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Walter Evans Edge

In office
January 15, 1917 – May 16, 1919
Preceded by James Fairman Fielder
Succeeded by Acting Governor William Nelson Runyon
In office
January 18, 1944 – January 21, 1947
Preceded by Charles Edison
Succeeded by Alfred E. Driscoll

In office
March 4, 1919 – November 21, 1929
Preceded by David Baird
Succeeded by David Baird, Jr.

In office
1929 – 1933
Preceded by Myron T. Herrick
Succeeded by Jesse I. Strauss

Born November 20, 1873
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died October 29, 1956
New York City
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lady Lee Phillips
Camilla Loyal Ashe Sewall
Religion Presbyterian

Walter Evans Edge (November 20, 1873–October 29, 1956) was an American politician. A Republican, he was twice the Governor of New Jersey, from 1917 to 1919 and again from 1944 to 1947, serving as governor during both World War I and World War II. Edge also served as United States Senator representing New Jersey from 1919 to 1929 and as United States Ambassador to France from 1929 to 1933.


Early life

Edge was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 20, 1873. His father, William Edge, worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. His mother Mary (Evans) Edge, died when he was two years old.[1] At the age of four Edge moved to Pleasantville, New Jersey, where the family of his stepmother, Wilhemina (Scull) Edge, operated a small hotel. Edge attended a two-room public school in Pleasantville through the eighth grade, which was to be the extent of his formal education.[2]

As a youth, Edge demonstrated a desire to succeed in business and he acquired an interest in politics. At the age of ten, he and another boy started a four-page weekly newspaper devoted to social news, the Pleasantville Bladder, which had a circulation of approximately one hundred.[2] Edge also attended Pleasantville Republican party rallies, and he later recounted that he came away from these rallies feeling great excitement and a growing determination to someday participate in politics himself.[2]

Business career

In 1888, at the age of fourteen, Edge began working for the Atlantic Review, then Atlantic City’s only newspaper, providing it with news and social notes pertaining to Pleasantville and nearby communities. Later in 1888, Edge took another job with the newspaper, serving primarily as a printer’s devil, but performing a wide variety of other jobs as well. Edge’s position at the Atlantic Review introduced him to many of the hotel owners and businessmen in rapidly growing Atlantic City.[2]

At the age of sixteen, Edge took a part-time job with John M. Dorland, who operated an Atlantic City advertising business. Dorland solicited advertising from Atlantic City hotels for Philadelphia and New York newspapers. Dorland was in poor health when Edge joined him and within a few months, Edge was running the business. When Dorland died less than one year later, his widow sold the business to Edge, who was then seventeen years old. Edge financed the $500 purchase price with a note that a hotel owner agreed to co-sign for him. Under Edge’s management, the Dorland Agency grew into multi-million dollar advertising agency, with offices located in numerous cities in the United States and throughout Europe.[2]

In 1893 Edge founded the Atlantic City Guest, a summer newspaper devoted to the activities of the resort’s vacationers. The success of the paper caused Edge to start a similar paper in Jacksonville, Florida during the winter of 1894-1895.

On March 4, 1895 Edge established the Atlantic City Daily Press (now the Press of Atlantic City) as the successor to the Atlantic City Guest. He was twenty-one years old when he founded what was destined to become the Atlantic City area’s dominant newspaper. Edge’s income from the Press soon exceeded $20,000 a year.[2]

In 1905, Edge purchased the competing (Atlantic City) Evening Union. He sold both newspapers in 1919 to three employees: Albert J. Feyl, Paul J. O'Neill and Francis E. Croasdale.[3]

Political career

Early political career

Edge's successful advertisng and publishing businesses made him wealthy. His ultimate goal all along had been to use his success in business to build a political career, and to devote his primary attention to political life once he attained financial security.[2]

In 1894, after moving to Atlantic City, Edge was elected to the executive committee of the Atlantic City Republican Party. He was only twenty years old at the time, and was not old enough to vote.[2] From 1897 until 1899 he served as journal clerk of the New Jersey Senate, a position that enabled him to meet state political figures and learn parliamentary procedures. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Edge was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served for a few months but did not leave the United States during the war. Between 1901 and 1904, Edge was appointed secretary of the state senate, another position that enabled him to cultivate relationships with state legislators.

In 1904, Edge ran in the Republican primary for the Atlantic County state senate seat occupied by incumbent Edward S. Lee. Edge, who ran as a reformer, used his Atlantic City Daily Press to promote his candidacy against Lee, who was supported by the established local Republican machine. Edge was defeated by Lee.[2] It would prove to be the only election that Edge would ever lose.

