Library & Archives
James A. Bradley (1830-1921)
Lois R. Densky
Gregory J. Plunges
The Monmouth County Historical Association
70 Court Street
Freehold, New Jersey 07728
James Adam Bradley (1830 - 1921), manufacturer, financier, NJ state senator, philanthropist, and founder of the resort city, Asbury Park, NJ, was born at Rossville on Staten Island in New York. He was the son of Adam (d. c. 1834) and Hannah (d. 1876) Bradley, and grew up in the Bowery section of New York City. When he was four, his father died, and his mother remarried Charles Smith. James A. Bradley obtained his early education at New York public schools, and in later life continued his education through self-directed reading. He was a staunch temperance adherent and was against any kind of gambling.
At twelve, Bradley worked as a laborer at William Davis's paper mill in Bloomfield, NJ. When he was sixteen, he apprenticed as a brushmaker in Francis R. Furnald's factory in New York City. He was made forman at 21, and remained for seven years. During this period, Bradley married Helen M. Packard (d. 1915), daughter of Lewis, from Boston. They had no children. By 1857, he established his own brushmaking business, Bradley & Smtih, located on Pearl St., New York City. It was a very successful enterprise.
In 1869, in failing health, Bradley happened to meet David H. Brown, who was the treasurer of the Ocean Grove Meeting Association. Brown urged him to consider buying a lot in the then developing Methodist community at Ocean Grove, NJ. Bradley was very close philosophically with the Ocean Grove Meeting Association leaders, and he purchased the first lot sold in 1870.
This event was a turning point in Bradley's life. He found the wilderness area so beneficial to his health that in 1871 he purchased 500 acres between Deal and Wesley Lakes. His idea was to develop the property as a resort community. Named for Bishop Francis Asbury, under Bradley's guiding hand Asbury Park became one of the premier 19th century summer resorts on the New Jersey north shore. Because Asbury Park was next to Ocean Grove and Bradley adhered to their religious views, the sale of alcoholic beverages was banned within city limits. Sor firm was Bradley's temperance views that a no liquor clause was written into the deeds. This became a very controversial issue in later years.
Under Bradley's direction, Asbury Park developed quickly. In 1874 a post office was established, and he served as postmaster (1874 - 1884). The railroad was extended from Long Branch in 1875. Bradley established the city's first newspaper, the Asbury Park Journal (1876 - 1910) in 1876. He served as its editor and proprietor until 1882, when he sold the paper to John L. Coffin. In 1881 Bradley began a sewerage system as a private enterprise. Water and gas works were set up in 1884. At various times, Bradley served as mayor and councilman.
In 1894 Bradley was elected to the NJ legislature as senator from Monmouth County. His affirming vote resulted in the abolition of race track gambling in New Jersey. This decision had an adverse effect on the Monmouth Park Race Track at Long Branch.
In 1902 the City of Asbury Park brought suit against Bradley for control of his beach front property. Bradley lost the suit and sold the property to the city for $100,000 -- much less than its appraised value. At the same time, he sold the city the sewerage system for $50,000.
James A. Bradley was more personally active in Asbury Park in its earlier years. Later he spent most of his time in New York City. Residing in Brooklyn in his early years, he spent half his time in Asbury Park after its establishment. His later winter home was the Hotel St. Denis in New York City.
A Catholic turned Methodist, Bradley was active in the Central Methodist Church in Brooklyn. He was also a member of the Asbury Park First Methodist Episcopal Church. James A. Bradley died 1921 June 21, three weeks prior to Asbury Park's 50th Anniversary Celebration. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Brooklyn.
DESCRIPTION OF COLLECTION
The James A. Bradley Papers document his business activities in Asbury Park, Bradley Beach, and Neptune, NJ and the contribution he made to the development of these towns. The papers consist of correspondence, legal records, surveys, maps, and notes. Many letters and other documents are directed to Hon. Alfred Walling Jr., who served as Bradley's New Jersey lawyer. Many papers deal with land transactions and the development of roads. A small group of documents pertain to the drafting of Helen M. Packard Bradley's will. The bulk date of the papers is 1895.
Correspondents include: EI Brown, Joseph McDermott, James A. Bradley, Alfred Walling, Jr., William C. Burroughs, CT Bailey, John C. Goodridge Jr., RV Luidabury, Douglas A. Levien Jr., and John A. Borden. Some letters are contemporary copies of originals.
The James A. Bradley Papers will provide researchers with source material for the study of the development of 19th century summer resort communities on the New Jersey north shore (i.e. Asbury Park and Bradley Beach). Other subjects represented in the collection include Perth Amboy, Neptune, the Atlantic Coast Electric Railroad, and the New Jersey Board of Proprietors. The Alfred Walling Papers, which are also located in the MCHA library and archives, relate to the Bradley Papers. Additional material on Asbury Park, Bradley Beach, and the Atlantic Coast Electric Railroad may be located through the card catalog. Two maps have been removed from the collection. Please see the hard copy of this finding aid in the library for their location.
PROVENANCE: Acquired in 1941, a gift of Mrs. Grace O. Minnig of North Hollywood, CA, in memory of Rufus Ogden and Mrs. Josephine A. Hoff.
SIZE OF COLLECTION: 102 items.
1. Papers, 1891 - 1897, n.d.
Papers are first arranged chronologically by year, then within each year, document types are interfiled by business topic.
BOX # / FOLDER # / CONTENTS
1 / 1 / "Matters to be Attended to". n.d.
1 / 1 / "Release of Conditions in Bradley Deed" Asbury Park. 1891
1 / 1 / "Papers Relating to Purchase of Lots at Bradley Beach. Milton Tilton to Chas. Robers for JA Bradley" Bradley Beach. 1893. 21 items
1 / 2 / "Vacating Road - No. Asbury Park Between Comstock & Lake Sts" Asbury Park, 1895
1 / 2 / "Bradley Grant to Electric Railroad" Atlantic Coast Electric Railroad. 1895
1 / 2 / "5th Ave Matter" Asbury Park. 1895 March - April.
1 / 2 / "Neptune City Road Return" Neptune Twp. 1895 March - May
1 / 2 / "Matter of Change of Lake Ave" Asbury Park. 1895 Nov 7
1 / 2 / "Matter of Riparian Lands at Perth Amboy" Perth Amboy. 1895 Dec 13. 38 items
1 / 3 / "Matter. Board of Proprietors Land" 1895 - 1896
1 / 3 / "Matter of Mrs. Bradley's Will" Asbury Park, 1896 May - Nov
1 / 3 / "Matter of Suit. AW Berks vs. Jas. A. Bradley" Asbury Park. 1896 May - June
1 / 3 / "Asbury Park Road Matter" Bradley Park (Beach). 1897 May
1 / 3 / "Vacation of Part of Public Road Near Athletic Grounds" Asbury Park. 1897 June - July. 41 items.
1. Asbury Park Press. 1921 June 7. Memorial edition on James A. Bradley.
2 . Ellis, Franklin. History of Monmouth County, New Jersey. Philadelphia: RT Peck, 1885
3. James A. Bradley and Asbury Park: A Biography and History. Asbury Park, NJ : Clayton Press, 1921
4. Nelson, William, ed. The New Jersey Coast in Three Centuries. Lewis Publishing Co : New York, 1902. v. 2
5. Wilson, Harold F. The Jersey Shore... Lewis Historical Publishing Co. : New York, 1953. v. 1 & 2
This page last updated 4 August 2008.