Trenton’s First Lunch Wagon

Peter G. Curtin and his pioneering lunch wagon
Born on October 17, 1859, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Peter G. Curtin was the son of a New York City harbor boatman. He obtained his early education in New York and later in Elizabeth, N.J., where he gained employment at the Singer Sewing Machine Company and learned the machinist trade. It was there that he kept a watchful eye on the city’s lunch wagon business and took advantage of an opportunity to take over a lunch wagon while its owner was on vacation, he decided to enter the business himself.

Moving to Trenton he was employed as a tool maker at Warren Kimball and Company, but afterward returned to Singer. Coming again to Trenton he established a restaurant, and noting there was not a lunch wagon to be seen anywhere in the city, he hired the carriage maker Fitzgibbon & Crisp to construct a wagon with which he realized his dream.

The Fatal Leap of Charles Richmond

Gathering at community parks to watch balloon ascensions was once a favorite national pastime. At Cochran Park on Morris Island in the Delaware River, as they had days before, a crowd gathered on June 5, 1893, to watch aeronaut Charles Richmond (abt.1860–1893) make a parachute jump from a hot air balloon. The leap proved fatal, however, as his parachute failed to open and he plunged several thousand feet into Sturgeon Pond and drowned.

Henry W. Antheil Jr., American Diplomat

Henry W. Antheil Jr.
Henry W. Antheil Jr. was born in Trenton on September 23, 1912. Educated at Trenton Central High School, he enrolled at Rutgers University (now Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey), but cut his higher education short when through the efforts of his older brother George Antheil, a composer and pianist then-living in Paris, he obtained an interview with William C. Bullitt, a family friend who had just been appointed ambassador to the Soviet Union, and subsequently accepted a position at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Bullitt presented his credentials to the Soviet government on December 13, 1933; Antheil and other newly-minted foreign service employees arrived at the embassy several months later.

After serving five years, during which Antheil was responsible for maintaining cryptographic communications devices and their codes and ciphers in the Soviet Union and Northern Europe, he obtained a transfer to the U.S. Legation in Helsinki, Finland, a country for which he developed a particular appreciation during his travels.

When the Soviet Union concluded mutual assistance treaties with the Baltic States in 1939, and moved toward their occupation in 1940, Antheil was dispatched to close the U.S. Legation in Tallinn, Estonia, and retrieve sensitive documents. On June 14, 1940, he boarded the Finnish airplane Kaleva for the return flight to Helsinki, with several diplomatic pouches in hand, but the plane crashed over the Gulf of Finland ten minutes after takeoff from the Tallinn airport.

John Taylor and the “Taylor Pork Roll”

John Taylor
Born on October 6, 1836, in Hamilton Square, N.J., John Taylor was the son of James F. Taylor, a brick manufacturer, and Rebecca Borden Taylor. Working at his father’s brick yard at an early age, he was but fourteen years old when his father died, at which time he took a job as a clerk in the grocery store owned by Anthony R. Rainear, and two years later he gained an interest in the business.

In 1856, he became associated with James Ronan under the firm of Ronan and Taylor, and, after Ronan’s retirement in 1860, he associated himself with Daniel P. Forst under the firm of Forst and Taylor, both of whom were wholesale grocers. When the latter firm was dissolved in 1870, he organized Taylor and Company (it was incorporated as Taylor Provision Company in 1889 and reincorporated as Taylor Provisions Company in 1939) and engaged in pork packing and livestock dealing.

The Combination Atlas Map of Mercer County, New Jersey (Everts and Stewart 1875) includes an illustration of Taylor’s meat packing house and livestock yard, and the map of the city’s “First and Fifth Wards” shows the location of the plant—simply labeled “pork packing est[ablishment]”—at the end of Perrine Avenue on the bank of the Assunpink Creek.

The American Sycamore, or Platanus occidentalis

Platanus occidentalis, a colored
plate by Henri-Joseph Redouté in
North American Sylva, published
in 1819
Wikimedia Commons
The American Sycamore, whose botanical name is Platanus occidentalis, has common names that include American Plane, Buttonball, Buttonwood, Eastern Sycamore, Occidental Plane, and Whitewood. It is a deciduous tree, native throughout the Eastern United States and westward into the Central Plains States, and is generally found in moist soil, particularly along streams and lowlands, where they can reach up to 130 feet in height. In planted landscapes, however, they typically reach heights of 75 to 90 feet.

It has a distinctive yellow-white trunk with exfoliating bark, and its palmate leaves measure eight to 12 inches in length and four to eight inches in width.

A colored plate of the American Sycamore’s leaf, flower, seed ball, and seed, drawn by Henri-Joseph Redouté and engraved by Gabriel, appeared in the English edition of North American Sylva, or A Description of the Forest Trees of the United States, Canada and Nova Scotia, published in 1819.

Written by French botanist François Andrew Michaux and translated by Augustus Lucas Hillhouse, it noted that: “Among trees with deciduous leaves, none in the temperate zones, either on the Old or the New Continent, equals the dimensions of the planes. The species which grows in the Western World is not less remarkable for its amplitude and for its magnificent appearance than the Plane of Asia, whose majestic form and extraordinary size were so much appreciated by the ancients.”

The American Sycamore is indeed a beautiful tree, and Riverview Cemetery has a number of specimens on the grounds.