On display, at the East Brunswick Museum, is the elephant figurine collection and memorabilia of former NJ Governor Harold G. Hoffman, who was Governor from 1935 to 1938. Hoffman collected over 1,000 elephants, many were gifts from friends and fellow members of the GOP. In the collection, there are elephants of various colors, shapes and materials. There are elephant figurines made from jade, ceramic, ivory, porcelain, glass, brass, copper and wood. The large collection is displayed in Hoffman’s original mahogany cases. Displayed in and around the cases are elephant earrings, bookends, corkscrews, charms, mugs, vases, lamps, salt & pepper shakers, a wooden puzzle and even one that is a filament in a light bulb that glows when it’s plugged in. Harold Hoffman’s favorite elephant was the first one he received from a friend. It’s a small ceramic elephant painted with purple flowers. There is also an elephant that was carved out of a newel post from the porch of President James Garfield’s home.
Harold Hoffman was once considered to be a viable presidential candidate. Hoffman was New Jersey’s youngest Governor at 39 years old when he took office. He was Governor during the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial and tried to prove the innocence of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was later convicted and executed for the crime. The East Brunswick Museum has copies of the transcripts from the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial, as well as Governor Hoffman’s correspondences during his time in office. Harold Hoffman lost the support of his Republican Party after his intervention in the trial and his implementation of a state sales tax. Before he died, Hoffman confessed to embezzling $300,000 from the state, to be used for his reelection campaign. However, Hoffman remained well liked by many, and thousands attended his funeral. He served many roles in his life from WWI officer, bank executive, reporter, mayor of South Amboy, Congressman and Governor of NJ.
Harold Hoffman’s parents lived in the Old Bridge Village section of East Brunswick before moving to South Amboy, where he was born. Hoffman served as mayor of South Amboy and their high school was named Harold G. Hoffman High School, in his honor. The name still appears on the school though now it serves as the elementary school. Although the new high school is simply called South Amboy High School, it’s part of the Hoffman Educational Complex and the school’s mascot is a Governor.
Among the Hoffman collection is a set of phonograph records that were made from radio broadcasts and some of the speeches that Hoffman made. Aside from newspapers, radio was the mass media of the day.
A project of the East Brunswick Museum has been to convert these delicate records to digital audio files. This brings them to the public ears for the first time ever. They may not have been played since Hoffman’s time. He died in 1954. There were some 53 individual discs. From these, a total of 56 audio files have been created (some were not recoverable).
This project was funded in part by a grant from the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission.
For Presidents Day 1937, Hoffman took to the airwaves for a talk titled “Washington and Today“ in praise of first president George Washington. The governor also used the occasion for his take on the agenda of newly re-elected President Franklin Roosevelt.
Feb. 7 is Harold Hoffman’s birthday, and the celebrations thrown for him were big enough to be carried on the radio – WOR of Newark. We have here the first two parts of the 1936 installment, his 40th birthday, This broadcast was captured on record, allowing us to bring it to you.
The most elaborate and extensive set in the Hoffman records is a slipcase of four discs – eight sides – that were created as a Christmas gift by the U.S. Army troops under his charge in World War II. This was truly a unique and personal gift to Hoffman, the only one known to exist.
This example is drawn from Hoffman's attempt to return to the governorship, in 1940. He ran in the Republican primary, and lost narrowly. This excerpt is includes Hoffman’s defense of his intervention into the Bruno Hauptman trial for kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son.
An interview with Hoffman during his unsuccessful attempt to return to the governor's office, in 1940.
An interview with Gov. Hoffman on changes in New Jersey's unemployment law. Track includes some skipping.
Crafts, treats, and elephant-emphasizing tours make up our celebration of World Elephant Day.
All welcome, but especially kids (with parents).
It's Sat. Aug. 13, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the museum. More on our Events page.