Metuchen Edison History Features
In Old Metuchen
David Trumbull Marshall
Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930
(Second Edition)- (c) 1930
The Metuchen Literary Society.
Some time in the fall of 1879 the Rev. J. G. Mason got together a group of young men and formed a debating society.
We met in the lecture room of the Presbyterian church and were there initiated into the mysteries of parliamentary law and of carrying on a debate.
We discussed various questions and among others the question as to whether the recently constructed Brooklyn bridge was a success.
I think the Public has since decided that the bridge is a success.
Things went on smoothly enough until one faction proposed that the ladies be admitted to membership.
Here is illustrated the perversity of some and the splitting of societies by the mere love of a fight.
Some of us, myself being of the number, strongly opposed the admission of the ladies and threatened to withdraw if they were admitted.
The proposition to admit was carried and a few of us, Ladd Plumley being of the number, withdrew.
Ladd and I then proposed to "bust up" the society.
Ladd at that time was studying chemistry and was full of his newly acquired knowledge.
He demonstrated to me the production of hydrogen sulphide gas and proposed to give the next meeting of the society a dose of the gas and "bust up the meeting."
Hydrogen sulphide gas is the gas produced by the rotting of eggs and many other compounds containing sulphur.
It is not considered proper in polite society.
Ladd rigged up a gadget like a small dump cart. We filled the tray with powdered sulphide of iron and placed it way under the platform at one end of the lecture room.
Beneath the dumping tray we placed a saucer of sulphuric acid and to the tip-tray we attached a fish line which was led out of the second story window to the ground in front of the lecture room.
The night of the meeting was cold.
At the proper time I went and pulled the string and then waited under the church sheds to see what would happen. Pretty soon the windows were opened and the members hugged the stove. The windows were opened and closed several times.
My brother Will, who was studying chemistry at Rutgers College, and who was a member at the time knew what was the cause of the smell but was unable to find the offending chemicals.
Ladd and I cleared out about that time.
The odor of that gas was not healthy for us even one hundred feet away. At that time the lecture room was about one hundred feet west of the church.
The society went on for a couple of years after that under the name of the "Young Men's Literary Association" and of the "Annulet Society." Meetings were held in the lecture rooms of the Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed Churches and later at the homes of the members.
I never attended a meeting of the Annulet Society, but meetings were held at our house on several occasions.
I have before me a book containing the minutes of this Society from January 26th, 1880, to January 7th, 1881.
Many of the members are now dead, and many, what is perhaps worse, have been married.
About 1881 I notice the names of Dr. Moses and Dr. Nichols.
These were employed at the Edison Laboratory at Menlo Park, as was my brother Will.
Among names of members of the Young Men's Literary Society, later called the "Annulet" Society, there are listed in my minute book:
Dr. J. G. Mason.
Mr. Dudley Bartlett.
Mr. Ed. B. Dana.
Mr. Theo Robins.
Mr. E. S. Crowell.
Mr. John Alden.
Mr. Charles Pattison.
Mr. William Marshall.
Mr. A. L. Scott.
Mr. Charles Freeman.
Mr. E. C. Lord.
Mr. Charles Edgar.
At a meeting held March 9th, 1880, a resolution was passed to admit ladies to membership and after that we find the names of:
Miss Bessie Marshall.
Miss Nina Marshall.
Miss Mary Ford.
Miss Clara Edgar.
Mrs. C. M. Alden.
Mrs. C. O. Poole.
Mrs. Dr. Kempson.
Mr. Will Hart.
Miss M. Robins.
Mr. Charles Mook.
Mr. Cowles Andrus.
There may have been others, but I have not their names.
There are notes of readings by Mr. Henry. M. Alden. John Alden, who by the way is a distant cousin of mine, was a nephew of Henry M. Alden. He was for a great many years a writer for the Brooklyn Eagle. I understand that he wrote a poem for the Eagle every day for thirty years.
I don't know whether he has let up yet or not.
Dr. Nichols was afterward a professor at Cornell University.
Some highbrow outfit that society.
Boyhood Days in Old Metuchen Title page
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Lasted updated 6/8/99 by Jim Halpin.