After his defeat, Edge’s Daily Press became a faithful supporter of the local Republican organization,[4] and in 1909 he was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly. In 1910, Edge was elected to the New Jersey Senate where he served for two terms, becoming the senate president in 1915.

Although Edge served in the state legislature during the height of the Progressive Era, he tended to take moderate positions and was not considered a reformer. Perhaps chastened by his election defeat in 1904, he supported the Republican leadership, although he did cooperate with reformers when their efforts appeared sure of success. Early in his legislative career, Edge worked extensively in developing a workers’ compensation law for New Jersey, even traveling to Europe to study compensation systems there. The workers’ compensation bill that he sponsored was ultimately passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Woodrow Wilson. He also promoted legislation calling for a ten-hour day for women workers, and safety laws protecting factory workers. He gained a reputation for concern with economic matters and the efficiency of state government.[1]

Governor of New Jersey, 1917-1919

In early 1916 Edge announced his candidacy for governor. Edge’s opponent for the Rebublican nomination was Austen Colgate.[2] Edge’s campaign manager, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, who was by that time the boss of the Atlantic County Republican machine, and Frank Hague, boss of the Hudson County Democratic machine, are widely credited with securing Edge’s election as governor.[4] Johnson reached out to Hague, who feared the Democratic candidate, H. Otto Wittpenn, a reformer whose election would threaten Hague's control of Hudson County.[5][6] It is unclear whether Edge and Hague reached some agreement in exchange for Hague's assistance, with one authority concluding there was "[p]robably no outright deal"[6], another stating Edge provided Hague with "a pledge of cooperation"[5], and a third stating that Edge "had a working arrangement with Hague; the former to be left alone in South Jersey and Hague to be 'protected' in Hudson".[7] In any event, Hague instructed those in his Democratic organization to crossover and vote for Edge in the Republican primary, thereby securing a narrow victory for Edge.[5] Thereafter, Hague did not support Wittpenn in the general election, and Edge - who ran on a platform of making government more effective and efficient with the slogan "A Business Man with a Business Plan" - was elected.[1][5]

After taking office as governor, Edge was successful in obtaining legislation consolidating state boards, improving the civil service, imposing a franchise tax on public utilities, allowing greater home rule for cities, reforming corporation law, and improving state institutions, especially the prisons.[1][8]

In 1917 the legislature also agreed to Edge's proposal to reorganize the state road department, and Edge was also successful in obtaining legislation authorizing the construction of a bridge between southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, and a tunnel between northern New Jersey and New York City.[1] The construction of a bridge between New Jersey and Philadelphia had been sought for some time by South Jersey legislators, but had failed to gain the support of North Jersey legislators, who opposed spending state funds on a project that they felt would benefit only the southern part of the state.[2] Edge therefore combined his proposal to build a bridge to Philadelphia with a proposal to build a tunnel to New York, thereby obtaining the support of legislators from both parts of the state.[2] The resulting bridge, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (which spans the Delaware River between Camden and Philadelphia), opened in 1926, and the resulting tunnel, the Holland Tunnel (which connects Jersey City and lower Manhattan), opened in 1927. It has been contended that the decision to place the terminus of the tunnel in Jersey City was the result of Frank Hague’s support of Edge in the 1916 gubenatorial election.[9]

A considerable part of Edge’s efforts as governor involved the mobilization for World War I and postwar planning.[1]

United States Senator, 1919-1929

Edge served as Governor of New Jersey from 1917 to 1919, resigning his position to represent New Jersey in the United States Senate from March 4, 1919, until his resignation on November 21, 1929.

Edge sponsored the Edge Act, a 1919 Amendment to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which allowed National Banks (a banking institution chartered by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) to engage in international banking through federally chartered subsidiaries.

United States Ambassador to France, 1929-1933

Herbert Hoover appointed Edge as United States Ambassador to France in 1929, serving in that position until 1933.

Governor of New Jersey, 1944-1947

Edge was elected for a second three-year term as Governor of New Jersey in 1944, serving in office from January 18, 1944 to January 21, 1947.

