How to use CRS reports to research complex public policy topics from a variety of perspectives
Caitlyn Cook, New Jersey Reference and Digital Librarian in the State Library Information Center, recently digitized the Bulletins of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) (1933-Current). Like other digitized New Jersey State documents, they are public domain and free to download in the New Jersey State Publications Digital Library.
When federal Prohibition laws were repealed in 1933, New Jersey and other states established commissions to regulate alcohol. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control was tasked with supervising the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the State “in such a manner as to promote temperance and eliminate the racketeer and bootlegger.” Bulletins summarize the results of undercover field investigations by ABC agents, document the testimony of licensees and witnesses, and establish legal precedence. They contain notices to licensees, statistics on Commission activities, and summaries of agency investigations.
From the beginning, the ABC was asked to fill both a both a regulatory and a moral mandate. They were tasked to monitor, investigate, and protect the public from fraudulent practices and criminal enterprises. The mandate also granted the ABC a wide degree of social control over licensees, regulating how licensees could run their businesses, who they could hire, and who they could serve. This authority evolved over time and the Bulletins are key to understanding that history.
Bulletin 188 (dated June 22, 1937) illustrates one of ABC’s political positions. Bartenders at the time had the discretion to refuse service to any person except on the basis of “race, creed, or color.” Many bulletins contain decisions where the ABC upheld the rights of non-white citizens to open and operate licensed establishments and be protected from race-based discrimination. In Bulletin 231 (February 24, 1938), ABC affirmed that a bar could not legally serve non-white patrons in different glasses and at different prices than those offered to white patrons. Commissioner D. Frederick Burnett reminded the questioner of the provisions of the Civil Rights Act and the unlawfulness of bar’s actions, stating:
This means that it is unlawful in this state to refuse the service of liquor to a man merely because of his color. It means that it is unlawful to discriminate by serving beer in thin glasses to the white and in mugs to the colored folk. It means that a licensee cannot lawfully charge more to colored patrons than to those who happened to have been born white. The fact that no prices are posted is immaterial. Discrimination is demonstrated by what is done in the effort to keep the patronage white.
Yet the following year the Commissioner upheld an earlier ruling of a municipality’s right to enact ordinances prohibiting women from being served (see Bulletin 257).
It has been said that “a woman has as much legal and moral right to take a drink as a man”. Re Harris, Bu11etin 16, Item 8. But, really, it is not a right but a privilege. She may lawfully be restricted in that privilege. So may a man. If social policy in a given municipality declares that it is better for the sake of others that she may not drink at the bar- there is nothing arbitrary in the exercise of police power to prevent her. Notwithstanding her modern emergence, the eternal verities remain. We find her at both ends of the human gamut. We prefer to idealize her in the higher register. But we may encounter her in the lower depths. She is the exemplar of refined living. Alas, she is also the more deadly of the species.
The ABC’s moral mandate impacted New Jersey society in a number of ways. Camp Nordland, a camp which hosted Nazi and KKK sympathizing events in Andover, NJ, had been the subject of public outcry, but the municipality had little legal recourse against the camp’s hateful behavior. When the municipality denied the renewal of the camp’s liquor license, the ABC upheld the municipality’s judgment stating, among other reasons, that “[l]icensed premises will not be tolerated as hot-beds in which to incubate hate and inculcate subversion. There is no room for the swastika. The appeal is denied.” (see 1939 Bulletin 344, the last in a series of ABC rulings regarding Camp Norland). Not long after the ABC ruling, additional violations were uncovered, the camp was raided by the Sussex County Sheriff’s office, the property seized, and camp leaders arrested for various crimes (See the NJ Herald’s article on Camp Nordland for a brief history).
Morality policing led the ABC to wage a destructive campaign against the LGBTQ community and licensees who created establishments to serve them. In its earliest regulations, the ABC named a prohibition against “female impersonators.” Examples appear throughout the Bulletins of bars having their licenses suspended or revoked based on investigators’ reports that a masculine appearing individual demonstrated stereotypically feminine mannerisms. During the 1950s and 1960s, investigations shifted toward identifying “apparent homosexuals,” people whose appearance and mannerisms seemed to defy societal gender norms; Bulletins 1656 and 1557 are two of many examples. This campaign of punishing licensees who allowed perceived LGBTQ persons to gather in their establishments would culminate in a 1967 NJ Supreme Court ruling against the agency (One Eleven Wines & Liquors, Inc. v. Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 50 N.J. 329). Though this ruling ended the blanket prohibition against LGBTQ persons assembling in and patronizing licensed establishments, Bulletin 1763 makes it clear that the agency would seek to police and prohibit any behavior deemed “offensive to public decency.” The One Eleven Wines and Liquors case would not end discrimination against LGBTQ persons, but it was a significant moment in advancing the rights of New Jersey’s LGBTQ community.
