History Cards for Kids... And Yes, Maybe Their Parents, Too

Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen, Historical Society of Plainfield President Nancy Piwowar and Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski display the new History Trading Card depicting Caesar.
Charles Cornwallis.
Hannah Caldwell.
Virginia Apgar.
William Livingston.
Concert attendees had the opportunity to collect all of the history cards. Credits: Jennifer Popper
Credits: Jennifer Popper
Credits: Jennifer Popper

UNION COUNTY, NJ - So what do we tell the children?...about the past, that is.

After a successful pilot program at the Deserted Village last fall, Union County’s Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs is rolling out a History Trading Card series for youngsters to learn more about the history of the people and events that shaped Union County -- and the country --we know today.

“We live in a County that is so rich in history -- and I’m not talking just about the Revolution --I’m talking about a County whose residents played vital roles in every century since New Jersey was first settled in the 1600s,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen.

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“And yes, sadly, much has been paved over and developed over our 400 years, but we should know the ground we walk on -- the incredible people who came before us,” Bergen said.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr studied at The Academy in old Elizabethtown, while George Washington directed the Battle of the Short Hills from the Drake House in Plainfield, noted Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski.

John Philip Holland, who designed the first submarine capable of running submerged for a considerable distance, would build the US Navy’s first submarines at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth. The famous scientist Nikola Tesla built his plant in Rahway while Marconi built his factory in Roselle Park, she said.

“And it was not all that long ago,” Kowalski said, “That in Linden, when America needed planes for World War II, when we were fighting totalitarian dictatorships, the General Motors Plant went from turning out cars to producing fighter planes.”

“When babies are born and they want to check to see if they’re okay,” Bergen said, “they administer the Apgar test. Dr. Virginia Apgar, who invented that test, lived in Westfield.”

One of the history cards features Caesar, a slave of Isaac Drake, who was freed in 1769.  During the Revolutionary War, he was a teamster who drove supply wagons to troops  stationed at the Blue Hills Fort and Camp in Plainfield in what is now Union County’s Green Brook Park.  

Nancy Piwowar, President of the Historical Society of Plainfield, said, "I appreciate the Union County Board of Freeholders and the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs for all of their efforts to remember Caesar who at the age of 78 risked his life to supply the Continental Army. Caesar was a hero, and his story will be known for future generations."

Last year, the Cultural & Heritage Affairs Office, part of the Union County Parks Department, developed the first cards in the Union County Across the Centuries series: Alexander Hamilton, William Livingston, Jonathan Dayton and Hannah Caldwell.  Youngsters at Four Centuries in a Weekend had so much fun collecting the cards that work continued, with 14 cards now in the series and more on the way.

Because the County was celebrating the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Short Hills in June with a reenactment of the battle at Oak Ridge Park, a lot of focus was put on the Revolutionary War era. But as the program rolls out, there will be cards from across Union County’s history.

The new cards were unveiled this week at the County’s Wednesday night free Summer Arts concert in Oak Ridge Park. They will be going out to historic sites across the county, with the goal of encouraging youngsters to visit the sites to collect specific cards.

To see some of the cards now available, go to:

For more information, contact Cultural & Heritage Affairs at 908-558-2550 or

For all Union County programs and services visit, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email or use the online Contact Form.

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