGuidice (photographer). Building by the Book: Pattern-Book Architecture in New Jersey. New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1992.
The name of the architect of a old church has been preserved in less than 10 percent of the buildings in this state; the figure would be even lower for the residences built before the turn of the century. Yet the state's buildings reflect the prevailing high styles of their eras remarkably well. The reason can be found in this fascinating book which details the use of published plans—English architectural books in the Georgian period, builder's guides in the first decades of the nineteenth century, pattern books in mid-century, periodicals that featured a monthly house-plan in the early years of the twentieth century, and finally, and mail-order plans (and houses) by the second decade of the century. With vintage and contemporary photographs, and reproductions from those print sources, the authors illustrate how much of the state's architecture is attributable to plans drawn up for the general public. Anyone interested in the delights of residential building in the state will be fascinated by this book, which is rich in social history as well as architecture and building methods. It was published ten years ago and may be out of print, but most good libraries in the state have it.


Jorg Brockmann (photographer), Bill Harris (text). One Thousand New York Buildings. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2002.
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The book works its way, borough by borough, and neighborhood by neighborhood, to notable buildings in the city, many of them churches. It ranges from the 17th century Dutch farmhouse to the recent rebuilding of the Museum of Natural History, with everything from converted carriage houses to upscale Westside apartments. The names of many architects are familiar from their work in New Jersey, although generally on a lesser scale than the buildings pictured here.
     A careful reader will see how many traditions are common to New York and the northern part of New Jersey. For example, the last building pictured in the book, the Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne, on Staten island, erected in 1891, bears a strong resemblance to the Catholic church in High Bridge, built about the same time; the Asbury Methodist church, erected in 1849, also on Staten Island, reprises the Presbyterian church in Chatham; Christ Church on the upper west side of Manhattan, designed by Upjohn, has features that can be found on the Episcopal church in Woodbridge, and the Flatbush Dutch Reformed church in Brooklyn, erected in 1798, could be a stand-in for the First Reformed church in New Brunswick. The book is an excellent guide to the architecture of the city, with fine locater maps of every structure pictured. More important, from our perspective, it shows how much our buildings owe to those across the Hudson.


Richard Corth (photographer), Lynn Cunningham Traume & Carol Kammen, (historians), and Fred Muratori (poet). The Architectural Heritage of Tompkins County [NY]. Ithaca, NY: DeWitt Historical Society, 2002.
Upstate New York has one of the richest troves of early 19th century architecture in the country, as anyone who is a frequent visitor to the Finger Lakes region knows. Ithaca is the center of Tompkins County, but the developmental sprawl has not seemed to affect its surroundings in the same way that the area around Syracuse, the center of another region of wonderful 18th and 19th century buildings, has. Small towns in the county, a few of which hardly merit a dot on the map today, boast fine examples of most of the major traditions in American architecture, but Greek Revival seems to dominate. There are several dozen homes and churches in that style built between 1820 and 1850, most with the full portico that is less common in New Jersey. I have been a guest in one of them many times.
     The book contains approximately 150 excellent photographs of historic architecture, mostly 19th century but a few 20th century. The introductory essay provides a brief history of the region, with a focus on its building traditions, and the captions for the photos offer additional detail, including architect/builder, original owner and subsequent uses. The book is beautifully designed and printed on good paper, and is a model of what a county might do, even on a modest budget, to celebrate and preserve its historical heritage.


R. Marilyn Schmidt. Churches and Graveyards of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Chatsworth, NJ: Pine Barrens Press, 2002

This little book has a load of useful information, notably driving directions to about 150 old churches/burial grounds, largely in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May and Ocean counties. The entries are arranged alphabetically, by the name of the church/cemetery, but there is an index by county. There are no illustrations, but the historical information about each entry is ample, and appears to be accurate. Given the absence of any maps, the book is only marginally useful as a driving guide; for people who know the Pine Barrens already, I can imagine it serving them well. I expect I will make good use of it to track down a few missing churches.


