It was in August 1861 that Vineland, one of the first and most successful planned communities, was born - before they even knew to call them planned communities. Charles K. Landis was a visionary and a dreamer. His dream was to create a town where hard working men could earn a living farming the land.
Landis chose his idea site in the heart of South Jersey - one with a railroad running through the site, affording easy access to the marketplace of Philadelphia. He bought 20,000 acres and paid workers $1 per day to cut an avenue 100-feet wide and about one mile long, using the railroad as a center point. Upon completion of the first leg of Landis Avenue, Landis set out to establish a post office in the still desolate town he called Vineland. There was some government resistance to build a post office in a location with no inhabitants, but soon after he had a chance meeting with the son of John Tyler, Landis was appointed the first postmaster of Vineland.
Landis began advertising his city in the hope of luring farmers to settle, and, in 1862,. the first house was built on East and Landis avenues. Shortly thereafter, direct train service was established to Vineland from Philadelphia and New York. By 1865 a population of roughly 5,500 had settled in Vineland.
The new community had attracted many idealistic and progressive settlers, as well as hard working farmers and industrialists. A group of these progressive people formed "Friends of Progress" with the idea to have a united organization that could be used to support, discuss and promote progressive thinking. The Friends of Progress erected Plum Street Hall so that they could have meetings, lectures and generally benefit the town. Many of those discussions focused on Equal Rights and on December 4, 1866 an Equal Rights Association was formed. One month later The Equal Rights and Universal Peace Association held a convention at Plum Street Hall and elected new officers.
In late August 1867, a mass meeting on Impartial Suffrage was held in Vineland, to consider the best means of bringing the question of impartial suffrage, irrespective of sex or color, more fully before the people of New Jersey.
In September 1868 Susan B. Anthony spoke at Plum Street Hall and on
November 3, 1868 - fifty-two years before the nineteenth amendment was passed allowing women the right to vote - 172 women cast votes in the Presidential election. The women of Vineland continued to cast their ballots for years to come.
Throughout the years, Vineland men and women continued to be the forefront of many reform movements.
Landis kept a strong hold over the community. He tried to ensure that Vineland remained a "dry" town and a law was passed prohibiting the sale of liquor. Because many of the churches needed wine for their religious ceremonies, in 1869 a man by the name of Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch solved the problem by coming up with the idea of preserving grape juice without fermenting it, hence alcohol free. He first had to convince the churches to use it and initially produced only a limited amount of unfermented wine for churches in southern New Jersey and southeast Pennsylvania, but soon the demand was more than one man could handle and Welch formed the Welch's Fruit Juice Company, forerunner of today's internationally known Welch Company. Dr. Welch set up a factory site near his second house, at Wood and Sixth streets, where the Vineland Police Department is now housed.
During the prohibition movement the Welch name really took off. Since Welch's Grape Juice was the only non-alcoholic fruit drink in the market, it was a natural substitute for alcoholic drinks. When the grape growers of the area could no longer fill the demand, Dr. Welch's son, Charles, moved production to New York State, where a more plentiful supply of Concord grapes could be found.
In the late 1940's the poultry business took off in Vineland. The City became a leader in the industry, and 90% of the Vineland population was involved in the egg and poultry industry in some way. As a celebration of Vineland's hard work and success, Vineland residents and industry leaders began hosting an annual Poultry and Egg Festival. After the first annual Poultry and Egg Festival, Vineland became known as "The Egg Basket of America." New technology, which forced the lowering of egg prices, brought about the decline and eventually ended the poultry business in Vineland.
Vineland continued to grow, attracting various industries such as glass manufacturers, food processors and clothing companies in addition to farming. Retail stores abound in a thriving downtown section, reaching its peak the late 1950's and early 1960's.
Another milestone in Vineland's history occurred on July 1, 1952, when two subsections of the town, Landis Township and the Borough of Vineland, were consolidated to become one city. Paul Brundage, then president of the Greater Vineland Chamber of Commerce, began the movement. As provided in the consolidation plan, a mayor (John Gittone) and five councilmen were installed.
Source: Vineland Greater Chamber of Commerce Membership Directory & Community Guide