Duffield Drive by Jared Loadholt
On September 26, 1932, one of the most fascinating men in the history of New Jersey covered TIME Magazine for his great successes across all stretches of life. Today, in the Newstead area of South Orange, there is a small street named after this man, yet many of the states’ residents have still probably heard little about him. His accomplishments during his 68 years of life were out of this world and nearly unbelievable. Edward Dickinson Duffield changed education within the state of New Jersey and after his death in 1939, he was regarded by many as “South Orange’s most beloved citizen.” Born on March 3, 1871, in Princeton, NJ, Duffield was destined for success from the beginning. He was a descendent of the first President of Princeton University and his father was a Reverend that taught at the College of New Jersey and Princeton for 56 years. Duffield went on to graduate from the College of New Jersey in 1892 and then obtain his law degree from New York law school in 1894. From this point on his life became a whirlwind of success.
A year after his graduation from law school, Duffield became a state assembly member and by 1904, he was floor leader for the Republicans. At the same time, from 1901-1904, he was President of the South Orange Maplewood School District. Building upon his success he became the New Jersey Assistant Attorney General from 1905-1906. This did not mark the end of Duffield’s tenure in South Orange however as he came back and became Village President in 1917. His influence in New Jersey grew more and more but he continued to stick to his beliefs. In the Princeton Alumni Weekly he referred to himself as the trustee who represented “the great intellectual middle-class.” Is there any better way to describe the South Orange/Maplewood community than as the “great intellectual middle-class”? Duffield did not directly state that he represented South Orange/Maplewood but this quote was a perfect implication of what community he believed himself to be a part of. His body of work in his career in education exemplifies what South Orange/Maplewood stands for even today. He was appointed chairmen of a committee formed to improve the relationship between the state of New Jersey and Rutgers University, which produced the State Board of Regents that regulates higher education in New Jersey. Another committee in which Duffield served upon was as a trustee at Princeton University from 1920 to 1938. This group of trustees helped build up the modern Princeton that we see today. During his time there, he was asked to fill the role of acting President of the University in 1932-33. As chairman of the Committee on Undergraduate Life, Duffield was committed to keeping Princeton open and accessible to young men of all economic and social classes. He believed that the university would fail if individuals who were poor economically, yet rich intellectually could not enroll or participate in Princeton strictly due to lack of material resources. This embodies the diversity that is so prevalent in South Orange and Maplewood today and it is unbelievable the way Duffield perceived education back in the early twentieth century, in terms of including everyone.
Duffield was not only a great asset to education in New Jersey but he was also business savvy, participating in large companies at a high level. He rose in the ranks of the Prudential Insurance Company starting out as the general solicitor, then vice president in 1916 and finally President of the company in 1922. He also worked for other insurance companies and even became President of AT&T at one point. During his time at the Prudential Insurance Company, Duffield married his second wife, Barbara Freeman (his first wife Josephine Curtis died in 1914), in 1920. Duffield already had two children, a daughter and a son, by his first wife and they lived on Scotland Road in South Orange. Duffield clearly had ambition in both business and education in the state of New Jersey but at the same time he was able to maintain a healthy marriage and raise a wonderful family.
Duffield embodied what South Orange/Maplewood stands for even today. In fact, he is one of the reasons that our community has turned out the way it has. His views on education were in line with our school district’s beliefs and agenda now. He set the precedent for equal opportunity for all social classes when it comes to education. This paved the way for the amazingly diversified community that we have now. Diversity is one of the main attractions of South Orange/Maplewood, both in our schools and our residential areas, and it would not be the same if it weren’t for Edward Duffield. Duffield Drive today is one of the most beautiful areas in all of South Orange as it is located in the wealthy Newstead area. None of the original structures except for a few houses still remain, but the street is full of luscious trees and beautiful homes with fresh lawns. Most of the residents most likely have never even heard of Edward Duffield, the man their street is named after. Most residents in all of South Orange have probably never heard of him, but that is okay because we live in his legacy every day. Even though many of us do not know it, we are a product of Duffield’s dedication to the education system in New Jersey and overall lifestyle of its citizens. Edward Dickinson Duffield is the most influential, hard-working, and successful person in New Jersey’s history that none of us have heard of. At least the village of South Orange has been able to recognize him with a street in one of its greatest areas.
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