John Keegan. A History of Warfare. New York: Vintage, 1993.
Although the commentary about the war in Iraq threatens to outnumber the shots being fired (if possible), a more historical perspective on the nature of war may put a different cast on the strategy and tactics of both the combatants. Keegan has written a knapsack full of books on the topic, but first came to prominence with his book, The Face of Battle, in 1976. Here he draws on ancient history, anthropological accounts of warfare among 20th century primitives and the impact of the horse and chariot, organized armies, gunpowder and steel, and fortifications. Many of his historical accounts of warfare between asymmetrical forces offer a useful counterpoint to some of the encounters in Iraq today.


Michael F. Holt. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. New York: Oxford, 1999.
At 1248 pages, this is not a book for the casual reader; even for someone fascinated by American political history, it is, at times, tough-going, with its state-by-state (occasionally district-by-district) dissection of election results and local politicians and office-holders. But for an understanding of the complex interactions between state politics, national figures, the increasing sectionalism caused by the anti-slavery movement, and the changing demographics of the country under massive German and Irish Catholic immigration, it is an impressive and invaluable study. There is little here about religion, but the moralizing movements: abolition, temperance, public schooling (and anti-Catholicism) are examined for their effects on political alliances and election outcomes.
     The author corrects the common misconception that the Whig party arose from the remnants of the Federalists; he notes its evolution from divisions within the Jeffersonian Republican party and its maturation as the opposition to Jackson's centralization of power and as the leading advocate for state and federal activitism in internal improvements (canals, railroads, public schools). The importance of state issues and personalities on the fortunes of the Whig party is the central theme, although the politics of major Whig figures, Clay, Webster, John Quincy Adams, Fillmore, as well as their Democratic opponents, Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, are thoroughly examined. I have revised my estimation of Fillmore, and solidified my distaste for Webster. On the whole, an indispensable work on the onset of the Civil War and on the period between 1834 and 1856.


Mark Gerlernter. A History of American Architecture; Buildings in The Cultural and Technological Context. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1999.
I have a couple dozen history of American architecture books in my library, but this one is special because it deals directly with the construction technology, with the European cultural antecedents and with the changing American attitudes. In fact, he makes an effective case that we really cannot understand American architecture in the early centuries without an understanding of European cultural and political history, as well as some knowledge of architectural history. Most books on the topic focus on the development of architectural styles without relating those changes to either technology or the cultural forces which gave impetus to the style. The illustrations are fresh and plentiful, including photographs, plans and drawings.


Robert Bruce Mullin (ed.) Moneygripe’s Apprentice: The Personal Narrative of Samuel Seabury III. New Haven: Yale, 1989
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Although the grandson of an important Revolutionary War era Episcopal minister, Samuel Seabury was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker (in 1815) when he was 14. In 1831 he wrote a series of letters (a literary style then popular) as an auto-biographical account of his brief apprenticeship, his self-education and his attempts to find a place in the new republic, where traditional class distinctions and the importance of family connections were eroding. (But still important, as he secured work in the Customs office and as an assistant schoolteacher through both.) The letters offer a look at the life of an apprentice, through the eyes of someone who was born in a more genteel tradition and clearly felt alien in that world. Apprenticeships were as much a means of social control as a training for a trade (a cabinetmaker was near the top of the tradesmen, but still regarded widely as an inferior sort by those raised in an Episcopal tradition), and Seabury chafed at both. The letters also remind us of the disruption caused by Thomas Paine and the Deists to established religions and colleges (Yale, Harvard) which were still in the grip of their religious sponsors.
      The early letters dealing with his apprenticeship are fascinating, and the later ones dealing with his attempts to sort out theological issues can be skimmed. His accounts of his efforts to teach himself Latin and Greek, as well as his other reading (Locke, Gibbons, Addison and Steele, as well as many works of exegesis and apologetics) are self-congratulatory, but interesting. Equally valuable is the editor’s extended introduction covering the social and religious world of the period.

