Perth Amboy is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States. The City of Perth Amboy is part of the New York metropolitan area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 50,814, reflecting an increase of 3,511 (+7.4%) from the 47,303 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 5,336 (+12.7%) from the 41,967 counted in the 1990 Census. Perth Amboy is known as the "City by the Bay", referring to Raritan Bay.
The Lenape Native Americans called the point on which the city is built "Ompoge" meaning "level ground". When settled in 1684 the new city was dubbed New Perth in honor of James Drummond, Earl of Perth, one of the associates of a company of Scottish proprietaries. The Algonquian language name persisted, corrupted to Ambo, or Point Amboy, and eventually a combination of the native and colonial names emerged, also appearing in South Amboy.
Perth Amboy was first settled around 1683 by Scottish colonialists who had been recruited to inhabit the share of the East Jersey colony owned by Robert Barclay, a Quaker who would later become the absentee governor of the province.
Charter and incorporation
Perth Amboy was formed by Royal charter on August 4, 1718, within various townships and again by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on December 21, 1784, within Perth Amboy Township and from part of Woodbridge Township. Perth Amboy Township was formed on October 31, 1693, and was enlarged during the 1720s to encompass Perth Amboy city. Perth Amboy Township was incorporated as one of New Jersey's initial 104 townships on February 21, 1798. The township was absorbed by Perth Amboy city on April 8, 1844.
Perth Amboy served as a capital of the Province of New Jersey from 1686 until 1776. In 1684, Perth Amboy became the capital of East Jersey and remained the capital until the union of East and West Jersey in 1702, and became an alternate colonial capital with Burlington until 1776. A few of the buildings from this early period can still be seen today. Most notably, the Proprietary House, the home of William Franklin, the last Royal Governor of New Jersey and estranged son of Benjamin Franklin, still stands in the waterfront area of the city. St. Peter's Church was founded by the first Episcopal congregation in the state in 1718. Its current building, from 1875, is surrounded by a graveyard of early inhabitants and displays a collection of stained-glass windows with religious scenes as well as early depictions of New Jersey receiving her charter and a meeting between William Franklin and his father, Ben. Perth Amboy City Hall, first built as a courthouse in 1714, survived major fires in 1731 and 1764 and is the oldest city hall in continuous use in the United States. The Kearny Cottage, moved from its original location, is a remaining example of 18th vernacular architecture.
During the colonial period and for a significant time thereafter, Perth Amboy was an important way-station for travelers between New York City and Philadelphia, as it was the site of a ferry that crossed the Arthur Kill to Tottenville, Staten Island. Regular service began in 1709. This ferry became less important when the Outerbridge Crossing opened in 1928, but continued to operate until 1963. The Perth Amboy Ferry Slip was restored in 1998 to its 1904 appearance. A replica of the ticket office has been constructed and is used as a small museum.
Industrialization and immigration
By the middle of the 19th century, immigration and industrialization transformed Perth Amboy. Factories such as A. Hall and Sons Terra Cotta, Guggenheim and Sons and the Copper Works Smelting Company fueled a thriving downtown and employed many area residents. Growth was further stimulated by becoming the tidewater terminal for the Lehigh Valley Railroad and a coal shipping point. Perth Amboy developed tightly knit and insular ethnic neighborhoods such as Budapest, Dublin, and Chickentown. Immigrants from Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Russia, and Austria quickly dominated the factory jobs.
In 1914, Perth Amboy had a baseball team called the Pacers; they only played for one season. In late August 1923 a violent riot by an estimated 6,000 persons shook Perth Amboy when the Ku Klux Klan attempted to organize a meeting in the city.
The city was also a resort town in the 19th century and early 20th century, located on the northern edge of the Raritan Bayshore. However, since the early 1990s Perth Amboy has seen redevelopment. Small businesses have started to open up, and with the presence of an Urban Enterprise Zone. The waterfront has also seen a rebirth. The marina has been extended, there are new promenades, parks, and housing overlooking the bay.
Humorist James Thurber's biography My Life and Hard Times the chapter "More Alarms at Night" involves Perth Amboy. One night during his adolescence in Ohio, young Thurber is unable to go to sleep because he cannot remember the name of this New Jersey community. He wakens his father and demands that he start naming towns in New Jersey. When the startled father names several towns with single-word names, Thurber replies that the name he is seeking is "two words, like helter skelter". This convinces his father that Thurber has become dangerously insane. Thurber also wrote the story later made into the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, about an "inconsequential guy from Perth Amboy, New Jersey".