Later Years

Edge died on October 29, 1956 in New York City and is buried at the Northwood Cemetery in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Relationship with Atlantic County Republican Organization

Throughout Edge’s political career, his home county, Atlantic County, was controlled by a Republican political machine that was heavily involved in the protection of Atlantic City's vice industry and other corruption.[5] When Edge first ran for public office in 1904, he ran as a reformer against a candidate supported by the dominant organization. Edge, who enlisted the support of many prominent Atlantic City citizens, used his Atlantic City Daily Press to promote his candidacy and to expose the activities of the machine.[2] Edge fully expected to win the election and he was shocked when he was defeated.[2] Edge later blamed his defeat on the “Scott machine” (a reference to the organization led by County Clerk Lewis Scott) and party boss control of voting places and ballot counting.[2]

Nevertheless Edge evidently decided that it was better to join the machine than fight it, because after his defeat, Edge’s Daily Press became a faithful supporter of the Republican organization.[4] Edge subsequently ran with the support of the organization for state legislature, even campaigning when he ran for state senate in 1910 with Louis Kuehnle, Scott’s successor as leader of the machine.[4] When he ran for governor in 1916, Edge’s campaign manager was Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, who had replaced Kuehnle as boss of the Atlantic County machine after Kuehnle was convicted of corruption related charges in 1911.[5] Johnson, along with Hudson County Democratic boss Frank Hague, was widely credited with engineering Edge’s 1916 victory,[4][5] and Johnson also served as Edge’s campaign manager during his successful run for the United States Senate in 1918.[10]

In 1924, however, the relationship between Edge and Johnson openly soured. In the Atlantic City Commission election that year, Johnson’s organization backed a slate of candidates led by incumbent mayor Edward L. Bader.[5] Bader was opposed by a ticket led by former mayor Harry Bacharach. The Bacharach ticket ran on an anti-vice platform and gained the support of Johnson’s opponents.[11][12] Bader’s slate won the bitter election, which was marked by allegations of widespread organization voter fraud.[13] A month after the election, Edge replaced Johnson as the manager of his senate reelection campaign amid rumors that Johnson was unhappy about the “hands off” policy that Edge had taken during the recent election in which Johnson’s leadership had been threatened.[10]. Thereafter, the Atlantic County Republican organization led by Johnson refused to support Edge in his 1924 primary election contest against Hamilton F. Kean, although it did agree to back him in the general election if he won the primary.[14]

Although in 1927 Johnson promoted a call for Edge to be nominated by the Republican party to run for president,[15] the two men openly broke in 1928. The initial indication of a break was Johnson’s support of Hamilton F. Kean for the Republican nomination for United States senator, while Edge was backing Edward C. Stokes.[16] The split noticeably widened after Edge abandoned his policy of non-interference in purely local politics and backed Robert M. Johnston for Atlantic County state senator in the Republican primary.[16] This prompted Johnson to openly back incumbent senator Emerson L. Richards, who was Edge’s political and personal foe.[16]. The ensuing election was described as a “trial of strength in Atlantic County, the outcome of which may spell the doom of the loser”.[16] The election results proved to be a “political disaster” for Edge, whose candidates lost Atlantic County to the Johnson backed candidates by margins exceeding three to one, and Richards claimed the results marked Edge’s “political extinction”.[17] In the wake of the election, Edge called for party unity,[17] and Johnson attempted to diminish any damage to Edge by denying claims that the election results meant the end of his political career or that the election had been against Edge.[18]

Edge, who faced a reelection campaign in 1930, resigned from the United States Senate in 1929 to accept appointment as Ambassador to France.

In his 1948 memoirs, A Jerseyman’s Journal, Edge makes no mention of either Johnson, who was imprisoned in 1941 for income tax evasion, or Kuehnle. Johnson’s successor as leader of the Atlantic County Republican organization, Frank “Hap” Farley, is mentioned once, in connection with events that transpired while Edge was out-of-state during his second term as governor, and Farley, as state senate president, was acting governor. Edge’s memoirs have been criticized for failing to discuss how he rose in politics and in skipping over the skullduggery involved in interesting political situations[19], and his failure to discuss his activities with the Atlantic County machine provide examples of those omissions.

Personal life

Edge married Lady Lee Phillips of Memphis, Tennessee on June 5, 1907. She died July 14, 1915, four days after the birth of their only child.[8] Edge married secondly, December 9, 1922, Camilla Sewall of Bath, Maine, the daughter of a close friend of President Warren G. Harding.[2] Edge was forty-nine years old at the time, and his wife twenty-one.[20] During Edge’s term as Ambassador to France, his wife was known as “the youngest ambassadress”.[21] Walter and Camilla Edge had three children together.[21]

Edge owned a number of homes. In the early 1920’s he had a cottage on States Avenue in Atlantic City that was near the Boardwalk.[20] Shortly thereafter, and for many years, his primary home was on the beach in Ventnor, New Jersey between Oxford and Somerset Avenues.[21] He also maintained homes in Maine and Washington, D.C..

