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A Great Conveniency by Kevin K. Olsen


A Maritime History of the Passaic River, Hackensack River and Newark Bay


This gem of a book by Wayne, New Jersey resident Kevin Olsen explores the role that local waterways have played in the development of their respective riverfront towns and surrounding areas.  Beginning with the first European explorations of the rivers and concluding with current efforts at restoration and clean up, he presents a comprehensive yet very readable chronicle of their place in New Jersey history, a history that is long overdue.

The book's genesis occurred over twenty years ago when the author examined some of the remaining lift bridges on the Hackensack River.  Intrigued by the image of large ships sailing as far north as Oradell, he began digging into period newspapers and archives.  What emerged was his story of how these rivers were an important part of the lives of cities and towns.

The author presents an all-inclusive look at early settlements, the American Revolution, sailing vessels and their cargoes, whaling, bridges, steamboats, and the natural resources of the Hackensack Meadowlands. Towns and landings discussed include Acquackanonck, Belleville, Bound Creek, Elizabeth, Hackensack, Kearny, Little Ferry, Ridgefield Park, Port Newark, New Bridge, Old Bridge, Tomkins Terminal, and Van Buskirk’s Landing.

During the 1600s water transportation was the only practical way to travel beyond the confines of New Amsterdam, the Dutch settlement on Manhattan Island.  Before the coming of the railroads, moving bulk cargoes was only practical via the rivers.  Even after the region had a railroad and highway network, schooners, steamboats, and barges continued to transport lumber, coal, stone, fertilizers, and other heavy loads.  As the relative importance of commercial navigation declined, pleasure boating, competitive rowing, and canoeing became more popular.  Today both commercial navigation and recreational boating are in decline but the rivers are experiencing a comeback.  A Great Conveniency tells their story, and concludes with an explanation of the reasons behind the upcoming $80 million Passaic River dredging project and the outlook for the continued growth in recreational use of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers.



Format: 6” x 9” perfect bound paperback on acid-free creme paper with gloss laminate cover
Pages: 260 including appendices, glossary, sources, and complete index
Illustrations: 88, including historical and contemporary images, photographs and line drawings
ISBN 10: 0-9753667-7-7
ISBN 13: 978-0-9842256-9-9
LCCN: 2008928359

Price: $18.95
Published: April 2008

A Great Conveniency author Kevin Olsen

About the Author

Kevin Olsen is a chemist on the support staff of Montclair State University's Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and a member of the University's Passaic River Institute.  He is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Environmental Management where his research interest is contaminated estuarine sediments.

The author's interest in local history began when his grandparents told their own stories of life in Garfield, Wallington, and Passaic.  Many male members of his father's family served in the Navy and told their own stories of the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  As a teenager, the author was a volunteer at the Archaeological Research Laboratory at the Van Riper Hopper House Museum.  Continuing his interest in archaeology after earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry, he helped unearth a number of sites in the New York and New Jersey area.  During the excavations at the Apshawa Rock Shelter, he met his wife Barbara.  His articles on maritime and local history have appeared in the Highlander, The American Neptune, and the Encyclopedia of New Jersey.  He has also published historical accounts in the Bulletin for the History of Chemistry and contributes essays on the scientific history of New Jersey to The Indicator, the news magazine of the North Jersey Section of the American Chemical Society.


 "If it floats, it's in here.  A much needed look at a forgotten chapter of our maritime heritage.  If you ever wondered who and what moved on the rivers this book is for you."
 - Dr. Kirk R. Barrett, Director, Passaic River Institute

"Kevin Olsen’s work sheds new light on the maritime history of these often maligned rivers and their impact on the development of the New York area."
 - Anthony Vouvalides, Waterworks Conservancy

"This is a great read for any maritime enthusiast. Kevin Olsen takes us back in time to explain how New Jersey’s Passaic River made America.  This book is a must for U.S. history curricula."
- Paul Lerin, Friends of the Passaic River, Inc.

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This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 08 June, 2011.

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