These are but a few examples of the work of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and its impact on the social and moral history of New Jersey. The entire Bulletin collection is available to review.
The reports of New Jersey’s State Asylums to the Legislature are now digitized and available online in our New Jersey State Publications Digital Library. These documents are snapshots of how the State perceived, housed, and treated the mentally ill. Researchers of the history of medicine, the history of social movements, and the history of patient rights will find these collections of interest.
On Tuesday February 5, Digital Librarian Caitlyn Cook presented “From Dorothea Dix to the Post-War Era: Historic Reports of New Jersey’s Mental Hospitals.” Cook discussed the unique contents of over seventy years of government documents, during a period when the treatment of mental illness was undergoing profound change.
The State Hospital network included facilities in Trenton, Morristown, Ancora (Hammonton), Glen Gardner, Arthur Brisbane (Farmingdale), and Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital. Our collection is incomplete, but you can browse our print holdings in our catalog under the heading Psychiatric Hospitals – New Jersey or by searching the State Library catalog by facility name. The most complete collections of reports in the Library’s collection are from the Trenton and Morristown facilities and these, as well as Ancora, have been digitized. Additional reports will be digitized over time. We actively collect and will add new state documents to the library’s collection when they are made available to us.
Digitized State Hospital Collections
To date, librarians have digitized the following State Hospital collections.
- Annual Reports of the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum at Trenton (later, New Jersey State Hospital at Trenton) 1848–1921 (we are missing 1849, but it is available from Hathitrust)
- Annual Reports of the State Asylum for the Insane at Morristown (later, New Jersey State Hospital at Morris Plains, then New Jersey State Hospital at Greystone Park) 1876–1969 (missing 1948-1950, 1961, 1963-1965)
- Ancora Psychiatric Hospital (1961-1975)
What do Asylum Reports contain?
Report contents varied widely year to year. A budget statement was always included, but in some years you will find photographs of patient activities and treatment rooms, architectural drawings, and renderings of building works. The other persistent feature of asylum reports are patient statistics; these did vary year to year, but they typically include gender, race, occupation before admission, reason for the illness and its duration, and New Jersey county of origin. The eugenics movement in the early 1900s prompted reporting on patients’ ethnicity, level of education, and literacy. In some years, you will find charts that attempted to correlate diagnosis with ethnicity. Some reports contain pathology reports, x-rays, microscopy, and summaries of autopsies conducted at the hospital, including individual patients’ ages and genders, as well as brief summaries of autopsy findings.
Other Sources for Asylum Research
Plans of the asylums were included in some reports, but can also be viewed on fire insurance maps. State employees and TESU staff and students can access the interactive database Fire Insurance Maps Online with their state library card. Older fire insurance maps are public domain; freely available digital collections can be accessed from Princeton University and the Library of Congress.
Asylum reports did not name individual patients and will be of limited use to the genealogist. Extant patient records are in the collections of the New Jersey State Archives and are unavailable to the public except under extraordinary circumstances. Records of the chancery court (also held at the State Archives) may contain information about the legal circumstances under which patients were committed.
U. S. Federal Census returns include names of all patients and staff residing on the campus. On some returns, resident occupations and ethnicity were included. To find state asylum listings on the Census, try searching for the superintendent at the time the census was conducted. For example see the 1850 record for asylum superintendent Dr. Horace Buttolph; asylum residents and staff appear on pages 30-35. See Dr. Buttolph’s record in 1870; residents and staff are enumerated on pages 47-64.
About the Digital Publications Library
The New Jersey State Library’s State Publications Collection preserves all works published by the State and its entities, whether print or born digital. The digitization of our extensive print holdings is ongoing. Visit our collections in the New Jersey State Library Digital Publications Library. For questions about asylum reports, state publications, and other digital collections, contact Caitlyn Cook, New Jersey Reference & Digital Librarian, or Deborah Mercer, New Jersey Collections Librarian.