Why Not Morristown?
(It Was Good Enough for George Washington)

This weekend, The Press of Atlantic City highlighted the visit of United Nations diplomats who spent a weekend at the seaside resort in January 1946 as part of their search for a home for the UN. Their hosts were sure that they would see their honored guests again. Why? Because the leader of the mission allowed sand to be poured into his shoes. By local custom, this guaranteed a return visit.

Morristown's attachment to its colonial and Revolutionary-era history is clear in the advertisement calling residents together to consider their mayor's plan to attract the United Nations. (Morristown Daily Record)

Morristown’s attachment to its colonial and Revolutionary-era history is clear in the advertisement calling residents together to consider their mayor’s plan to attract the United Nations. (Morristown Daily Record)

While the diplomats visited the shore, communities in North Jersey towns within commuting distance of New York also scrambled to attract attention. Among the most vigorous of contenders was Morristown, located 30 miles west of New York City.

Morristown Mayor Clyde Potts was sure that he had the best possible argument for placing the United Nations in his town. Like world capital promoters in Philadelphia and Boston, Potts viewed his community’s connection to the world in terms of local and American history. In Morristown’s case, this meant the town’s connection to George Washington. While Commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, Washington had selected Morristown as one of his headquarters – so why shouldn’t the United Nations do the same?

Potts had a long fascination with Morristown’s place in the American Revolution, and he had been a leader in designating the Continental Army’s winter camp site, Jockey Hollow, as a national historical park.  As powerful as these association were, the mayor also had an eye on a future that would include new connections between his town and the world beyond its boundaries. A civil engineer by training, he was leading Morristown toward construction of a new airport. And as a commuter with an office in Manhattan, he could make a convincing case for his town as just the right choice for diplomats who desired a site convenient to the city but out of its direct influence. The people of Morristown agreed in a Town Meeting, where they voted 500 to 18 in favor of their mayor’s proposal.

Potts pushed his proposal to the point of personal visits to the UN team, which had a temporary base of operations in New York at the Waldorf-Astoria. But like the many other North Jersey towns seeking the UN’s attention, Morristown was disappointed when the site searchers bypassed them to look at only Princeton and Atlantic City.  Still, Mayor Potts was persistent. He did not desist until the end of January 1946, when the UN staff arranged for a formal vote on Morristown’s invitation for the sole purpose of making the mayor go away.

Morristown’s bid for the United Nations was reported in the local newspaper, the Daily Record, and is recorded in correspondence in the United Nations Archives and at the Library of Congress.  For a list of all of the known world capital contenders in New Jersey, see the List of Contenders tab above.