George Tice. Fields of Peace: A Pennsylvania German Album. Godine, 1998 (revised edition).
New Jersey photographer George Tice is best known as an urban romantic, the title of one of his later books and the subject of his current exhibit at the International Center of Photography in New York (it runs only through September 1). But Fields of Peace is an elegiac work, focusing on the Amish and Mennonite peoples of Lancaster County. There are portraits and landscapes and churchscapes and dozens of simple domestic scenes, all beautifully printed. This revised edition is largely early work, mostly shot in the mid-to-late 1960s, supplemented by 39 additional photographs, including five shot in 1990; the text by Millen Brand is unaltered from the 1970 edition. A few of the images have become icons, instantly recognizable; many others are less known but no less powerful.
     There are no captions, and text does not explain any of the images, which literally need no explanation. Collectively they tell a story, and that story is not ours. So little has changed in those communities that only one photograph, of a young man in sunglasses riding a horse, was identifiable by me as a contempory image. The text is a sympathetic, candid and enlightening description of the Amish and Mennonite peoples, usually erroneously called "Pennsylvania Dutch."

This is a beautiful book.

Larry R. Gerlach. Prologue to Independence: New Jersey in the Coming of the American Revolution. New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1976.
It is appropriate to review this book this month, even 26 years after it was published, as the story of New Jersey's role in the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence is a fascinating one—not as dramatic as that of Massachusetts or Virginia, but in many ways pivotal. The leading delegates, like John Adams, believed the middle colonies had to be solid for independence, and New Jersey, although sympathetic with those protesting the Stamp Act and the "Intolerable Acts," were not so personally or economically aggrieved as other colonies, so might have gone either way. What in retrospect looks inevitable, clearly was not, and the author makes clear the critical role of Witherspoon and Livingston, just names of streets and towns to most residents, in leading the way to independence. The timespan covered in the book is roughly that of the tenure of Governor William Franklin (1763-1776), and the details of his contests with an independent and at times obtuse Assembly makes for interesting reading. The emphasis is on politics, but his description of the impact of the proprietors, the economy, the influence of neighboring New York and Pennsylvania, and the religious factors in shaping the decision for independence is exceptionally well done.

Eamon Duffy. The Voices of Morebath, Reformation & Rebellion in an English Village. New Haven: Yale, 2001.
This is a chronicle of a remote sheep-farming village in the west of England during the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and the early years of Elizabeth. From the parish accounts of the village's priest, an unusually scrupulous recorder of the day-to-day events, the early years chronicle the simple pieties involving in raising money by sponsoring "ales," or festivals—what we might call ice cream socials, although beer and hard cider would have been the preferred consumable—to pay for candles, a shrine, vestments, etc., and such minutia as who had promised what sum to the church, who was responsible for grazing the churches sheep for the year, and so on. Then, with King Henry's break with the Church and later, the imposition of Protestantism, the ales and ceremonies are forbidden and the idols (supposedly) sold off. With the death of Henry, then Edward and the installation of Catholic Mary as Queen, comes a respite for Catholic rites and holidays; church possessions come out of hiding, but some of the vigor of the ales has been lost and the bonds of the community have been weakened, all of which is noted (but not commented on) in the parish accounts.
     When Mary dies and is succeeded by Elizabeth, Protestantism returns and the state apparatus, increasingly competent and thorough, forces the elimination of any remaining vestiges of Catholic practices. It is easy in this book to forget, however, that it was less Elizabeth's intolerance (she was disinclined to interfere in matters of conscience and felt that time would bring most Catholics around to Protestant worship) than the very real threat posed by the many Catholic adherents, with their allegiance to the Papal Bull against a Protestant ruler and to a Catholic pretender in Mary Queen of Scots, supported by Spain's King Phillip II machinations in Scotland and Ireland.
     The priest records the increasing secularization of demands on the parish for money to support the military and the state. It wasn't entirely the imposition of a new form of worship and dogma which was upsetting, but the abolition of the responsibilities that supported the church also bound the community together. The impact of schism and the subsequent rise of Protestant (or even Calvinistic) doctrine was not as disruptive in this parish as the breakdown of the web of obligations and responsibility that accompanied the banning of the "beer blasts" and "ice-cream socials" that contributed a few shillings to the church.


