In 1904, C. Albert Gasser authored and published “The Men of Newark” in a limited deluxe edition of 799 books, each numbered and signed by the author. The volume was “portrait gallery” of the men who were deemed to have made a significant contribution to the growth, reputation and progress of New Jersey’s thriving metropolis- Newark. The author said in his introduction to the book that no one could buy placement in it. Indeed, the author felt there were at least a dozen men worthy of inclusion, who demurred not wishing to have their portrait published. This volume did not come cheaply either, it cost ten dollars. Ten dollars, in 1904, was a weeks salary for many.
The volume that I own is number 367 of 799. What made my copy unique was that the original solicitation letter from the author/publisher was still inside the book. It was addressed to Mr. Edward Issler 261 High Street, Newark, NJ. Mr. Issler was president of the city’s musicians union. It gets a bit stranger here. As it turns out, in 1993 I bought a row house at 263 High Street, now Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. Next door to me at 261 were two elderly widowed sisters of Italian-American descent. They had lived in the house since 1945 when the older sister, named Mary, bought the house with her husband for $7500. They bought the house from Edward Issler’s daughter Helen and her step mother Jennie. The Issler women initially moved to an apartment at 261A High/MLK. Later, somewhat impoverished, they finished their lives in the Columbus Homes project.
While researching the owners of my house at 263 I discovered it was built by William C. Astley, a Civil War veteran who had been a member of the Newark Fire Department since 1867. He and Issler built their homes a few years apart. In time, I discovered that they were actually friends and that Helen Issler had been the maid of honor at the wedding of Astley’s daughter Marian. Astley had the sad distinction of being the Chief Engineer of the Newark fire Department when the tragic factory fire of 1910 occurred. The fire took place in late November 1910, by May 1911 Chief Astley was dead of a heart failure.
C. Albert Gasser, the author of Men of Newark left publishing and in 1907 went on to head the Newark Bureau of Combustibles and Fire Safety . I believe, it is very likely, that at some point he may have actually known Chief Astley personally and perhaps Edward Issler as well. Upon Gasser’s resignation , from the City of Newark, the April 26, 1922 issue of Fire and Water Engineering enumerated his varied accomplishments. I have copied that small article verbatim.
Newark Fire Bureau to Lose Capt. Gasser
“The bureau of Combustibles and Fire Risks of Newark, NJ is to lose Capt. C. Albert Gasser who has been at it head since 1907, he having been appointed by the board of managers of the Kearny Home for Disabled Soldiers as superintendent of the institution, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of the present superintendent. Capt. Gasser will assume his new duties on May 15.
Capt. Gasser was born in Newark on March 31, 1873. He was graduated from the primary, grammar and high schools of the city and began his business life as an office boy in the Sunday call office, learning the printing trade with that newspaper. After that he served with the Newark Journal, and the Newark Daily Advertiser, going through all the grades from reporter to managing editor. This position he relinquished in 1903 to become private secretary of Mayor Doremus with whom he was associated for four years. In 1916 Capt. Gasser passed an examination for deputy chief of the fire prevention bureau of New York City, finishing first among the sixty eight who took the test.He, however, declined the appointment to the office.
Capt. Gasser has been very active in fire prevention work and his exhibits of fire hazards in connection with Fire Prevention Week in Newark, have been copied all over the country, especially his store window displays. He has written many articles on the subject for Fire and Water Engineering. Capt. Gasser received his title from the National Guard of the State of New Jersey, he having been commissioned captain of Company Kof the First Regiment. In referring to the bureau’s loss in the resignation of Captain Gasser, Director Brennan of the Department of Public Safety said: ” Captain Gasser is 100 per cent official, never had to waste a moment with him. I am exceedingly sorry to hear that he is to take a new position. The city loses one of its most efficient employees.”
Little did I realize in 1993 , that as I sat and listened to the recollections of my two elderly neighbors that on the night of January 21, 2016 it would come full circle and I would become the story teller for a new group of listeners.