In 1938, residents of Hoboken, New Jersey, were divided by class and ethnic heritage.
A little more than a square mile, Hoboken is bounded north and south by neighboring municipalities, to the west by the Palisades, and to the east by the Hudson River. For much of its history, its small size and geographical constraints have made it easier to control.

The elite traditionally inhabited the upland portion of the city. The prosperity of its residents was reflected in their spacious brick homes. By 1938, when the poormaster was killed, “uptown” was populated by a waning set of German power brokers and the ascendant Irish.

The working poor had settled in the city’s lowlands. There the buildings were mostly wood-frame construction. By 1938 “downtown” was home to a large Italian population. Although Italians were the largest ethnic group in Hoboken, they had little say in the workings of city government.
Listen to Judge Charles DeFazio, who was born in Hoboken in 1905, describe his hometown. LISTEN
Judge DeFazio recalls the Italian community’s political powerlessness during the McFeely regime. An employee in the city’s law department during the 1930s, DeFazio well understood the need to curry favor with the “boss.” LISTEN

1. City Hall, “The Hall,” 94 Washington Street, home base for the city’s political machine, headquarters of the poormaster, mayor, police, and the municipal court.

2. Jersey Observer, 111 Newark Street, newspaper with a cozy connection to City Hall.

3. Home of Joseph Scutellaro,
the man accused of killing the poormaster,
611 Monroe Street.

4. Apartment where activist Herman Matson lived until he and his family were evicted, 812 Willow Ave.

5. Volk Mortuary, 631 Washington Street, where the poormaster’s funeral was held.

6. Church Square Park, where activist Herman Matson held his first public meeting to address the unattended needs of the city’s
jobless poor.

7. Hudson Square Park, where activist Herman Matson was beaten by McFeely allies when he attempted to speak at a second open-air meeting

8. Pier at the East End of Fifth Street, from which longshoremen supportive of the mayor descended into Hudson Square Park and proceeded to attack Herman Matson