Roger Kennedy. Orders from France: The Americans and the French in a Revolutionary World, 1780-1820. New York: Knopf, 1989.
There's relatively little here about churches, and less about New Jersey, but as cultural history, the book is engrossing as it traces the many social and commercial connections among political and business figures and architects in the early days of the republic. The influence of French Creole/West Indies political and cultural connections on relations with France and England is astonishing. The book is well illustrated and documented, but unless you have a strong interest and background in the period, this is not an easy read because of the wealth of detail. For a person interested in architectural history, I am pretty late to the table on this book, which is not a reason to neglect it now. Kennedy is also the author of American Churches, a large format book that surveys the entire county from the earliest churches to those of the present day; a very thoughtful book.


Judith Dupré. Churches. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.
A more-or-less typical "coffeetable" book, but at an exceptionally low price, given the quality of the paper, printing and binding. The text is not extensive, but it is well-informed and the multitude of color photos are very well done. The book includes many of the grand churches from around the world, about sixty in all, including the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove. There is a short, but interesting essay about each church. In general, it's a little too unfocused for anyone serious about church architecture or traditions, but it makes a fine gift book.


David Hackett Fischer. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford, 1989.
This is a book I've been back to several times since I first read it a dozen years ago; it contains a wealth of data and insights about four early settlements: New England by the Puritans, the Delaware Valley by Quakers, tidewater Virginia by a Royalist elite and their servants, and the Carolina backcountry by peoples from the Scottish borders and northern Ireland. I had no particular intention of reviewing it here, since it was published so long ago, but I recently saw a paperback edition in Barnes & Noble within a day or two of a librarian asking me if I was familiar with the book; that suggested it ought to be brought to the attention of a wider audience.

     It is a scholarly book, but eminently readable for all the tables, maps and footnotes, if the reader has even a middling interest in the early settlement of those regions. The author discusses not only what part of England (Albion) the colonists came from, but their socio-economic background, religion, family, occupation and social standing. He goes on to sketch in the traditions in architecture (domestic, public and ecclesiastical), attitudes towards women, marriage, sex, education, and a variety of customs, and how those traditions and attitudes gave a unique character to each region. The point is that the 17th and early 18th century English customs and traditions of the regions the immigrants came from had an enormous influence on many of the culture mores and values of the colonies where they settled. That, of course, should not be surprising, but what is surprising is the pervasiveness and persistence of many of those attitudes and traditions to this day. Although more than 80% of our population have no British ancestors at all, the regional customs of those four colonist groups still influence the politics, religion, gender, and government, as well as such general orientations as imperialism, populism and progressivism.


John Campbell. The Prairie Schoolhouse. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1996.
Every few years an author and publisher combine to get a book exactly right, and this is one of those books. There are 60 black-and-white photographs of prairie schoolhouses, an odd dwelling or two and a grain elevator. They were built in the areas covered by the Western Homestead Act of 1862, which included Montana and the Dakotas, western Nebraska and Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and the plains areas of eastern Washington and Oregon. The first real settlers on these lands were farmers, who were given title to a 160 acre section of land, with the requirement that they build residences and farm the land for a period of five years. The bulk of the settlers arrived sometime after 1885 and peaked about 1915. Germans and Norwegians, with, surprisingly, some Russian and Bulgarians settlers populated these lands. Railroads were the lifelines, and small towns sprouted as fast as the wheat fields; "for ten, twenty, or forty miles beyond each town stretched the farms, dotting the prairies with their houses and barns and one-room schools."

The school was homemade. Professional carpenters were scarce and architects were practically unheard of, but most of the homesteaders had basic knowledge of carpentry and masonry. . . . Architectural variations resulted from builders' idiosyncrasies or their ethnic derivations. But the two major varieties of the prairie schoolhouse . . . were determined largely by climate, and the availability, or lack thereof, of construction materials.

Ninety-eight percent of the one-room schoolhouses have disappeared, and those that remain were mostly emptied when the Great Depression wiped out a generation of farmers; all the rest were abandoned by the 1950s. Their students now are dead, or graying, but the images in the book offer a chance for immortality. The photography is exceptional, and the design and reproduction equally so. This is one of my favorite books. The last image is of a woodframe school, built about 1900 in Douglas County, Washington. The door is gone, as are the windows, carried away for other uses. Written on the side of the building are two words, "Remember us." We will.


