New exhibition highlights life in 1920s Morris County.

Our first onsite exhibit in three years explores life in New Jersey during the exuberant 1920s. The Twenties: Big Business, Pleasure-seeking, and Daily Life in Morris County, 1920-1930, is on view in the F.M. Kirby Gallery of the Morristown & Morris Township Library through December 2022.

The exhibit explores the role of local governments as they attempted to enforce unpopular Prohibition laws while battling corrupt officials, and traces the growing influence of corporatism on local businesses and economic activity. An explosion of automobile ownership affected not only the daily lives of residents but also profoundly changed the character of neighborhoods and downtowns, just as an emergent middle class resulted in a residential building boom and greater discretionary income.

The twenties also witnessed a rising Black middle class and entrepreneurial working class in Morris County that exercised its newfound economic strength by starting successful businesses and constructing new homes. More women enjoyed new careers and less domestic drudgery thanks to labor-saving devices and smaller families, and residents enjoyed a rash of new entertainment choices, thanks to the many fads, films, and radio programs of the era.

In conducting research for the project, staff utilized original documents, newspapers, and photographs from the collections of the North Jersey History & Genealogy Center. The exhibition is on view in the second floor gallery through the end of the year. Two related talks are planned for this summer and fall, as well as on online version of the exhibit that will live on the History Center’s site.

Municipal Records of Morris Township and Morristown open to researchers

A multiyear effort to preserve and catalog the municipal records of both Morris Township and Morristown has concluded and the materials are now open to users. Morris Township’s history dates back to the English settlement’s founding in 1715 and includes its trajectory from an agrarian village to the center of Morris County’s commercial, manufacturing, and residential development.

Hillside Fire Department engine, with officers and driver, in Morris Township, New Jersey, September 1, 1924.

The Morris Township collection traces municipal government activities from 1837-1997, with the bulk of the materials spanning from 1940-1970. Records include resolutions, ordinances, and budgets related to various activities of the Township Committee. They also consist of materials from the Board of Adjustment, Planning Board, Finance Board, and Police Department. A full description of the papers and their contents may be found here.

Selection of notices and ordinances passed by the Town Council of Morristown, New Jersey, 1874.

Morristown was carved out from Morris Township in the waning days of the Civil War, and its records contain some of the oldest documentation of local governance in the county. Among the materials are information from the Town Clerk, Finance and Building departments, Public Works, Board of Health, and Police and Fire departments. The records span from 1763-1982, with the bulk covering the period between 1865-1970. A detailed description and inventory of the collection can be found here.

A large crowd gathered in front of Morristown’s Municipal Building for an event, July 9, 1927.

Interested users may call ahead (973.538.3473) or e-mail the History Center (njhgc@mmt.mainlib.org) to request an appointment. When placing a request for materials please specify the item’s full title as listed in the finding aid, as well as the box and folder number.

Morristown Blueprints Collection Open for Research

The North Jersey History & Genealogy Center has opened the Morristown Building and Construction Blueprints and Records Collection to researchers. These records contain building designs for local businesses and homes, and related documentation submitted to town hall between 1909 and 1959. Some records include entire drawing sets depicting companies, retail storefronts, private residences, schools, and houses of worship, while others may only contain simple hand-drawn sketches for a new home patio, garage, or kitchen addition. As a whole, the collection offers a unique snapshot of Morristown’s development during the first five decades of the 20th century.

   

The collections consists of nearly 1,000 sets of blueprints, diazotypes, sketches, tracings, and other documents that comprised the permit application process for each property. Town officials reviewed drawings submitted for new construction, as well as significant alteration to existing structures, which often included detailed building elevations and floorplans. Each set typically specified the project’s location and owner (or builder), permit number, date, and often the lot and block number.

     

These materials will be of interest to the owners of the homes, businesses, and organizations that currently occupy the land. The records may also be useful to genealogists, town officials, as well as those studying the history of zoning laws, business trends, suburban development, architectural history and land use. Archivist, Jeffrey Moy began processing this collection with Archives Assistant, Tara Schaberg prior to 2020, but disruptions related to the Covid-19 pandemic halted work until late 2021.

Users must call ahead (973-538-3473) or e-mail (njhgc@mmt.mainlib.org) the History Center to request access to this collection so that staff have adequate time to retrieve material from storage. When requesting a set of drawings, please specify both the Drawer/Box and Folder number in addition to the full title cited in the finding aid.

New virtual exhibit explores the role of women in shaping the history of Morris County

In celebration of Women’s History Month we welcome everyone to visit our new virtual exhibition, “The Legacy of Women in Morris County”, which highlights the achievements of veterans, suffragists, physicians and nurses, educators, artists, and philanthropists throughout the 20th century. As changing social norms intersected with new economic and political challenges, women assumed new roles in the workplace and in their community. This is the first of many planned online exhibits that will accompany our onsite displays once the J.M. Kirby Gallery reopens.

