Before 1949: Thirty Years War on Hagueism
Part One

By J. Owen Grundy
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

It's commonly assumed that Frank Hague maintained an undisputed reign over Jersey City from 1917 to 1949, when J.V. Kenny and his "Freedom" ticket defeated the Hague-controlled Eggers candidates. The general public did note the exceptional -- and wasted -- efforts of John Longo. And, at the same time, everybody saw the "Hague Republicans" for what they were: a co-opted and controlled token opposition.

But, right from the very start, Hague encountered resistance, often fierce. From the time of the 1913 election, which put Frank Hague and two colleagues (Ferris and Brensinger) in control of Jersey City's first City Commission, independent Republican Mark Fagan (who was Mayor) and Commissioner A. Harry Moore (the only survivor of Mayor H. Otto Wittpenn's ticket) had bitter and open differences with Hague, as reported in the press.

When Wittpenn was beaten by Walter Edge for Governor in 1916, A. Harry Moore went over to Hague. A year later, in the municipal election, Moore was elected with Hague and three others. Now Hague was in complete control. Edge was governor and had a working arrangement with Hague; the former to be left alone in South Jersey and Hague to be "protected" in Hudson. This was the beginning of the long affair between Hague and the Hague Republicans.

In the 1919 gubernatorial primary, Hague backed Edward I. Edwards, Democrat state senator from Hudson, against the Essex Democrat boss Jim Nugent. Edwards won and the state Democrat "power house" was transferred from Newark to Jersey City. Hague now ruled the political capital of New Jersey and stayed in power until 1949 when John V. Kenny defeated Hague's hand-picked successor and nephew, Frank Eggers.

But, those who convey the idea that up to 1949 Hague ruled serene and supreme, without any serious or spectacular opposition, not only pervert history, but do a grave injustice to the many men and women, (some alive, but most dead,) who carried on a timeless and relentless crusade to topple Hague from 1921 up to and including 1949; this does not include the Hagueites and opportunists who jumped on Kenny's bandwagon, when they saw it rolling to almost certain victory.

Shortly after Hague's 1917 victory, the late Robert Ambry, Sr. began to lay the ground work which eventually brought about the probe of Hudson County by the Legislative Committee, headed by Republican state senator Wm. B. Mackay, of Bergen County, in 1921. That same year, there was a strong Anti-Hague Fusion ticket, including Col. George T. Vickers, August Ziegener, (later a Judge), attorney J. Arthur O'Toole (a crippled World War I hero), Walter Gorman (prominent businessman), and William Cahill (an anti-Hague Democrat, who had been Boulevard Commissioner). They conducted a vigorous campaign.