John Szarkowski. The Idea of Louis Sullivan. New York: Bullfinch Press, 2001.

Growing up in Minnesota in the 1950s I occasionally traveled with my father to some of the small towns in the southeastern part of the state. In Owatonna I was attracted to a bank building much different from any bank or small office building I had ever seen; it was both modern and decorated, but the decorations weren't just stuck on as an afterthought to embellish an entrance or a window. I haven't seen the building in more than 40 years (I hope it's still there), but it leaped from the pages of this book. The architect was Louis Sullivan, a name that would have meant nothing to me then. Sullivan was a 19th century architect, most identified with Chicago; Frank Lloyd Wright worked as his chief draftsman and referred to him as "the master."
     There are no churches here and nothing from New Jersey, but it should be of interest to anyone interested in architecture or in photographing architecture. Szarkowski was the longtime Director of Photography for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, author of many other books including a beautiful one on Eugene Atget which came out last year, and, clearly, a very fine photographer in his own right. This superb book is a re-issue of the 1956 edition.


Dora Crouch and June Johnson. Traditions in Architecture: Africa, America, Asia and Oceania. New York: Oxford, 2001.
Although the book was written as a textbook for a course in non-western traditions in architectural history, it may be of considerable interest to anyone traveling to parts of Asia, Africa and Oceania. The authors' approach is largely descriptive, and the illustrations both plentiful and very good, so one may be a little impatient that the verbal descriptions rarely provide much information that is not apparent from the photos and drawings; but this is, after all, a textbook, and if you will grant that allowance, it is well-worth your time.
     The architectural traditions covered are contemporary as well as ancient, grand as well as domestic and, throughout, the authors treat the sacred and symbolic traditions of the culture, insofar as they are known or may be inferred, as they bear on the built environment. The book is organized thematically, rather than chronologically or geographically. Among the themes: moveable, stationary and underground dwellings; the impact of colonialism on native structures; the transfer of traditional architectural knowledge; and spatial organization, from courtyards to the axial alignments of cities. The focus is on three categories of structures: professionally designed and built monuments, houses erected by traditional building tradesmen, and structures that ordinary people build for their own use. The overarching theme is that architecture expresses cultural values as well as technology, and it illustrates that theme with an exceptionally wide range of examples.
     In the single area of the book where I have a fairly solid background, the Anasazi/Puebloan architecture of the Southwest, the scholarship is current and sound. Interesting and highly informative.


James Allen, ed. Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. Twin Palms, 2000.
There were 4,742 recorded lynchings in America between 1882 and 1968, which probably comprises a small fraction of the actual total. All but 10% of the victims were black. The lynchings were sometimes announced in newspapers in advance, bringing crowds of thousands, often by special excursion trains; parents sent notes to school asking their kids be excused to attend the event. "I seen a man hanged," one apparently dissatisfied nine-year old said, "now I wish I could see one burned."
     This is a brutal book. It consists of several angry essays and 98 photographs, mostly taken by professional photographers, and often made into postcards at the scene to be sold to crowds as souvenirs. The same photos once purchased to celebrate the lynching now condemn the smiling faces that crowd into the photographers' frame.
Most of us have seen the photos of the hanging of the Lincoln conspirators and probably even of a lynching—are these more horrible? Far more, and not simply because of the mutilated bodies. The gloating, celebratory smiles of the crowd are the real horror, underscored because the images are postcards, sold at the scene to proclaim their owners' presence, like a T-shirt saying you've been to Martha's Vineyard.

     The normal purpose of a book of photographs is to inform, celebrate, record, even arouse; these images evoke emotions I have not felt since my father brought back snapshots he'd taken of emaciated bodies propped up or stacked like cordwood, when his unit freed a concentration camp at the end of World War II. Those photos were lost long ago; my father may even have thrown them away. But I can see them still.