Online sources for Educators, Students, and Parents

With students and educators returning to the classroom both remotely and in-person this semester, they face renewed pressure to create innovative lesson material and locate sources for projects. The North Jersey History & Genealogy Center has made a variety of sources available both online and in our distanced reading room.

Online Sources

Materials include content for projects on topics as varied as the history of scientific discovery and engineering, retail and economic development, war, and land use and development. The History Center’s collections are particularly strong in telling the stories of local families, churches, philanthropic organizations, and businesses. They also document the changing roles of racial, ethnic, & religious groups.

Our collections tell the nation’s story through photographs and postcards, family papers, maps, historic newspapers, artifacts, and various ephemera. Materials document the breadth of New Jersey’s history; some predate the founding of the United States back to the colonial era.

Among the more than 10,000 items available online, the Historic Photograph Collection and Curtiss Photo Collection are some of the most frequently referenced resources. It includes documentation of agricultural development, and suburban growth in Morris County; commerce, manufacturing, retail, and labor; as well as education and medicine.

Online collections also depict the range of Morristown and Morris Township housing, from Gilded Age estates to modest 19th century apartments and modern suburban homes; in addition to commemorative events and monuments; extreme weather events; agricultural life; and the construction of municipal services such as libraries, water treatment, fire, police, and sanitation.

A recently digitized collection of oral histories allows over forty longtime Irish and African American residents tell their own experiences of living and working in Morristown, Morris Township, and the surrounding communities.

Our Historic Postcard Collection depicts many of the county’s historic sites, local businesses such as hotels and taverns, hospitals and schools, transportation systems ranging from canals to trolley lines, and some of the amusement parks and recreational facilities that no longer exist.

Onsite resources

The History & Genealogy Center Reading Room recently reopened to the public by appointment, and staff are available to assist visitors and supervise the handling of the collections. Appointments are limited to two parties at a time to encourage distancing and individuals are asked to limit their visit to two hours. Staff will retrieve all materials, which are placed in quarantine between use.

Onsite resources include over 60,000 published books and family histories, as well as state, county, and local histories. Archival materials consist of personal letters, diaries, scrapbooks; church and government documents, and records of local businesses and organizations. Visitors have access to historic newspapers from Morris County dating from 1798 to the present, as well as 10,000 maps depicting the County, New Jersey, and the United States.

Our selection of genealogy databases provide access to federal census records, immigration and naturalization information, military records, national historic newspapers, Revolutionary and Civil War era documents, city directories, agricultural and industrial schedules, Native American census rolls, and obituaries. Morristown and Township residents can access several databases from home with their Library Cards including HeritageQuest, MyHeritage,  and ProQuest Historic Newspapers – U.S. Northeast Edition.

The reading room is accessible by appointment, and due to reduced capacity guidelines researchers are encouraged to schedule their time slot well in advance. We also offer remote research assistance for those unable to visit in person and have temporarily waived research fees throughout the pandemic; however due to the volume of requests please allow two to four weeks for a response.

NJHGC Reading Room reopens to researchers

We are now taking appointments for onsite research visits at njhgc@jfpl.org and 973.538.3473. Before contacting us, please visit our online catalog and finding aids to create a list of materials you would like to consult so we can prepare for your visit.  For those unable to visit us in person, we have temporarily waived fees for Remote Research requests for individuals.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, our hours and policies have changed, and they are outlined in the Plan Your Visit section of our site. All visits must be scheduled in advance (walk in appointments are not allowed) since we are limited to two researchers in the reading room at a time. All items are quarantined for 72 hours after each use, and the Library has also enacted enhanced cleaning and social distancing practices. You may refer to the Library’s main page for the most up to date information on our operations and hours.

First Look: the Frederick Curtiss Historic Photograph Collection

One of our most frequently visited collections is a set of 10,000 photographs depicting the people, places, and various events around Morris County during the first three decades of the 20th century. Who was Frederick Venton Curtiss and what led him to document so many neighborhoods and individuals in and around town? Archivist Jeff Moy offers some insight in this brief video, and the entire four-part series can be found on our YouTube playlist.

The NJH&GC now subscribes to Proquest’s Historical Newspapers

The North Jersey History & Genealogy Center now subscribes to Proquest’s Historical Newspapers, including several New Jersey historical newspapers and New York’s Daily News from 1920-2009.

Research leading issues and events, such as the U.S. Civil War, immigration, westward expansion, industrial developments, race relations, and World War I and II; to international, local and regional politics, society, arts, culture, business, and sports. ProQuest Historical Newspapers reveal the day-to-day news coverage to researchers and historical explorers, providing invaluable insights and information to users from a wide range of subjects.

We expect more newspapers to be added to this collection in time.