Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 363, George T. Werts (1846- 1910), Governor of New Jersey
Papers, 1885-1895, 0.2 linear feet / 28 items
Call Number: MG 383 + folder number
Included are letters to Augustus C. Canfield, Frederick A. Canfield, and William Nelson; and nine receipts for funds allocated to a Veterans Home account.
George T. Werts (1846-1910) was born in Warren County, New Jersey on March 24, 1846. He attended the State Model School in Trenton and, at the age of seventeen, moved to Morristown to study law with his uncle, Jacob Vanatta, the former Attorney General of New Jersey. Upon being admitted to the bar in 1867, Werts began his own legal practice. George T. Werts and Emma Stella married in 1872 and had two daughters.
From 1868-1892 George T. Werts served as Mayor of Morristown, and from 1886-1892 he was also a member of the New Jersey State Senate. As president of the Senate in 1889, Werts was best remembered for his involvement in the passage of election-reform and local liquor option legislation; both of which were motivated by partisan Democrat politics and proved to be largely ineffectual. He left the Senate in 1892 following his appointment as a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice. Werts was Governor of New Jersey from 1893-1896.
At Werts’s gubernatorial inauguration he advocated expansion of prison facilities, ballot-reform, and the establishment of juvenile reform facilities. The combined effects of the panic of 1893 and his own political shortcomings, however, curtailed Werts’s proposals. His administration is generally criticized for a lack of political agency – characterized by inactivity and neutrality in times of crisis – and typified by Democrat incapacitation of the State Legislature following Republican gains in the 1893 election. During the ensuing power play, Werts failed to provide leadership in addressing the state’s crippling unemployment and poverty. By 1895, widespread knowledge of Democratic corruption, graft, and waste in the Legislature led to Republican John W. Griggs’s election as Governor. Although Werts was never shown to be involved in illegal activity, his perceived indifference contributed to ending three decades of Democratic control in New Jersey.
Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County, New Jersey. Vol. 2, New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1899.
Stellhorn, Paul A. and Michael J. Birkner, The Governors of New Jersey, 1664-1975: Biographical Essays. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1982.
The source of this collection is unknown.
These papers consist mainly of the personal correspondence of George T. Werts, dating from 1885-1895. The documents are arranged chronologically in the order they were created. Included are nineteen letters to Augustus C. Canfield, William Nelson, and Frederick A. Canfield. In his correspondence with Augustus C. Canfield, Werts makes references to his efforts to pass a road improvement bill and Assembly Bill 381. A letter to William Nelson concerns the reprinting of the New Jersey Session Court records from 1702-1847 by the New Jersey Historical Society. Several letters to Frederick A. Canfield include invitations to either dinners or personal gatherings, as well as news of Werts’s daughter’s affliction with dysentery. The papers also include nine receipts for funds allocated to a Veterans Home account.
Processed by Jeffrey V. Moy, Rutgers University, April 2000
The New Jersey Historical Society