Boonton 1920's

1923 - George Burns/Gracie Allen make their debut in Boonton

In 1967, Author Gene Newman was writing about the history of Boonton.

He interviewed several old-timers but their recollections were hazy. so he decided to write to George Burns himself about his performance in Boonton at the Lyceum Theater. The following was his response:

"Dear Gene - The very first day we ever worked together was when Gracie and I opened at the Lyceum Theater in Boonton.

Our salary was $30 for three days - $10 a day. It was freezing and there was no heat in the theater. When we came in to rehearse our music, which was 10 in the morning, the musicians were so cold that everybody had to keep jumping up and down while they were rehearsing.

Needless to say, with five musicians in the pit running up and down while they were playing, the music didn’t sound so good. And even when they stopped running they were not the greatest musicians."

He went on to write that the act wasn’t a big hit initially.

"In those days I was dressed up funny, and Gracie asked the questions and I told the funny answers.
But they laughed at Gracie asking the questions and nobody laughed when I told the funny answers.

So I knew I had something with Gracie Allen. And not being a fool, and liking to smoke cigars (I was smoking a 7-cent Recora then and I smoked about five cigars a day, which is 35 cents a day - that’s a lot of money to pay for cigars for an actor who was getting $10 a day when I worked)

I switched the act for the next performance and gave Gracie the funny answers, and I turned out to be the straight man.

Needless to say, I’ve been smoking cigars ever since. I always look back to Boonton with great love and affection because that’s where it all started."

The Lyceum Theatre was located on the corner on Main and School Street. At the time, School Street ran from Main to Birch. On the left, was where the Lyceum Theatre once stood. On the right, today.


1929 – Instrument Flight takes place in Boonton Twp.

In 1924, Aircraft Radio Corporation (ARC) was part of the burgeoning instrument flying industry. Up until then, pilots generally used ground landmarks to assess their route, which limited their ability to fly at night or in adverse weather conditions. That all changed in 1929.

Army Air Corps pilot Jimmy Doolittle made history at Boonton by taking off and landing from the ARC field purely by use of radio beacon and transmitter, without looking out of the cockpit.

The work he and the ARC engineers did on that field revolutionized aviation, making it possible for pilots to fly just about any kind of plane in virtually any conditions. Already, airplanes had gotten more advanced than some pilots' abilities to take in how quickly they were moving and in what conditions, and without some kind of assistance, it was likely they'd be unable to fly safely.

It would be downright impossible for today's complex global airline industry to exist without the use of onboard instruments. Some might even say that Doolittle's work laid the foundation for eventual space flight.

Beyond Boonton, Doolittle built a formidable reputation as an ace pilot and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II, eventually rising to the rank of general. He also stayed in the forefront of aviation and space technology as a test pilot and, following his retirement, in private industry.


Semi-Pro Football in Boonton gets is start in Boonton

Boonton’s first Semi-Pro team was sponsored by the Elete Ice Cream Parlor and was known as the “All Eletes”. This all happened in 1923. Most of the players were from the Boonton area. The Elete opponents included such teams as Peterson and Totowa. The team lasted until 1925 and was captained by Jim “Squab” Duncan.

Sears Modern Homes come to Boonton

Between 1908 and 1940 it is estimated that Sears Roebuck sold more than 75,000 ready-to-assemble homes in 447 styles from elegant homes to simple cottages. Enjoying wide popularity throughout the country, the typical Sears home kit contained 30,000 pieces, including 750 pounds of nails, 27 gallons of paint and a 75-page instruction book. Sears estimated that the average carpenter would charge $450 to assemble those 30,000 pieces, a painter would charge $34.50 and that other skilled labor would cost $1.00 an hour.

Homes could be customized according to varying tastes and individual requirements, while some floor plans indicated suggested placement for furniture and fixtures. Prices for these homes ranged from $600-$6,000.

This house, believed to be a modified Elsmore model, was marketed by Sears Roebuck from 1916 – 1926, and was constructed in Boonton in 1920.

The interior has five rooms and one bath. The porch, believed to have been enclosed by prior owners, still maintains its original stucco and wood gable.

There were two floor plans available with this model and the cost ranged from $858 to $2,391.


