Faces of Newark
During this period Newark passed from a Puritan oligarchy to a fledgling manufacturing town and on into a great manufacturing center, it produced the state's biggest banks and best insurance companies, and it rose to its zenith of industrial and commercial accomplishment only to be nearly ruined by the Great Depression, prohibition, and the national riots of the mid '60's. Like New Jersey itself, Newark has had an uphill fight to survive in the nation's mind that has frequently used it as a butt of late-night television jokes. But Newark "ain't no weak sister." It is resilient, and there is more than just one reason for its existence. Newark, in the words of one of its most famous contemporary songstresses "Will Survive."
Today its strong points include a continued strong economy; the New Jersey/New York transportation hub, a "cultureplex" with the Newark Public Library, The Newark Museum, The New Jersey Historical Society, The New Jersey Symphony, The Newark Boys Chorus, The Jazz Collection at Rutgers-Dana Library, and The New Jersey Performing Arts Center. As a college town with more than 50,000 students, faculty and personnel of Rutgers, the University of Medicine and Dentistry, The New Jersey Institute of Technology, Essex County College, and Seton Hall Law School, it is the envy of many college complexes.
Newark has also become the administrative center for city, county, state and federal agencies with impressive public buildings and all the facilities that go along with them. There is also the possibility that Newark may and can become a sports center for the 13 million people living in the bi-state area, with the current construction of Bears Stadium, and the proposed building of major facilities for several other sports teams. But most of all, Newark was, is and will probably always be a community of individual people, and it is our purpose today to show you a few of them. We hope you enjoy our efforts, but remember, this is only 333 of the millions of people who have been part of Newark.
Charles F. Cummings
The immigrants wending their way up the river, into the place soon to be known as Newark, came for freedom of worship, more precisely, their freedom to worship, free from the corruption of others. To these 17th century English Puritans, hardened in the European crucible, came a determination to rid themselves not only of the impurities of Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Quakers, and Anabaptists, but also of temporizing Calvinists. These immigrants arrived upon the banks of the Passaic in the Spring of 1666, having accepted the offer of the Jersey Proprietors to settle there. The chance to escape the religious compromise of Connecticut propelled them on. Their initial meeting with the local peoples, members of the Lenni Lenape, did not go well. But the problems were solved owing to the negotiating skills of men like Abraham Pierson, the pastor of the Puritans, and Oraton, Sachem of the Hackensack.
The faith of the Puritan rested upon the theology of the Swiss reformer John Calvin. Namely and foremost the human, by nature sinful, was saved only by God's grace freely given and predetermined by God from before time. Only these elect would be saved. This grace was also irresistible and also visible in these elect of God. Society to the Puritan was ordered, obedient, prayerful and bent to life's daily tasks. Society was theocratic, that is the church ruled and there was no separation of the sacred and the profane.
In England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales the followers of Calvin became known as Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Presbyterians accepted a central authority of presbyters and synods. In later years they came to accept a separation of church and secular society. Congregationalists placed governing authority in the local church. With such a rigid world view stress was inevitable. The early Newarkers were often at odds with royal and proprietary authority; and with nearby communities of Baptists and Quakers, and beyond, the worldly Dutch merchant/farmers of Bergen and New York the Newark Puritans began to contend with. In the new century of the 1700' s the sequestered agrarian village with its watchful church began to experience a pluralism of faith, interest, class and culture. People began to conduct their affairs away from the prying eyes of the elders. Divisions were growing among church members, those in town were becoming Presbyterian while outlining areas were becoming Congregationalist.
In 1713 copper ore was discovered on the Schuyler Plantation. Africans were brought in as slaves to mine the ore. By the 1720' s the influence of Anglicanism was beginning to be felt, though already a force in Elizabethtown by 1708. In 1746 Josiah Ogden was censured for gathering his wheat in on the Sabbath. He abandoned the Presbyterian Church and embraced Anglicanism. In that same year Trinity Church was established.
The world of the early immigrant was changing; and
while nowhere was the end in sight; perhaps another fifty
years of strength, with several decades thereafter its
influence felt. Nevertheless, the world had changed for
the Puritans even as that first generation was passing
away. The crude dwellings of that generation had been
replaced by more substantial homes. The town remained
compact, thus land speculation and the wealth generated
slowed the development of a monied class. Still Newark
had as did all places in the 18th century a hierarchical
ordering of the population. People had a deference
towards their betters. In this mostly agrarian community
In the 1740's social unrest flared out into the open. Land riots pitted the poorer class of farmer against those who held proprietary rights. At the same time clergymen like George Whitefield were stirring the masses to an emotional renewal of faith known as The Great Awakening, a movement that had the effect of eroding class distinctions. These unrests were but precursors to the political unrest and revolution in the 1760's and 1770's. In this coming struggle Newark and its citizens suffered depredation and violence as a border area of divided loyalties.
