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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:United States / 20th Century
  • Language:English
  • Pages:454
  • eBook ISBN:9798350933666
  • Hardcover ISBN:9781543954029

Roebling: Company Town

Steel, Immigrants, Moonshine and Crap Tables

by Louis Borbi

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ROEBLING: Company Town is the first ever book that chronicles the life of the workers who made the wire for the George Washington Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge and the wire rope to win two World Wars. Follow the newly arriving immigrants from Eastern Europe as they work around three thousand degrees open-hearth furnaces, endure epidemics, Prohibition and moonshine, the Great Depression, Blue Center football, and segregation. Using hundreds of interviews, antiquated newspapers and pictures gathered over the past fifty years, Louis Borbi tells the story of ROEBLING that will keep generations of readers spellbound.
Steel--the backbone of a growing industrial nation. Roebling--John A. Roebling and Sons Company, well-known for building the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, was ready to expand into the steel-making business. Land--the right piece of property was located alongside the Delaware River just eleven miles south of its Trenton, NJ plant. Workforce--it was an era when immigrants were welcomed for the labor they could provide. In ROEBLING: Company Town 1905-1947, discover how these major components worked together to build the unique community of Roebling, NJ. Louis Borbi, a life-long resident of Roebling with a keen interest and passion for its history, meticulously compiled a wealth of information over the past fifty years. He interviewed hundreds of residents, collected news articles and pictures of bygone days, and searched through century-old employment records. His family members, at one time numbering over fifty people, all lived in Roebling and many worked in the plant. The author also worked in many departments of the plant during summer breaks while teaching at the Roebling Public School. Through vivid descriptions and dialogue influenced by these reference materials, Borbi enables readers to step into the past and learn about everyday life in ethnic neighborhoods. He follows the journey of the impoverished Eastern European immigrants to America where a job and a home awaited. It is their story. Discover how they worked around open-hearth furnaces with the temperature fluctuating near 3,000 degrees to make the wire for the George Washington Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge and the wire cables to help win two World Wars. Read about the epidemics, Prohibition and moonshine, the Great Depression, Blue Center football, and the town Walter Winchell proclaimed as having the biggest gambling joint east of the Mississippi River in 1947. With their faith and perseverance, the immigrants and their children adapted to the American way of life while preserving their distinct ethnic traditions which added to the unique flavor of the melting pot that formed in Roebling. Nurtured by the Roebling Company, a community was built where pride in their workmanship and the contributions they made to their newly-adopted country, America, flourished. Roebling was a great place to grow up. Roebling took care of its people, while they were busy taking care of the world.
About the author
Louis Borbi, the grandson of immigrants from Eastern Europe, was born in Trenton and has lived his whole life in Roebling, NJ. He grew up in a row house designated for immigrants when the town was founded in 1905. He lived in the two-bedroom house with his parents, brother, and twin sister. After graduating from the Roebling Grammar School, Florence Township Memorial High School, and the University of Maryland, where he majored in history, Borbi taught in the Roebling Public School for twenty-nine years. It was in his first year of teaching in 1967 that the idea for the book, ROEBLING: Company Town came into existence. He realized no one was documenting the stories of the men and women who worked for the John A. Roebling and Sons Company and lived in the company town. He then made a commitment to document their reminiscences before they would vanish forever. For the next fifty years, he conducted hundreds of interviews in the distinct ethnic neighborhoods and barrooms, collected newspapers, magazines, old pictures, and thousands of work records. During his summer breaks from teaching, he worked in the steel plant and used his experience from working alongside the first and second generations of workers to tell their story. As a teacher and one of the founders of the Roebling Historical Society in 1980, he brought the young generation together with the old to listen to their life experiences. In addition, he made two trips back to the village in Romania where his grandparents emigrated in 1912. Both trips yielded a wealth of information on daily life, which in some instances hasn't changed much in the last hundred years. It is Louis Borbi's aspiration that the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and all future generations will read and appreciate what their ancestors contributed to the history of Roebling and our country.

Book Reviews

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Book Review and Art Appreciation I have really enjoyed reading the book. Lou has really set the bar high for writing a local history book. It’s obviously been a longtime labor of love and something that he should take an immense amount of pride in seeing it finally come to fruition. There is a wonderful balance between historical fact and human interest anecdotes which combined really make the story of Roebling come alive. I either knew, or knew of, several people who are mentioned in the stories, and their stories are told in such a vivid way that it’s almost like the reader is an onlooker. It doesn’t get any better than that. We are really pleased with the pieces we bought. All three paintings are hanging now, although one will move to a different place after Christmas when I switch out things. I really appreciate being able to come to your house to look at your art before the book signing. From what I’ve heard, there was quite a crowd at the signing which would have been problematic for me. At the same time, I wish circumstances were different and that I had been able to go as there were a number of people there that I would like to have seen. Thanks! Sincerely, Jim Read more