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History of Newark Exhibition   

    The University of Delaware Library announces the opening of “Little Known Histories of Newark, Delaware, 1758-2008,” an exhibition on display in the Special Collections Gallery in the Morris Library, February 19, 2008 through June 20, 2008.  Exhibition gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Tuesdays until 8:30 p.m.  The curators of the exhibition are L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin, Associate Librarian and Jaime Margalotti, Assistant Librarian.  Asher Jackson, Affiliate Assistant Librarian and the Pauline A. Young Resident, produced the exhibition’s multimedia display.

    The exhibition commemorates the 250th anniversary of Newark’s charter, and is scheduled to coincide with city-wide events hosted by the Office of the Mayor and the University in 2008.  An events calendar is available from the City of Newark website: http://www.cityofnewarkde.us/

    By the mid-eighteenth century, Newark’s landholders were looking to foster trade and transportation through the busy crossroads of their burgeoning village.  In response to a petition from the landholders, King George II signed Newark’s charter on April 13, 1758, granting privileges to hold a weekly market and a bi-annual fair on the site of what will soon be the Washington House Condominiums, adjacent to the Academy Lawn on Main Street.

    Newark’s centrality of location, natural setting, and growth and development are major themes of the exhibit.  Other topics include a review of the town’s industry, agriculture, and businesses; landmark architecture and suburban development; environmental stewardship; and civic and social organizations.  Early families, religious groups, public and private education, and—of course—the history of the University of Delaware are also represented in the exhibition.

    “Little Known Histories of Newark” highlights the richly varied sources from manuscript and archival collections documenting local history, as well as print sources from the Delaware Collection in Special Collections.  Maps, correspondence, photographs, account books, postcards, business ephemera, yearbooks, brochures, and other unique items—such as a dandy roll from the now-defunct Curtis Paper Mill—are used to illustrate Newark’s long history.

    The dandy roll, part of a machine used to make paper, was a gift of local historian Robert C. Barnes.  That item and most of the manuscripts in the exhibition are preserved in Special Collections due to the generosity of many individuals, families, businesses, and organizations who have donated these sources to the University of Delaware Library.  All together, these diverse sources yield details and “little known histories” that convey a fuller sense of Newark’s past.

    The Lewis family papers, for example, document sales and land swaps on Main Street.  They include a 1736 map of Newark, one of the earliest known.  Other early Newark families represented in the exhibition include the Cooches, Wilsons, Evans, Hossingers, Powells, and Johnsons.  Numerous turn-of-the-twentieth-century maps from Wilbur Wilson, the town surveyor, are included in the exhibit to show property change and urban developments.  Photography, postcards, and business ephemera relate to landmark architecture.

    Later twentieth-century growth, influencing housing, transportation, and the environment, is illustrated with material from several more recent donors:  the family of real estate developer Hugh Gallagher, city planner William Cohen, environmentalist Dorothy Miller, and WILMAPCO planning group member Edward Cairns.  The archives of a number of civic and social organizations are housed in Special Collections and are included to represent the major contributions these organizations have made to Newark’s quality of life.  The New Century Club of Newark, for example, established the town’s first lending library and planned regular “community improvement projects.”  The League of Women Voters of Newark, the American Association of University Women-Newark Branch, the Robert Kirkwood Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution, Newark Music Society, Lions Club, and the Improved Order of Red Men are other organizations represented in the exhibition.

    Asher Jackson contributed a special feature of the exhibition, an audio-visual presentation using original sources from Special Collections that he produced with the assistance of the new Library Student Multimedia Design Center.  Jackson used images from the Library’s digital maps collection and photographs from manuscript collections to illustrate the 1975 oral history of Louise S. Johnson about growing up in Newark.  Daughter of the minister of Welsh Tract Baptist Church and widow of Everett C. Johnson, founder of the Newark Post and the Press of Kells, Johnson graduated from Newark High School in 1897.  Johnson’s oral history reflects upon the evolution of Main Street in her lifetime which Jackson was able to visually document in his production.

    Located in the heart of town, the University of Delaware has an inherently close to tie to the history of Newark.  Francis Alison’s Academy (founded in 1743) moved to Newark in 1769, both following and spurring the growth of the city throughout its history.  The University of Delaware Library joins the 250th anniversary celebration by exhibiting its many rich historical sources related to those significant years.

Main Street, looking west. Opera House (now home to Grass Roots) on the left, ca. 1907. From the Delaware Post Card Collection, University of Delaware Library.


About the Special Collections Department

    Holdings of the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library include books, manuscripts, maps, prints, photographs, broadsides, periodicals, pamphlets, ephemera, and realia from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. The collections complement the Library's general collections with particular strengths in the subject areas of the arts; English, Irish, and American literature; history and Delawareana; horticulture; and history of science and technology. The University of Delaware Archives is separately administered and comprises university records and history of the institution.


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