Newark in the Republic developed in new ways. A banking system was established; charitable institutions established to aid the poor; it became the seat of government; its river port facilities were expanded, becoming an entrepot of trade; the beginnings of industry, hat manufacture, iron and furniture making, were established. Men like David Alling, Seth Boyden and William Rankin were involved in these new undertakings. In 1807 Alexander McWhorter the influential pastor of the First Presbyterian Church died and Newarkers mourned his passing. New immigrants were arriving, from the Germanies and Ireland. Many were Catholic. Canals were expanding trade and the railroad was becoming a possibility. In 1835 the town was incorporated.
The nineteenth century saw great changes in the city of Newark. This would be a time when Newark would grow from an isolated village into a modern metropolis.
The impetus for this growth came from the development of industry. Early in the century, artisans and craftsmen came into the city to supply many needed products which could not be made at home. By 1848 Newark had about 100 small factories, making shoes, clothing, luggage, harness, metal items, clocks, and numerous other household goods.
As Newark's reputation as an industrial center grew, several noted inventors and entrepreneurs came to start new industries. Seth Boyden, an inventive genius, came with his wife to live in Newark and open a factory where he invented patent leather, silver plating, and malleable iron. The clear water of the Passaic River made Newark an ideal spot for brewing beer. The nineteenth century saw the rise of three great breweries, each bearing the name of its owner: Peter Ballantine, Gottfried Krueger, and Christian Feigenspan. One other industry deserves note. In 1864 a Scotsman, George Clark, opened a factory in Newark, and six years later one thousand men and women were employed making the cotton sewing thread that would be a household staple for 100 years.
What these industries needed most was labor. Thousands of people from surrounding areas, and hundreds of immigrants from Europe now came to Newark to live and work, and they can be credited with building the city. By 1850 Newark had 269 new streets running in every direction, and some 2,800 new buildings: homes, stores, and factories.
The newcomers brought their families and also their diverse ethnic backgrounds. In a city founded by Presbyterians, now there came Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, and several Black church groups. Soon, all these congregants were building fine churches in the neighborhoods where they lived. People of the Jewish faith came from Germany and Eastern Europe and by 1860 there were three large synagogues and many small religious groups.
By 1860 Newark was a city of young working people, with many interests besides religion. There were concerts, lectures, traveling shows, and exhibits. For the athletic, there were baseball games, swimming and rowing on the Passaic River, and lively picnics in the summer, sleighing and ice skating parties in winter.
Another need of these people was education. During the nineteenth century Newark's public school system was developed and improved until it was an attractive alternative to the early private schools. In 1855 the first public high school opened, and the first large high school, Barringer, opened in 1899. Public libraries, charging a membership fee for use, also made their appearance. Many public schools also offered English and citizenship courses to recent immigrants.
No battles of the Civil War were fought in New Jersey, but the war had its effect on the people of Newark. With Southern markets cut off, many factories turned to production of war-related goods. During this time, Newark's first hospital was opened by Marcus Ward to treat returning veterans.
After the Civil War, industry again boomed. More noted inventors set up shop in Newark: John Wesley Hyatt, Edward Weston, and Thomas Edison himself, who married one of his Newark employees, Mary Stilwell.
Industry brought commerce and finance. By the early nineteenth century Newark had banks, and insurance firms were soon to follow. Mutual Benefit Life opened in 1845, followed by Prudential in 1875. Growing population and improved transportation brought another new idea, the big department store. L.S. Plaut opened one in 1870, Hahne's opened in 1888, and Bamberger's in 1892. These large stores, along with many small shops, made Broad Street a fashionable shopping district well into the 20th century.
Meanwhile, Newark's population was ever changing. The first wave of immigrants were rising in the business world, creating a fresh need for manual labor. Italians, Greeks, Hungarians, Poles, Chinese, and Eastern Europeans came to fill these positions. They too organized religious and social groups, adding to the city's multiethnic tapestry.
Newark began the 19th century as a small town and ended it a true metropolis. With thriving industry, commerce, and recreation, as well as a richly diverse and growing population, Newark was now a major American city, ready for the challenges of the 20th century.
The dawn of the 20th century saw Newark continue to grow as a center of industry, commerce, and urban culture. The coming of electricity, the automobile, and the railroad greatly improved life in the city. Electric trolleys and expanded street lighting made inner city travel easier and more enjoyable. In 1902, the Pennsylvania Railroad linked the Hudson Tubes opened rapid rail transit between Newark and Manhattan. More and more people came to Newark to work, and stayed to live. Newark had much to offer: fashionable department stores, restaurants, many theaters, and beautiful parks.
