"Canals of New Jersey" at Macculloch Hall Historical Museum

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Credits: By photographer Olin Vough. Detail. Courtesy of the Roxbury Historical Society
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MORRISTOWN, NJ - Macculloch Hall Historical Museum (MHHM) has partnered with the Canal Society of New Jersey (CSNJ) to present their traveling exhibit “Canals of New Jersey”. 

The exhibit was created in 1985 in part to commemorate the Society’s 25th anniversary. The display consists of panels that tell the story of New Jersey’s two towpath canals, the Morris and the Delaware and Raritan. In 1824 the Morris Canal & Banking Company was chartered to build a canal that would carry coal to developing markets along the eastern seaboard. The Morris Canal would pass through the heart of New Jersey’s iron district and provide the long-needed transportation system that would promote commercial activity and enable rustic settlements to grow into thriving industrial towns. The canal extended 102 miles from Pennsylvania, across varied terrain through New Jersey, ending at Newark. By the early 1900’s the canal had become obsolete.

Today, the Morris Canal Greenway, a partnership between local communities and the Canal Society of New Jersey, seeks to preserve the surviving historic remains of the canal, interpret canal sites, and offer recreational opportunities to the public. 

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For the installation at MHHM the exhibit has gotten a face lift, with new titles and new art work. The CSNJ’s display has been supplemented by objects including some from MHHM’s collection and information about Macculloch Hall founder George Macculloch who had the idea for the Morris Canal.  In the early 1820s George Macculloch had a vision of a waterway to connect the Delaware River to the Hudson River in Northern New Jersey. This exhibit in part celebrates Macculloch’s part in the vision, promotion and impact that the Morris Canal had on New Jersey. The canal would become an engineering feat of its day, using locks and inclined planes to climb the elevation differences in the land. A technical marvel of its time and the Morris canal helped to spur the economy in New Jersey by allowing goods to reach further afield than ever before. The exhibit shares some of the stories of the workers and families who lived and worked on the canal, as well as other details about its construction using photographs and drawings, as well objects including model canal boats and images. The “Canals of New Jersey” exhibit is on display in the second floor gallery during touring hours through October 29th.

Visitors to the museum can also enjoy the other two current exhibits on display. In the main gallery the exhibit “Thomas Nast: Unknown Works and American Icons” displays an important collection of rarely exhibited, virtually unknown works by the man whose art defined many of America’s most popular icons: Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, the Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant. Previously unpublished oil paintings and watercolors, rarely seen pencil sketches, pen and ink drawings, and original architectural elements from the artist’s home are among the objects presented in the exhibition. In addition to these and several never-before-exhibited pieces, some of Thomas Nast’s best-known characters are also on view through June 2015.

Mounted to commemorate the final year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015), the second floor exhibit “The Civil War Through the Eyes of Thomas Nast” focusses on Thomas Nast’s Civil War political cartoon work.  Nast illustrated battles, Union and Confederate troop movements, and their activities throughout the Civil War. He also captured the poignancy of those back home, who worried about their family members in combat. Nast covered both the home and battle fronts; his work was the main source of information about the war for many people. His illustrations in publications like “Harper’s Weekly” brought the information about what was happening into the homes of the American public, the way mass media does today.  “The Civil War Through the Eyes of Thomas Nast” exhibit is open through December 23rd 2015.

MHHM preserves the history of the Macculloch-Miller families, the Morris area community, and the legacy of its founder W. Parsons Todd through its historic site, collections, exhibits, and educational and cultural programs. MHHM is a nonprofit educational affiliate of the W. Parsons Todd Foundation.  MHHM is open for house and exhibit tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays & Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. The last tour ticket is sold at 3pm. Adults $8; Seniors & Students $6; Children 6 – 12 $4. Members and children under 5 are free. Please check our website for any holiday closings. Call (973) 538-2404 ext. 10, visit our website maccullochhall.org find us on Facebook. MHHM, 45 Macculloch Ave., Morristown, NJ 07960. Macculloch Hall Historical Museum received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.  

 

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