Mosquitoes plagued mankind long before history recorded their annoying and painful interference with daily activities. Thousands of years passed before it was learned that mosquitoes carry diseases that have killed countless millions of people, changing the course of history many times.
Early settlers of North America faced many hardships. Chief among indigenous afflictions was malarial fever which is said to have caused more anguish than the threat of Indians. In New Jersey, historians are not sure whether it was mosquitoes or the British who drove the Swedes from the state.
Window screens, introduced in the 1880's, were called "the most humane contribution the 19th century made to the preservation of sanity and good temper." Mosquito borne yellow fellow was known as the American plague since it had struck the bay colony in 1647. Yellow fever also decimated Philadelphia in 1793, thus ending that city's supremacy in the young union. Approximately, the disease was stamped out by an American, Dr. Walter Reed, an army surgeon who in 1900 with a team of heroic assistants traced its source to a virus carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This eliminated, almost in a single blow, one of the scourges of mankind.
With many pieces of the puzzle of the mosquito's life cycle and disease transmission coming together at the turn of this century, organized, multi-disciplinary mosquito control became possible. New Jersey had many citizens and local governments interested in a crusade against the mosquito. Dr. J. B. Smith, NJ State Entomologist, did extensive research on the types of mosquitoes in the state and their life cycles. Considerable public debate was given to the question whether mosquitoes could ever be controlled. Mosquito control operations grew in some towns but not in all towns. Newspaper battles raged when it was painfully noted that mosquitoes ignored municipal and even state borders. Local boards of health funded most of the extermination work. Laws in 1906 required support for local efforts from the state experiment station. Another law in 1912 directed the creation of county mosquito extermination commissions to assure full time mosquito control.
With an increase in mosquito control workers and their rapid progress, it became clear that an organization was needed within which these workers could discuss their problems and share their experiences. In 1913, a statewide organization, the New Jersey Mosquito Extermination Association (NJMEA), was first established in Trenton at which time there were delegates from several of the county commissions who were present and the concept of an annual meeting/convention was called for by the Essex County Commission and Mr. Thomas Headlee. At the same time, Mr. Ralph H. Hunt of East Orange was named as President pro tem of this new organization.
A convention of county commissions was planned and held on February 20-21, 1914 at the Hotel Traymore in Atlantic City. Mr. Hunt presided. On the last day of the meeting, a Committee on Permanent Organization presented a constitution which was approved.
The first slate of officers and executive committee members at large were elected as follows:
* Mr. William C. Hope of Roselle (Union County)
* Dr. H. H. Brinkerhoff of Jersey City (Hudson County)
* Mr. C. H. Crammer of West Creek (Ocean County)
* Dr. William A. Westcott of Berlin (Camden County)
The annual meeting of the Association continues as a forum for New Jersey and national experts and workers to present ideas on funding and efficiency, reporting scientific results, questions and operational successes that could benefit others. The proceedings of these meetings are distributed and referenced worldwide. The Association draws on the collective efforts of all its members and those in related fields. The executive committee has even notified commissions when improvements were needed to protect neighboring counties. The results of work and research can be successful or unsuccessful, but all information is of use. Mosquito control methods have evolved, and this process has been enhanced by the association.
Recognizing a national agenda for mosquito control, 15 leaders of NJMCA and 10 colleagues from other states created the Eastern Association of Mosquito Control Workers at Trenton in 1935. In 1944 EAMCW was renamed the American Mosquito Control Association, the paramount organization in the field today. A special meeting of the membership was held on August 14, 1974 at which point the "NJMEA" was officially terminated and the incorporation of the organization with the new name of "New Jersey Mosquito Control Association, Inc." was unanimously approved.
Today the NJMCA continues to lead the way to modern, professional mosquito control headed into the 21st century.
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