Newark's resident population continued to grow. Between 1900 and 1910 another 100,000 people moved into Newark, boosting the city's population to 347,459. These people needed even more homes, stores, and services. The city's water system was improved and modernized. Many new public grammar and high schools were built. In 1913 Newark opened its own Normal School for the training of teachers. In 1902 the Newark Free Public Library moved into its present home, a Renaissance Romanesque building opposite Washington Park. Librarian John Cotton Dana opened a museum on the top floor of the Library, and in 1925 Newark Museum moved into its own building financed by the Bamberger family. Today both the Library and the Museum, greatly enlarged and modernized, continue to rank high among the city's cultural facilities.
In 1917, by a referendum vote, Newark's government was changed from a Mayor-Council to City Commission. The city was a group of small, self-contained neighborhoods: the Inner City, Roseville, Forest Hill, Woodside, Clinton Hill, the Ironbound (Down Neck), and the emerging Weequahic section.
By 1928 Newark was already a transportation center, having, in addition to trolleys and railroads, a shipping port and a small airport, named Heller Field. In 1928 a study found Heller Field to be inadequate, so construction of the present Newark Airport was begun. No sooner had it opened than it became the area's busiest flight center, surpassing two older airports in New York. Today, Newark Airport is completely modern and ranks among the world's major international airports.
Many of Newarks newest residents were immigrants, who had come to America to work, and who settled in Newark to form their own ethnic communities. African Americans had lived in Newark since the 1730's and after the Civil War (1860-1865) hundreds of freed Blacks came to Newark to find work. This trend continued, and by 1910, 3% of Newarks population was African American. By 1950 this had risen to 17%, and by 1970 Blacks comprised 54% of Newark residents, making them the majority ethnic group in the city.
Throughout the twentieth century Newark experienced a great building boom, especially in the downtown area along Broad Street. Stores, banks, insurance office buildings, and public buildings were constantly being enlarged and remodeled, some into 16- and 17-floor skyscrapers that gave Newark the appearance of a bustling metropolis. Workmen were always digging, laying sewer lines, burying electric cable, and laying trolley tracks, soon to be replaced by smoothly paved streets, highways, and bridges. The city was growing by leaps and bounds!
However, sadly, one area of building seemed to be forgotten: housing. Hundreds of Newark's new residents were crowded into sub-standard housing in the central city. Many single and multiple-family dwellings were crumbling with age. The need for better living conditions was brought into focus in the mid-1960's, when long dormant discontent suddenly erupted into open protest, not only in Newark, but in other large cities across America.
Newark officials knew they had to act quickly, and act they did. Land was cleared in the central city, and attractive new buildings seemed to rise overnight. Five major colleges built modern adjoining campuses just west of the central business district. The five colleges are: Rutgers, the State University; New Jersey Institute of Technology; Essex County College, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Seton Hall Law School. This large college complex offers quality education to many inner city and suburban residents who need to, or prefer to, live at home. Furthermore, the colleges include outstanding research, cultural, and health care facilities, which benefit the entire community.
In the area of housing, one individual stands out. He is Msgr. William Linder, Pastor of Queen of Angels Church, the city's largest Black Roman Catholic parish. In 1968 Msgr. Linder formed the New Community Corporation, which worked with the Newark Housing Authority and private enterprise in a great and successful effort to improve Newark's housing. State and Federal housing grants were obtained, land was cleared, and attractive low-rise housing was built for inner-city residents. While some older apartment buildings were able to be renovated, the emphasis was on new low-rise townhouses and garden apartments, giving the inner city a clean, "homey" appearance. Several blocks west of the Courthouse, the private development of Society Hill offered attractive new townhouses to Newark's upscale residents.
The second major development in the past thirty years has been the beautification of the downtown district along Broad Street. The Prudential Insurance Company made a major decision to remain in Newark, and built the ultra-modern Prudential Plaza and Gateway Complex. The latter project, adjoining Penn Station, includes a major hotel, shops, restaurants, and offices, housed in five modern skyscrapers that enhance the beauty of the city. Newark's newest cultural attraction is the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, located across from Military Park. In a striking new building opened in 1998, the PAC includes two theaters for live performances, and restaurants. The PAC offers a schedule of world-class performances, which attract large audiences from Newark and the surrounding suburbs.
These physical improvements have brought a great psychological uplift to the city. Newark's image, once becoming tarnished, now shines brightly. Real estate values are high, and major investors from New Jersey and New York are putting funds into Newark projects. From what was feared to be a lost cause, Newark has reemerged as a major center of industry, commerce, transportation, education, culture, and Federal, State, and local government operations. With such credentials, Newark can look proudly upon past accomplishments, and prepare eagerly for the next millennium.
The exhibit is open during regular Newark Public Library hours which are Monday, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
©1999 The Newark Public Library