Blue Gate Farm papers now open to researchers

The Blue Gate Farm papers trace the history of several prominent Morris County, New Jersey families who lived near the fourteen-acre Blue Gate Farm. Included in the collection are correspondence, business records, photographs, and ephemera belonging to the Vail, Ford, Miller, Lawson, and McEwan families. Materials date from 1839 to 1971.

                

The records contain correspondence and other material from Stephen Vail’s family who made important advances during America’s early industrial age. The McEwan papers include information on Whippany’s papermaking industry, as well as personal and business correspondence and information on the family’s genealogy. A third series contains the majority of the photographic material related to Blue Gate Farm, in addition to various ephemera that includes two souvenir booklets from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Individuals interested in accessing the Blue Gate Farm papers should consult the finding aid and contact the History Center to make an appointment for the Reading Room.

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.

Local History in the News: Articles Written by the North Jersey History & Genealogy Center Staff

Bastille Day protest with Julia Hurlbut leading the first group of marchers. Iris Calderhead of Kansas at right waiting for mobs to attack pickets so she can order out new banners, July 14,1917. Library of Congress photograph.
Local history is abundant within the Morristown community. The Morristown Green, the historic park that served as an encampment for George Washington in 1777, also serves as the name for Morristown’s local news site.
 

North Jersey History & Genealogy staff regularly publish articles highlighting aspects of the region’s history, particularly that of Morristown, Morris Township, and Morris County. Content is drawn from our collections and covers the individuals, families, businesses, and organizations that lived and worked in our state from the 17th through the 20th centuries. 

Created in partnership with local news site, MorristownGreen.com, past articles explored how local residents responded in times of war and national crisis, detailed individual participation in historic events, or just attempted to earn a living and better themselves and their community.
 
Most recently, the History Center staff highlighted Morristown’s Early African American History through the lenses of longtime residents John and Clara Watson Pinkman. This year, they also highlighted Morris Township’s architectural changes – such as present-day Columbia Park’s beginnings as Cedar Court.
 
The archive of these posts can be found here. Check back regularly to learn more about the history of the region, as well as articles that coincide with the exhibits organized by History Center staff and more.
 
The History Center actively collects material that documents the history of the people, places, and organizations that have made their home in New Jersey. In addition to assisting researchers and genealogists in our reading room, we regularly offer public programs, create exhibits, and make our collections available online

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.

Recapture Family Images: Thursday, November 18, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

A one day scanning event at the North Jersey History and Genealogy Center

Preserve your family photos! Turn your photos, negatives or slides into printable image files.

Do you have special family photographs that you need scanned? The NJH&GC will scan your photos, negatives, or 35 mm slides in high resolution–for free! Using our high quality photo and slide scanner, we will scan your photos on the spot and transfer them to your USB drive. Also, if you have faded color photos, we will do our best to restore them to their original color.

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Please e-mail us at njhgc@mmt.mainlib.org or call us at 973-538-3473 to reserve your session time.

LIMIT: 7 SCANS PER PERSON.

Read more Recapture Family Images: Thursday, November 18, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Gone But Not Forgotten: Marion Orr Harris, a friend of the North Jersey History and Genealogy Center

The Morristown and Morris Township Library and its North Jersey History and Genealogy Center is saddened to learn of the passing of Marion Ohr Harris. Marion generously provided financial support of numerous history and genealogy programs and services for quite some time. She also routinely donated historic preservation and genealogy newsletters from a wide number of societies from across the region. As a retiree, Marion compiled “Genealogy Gleanings”, highlights from the many genealogy newsletters and websites she keenly read, for The Morris Area Genealogy Society and gave The North Jersey History and Genealogy Center copies.

Marion also organized and co-sponsored with the library a lecture series titled, Protecting Natural and Historic Places during the spring and summer of 2016, which culminated in a day long symposium at Morristown National Historical Park’s Washington’s Headquarters Museum, titled Industrial History of Northwest New Jersey. Then in 2019 she sponsored a “Break Through Your Brick Walls” day at the library at which genealogists could meet one on one with professional genealogists for tips.

The staff of The Morristown and Morris Township Library, especially The North Jersey History and Genealogy Center, will be forever grateful for Marion’s support and offer our heartfelt condolences to her son David.

Read more Gone But Not Forgotten: Marion Orr Harris, a friend of the North Jersey History and Genealogy Center

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.

Call for Submissions: Morristown & Morris Township Quarantine Experience

The North Jersey History and Genealogy Center, Morristown and Morris Township Library, would like to know how residents of Morristown and Morris Township have handled being quarantined or self-isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This unique time is worth preserving in writing so that we can help future generations understand how to handle a quarantine and what it is like for us being quarantined in 2020.  

Please tell us in 1500 words or less what being quarantined has been like for you. We would like to know:

  1. What has surprised you the most during this quarantine?
  2. What is your biggest fear?
  3. Have there been any positive impacts of this quarantine?
  4. What is the most difficult part of the quarantine?
  5. What are your hopes for the future when this quarantine is over? And how have those hopes changed from before this quarantine began?

 

Please let us know if you are willing to be contacted by the North Jersey History and Genealogy Center well after the quarantine is over.

All submissions must include your first and last name, age, other information including occupation, level of education completed, and whether you reside in the Town or Township. Please email your submission to njhgc@jfpl.org as an attachment or via USPS to North Jersey History and Genealogy Center, Morristown and Morris Township Library, 1 Miller Rd., Morristown, NJ 07960.

 

* Only send this work if in agreement that Morristown and Morris Township Library has permission to share the words with the public as part of the historical record and no benefit, financial or otherwise, is given or implied for the submitted material.

Originally Published April 10th, 2020

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.