From the broad sweep of comparative history, we now turn to the specific milieu in which the subjects of this book lived and labored. Workers experienced the enormous growth and change that took place in the American economy in the late nineteenth century, not in some average, typical set of circumstances but in particular workplaces, communities, and states. The specific setting for the organizational successes and failures, the alliances and divisions to be analyzed in the chapters that follow is New Jersey. In this chapter we take a glimpse at New Jersey's industrial development and at the legal and political environment that provided the backdrop against which workers organized. We also examine the Knights' activities and membership in the Garden State.
New Jersey in the late nineteenth century was among the most industrial, urban, and ethnically diverse states in the Union. Located between two of the nation's oldest and largest ports ( New York and Philadelphia) and endowed with winding rivers that could be harnessed for power and transportation, New Jersey began to develop as a manufacturing center early in the nineteenth century. In the post- Civil War years, however, the pace of economic development quick-