Dr. Jonathan Pitney

Marker is located on Northeast Corner of Arkansas and Atlantic Avenues.

Historical Marker text:

Dubbed the Father of Atlantic City, this Absecon doctor used his influential connections and salesmanship to sell the idea of a seashore resort where Atlantic City now stands. Speaking with Philadelphia movers and shakers, he extolled the praises of the healing powers of salt air and water after Richard Osborne, a Philadelphia civil engineer brought the idea to him. Pitney's salesmanship lured eager capitalists to invest in the Camden and Atlantic Railroad which built the first line to the future Atlantic City. While Pitney pitched the idea for a resort on Absecon Island, Osborne was busy designing the future City. In 1853 he presented the street grid map with the name Atlantic City stretching across the top to a delighted railroad board. Atlantic City was incorporated March 3, 1854. On July 1 of that year, the first train headed for the site of the now famed resort. Since then, the City has flourished, declined, and risen again.

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Additional information:

Jonathan Pitney was born in Mendham, New Jersey, and his familial ties to the state were strong. His maternal grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War at Haddonfield and Red Bank, while his paternal grandfather had traveled through the area with a preacher to rally settlers against the British and encourage young men to enlist in the militias. Pitney studied medicine at Columbia, and practiced for two years in the Staten Island hospital. Afterward, he returned to New Jersey to practice in his hometown, but soon had other ideas.

In 1820, he rode his horse south to Absecon, where he would become, according to local historians, "the most influential physician of the county" for nearly the next fifty years. Pitney was also  important in other fields, serving as Absecon's postmaster, a recorder of shipwrecks, and somewhat of a local politician. He played a large role in the creation of Atlantic County from Gloucester County, which previously had extended down to the seashore. Pitney was Atlantic County's delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1844, and also ran for Congress in 1848.

Before the creation of the now-famed Atlantic City resort on Absecon Island, few knew of the area due to its remote location and the difficulty of accessing it by stagecoach. Pitney, however, was familiar with it due to his medical services taking him to the few residents of the island. The railroad that Pitney advocated establishing to Atlantic City revolutionized transportation to the area, without which any idea of vacationing in the resort would not have existed.

Pitney's familiarity with area shipwrecks also led him to succeed in garnering a Congressional grant of $35,000 for the construction of the Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City in 1857. It was thanks to Pitney's efforts that Atlantic City's tourism and industry could grow to eventually become the global resort destination that it is today.

Dr. Jonathan Pitney. (Alfred M. Heston, Annals of Absegami. Atlantic City Heritage Collections, Atlantic City Free Public Library)

For more information, see these resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City Heritage Collections:

Local History Biography Files - Dr. Jonathan Pitney
"Jonathan Pitney, M.D.: Fifty Years of Progress on the Coast of New Jersey" Heston Coll. 974.985





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