July 2nd 2021 Marks the 100th Anniversary of the Signing of the Resolution|
that Ended the U.S. Involvement in World War I
by Bruce Doorly
|This July 2nd will mark the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the resolution to formally end
the U.S. involvement in World War I.
That joint resolution passed by Congress was signed in Raritan by President Warren Harding at the home of U.S. Senator Joseph Frelinghuysen.
His house was located where the PC Richard is now. That home, that was known as The Hill during the years that it was occupied and in later years as The Old Mansion, is long gone.
|The fighting in World War I had ended two years before.
But the U.S. had a problem with the Treaty of Versailles that the other countries had signed at the end of the war.
One main difference was the fact that the U.S. was not joining the newly formed League of Nations which grew out of the
agreement that ended the war. The President called on Congress to pass a peace resolution independent of the League of Nations.
Congress then debated for quite some time.
Finally, on July 1st 1921, both houses of Congress came up with a resolution that the United States found acceptable.
|Click for large view of Mansion|
|In July 1921, President Warren Harding had scheduled an extended weekend visit with his friend
Joseph Frelinghuysen in Raritan. The President was looking forward to a few quiet days with only a minimal number of official duties.
The two men had served together in the U.S. Senate before Harding was elected President in November of 1920.
The visit by Harding had been well publicized in advance. The front page of The New York Times told of his pending arrival to Raritan. Harding arrived by train at the Bound Brook Train Station on Friday Night, July 1st. (Back then that train station had an extension that headed south.)
In his party was his wife, the Speaker of the House Frederick Gillett, Senator Frederick Hale of Maine, and Senator Frank Kellogg of Minnesota. They then rode by car from Bound Brook through Somerville to Raritan. Crowds lined up along the route to welcome him. The President acknowledged the crowd by waving and smiling.
|President Warren Harding|
|It was that afternoon that Congress had finished the resolution to officially declare an end to the war.
It was named the Knox-Porter resolution after the congressmen who wrote it.
On Saturday, July 2nd a courier was sent from Washington D.C. with the paperwork for the President to sign. The courier arrived in Raritan at the Frelinghuysen Mansion around 2 PM. But the President was not there, as Harding, Frelinghuysen, and the other congressmen were golfing at the Somerset Hills Country Club in Bernardsville. (Some local historical publications today state that President Harding was at the Raritan Valley Country Club. But the New York Times article which is very detailed in its documentation says that it was Somerset Hills.)
|The President returned from golfing at 3:45 PM and proceeded to read over the documents given to him.
Everyone understood the significance of the occasion. An official signing would be held.
Four different cameramen were summoned to take pictures of the event. The signing took place at 4:10 PM in the Frelinghuysen Living Room. Thirty people witnessed it. They included congressmen and their wives, local officials, Frelinghuysen family members and assorted servants.
|Click for larger photo of the signing|
|The President sat at a desk with others standing behind him.
Those behind him were Senator Frederick Hale of Maine, Senator Joseph Frelinghuysen, (daughter) Emily Frelinghuysen,
(daughter) Victoria Frelinghuysen, (wife) Emily Frelinghuysen, (son) Joseph Frelinghuysen Jr. and Mrs. Gillette, Mrs. Kellogg,
Senator Frank Kellogg, Speaker of the House Fredrick Gillette, and the courier who had delivered the paperwork.
The photo of the signing that we know today appeared in the New Jersey newspaper The Home News.
|U.S. Senator from Raritan|
|When President Harding signed the resolution he made no profound statement that would go down in history.
He simply said That is All. The courier would soon pack up the signed paperwork and head back to Washington D.C..
After the signing President Harding and Senator Frelinghuysen went back to play golf again. This time they went across the street to The Raritan Valley Country Club.
|Click for full NY Times Article|
|The next day the New York Times would have the story of the signing on the front page.
The headline stated HARDING ENDS WAR, SIGNS PEACE DECREE AT SENATORS HOME.
The sub heading said Thirty Persons Witness Momentous Act in Frelinghuysen Room at Raritan. No photo would appear in the New York Times.
|The next day, Sunday, July 3rd, President Harding attended church with Senator Frelinghuysen in Raritan
at The Third Reformed Church.
Inside, the church was packed to capacity. Outside, over 500 people waited to get a view of the President. A photo of President Harding on the steps of the church was taken. This photo has become part of the history of Raritan.
That day the President and his wife took a tour in an automobile of the surrounding area. They also visited Raritan Valley Farms. After that Harding relaxed on the porch of the Frelinghuysen home reading newspapers.
|On Monday July 4th there was a public reception starting at 3 PM on the lawn of the Frelinghuysen Estate
where President Harding met with local people. It was estimated that 1,000 people came from all over to shake
hands with the President. Some came on foot, others by automobile or train. A few arrived by way of horse and carriage.
Mr. Harding stood in line with Mrs. Harding and Senator and Mrs. Frelinghuysen as the people in single file passed along and greeted him. A photo of this event survives.
On Tuesday, July 5th, the President headed back to Washington D.C. . Since then, no U.S. President has visited Raritan.
|Senator Frelinghuysen and President Harding|
met many people in Raritan on July 3rd 1921
|The Frelinghuysen Mansion had been built in 1874 and was occupied by the family from the beginning.
It had 12 acres of land. |
The house would be surprisingly vacated by the Frelinghuysen family in 1927 just six years after the signing. They felt that the traffic on the roads in front of them had become too much and they sought a quieter location in Far Hills. (The move was well timed as the Somerville Circle would be constructed just a couple years later.)
The mansion would be mostly vacant for decades after that. It was used as a restaurant starting 1934 for a few years and also later used for a time by the state police. In 1945, Frelinghuysen sold the mansion and property to a charitable foundation, but no use of significance emerged from that.
|Frelinghuysen Family 1924|
|Finally, in 1957, with the house in a state of disrepair, it was torn down.
Coincidentally in the middle of the demolition a suspicious fire finished off the house.
Today the stone pillars from the entrance of the Frelinghuysen Estate remain.
There is also a plaque (by the pillars) that commemorates the signing.
|Joseph Frelinghuysen would only serve one term in the U.S. Senate 1917-1923.
As for President Warren Harding, he would not survive his full term as he passed away after a brief illness in August of 1923.
The desk that the resolution was signed on has been saved by the Frelinghuysen family. Ten years ago, that desk was brought to the Raritan Library for a commemoration to mark the 90th Anniversary of the signing. Hopefully this July 2nd some kind of event will be held in Raritan to mark the 100th Anniversary of the historic signing.