What They’re Saying

Many New Jerseyans, famous in their time, are lost in history – until they are brought back by historians.  One such is “Billy” Hughes, of Paterson, New Jersey, who rose from impoverished Irish mill boy to Attorney, Congressman, United States Senator and Presidential advisor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Made in Paterson, Daniel J. Willever has rescued the memory of the distinguished legislator, in a must read for New Jersey history buffs.

Joseph G. Bilby, author of a number of books on New Jersey history 

As a New Jersey friend of the working man, Congressman, and U.S. Senator, William Hughes pushed for important Progressive Era reforms, including labor laws and women’s suffrage.  Willever depicts Hughes’s rise from Paterson bobbin boy to Washington power broker, collaborating on key issues with President Woodrow Wilson.  Impressively researched and felicitously crafted, this biography rescues a significant New Jerseyan from the shadows.

Michael J. Birkner, Professor of History, Gettysburg College

Made in Paterson is a road trip that begins on a ship at the port of Drogheda on the Boyne River of Ireland and takes readers to the port of Liverpool, the SS Spain, the port of New York, the banks of the Passaic and all the way to the Potomac.  Hughes’s restless intellectual drive and passion for helping people in need led a promising teenage weaver to a professional lawyer whose American journey begins in Paterson, our nation’s industrial capital, to our national capital on the Potomac River.  Author Daniel J. Willever brings to life the “Horatio Alger’ version of the humble local lawyer who made a landmark decision in a labor dispute to one who was respected by national leaders in Congress, the White House, and organized labor. This book engages readers in the local history of one of the most important states of the industrial revolution in understanding the national vision of a liberal progressive democratic movement at the turn of the 20th century.

Hank Bitten, Executive Director, New Jersey Council for the Social Studies

“In an era of renewed labor struggle and class consciousness, Daniel J Willever’s “Made in Paterson: The Life and Legacy of U.S. Senator William Hughes” is a timely and important book. With labor organizing spreading from Starbucks to Trader Joe’s to Amazon, Willever tells the largely ignored but significant life of William Hughes. Born in Ireland and raised in Paterson, Hughes went from a silk weaver in Paterson’s silk mills to lawyer to U.S. Senator. In this engaging, insightful and well-written book, Willever successfully restores Hughes to his rightful place in history. As a close ally of Woodrow Wilson, Hughes played a key role in passing progressive and pro-worker legislation helping to lay the groundwork for the mass unionization and New Deal reforms of the Great Depression. The book is a reminder of the importance of electing politicians who come from the working class and continue to represent their interests as they ascend the heights of power.”

David Colman, Professor of History, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Daniel Willever’s Made in Paterson is the best way to learn about William Hughes, who was once famous but now largely forgotten. Willever argues that Hughes was popular because he defended working people, first as a lawyer and then as a politician. Starting out as a poor Irish immigrant in Paterson, Hughes aligned himself with the American Federation of Labor and the Democratic Party. He championed the 8 hour day and opposed high tariffs. Willever does not shrink from pointing out that Hughes, the immigrant, favored restrictions on further immigration, especially from southern and eastern Europe. His monograph is concise, clearly written, thoroughly researched, evenhanded, and wonderfully illustrated. It will be of special interest to everyone who cares about New Jersey history, especially Paterson history.

Steve Golin, author of Fragile Bridge: Paterson Silk Strike, 1913 and of Women Who Invented the Sixties: Ella Baker, Jane Jacobs, Rachel Carson, and Betty Friedan.

Dan Willever has written a masterful account detailing the extraordinary career of William “Billy” Hughes, a figure that long ago receded into the shadows of the past, but has now been reclaimed from obscurity through the author’s obvious literary panache and meticulous marshaling of documentary sources. Willever contextualizes Hughes in the life of his adopted country every step of the way, from the plucky youth’s  impoverished boyhood to his arrival in the awe-inspiring chamber of the United States Senate, where he achieved renown as an impassioned champion for the rights of labor. The author gives renewed meaning to the phrase, ‘this is narrative history at its best.

Edward A. Smyk, Passaic County Historian