The Gloucester Gingham Mills having organized in 1872 under a charter from the Legislature of New Jersey, forthwith set about (under the able management of Mr. Philip H. Fowler, as superintendent) discarding its obsolete machinery and enlarging its walls for the most improved machinery of the day.
It had (1875) in operation, 7,146 spindles and 262 looms employing 275 operatives in the manufacture of ginghams, cheviots, and dress goods. David S. Brown was also President of this company, Philip H. Fowler became Superintendent and the mill thereafter was known as Fowler’s Mill. This factory was taken over and greatly enlarged by the Hinde & Dauche Paper Co. of Sandusky, Ohio for the manufacture of corrugate shipping containers.
Gloucester Iron Works
The Gloucester Iron Works, having been incorporated in 1871, at once erected buildings, foundries, machine and boiler shops and smitheries, principally for the manufacture of water-pipes, boilers, gas meters, fire plugs, valves, lamp posts of which they supplied many miles to the cities of Boston, Fall River, Providence, and Flushing. They also erected extensive water works and gas works in several important towns of the neighboring states, under their own skilled and experienced engineers.
The melting capacity of these works was about seventy tons of metal per diem, say 20,000 tons per annum, from which are made pipes ranging from two to thirty-inches in diameter. The greater part of their product is cast vertically in pits. The force engaged at the foundries was about 300 men, while they frequently employ a much greater number at distant points in executing contracts for construction. Mr. David S. Brown is president of the company. The superintendent, Mr. William Sexton was one of the ablest foundry men in the country; and Mr. James P. Mickelion, the secretary and business manager is well known as a civil engineer.
Hotel and Shad Fishing
Thompson leased the Buena Vista Hotel in Gloucester down by the river, and it quickly became a popular resort. It was there that he served planked shad. When Thompson’s lease expired the owners of the Buena Vista Hotel refused to renew it. This didn’t cause Thompson to desert Gloucester. He already saw that his future was linked with that place. Going a short distance down the river, he bought a piece of land and built his own hotel. There he continued to prosper, serving liquor seven days a week.
He had the big net of that time (then the Hugg Fishery) operated from the front of his place. He eventually purchased the fishery and became the owner of the riparian rights along the river front. This, with the fishery, was a valuable franchise and made the Gloucester Beach famous.
He amassed quite an amount of land as the years passed by and he soon became a political factor and a Democratic leader. He was elected to City Council and was a member continuously from 1886 until the present time 1911 and also became a member of other municipal bodies. He gained control and when the Brocks High License law went into effect in Philadelphia, many hotel keepers located at Gloucester and thousands of people came here daily and Sunday, and the old beach was made a poor man’s Cape May, and the Sunday baseball games were played here by “Billy” Sharzig’s Athletetics.
Thompson opened the Gloucester Race Track September first, 1890. It was in operation over three years. The horses ran throughout the year, winter and summer. The “duke’s” revenue from the race track was colossal.
Sixty bookmakers paid him $75 a day for the privilege of taking bets and “foreign” bookmakers paid $200 each, which had to be in Thompson’s hands before they could make the scratch of a pen within the betting ring. In addition to this thousands of men and women daily paid the admission fee of 50 cents at the gate. Race track was not all that awaited those with money. Stretched along Wailer Street were gambling houses and saloons, where visitors could ruin themselves, either before the races or after the races, provided they had not emptied their pocketbooks within the enclosure. At the close of the last race, the gambling resorts, dull while the horses ran awakened the new life, the gamblers exerting themselves to lure into their dives those of the race goers who had been fortunate in their bets. It was an old saying that what the race track did not get would be gleaned by the gamblers before a man with money in his pocket reached the ferry. When the toll from his great gambling estate had made him a millionaire Thompson made up his mind that he wanted a wide-open law in New Jersey for the greater prosperity of his race track. He was then a power in New Jersey.
He succeeded not only in electing his own governor and state legislature but had the peculiar triumph of having the starter at his race track, Thomas Flynn, named the Speaker of the House. Thompson, himself, was a member of the legislature representing the Third District of Camden County. His legislature in 1893 passed the wide-open race track gambling law, but the governor very appalled at the measure vetoed it. It was then that Thompson displayed a complete mastery of the situation. The legislature passed the law over the governor’s veto. This staggering revelation of the race track owner’s grip upon the law-making body of the state had an effect that surprised Thompson. Opposition to his methods was stirred in all parts of the state. At the next election a new legislature, hostile to wide-open gambling, was voted in, and in 1894, one year after his greatest triumph, in so far as display of political power is concerned, the Gloucester Race Track was forced to close.
He could not gain control of the ferry between Philadelphia and Gloucester so he started an opposition ferry. In 1889 he gained control of the Gloucester ferry through an outside party. He gave the farmers of South Jersey day and night service, something that was unknown when he took control. Later he had the Board of Freeholders, of which he was a member, build stone roads leading to the ferry.
(CNBNews EDITOR'S NOTE)--The above was copied from the booklet The History of Gloucester City, NJ. The year 1964 was the 341st anniversary of the State of New Jersey (1664 to 1964). That year Gloucester City's Mayor and Council authorized a Tercentenary Celebration with a number of events planned to emphasized Gloucester City's rich history. In 1964 a 50-page booklet titled THE HISTORY OF GLOUCESTER CITY compiled by the Gloucester City Jaycees, with the help of the Gloucester City Historical Society was published and distributed to residents. The book contained historical photos and documents, that began with the early history of the different Indian tribes that lived in and around Gloucester City.
RELATED: Gloucester City History
Part Six: The Brick Building; Library; Rotary Club
Part Five: Bill Thompson, The Duke of Gloucester
PART FOUR: Fire Dept./Police Dept./Water Dept.