Collections from New Jersey National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in New Jersey. We invite you to explore museum collections from Gateway National Recreation Area, Thomas Edison National Historic Site, and Morristown National Historical Park.

This is the first instrument for recording and reproducing sound. A sheet of heavy tin foil is wrapped around the grooved central drum. A recording horn is inserted in the shorter of the two diaphragms. The user shouts into the horn and a vibrating stylus mounted in the center of the diaphragm indents a groove into the tin foil, making an impression of the sound waves. The spiral groove winds its way the length of the tin foil as the user turns the crank. Then the horn is placed on the opposite diaphragm and it becomes a reproducing horn. The user reverses the crank, bringing this diaphragm back to the beginning of the tin foil. Its stylus, attached to the diaphragm by a thin metal wire, “reads” the grooved impression and reproduces the sound just recorded. Edison was surprised by the immediate success of the device, and in later life said it was his favorite invention. He soon took it to New York to demonstrate it to the editors of Scientific American, and to Washington where he exhibited it to members of Congress and to President Rutherford B. Hayes at the White House. Edison manufactured entertainment phonographs and recordings until 1929. His business phonographs for office use continued until the 1960s. The process of preserving and retrieving sound, including the entire recording industry, derives from this one little instrument.

Thomas Edison National Historical Park, EDIS 34

This photo, taken in 1970, shows President Nixon visiting Floyd Bennett Field, part of the proposed Gateway National Recreation Area. This image was chosen because it illustrates how important this new concept of "recreation areas" was in the National Park Service. Before Gateway NRA there were no Recreation Areas in the National Park Service. This new idea was considered a major breakthrough in recreation planning and it grew out of President Nixon's
"Parks to the People" campaign platform. In creating Gateway NRA, (and later additional recreation areas) the National Park System would have sites near urban centers and would be able to give access to National Parks to people that may not otherwise be able to visit a National Park.

Today, Gateway NRA is a 27,024.73 acre national park consisting of three unconnected units at the entrance to New York Harbor. These units contain beaches, military bases, historic airfields and more. The park was visited last year by over 6 million people and boasts the only wildlife refuge in the National Park Service. The recreation activities include swimming, organized sports, bird watching, kayaking, hiking, learning about the historic aspects of the park, and much more. The experiment in recreation has been a resounding success!

Gateway National Recreation Area, GATE 19483

Martha Washington spent the hard winter of 1779-1780 with her husband George at Morristown, NJ, where he had set up headquarters in the home of the widow Theodosia Ford. Aside from the weather—which was the worst on the eastern seaboard in recorded history—Washington had to face some of his greatest challenges to keep his army together. This stress took a great toll on him and his wife.
When the Washingtons parted company in June of 1780, Martha Washington headed back home to Mount Vernon. After arriving, she wrote to her cousin Col. Burwell Bassett on July 13, 1780, asking him if his daughter could come and spent time at Mount Vernon. Near the end of the letter, on the verso pictured here, Mrs. Washington referred to the dire emotional state of her husband General Washington over the state and progress of the war. She wrote: “the poor general was so unhappy that it distressed my exceedingly.” This rare surviving letter of Martha Washington shows how the war impacted both her and her husband, especially during the hard winter at Morristown.

Morristown National Historic Park, Morristown Archival Collection

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Thomas Edison National Historic Site, Gateway National Recreation Area, and Morristown National Historical Park.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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