Marc Mappen: Celebrates New Jersey's claims to fame

Historians in the News

As residents of a state that is often the butt of comedians' jokes, New Jerseyans need a morale boost now and then.

That is just what they got last Wednesday night at the YM-YWHA of Union County, in a talk that offered a rapid rundown of the accomplishments that set the state apart.

Marc Mappen, executive director of the New Jersey Historical Commission, regaled a gathering of around 50 people at a talk cosponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women's Union County Section and the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest.

Titled "There's More to New Jersey than the Sopranos," Mappen's talk drew history buffs and would-be buffs. Most were senior citizens, who were able to provide a personal angle to Mappen's anecdotes.

"Why are people so contemptuous of our nice little state?" he asked. When you hear that New Jersey is the setting for a joke, "you know something really stupid is going to happen." Even Rodney Dangerfield didn't give Jersey any respect, he said.

But the state also happens to have been home to some very clever people, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison among them. It has been the setting for the invention of all kinds of things – like Teflon, the submarine, the drive-in cinema, Streptomycin, and bar codes, to name a few.

Mappen's commission is charged with increasing public understanding and appreciation of the state's heritage. He is the author of two books, Jerseyana: The Underside of New Jersey History and Murder and Spies, Lovers and Lies: Settling the Controversies of American History. He is also the coeditor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of New Jersey.

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