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The Boss
THE BOY IN THE HORSESHOE

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Life in the Horseshoe Section of Jersey City in the eighteen-seventies. Parentage, birth, education of Frank Hague through six grades. Dislike for manual work, especially the manual labor in the shops of the Erie. Early brushes with the law. The prizefight manager. Election as a constable.

The mere fact of a private person's rising to be a prince presupposes either merit or good fortune ... and yet he who is the less beholden to fortune has often in the end the better success.


AS THE HUDSON RIVER nears the sea, the Palisades on its western shore drop away, leaving a flat expanse of marshland between the Hudson and the Hackensack, approximately ten miles long and, at its widest point, four miles across. This peninsula, surrounded on three sides by rivers and swamps, is Hudson County; and its central area, across the river from downtown New York, is Jersey City.

In the seventeenth century there were islands in the marsh, some rocky, some covered with vegetation, upon which the early Dutch settlers made their homes. The Dutch left to posterity only their names upon some streets and roads in the area that came to be known as Jersey City. The swamp was filled in as the city grew, notably after the eighteen-fifties when the railroads were pushing for New York. Filled-in marshland formed the site for many a sprawling factory even before the Civil War. The New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company, a predecessor of the Pennsylvania Railroad, bought control of a closed corporation called `The Associates of the Jersey Company' that Alexander Hamilton had organized as a dock, wharf, and ferry company. Exercising the rights provided by the charter, the company blasted its way through Bergen Hill to reach the Hudson and supply a direct rail connection between New York City and Philadelphia. Shiploads of Irish immigrants, driven from their homeland by the potato famines, landed at Jersey City to do the rough work of railroad building. (For these items, and for many others in this chapter, the author has drawn freely upon an unpublished manuscript, `Everything for Industry,' written by Mr. Ashley Carrick of Jersey City.)

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