Governor Franklin Murphy

(January 3, 1846 - February 24, 1920)

Governer - 1902 –1905


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Compiled by Col Len. Luzky:

There is a book that will interest students of the Civil War, Newark history, economic history, the Progressive Era and of New Jersey history: “A Billy Yank Governor”, the life and times of New Jersey’s Franklin Murphy, by Bernard A. Olsen, Phoenix Publishing 2000.

Governor Franklin Murphy, born January 3, 1846 in Jersey City, New Jersey. His father Joseph moved his family to Newark in 1856 to conduct a shoe manufacturing enterprise and they resided at 285 Mulberry Street. Franklin went to school at the Newark Academy.

At the age of sixteen, he (like thousands of his contemporaries) lied about his age to enlist in the Union Army in 1862 – 1865. He enlisted in the 13th New Jersey Volunteers, CO A. He saw great deal of actions in his three years of service. He rose from private to 1st Lieutenant, and fought at Antietem, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, and marched with Sherman at Burtonville, Averysboro, Dallas, Kencsaw Mountain, Resaca, Atlanta, Sandersville, Goldsboro and the Campaigns for Savannah and Carolina. He married Janet Colwell, June 24, 1868 at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Newark and had a daughter Helen and a son Frank Jr.

After the Civil War he became one of the more responsible as well as successful entrepreneurs of the Gilded Age. He established a Varnish manufacturing business in Newark, which made a superior product and was sold all over the country and abroad. It was incorporated as the Murphy Varnish Company in 1891. He was very progressive in employee relations’ management, loyal to his work force. He pioneered in the creation of profit sharing and pension system for his employees.

Franklin Murphy entered local and state politics and was a dedicated public servant. In 1883 he was elected a member of the Newark Common Council. He worked to modernize and beautify the City of Newark, in what became to be known as “City Beautiful Movement”. He was instrumental in getting the legislature of Essex County to create the Park Commission in 1885 and establish Branch Brook Park. He was elected to the New Jersey House Assembly in 1885. Won election as governor in 1901 –1905. Franklin Murphy turned New Jersey into a smaller version of Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal. He cleaned up the polluted Passaic River, cracked down on violations of New Jersey’s child labor laws, enforced progressive tenement house codes, instituted elections and ballot reforms that democratized state politics, supported public health measures to attack the scourge of tuberculosis and launched a road- building improvement program that made New Jersey’s roads among the nations best in the early twentieth century. By 1904 there were a 1000 miles of paved roads. He supported a law that established the independence of local school boards from local government. Franklin Murphy, fought as a soldier and for a progressive state and nation forty years later. A soldier, businessman and governor.

After leaving the office of governor Franklin Murphy worked for the Essex Park System as a Parks Commissioner. He was a member of the Board of Visitors for West Point Army and Annapolis Naval Academies. He was a member of the Board of Managers of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Franklin Murphy died on February 24, 1920 at the age of 74 and was buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Newark.