H. Otto Wittpenn

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H. Otto Wittpenn
H. Otto Wittpenn (ca. 1925).gif
28th Mayor of Jersey City
In office
January 1, 1908 – June 16, 1913
Preceded by Mark Fagan
Succeeded by Mark Fagan
Personal details
Born Henry Otto Wittpenn
(1871-10-23)October 23, 1871
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Died July 25, 1931(1931-07-25) (aged 59)
Hoboken, New Jersey
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Caroline Bayard Stevens, formerly Mrs. Alexander
Residence Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.

Henry Otto Wittpenn (October 23, 1871 – July 25, 1931) was the Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey from January 1, 1908 to June 16, 1913. He was a member of the New Jersey State Highway Commission and was the president of both the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company and the First National Bank of Hoboken. He was also a director of the First National Bank of Jersey City.

Birth[edit]

Henry Otto Wittpenn was born on October 23, 1871 to Dora and Henry Wittpenn in Jersey City, New Jersey.[1] His father was a fireman, and later owned and operated a grocery store at 320 Communipaw Avenue. He had three siblings, a brother and two sisters. One of his sisters married Edwin M. Houghtaling and lived in Montclair, New Jersey, and his other sister married George Dinkel.[2] Wittpenn worked for his father, and later for his uncle, at family-owned stores.

Politics[edit]

Wittpenn became interested in politics when he gave a speech for James J. Murphy at a convention in Jersey City. Murphy lost the election, but Wittpenn's speech was remembered. He formally entered politics in 1904 as one of the Hudson County, New Jersey supervisors. His run for mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey was in 1907 against the Republican incumbent Mark Fagan. Whitpenn remained in office until 1912 when he lost to Frank Hague. While in office he appointed Cornelia Foster Bradford to the Board of Education.

Jersey City Medical Center[edit]

While mayor he saw the completion of the Jersey City Medical Center begun under Fagan.[1]

Marriage[edit]

He married Caroline Bayard Stevens (November 21, 1859 – December 5, 1932), the eldest daughter of Edwin Augustus Stevens on January 6, 1915. She was 11 years older than Wittpenn. Caroline had previously been married to Archibald Alexander, but her husband had been missing since the divorce. She divorced and waited 20 years to remarry, reportedly to ensure that her first husband was no longer living when she remarried.[3]

Run for governor[edit]

In 1916, Wittpenn, the comptroller of customs at the New York Customs House, was nominated by the Democratic Party for governor. Frank Hague is believed by many to have connived with Walter E. Edge, the Republican candidate, to help Edge win by a relatively slim 7430 votes by not encouraging Democrats to vote for Wittpenn.

Port of New York[edit]

President Woodrow Wilson named Wittpenn as the civilian overseer, of the Port of New York. Wittpenn ran for Governor again in 1916, but was not elected. Henry registered for the draft as "Henry Whitpenn" but did not serve. In March 1929 Wittpenn was appointed as a State Highway Commissioner by Governor Lawson.

Death[edit]

Henry Otto Wittpenn died on July 25, 1931 at 9:30, at night, aged 59, from blood poisoning. He had been in a coma for the previous two days. He was buried in Hoboken Cemetery.[1]

Legacy[edit]

The Wittpenn Bridge opened in 1930, and crosses the Hackensack River between Jersey City, New Jersey and Kearny, New Jersey. It is part of New Jersey Route 7 and is a four-lane lift span.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "H. Otto Wittpenn, Banker, is Dead". New York Times. July 26, 1931. Retrieved 2007-08-21. New Jersey Manufacturer and Leader in Politics. Victim of Blood Poisoning. Ex-mayor of Jersey City. Naval Officer of Port of New York Under Wilson. Democratic Candidate for Governor. Starts as Grocer's Clerk. Elected Supervisor. Carried Every Ward as Mayor. H. Otto Wittpenn, 58 [sic] years old, former naval officer of the Port of New York under the Wilson Administration and several times Mayor of Jersey City, died last night at his home, Castle Point, Hoboken, New Jersey. 
  2. ^ Wittpenns in the 1880 US Census in Jersey City, New Jersey
  3. ^ "Late Col. E.A. Stevens's Eldest Daughter to Marry Naval Officer of Port Today. Divorced Husband Missing. But Bride-to-be, High Church Episcopalian, Waited 20 Years to Satisfy Herself of His Death.". New York Times. January 6, 1915. Mrs. Caroline B. Alexander, the eldest daughter of the late Col. Edwin A. Stevens, who was for many years the head of the old Stevens family of Castle Point. Hoboken, will be married today in the Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Hoboken to H. Otto Wittpenn, Naval Officer of the Port of New York and three times Mayor of Jersey City. 

Further reading[edit]

  • New York Times; April 12, 1929. page 26. Mrs. Wittpen gets Post; Hoover Names Her Commissioner in International Prison Group"
  • New York Times; July 9, 1931; page 28. "H. Otto Wittpen Improves Rapidly"
  • New York Times; December 6, 1932; Mrs. H.O Wittpenn to be Buried Today. Service Will Be Conducted at the Residence by Bishop Stearly. Hoover Sends Condolences.The funeral service for Mrs. Otto Wittpenn, philanthropist and civic worker, who died on Sunday at her home in Hoboken, New Jersey, will be held this afternoon at 1:30 o'clock at her late residence, Castle Point. The Right Rev. Wilson R. Stearly, Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Newark, will officiate.
Political offices
Preceded by
Mark M. Fagan
Mayor of Jersey City
1908–1913
Succeeded by
Mark M. Fagan
Party political offices
Preceded by
James Fairman Fielder
Democratic Nominee for Governor of New Jersey
1916
Succeeded by
Edward I. Edwards