Museum professional and Ewing, NJ, resident Patricia Millen always wanted to write a book about Washington Crossing. Unfortunately, she jokes, “Peter Osborne beat me to it!”
Fate intervened during the COVID pandemic, however. That’s when longtime friend and fellow museum professional Bob Sands approached her with an idea for a Washington Crossing book – with a twist.
He proposed compiling a “pictorial history book” filled with images drawn from the collections of historians, foundations, societies, libraries, museums, and private citizens. Rather than give a full account of Washington’s river crossing, Bob and Patricia’s book would cover the event in the context of the state parks established by both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Images of America: Washington Crossing pairs more than 200 archival photos and images with informative, extended captions that tie this historically significant event into the lives of people in their communities.
“When I asked Pat about doing a Washington Crossing book, she gave me this ‘are you serious?’ look,” Bob says with a laugh. “I began researching the idea and realized that nobody else had touched this topic in this manner. We contacted Arcadia Publishing, and they loved the idea.”
The book is Bob’s fourth “Images of America” book (part of a greater series from Arcadia Publishing). It took 11 months to complete, with Bob primarily working on the Pennsylvania park sections and Patricia handling the New Jersey park sections (since that is where she held her first job). The book was released in the spring of 2022.
“The first chapter tells the story of the crossing in photographs, and the next two chapters talk about the history of the parks and why they were created,” Bob says. “Then, we go into the famous Emanuel Leutze painting and how that has become the spirit of the crossing itself. The last chapter of the book tells the story of the crossing in art, advertising and propaganda.”
According to Bob and Patricia, this is the first illustrated book about Washington Crossing. As such, it is an important piece of preservation.
“That’s part of Arcadia Publishing’s mission – to document and preserve these images of America,” Bob says. “I’m a visual person, so I like these books because I can see the story through the photos.”
“If Bob hadn’t thought of it and we didn’t do it, I’m not sure this book would exist,” Patricia adds. “A lot of the photos we tracked down in peoples’ homes could have been lost forever. That’s another reason we put together this book – to preserve these photos.”
Both authors cite Peter Osborne for his very helpful “assist.”
“Peter provided us with all of his materials from his book, which was a gift,” Patricia says. “But other material came out of places that surprised us, like peoples’ homes, the Trenton Public Library, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the Princeton Amateur Astronomers Association. It’s amazing how it all fell into place.”
Says Bob, “This was more Pat’s history and not mine since she grew up in Ewing. This was a new venture for me, and I learned so much. It also inspired me. That imagery of Washington standing in a boat on this river of ice…what a spirit it adds to our feeling of patriotism, determination, and freedom.”