Chronicling The Observer’s history




By Anthony J. Machcinski

On the morning of March 14, 1887, three young men sat in a small back room looking at their finished work. The three men, Philip E. Brockway and brothers Bernard and Edward Fredericks, had spent the whole night working feverishly on the first copy of Volume 1, Number 1 of The Arlington Observer, a four-page, five-column masterpiece. What has simply become just another newspaper in modern society must have been viewed as a work of art for those three men. Today, 125 years later, that plain, but pioneering publication has evolved into the multifaceted collaboration of compositions you hold in your hands.

Formed 20 years after an act of the New Jersey Legislature created the Township of Kearny in 1867, The Observer has grown and changed as much as the town around it.

Judging from a town map from 1893, only six short years after the paper was born, Kearny looked much like many towns in western Jersey look today: spacious. The three men who started that paper on what was known as McCloud’s Block, now Elm St. (where Elm St. currently intersects with Midland Ave.) would be shocked to see the sheer amount of change just in their corner of town. Even the description of what was then known as Arlington from one of the men says it all: “Its western borders are washed by the placid Passaic.” Despite its poetic pageantry, I’d fi nd it hard to believe that anyone would describe the Passaic River as “placid” these days.


Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski


Even the Greenwood Lake branch of the Erie Railroad, once the lifeline of Kearny, has changed names countless times before its last owner, New Jersey Transit, stopped service in 2002.

The paper itself has seen a great deal of change since 1887. The three men who spent all night putting together four pages of material would be amazed to hear that graphic designers now can put our 32-page newspaper together within a couple of hours.

Of course, like many contemporaneous businesses since then, The Observer has changed hands on several occasions. Along with several others, the paper has been owned by Col. Theodore C. Wildman, Messrs. Perley and Burroughs, J.D. Beckwith, J.W. Speare, and William W. Beadell. The present version of the paper came into being in April 1935 when The Observer and the West Hudson Record merged.

The current owner of the Observer, Mary Tortoretti, took over the paper with her husband Anthony in 1972. As we pass our 125th birthday and look toward the future, one thing remains unchanged. While it is unclear whether of Brockway or one of the Fredericks wrote the following testimonial, it still rings true to this day. After citing an extensive list of infrastructure improvements in town, including mass transit and new utilities, one of the three men wrote, “Therefore, all things considered, Arlington offers many advantages to both manufacturers and residents.”

Today, with improvements in all those comforts as well as technological advancements, a newspaper that has become the backbone of the community can be added to that list.

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