Paul Eli Ivey. Prayers in Stone: Christian Science Architecture in the United States, 1894-1930. Urbana: Illinois, 1999.
There are no 19th century Christian Science churches in the New Jersey, but there are several built in the period covered by this book, which is well-illustrated and exceptionally well documented. Architecture was not an incidental element to Mary Baker Eddy and other early leaders of the sect, which favored traditional styles, mostly neoclassical, in an attempt, according to the author, to provide a legitimacy to the religion and an image of it as prominent and successful. I have several times mistaken a Christian Science church for one I suspected had been erected by a Presbyterian or Baptist congregation in the early part of the 19th century; I was more than a little disappointed to find, on closer inspection, that the building was put up in the 1930s.


Joyce Appleby
. Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans. Cambridge: Harvard, 2000.

The author focuses on a single generation, those who came of age during the 1790-1830 period. Jefferson is her hero and Federalists the enemy, but she acknowledges that Federalists were far more opposed to slavery and protective of Indian rights than Jefferson's Republicans, who were incensed by Northern efforts to block Missouri's admission as a slave state.
      The book is heavily anecdotal, based on her reading of some 200 autobiographies written during the period. She covers topics such as enterprise, careers, distinctions, intimate relations and reform, but the theme is the new national identities that emerged, one Northern and the other Southern, during the period. Three primary forces that shaped the Northern identity, economic enterprise, political participation and religious revival, also caused a reaction in the South that no less shaped it, but it ways that left it bewildered, defensive and conservative. Readers not already thoroughly conversant with the period will miss any discussion of the emergence of party politics, though she notes the personal vilification and "unchecked vituperation of public controversies" that resulted from the proliferation of new voices and new publications. The elements behind the rise of Jacksonian radical politics is absent, as is any treatment of the economic factors that encouraged the enterprise and careers she celebrates.
     More troubling is her misreading of the religious situation during the period. She notes "the religious revivalists successfully challenged the religious hegemony of the Anglican and Congregational churches," but that hegemony was regional, not national to begin with, and neither the Congregational church, challenged at home by Unitarians and in the western territories by Presbyterians, nor the Anglican church, still attempting to recover from its moribund situation following the war, carried the weight she implies. Moreover, the Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists had been ceded the field; the proselytizing zeal of the Quakers had long passed, the Dutch and German Reformed churches had never been anything by regional, more concerned with language and culture than with creed and salvation. Apart from the wonderfully vivid accounts of the Cane Ridge revival, I read much of the record of revivals as activities or campaigns that were generated by ministers in established churches attempting to attract new members to church rolls depleted by western migration, rather than an unprecedented religious fervor that swept the country. She does note that women were the vast majority of those affected by the revival and reform movements and credits the Second Great Awakening with bringing blacks, free and slave, into the Protestant church, but neglects any discussion of the significant impact of the African Methodist Episcopal church, for example, in building black communities and opportunity. My conclusion: interesting and stimulating, but unreliable in its interpretation of the major forces of the period.


Jon Butler. Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776. Cambridge: Harvard, 2000
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Butler argues that there was a remarkable social and economic transformation in the American colonies between 1680 and 1770: (1) they became ethnically and nationally diverse, (2) they developed national and international economies, (3) they displayed religious pluralism, (4) exhibited a modern penchant for power over both humanity and nature that brooked few limitations or questions about their propriety, and in government, (5) they looked ahead to large-scale participatory politics. He details the many ways in which the established Anglican and Congregational orthodoxies were overrun by the new insistence on toleration and the expansion of religious sects. His treatment of the destruction of African religious systems, although brief, is exceptional. This book provides the best short summary of the religious development of the colonies I have encountered.


Kevin Phillips. The Cousins' Wars: Religion, Politics, and the Triumph of Anglo-America. New York: Basic Books, 1999
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Although the ostensible subject is the English Civil War, the American Revolution and our own Civil War, the underlying motif is the influence of religion in determining the alignment of the opposing forces in those conflicts. There is considerable demographic data here to buttress his argument about the pervasive role of religion in eighteenth and nineteenth century politics and the relentlessness of Puritanism in both England and America. Phillips' thesis: "from the seventeenth century, the English-speaking peoples on both continents defined themselves by wars that upheld, at least for a while, a guiding political culture of a Low Church, Calvinistic Protestantism, commercially adept, militantly expansionist, and highly convinced . . . that it represented a chosen people and a manifest destiny. In the full, three-century context, Cavaliers, aristocrats, and bishops pretty much lost and Puritans, Yankees, self-made entrepreneurs, Anglo-Saxon nationalists, and expansionists had the edge." But he has much to say about declining elites, such as the Quakers during the American Revolution, and the peace Germans, or Pietist sects, concentrated largely in Pennsylvania. The content is greatly enhanced by a number of exceptionally interesting thematic maps.


