e are so used to our historic sites being isolated local, countyor national park facilities that we often forget that the sweepof history isn’t packaged so neatly. The story of what really
happened crosses the articial administrative borders, and even geo
-political boundaries, that we see today.A case in point is the evolution of electrical telecommunications,which was brought to practicality in Morristown at the SpeedwellIron Works in 1837 by Alfred Vail and Samuel F. B. Morse. Thereare many world-changing implications from the work that tookplace at this invention facility, now a Morris County historic park:the birth of the telecommunications industry’s first incarnation
in the telegraph, the dots and dashes which were our rst digital
electronics, and the management of the data which was the birthof information technology. Over the next generation, an industrywas born and New Jersey grew to prominence as a high-tech center
with proximity to the nancial capital and end-users in New York.
In that next generation, a midwestern boy, not even born yetwhen Vail and Morse transmitted their first messages, grew upfascinated by the hacker culture of his era. His exceptional graspof the technology and inventive streak for envisioning improve-ments to electromechanical technologies drew the young man eastto the high-tech Silicon Valley of its day. First in Newark, then inMenlo Park, and by 1887 in West Orange, telegrapher/technolo-gist Thomas Alva Edison started with the technologies originallydeveloped at Speedwell and enhanced the “Invention Factory” con-cept to create many foundation technologies of our modern world.The West Orange facility in Essex County where Edison workedfor almost the last half-century of his life is now the Thomas Edi-son National Historic Park, a federal site located in our neighbor-ing county. But the sweep of technological history, and for thatmatter the revolution in communications that started at Speed-well, cannot be told only by looking at the isolated chapters thateach site preserves. This interconnected continuing story crossescounty lines and administrative government organizations.Recognizing this, the Heritage Commission has embarked on amission to cross-connect our technology-based historic site at Speed-well with the next generation embodied in the Edison story. We havebeen a catalyst to bring together the Morris County Parks and UnitedStates National Park Service stewards of these historically connectedplaces, to share technology tourism and to help archivists, research-ers, and visitors alike to see the common DNA which eventuallybuilt our contemporary culture. As the lesser known site, Speedwell
stands to benet from enhanced tourism sparked by the Edison site.But the Edison site will benet too from a greater understanding
that its own history really began in Morristown a generation earlier.
Larry Fast, chairman Morris County Heritage Commission
Changes at theCommission
iriam Morris of Flandershas been appointed to theMorris County HeritageCommission by the Board of Chosen
Freeholders for a ve-year term. Mrs.
Morris has been a Morris County resi-dent for over thirty years. An architectby training, Mrs. Morris has a suc-cessful track record of grant writingand grant and project management.She has been actively involved withthe Roxbury Historic Trust since 2002and is a leader on the King Store andHouse restoration project.
Mrs. Morris lls the seat recently
vacated by Dave Bogert, who hadserved on the Heritage Commissionsince April of 2007. During his tenureMr. Bogert was active on the Commis-sion’s archives, grants/re-grants, ex-hibits/programs, and historic markercommittees. The Heritage Commis-sion thanks Mr. Bogert for his yearsof service and welcomes Mrs. Morristo her new position.
Miriam Morris is the newest member of the Heritage Commission
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guidelines for the downtown historicarea.More information about the re-grantprogram or any of the other programssponsored by the Morris County Heri-tage Commission may be obtained bycalling the Commissionat 973.829.8117, visiting our websiteat