PEOPLE of the 1920’s

Othmar Ammann (1879- 1965), Boonton resident – 1918-1958

Born in Switzerland, Othmar, he received his engineering education at the Polytechnikum in Zürich, Switzerland. He emigrated to the United States in 1904, spending his career working mostly in New York City.

By 1925, he had been appointed bridge engineer to the Port of New York Authority. His design for a bridge over the Hudson River was accepted over one developed by his mentor, Lindenthal. (Lindenthal's "North River Bridge" designs show an enormous, 16+ lane bridge that would have accommodated pedestrians, freight trains, rapid transit, and automobile traffic.

The bridge, which would have entered Manhattan at 57th Street, was rejected in favor of Ammann's designs primarily due to cost reasons.) Ultimately, this became the George Washington Bridge.

Under Ammann's direction, it was completed six months ahead of schedule for less than the original $60 million budget. Ammann's designs for the George Washington Bridge, and, later, the Bayonne Bridge, caught the attention of master builder Robert Moses, who drafted Ammann into his service.

The last four of Ammann's six New York City bridges — Triborough, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, and Verrazano-Narrows — were all built for Moses' Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.

In 1946, Ammann and Charles Whitney founded the firm
Ammann & Whitney. In 1964, Ammann opened the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York, that had the world's longest suspended span of 4,260 feet (1,300 m), and the world's heaviest suspension bridge of its time.

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is currently the eleventh-longest span in the world and longest in the Western Hemisphere. Ammann also assisted in the building of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, currently ranked twelfth.

In 2006, the new, bigger bridge over the Jersey City Reservoir (pictured at left) , connecting Parsippany and Boonton was named after Othmar Ammann. 

Mario DeMarco
(1924 – 1956) Born and raised in Boonton, he was an American
college football, National Football League, and professional Canadian football player, and was one of 62 people who died on Trans-Canada Air Lines Flight 810, on December 9, 1956.

DeMarco started at offensive lineman for four seasons at Boonton High School. He graduated in 1945.

Following college, DeMarco signed with the NFL Detroit Lions, playing one season in 1949. In 1951, DeMarco joined the WIFU Edmonton Eskimos, where he played for two years. DeMarco joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1952, and played with them until his death.

He was a West All-Star in 1951, 1952 and 1954, and was on his way back to Regina, Saskatchewan, on Flight 810 after watching teammates Mel Becket and Gordon Sturtridge play in the 1956 East–West All-Star game in Vancouver, British Columbia, on December 8, 1956.

DeMarco's #55 jersey is one of eight that has been retired by the Roughriders. He was inducted into the Boonton High School Hall of Fame in 1996.

Local News of Boonton past

1921 – Boonton Times June 30, 1921

Read more about June 30,1921:1921_Times Bulletin


- The Census in Boonton was 5,372;
- Clare Darress builds the Darress theater;
- The Van Raalte hosiery factory on Myrtle Ave in Boonton supplied work to 400 people, most of whom worked in town. The silk used by Van Raalte was imported from Japan

From the Weekly Bulletin, April 21, 1921:
“As mayor of the Town of Boonton, I, William R. Booth, do hereby proclaim that commencing with April 21, 1921, at 9 o’clock P.M. The official time of the Town shall be advanced one hour, and said Town shall be on so-called Daylight Saving Time to correspond with the time to become operative in the City of New York on said day.
Said Daylight Saving Time shall continue to be operative from said date until further Proclamation or Resolution of the Board of Aldermen.”
1923 – The state formally took possession of the Morris Canal and over the next six years it systemically drained and destroyed it; Boonton’s first semi-pro football team was formed


- First telephone installed at the Police department
- Darress theater becomes the State Theater (September)
- The Pelgram and Meyer Silk mill on Lincoln and Monroe Streets closed. Started in 1876 under the Boonton Silk Factory, it is said to have produced 12,000 yards of silk dress goods per week and to employ 500 people.

– Purchase of the first Police car

AD’s - 1920’s
1925                                                                1929 – after the Stock Market crash

1921                                                                                        1927

First Ad for State Theatre 9/16/1927

1923                                        1927