An Interview with archaeologist and curator Jeffrey Norcross

Jeffrey Norcross is founder and curator of The South Jersey Museum of American History, located right here in Glassboro. Norcross is an archaeologist with a brimming passion for the artifacts that make up his museum. Many of the antique farming tools on display come directly from Norcross’s family, which have called South Jersey home for many generations. The Museum also sports collections of Native artifacts, antique firearms, political memorabilia, century-old glass bottles that recall Glassboro’s manufacturing history and much more. The Museum’s fascinating items are surely not its only draw. A personal tour from Norcross is filled with in-depth knowledge, humor and genuine pleasure in revealing his life-long passion through the items he has collected.



The South Jersey Museum of American History is located at 123 East High Street, Glassboro, NJ 08028. The Museum is open from 1-5pm Thursday-Sunday. You can reach them at 856-442-0688.


A Brief History of Glassboro, NJ

In 1779, Glassboro was founded by Solomon Stanger to establish a factory for the manufacturing of glass. In its early years the town was known as “Glass Works in the Woods,” and catered to the burgeoning industry. Throughout the years, ownership of the major glass factory changed hands a number of times to different glass manufactures, including the Heston-Carpenter Glass Works, Olive Glass Works,  Harmony Glass Works and the Whitney Brothers Glass Works.

In the mid 19th century, under the ownership of the Whitney brothers, Glassboro became home to one of South Jersey’s largest and most successful glass factories. Following the success of the factory, Glassboro became one of Gloucester County’s largest communities and home to a blacksmith, wheelright, carpenter, shoemaker and mason. Another notable accomplishment of the Whitney Brothers was the construction of Hollybush, an Italian-style villa, which still proudly stands on Rowan University’s campus to this day and would later be the site of the Glassboro Summit Conference.

As the glass industry declined, the factory was moved out of the center of the town and instead focused on the production of various metal and glass products instead of the flasks and bottles it had gained recognition for. In 1923, the Glassboro Normal School was opened on 25-acre piece of land granted by the town. In the 1930’s the school was renamed the New Jersey State Teachers College at Glassboro and in 1958 as Glassboro State College.

In 1967, Glassboro was chosen for a meeting between US President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet premier to discuss limiting anti-ballistic missele systems. The meeting of two of the 20th century’s greatest powers became known as the Glassboro Summit Conference. The leaders met in Hollybush and although an agreement was not reached, the good nature of the Summit gave rise to the phrase, “The Spirit of Glassboro,” which of course is from which this blog draws its name. In line with the positive atmosphere, the event was seen as softening the relations between the two nations.

President Johnson and Soviet Premier Kosygin Photo by National Park Service

In 1992, Glassboro State alumni and successful engineer, Henry Rowan gave a $100 million dollar endowment to the college and in 1996 the school was renamed Rowan University. Revitalized by the endowment the school added a top-tier engineering program, complete with a new state-of-the-art building. Into the 21st century, Rowan has continued to grow. Most recently a mixed purpose building, housing students, classrooms and businesses was built and named the Whitney Center, after Glassboro’s famous Whitney brothers. Construction is ongoing to transform Glassboro into a true university town.

Welcome to the Spirit of Glassboro!

Hello and welcome to the Spirit of Glassboro! I’m Steve Giangola and a senior at Glassboro’s very own Rowan University. I’ve called Glassboro, New Jersey home for the past few years as I’ve made my way through college and have seen the town change in just this short amount of time. As the university continues to expand, many students may miss some of the historical treasures that this town holds. I wish to change that.

Through this blog I’d like to reveal and fascinate with the stories and legends that may have other wise gone unnoticed to the multitude of young people that make Glassboro their second home for four years. From the city’s past as a thriving community for glass works in the 19th century to the founding of Glassboro State College in the 20th and to the rebranding of that school into Rowan University in the 21st, I’d not only like to examine Glassboro’s historical gems but look towards the future as well. In addition to retrospective posts about historical Glassboro, I will cover events around Glassboro that cater to the growing student population as well as the suburban community that exists here too.

I will begin my quest in examining Glassboro’s past as South Jersey’s “Glass Works in the Woods” as it was appropriately deemed by the town’s founder, Solomon Stranger. My journey will take me through the decline of this once thriving industry into Glassboro’s rebirth as home to a prestigious teaching college, Glassboro State and into the 1960’s, where I will examine the Glassboro Summit Conference, during which US President Lyndon B. Johnson met with Soviet Premier Alexi Kosygin to discuss an agreement on limiting anti-ballistic missile systems. The purported positive atmosphere of the Summit was deemed “the Spirit of Glassboro” and is from which I derive my blog’s title. From that point, I will focus on Henry Rowan’s $100 million dollar donation to Glassboro State and its transformation into Rowan University. Although these are the major points on which I will focus, I’d also like to discover all of the little stories in between that make local history truly compelling. I hope to be surprised and fascinated by the things I find and hope you will be as well. I will also cover local events, whether they be music events or wine tastings, that are shaping Glassboro into the home of an ever expanding university town.

I’m delighted to share the stories I find here in the town and share my love of the place where I’ve transformed from wide eyed freshmen student into a driven, young adult. So come along and join me, as I revel in the delight of digging through some local history!

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