Edge was an avid sportsman, who enjoyed fishing and hunting, especially hunting quail. After World War I, Edge purchased land in northern Leon County, Florida with his longtime friend, Walter C. Teagle, Chairman of the Board of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. They named the property Norias Plantation. In 1937 Edge sold his interests in Norias to Teagle and purchased the adjacent Sunny Hill Plantation, located in northern Florida near Thomasville, Georgia.[22] Sunny Hill Plantation became Edge's winter home where he hunted and fished on the 15,000 acre grounds.[21]

In 1944, Edge purchased Morven, the historic Princeton, New Jersey home of Richard Stockton, from the Stockton family subject to the proviso that Morven would be given to the state of New Jersey within two years of Edge’s death.[2] Edge gave Morven to the state before he died, and he spent the last few years of his life living in a small house in Princeton.[21]

Edge was a Presbyterian while young[2], joining the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church in 1889[23], but later became an Episcopalian.

Edge's name (as Wally Edge) and likeness have renewed currency as the pseudonym of a prominent anonymous New Jersey political columnist.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Mahoney, Joseph F., “Walter Evans Edge”, in The Governors of New Jersey, 1664-1974, Edited by Paul A Stellhorn and Michael J, Belkner, New Jersey Historical Commission, Trenton, NJ 1982
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Edge, Water Evans, A Jerseyman's Journal, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press 1948
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b c d e Paullson, Martin, The Social Anxieties of Progressive Reform - Atlantic City, 1854-1920, New York, New York University Press 1994
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Johnson, Nelson. Boardwalk Empire, Medford, N.J., Plexus Publishing, 2002 ISBN 0-937548-49-9
  6. ^ a b McKean, Dayton David, The Boss: The Hague Machine In Action, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1940
  7. ^ Grundy, J. Owen. Before 1949: Thirty Years War on Hagueism. Get NJ, 2003.
  8. ^ a b Scannell’s New Jersey’s First Citizens, 1917-1918, vol. 1, Ed. by William E. Sackett, J.J. Scannell, Patterson, NJ 1917, p. 140.
  9. ^ Salmore, Barbara G., New Jersey Politics and Government: The Suburbs Come of Age, Rutgers University Press, 2008, p. 39
  10. ^ a b "Edge Says Jersey Puts Dawes Across", The New York Times, June 15, 1924, p.2
  11. ^ "Atlantic City Vice Big Election Issue", The New York Times, March 24, 1924, p.32
  12. ^ "Seek 1,000 ‘Floaters’ At Atlantic City", The New York Times, May 12, 1924, p.19
  13. ^ "Fighting At Polls In Atlantic City", The New York Times, May 14, 1924, p.21
  14. ^ "Won’t Support Edge", The New York Times, July 14, 1924, p.1
  15. ^ "Want Edge For President", The New York Times, December 15, 1927, p.20
  16. ^ a b c d "Jersey Senate Fight Splits Edge and Aide", The New York Times, May 13, 1928, p.3
  17. ^ a b "Kean and Larson Victors in Jersey", The New York Times, May 17, 1928, p.16
  18. ^ "Republican Leader Still Loyal to Edge", The New York Times, May 20, 1928, p.22
  19. ^ Moscow, Warren, "Mr. Edge’s Memoirs", The New York Times, Nov. 21, 1948, p. BR30
  20. ^ a b ”Senator Edge, 49, to Take Bride, 20", The New York Times, September 14, 1922, p.18
  21. ^ a b c d e "Walter E. Edge Dies; Twice Was Governor", The Atlantic City Press, Oct. 30, 1956, p. 1
  22. ^ Paisley, Clifton, From Cotton To Quail: An Agricultural Chronicle of Leon County, Florida, 1860-1967, University of Florida Press, 1968. ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-0718-2 pp. 91-92
  23. ^ Arlan, Roger W. and Foster, Alice M., Pleasantville’s Early Days, 1888-1988, Privately Printed c. 1991, p. 171

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
John W. Slocum
President of the New Jersey Senate
Succeeded by
William T. Read
Preceded by
James Fairman Fielder
Governor of New Jersey
First Term

January 15, 1917 – May 16, 1919
Succeeded by
William Nelson Runyon
(Acting Governor)
Preceded by
Charles Edison
Governor of New Jersey
Second Term

January 18, 1944 – January 21, 1947
Succeeded by
Alfred E. Driscoll
(the first Governor under
the 1947 constitution)
United States Senate
Preceded by
David Baird
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from New Jersey
March 4, 1919 – November 21, 1929
Succeeded by
David Baird, Jr.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Edward C. Stokes
Republican Nominee for Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Newton A.K. Bugbee
Preceded by
Robert C. Hendrickson
Republican Nominee for Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Alfred E. Driscoll
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Myron T. Herrick
United States Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Jesse I. Strauss


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