Graham Russell Hodges. Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1665-1865. Madison House, 1997.

While researching the old churches of Hunterdon County I was astonished to learn of the substantial slave population in the county even as late as 1820. That there were slaves in the southern counties of the state was less surprising, but the percentage of the population represented by slaves in Somerset and Monmouth, for example, was a real eye-opener. New Jersey's sympathies with the Southern cause and antipathy towards Lincoln, and, especially, the Emancipation Proclamation have long been known, of course, but the specific details gained by a close look at events in a single county makes for fascinating reading. Hodges details the relationships of Blacks and the Protestant churches, especially in the 1830s, the period that saw the rise of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the state. Some of the histories have celebrated the role of the Quakers and a few Presbyterian preachers in advocating freedom (but not political and social equality) for Blacks, but Hodges demonstrates that most of the freedoms came from efforts of the African American population itself.


Troy Messenger
. Holy Leisure: Recreation and Religion in God's Square Mile. Philadelhpia: Temple University Press, 2000
Ocean Grove was, along with the state of Utah, the country's oldest theocracy. Under a charter granted in 1870, New Jersey's legislature gave the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting of the Methodist Episcopal Church full municipal powers over the square-mile township just south of Asbury Park. Those powers were not revoked until court challenge in the 1970s. This is an account of the beginnings of Ocean Grove in the revivals and tent meetings of the nineteenth century; it takes the story to the present day, where the beaches and stores still close when someone is preaching in the Great Auditorium.

Firth Haring Fabend. Zion on the Hudson: Dutch New York and New Jersey in the Age of Revivals. New Brunswick: Rutgers, 2001.
The cohesiveness of the Dutch Reformed Church in this area had less to do with religion, although adherence to some of the doctrines and practices was strong, than with the attempt to preserve the Dutch culture and language in a colony increasingly English and Presbyterian in emphasis. Those traditions held firm long after Dutch immigration had essentially ended in the late 1660s. In many congregations, preaching was conducted in Dutch in the morning and English in the afternoon well into the nineteenth century, a practice also found in Lutheran and German Reformed churches, where services in German were still common even fifty years after the American Revolution. Ms Fabend draws on letters and church records, among other sources, to describe in detail the influences of the Reformed Church on daily lives, and to generalize about the corollary—how American culture ultimately overwhelmed the "Dutchness" of the Reformed church.


Charles P. Cashdollar. A Spiritual Home, Life in British and American Reformed Congregations, 1830-1915. Penn State University Press, 2000.

The subject is Presbyterian churches (rather than Reformed), but the conclusions are broadly applicable to mainstream Protestant churches in this country: in 1830, "a congregation engaged in little except worship, pastoral care, and mission; by 1900 a fully functioning church included sports teams, literary clubs and organized groups of every sort." With the change in function, the physical nature of the church had to adapt, which usually meant a larger church, specialized rooms and considerably more comfort. The author draws on a large number of churches, although none from New Jersey, for his generalizations.


Peter W. Williams. Houses of God: Region, Religion, and Architecture in the United States. Illinois, 1997.
Williams covers the entire US, and includes contemporary churches as well as older ones. He raises many issues of the influence of region and sect on design in his historical treatment of church architecture. An indispensable place to begin a study of American church buildings.


Phoebe Stanton. The Gothic Revival & American Church Architecture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1968.

This classic book offers an exceptional review of the rise of Gothic Revival in this county, with many references to the design and construction of New Jersey churches, including the Holy Innocents Chapel in Burlington, St. Mary's in Burlington, St. Peter's in Spotswood, St. Marks in West Orange, Trinity in Matawan, and St. Stephen's in Milburn. The discussion of regional architects and their influence is a little too limited, but helpful, nevertheless.