Looking Back at the Newark of 1835-36 and a Glimpse of Some of Its Townsmen

by Nat Bodian


This is not a Newark "Memory" but rather a look back at the Newark of 1835-36 when the town of Newark, with a population of 19,732, was a thriving community of business and commerce.

It consisted of about 1,600 buildings with its westernmost residential settlement at High Street.

It was a time when much of Newark's manufactured goods was being exported (more than 8 million dollars worth in 1835) to southern ports, and to South America and the West Indies...a time when oil lamps were installed on Newark streets for nighttime illumination, and a time when on March 18, 1836 the town was incorporated as a city, with mayor and common council through the acceptance of a public vote.

Its first elected mayor was William Halsey.

It was also the time when Newark, now an incorporated city, issued its first City Directory, published at the office of The Newark Daily Advertiser, but printed in Clifton.

Newark's 1835 Population Breakdown

I found it interesting that in a 1907 Newark history book that described Newark's population in 1835 the residents were categorized as follows:

  • Free White Americans ...... 10,562

  • Irish population ...... (about) 6,000

  • English and Scotch ............. 1,000

  • German................. (about) 300

  • Free people of color .......... 359

Not listed in the above population counts were the 20 slaves in Newark in 1836.

Some Other Newark 1835 Statistics

It was the time when Newark got its first railroad, the Morris and Essex...when there were 12 hotels in Newark...and when the newly-incorporated city boasted 18 churches.

Newark in 1835 was also a whaling port. One report of that year showed that a whaling vessel from Newark returned after a 27-month voyage with a cargo of 3,000 barrels of whale oil and 16,000 pounds of whalebone.

First City Directory

It was also the time that Newark--now an incorporated city--issued its first City Directory. It was published at the office of The Newark Daily Advertiser, but printed in Clifton.

I was able to borrow a copy of the Directory and to browse the contents of the miniscule book measuring 4¼ inches in width and 7 inches high, and one-half inch thick.

What fascinated me was the wide variety of occupations for a community of just under 19,000, and the many skills that prevailed at that era that have since been lost in time.

Sampling of Occupational Specialties

I took note of the male occupations of the first 150 names in the Directory and observed these predominant occupational specialties: 27 shoemaker (but only one shoe and boot store) ... eleven grocers (but only one dry goods store) ... ten carpenters (but only one cabinetmaker) ... nine hatters (but only one milliner) ... eight blacksmiths ( and six individuals engages in saddle and harness manufacture) ... five individuals involved in carriage and coach-making ... five masons.

Specialty Businesses/Occupations

Among the first 150 occupational listings in the Directory, I took note of the following specialty businesses: 11 grocers ... four jewelers ... a boot and shoe store ... a tin and stove store ... a dry goods store ... a clothing store ... a printer ... and a gunsmith.

Among the specialized occupations, there was both a justice of the peace, a constable, and two attorneys. Also a school principal and two teachers ... and a boatman, a dock builder, and a mariner.

In the building trades, aside from the 10 carpenters mentioned earlier, there was a lumber merchant, a builder, and a sash and blind maker.

Three Newarkers in the 150 listed their occupation as farmer, while there was only one gardener. The three farmers were all of the same family and their address was shown as "Orange above High."

And for the drinking trade, there was a listing of one distiller, and one cooper.

It should be noted here that the above mini-survey of Newark occupations in 1835 reflects only a narrow slice of the city's various 1835-36 occupations, taken from the first two letters of the alphabetical listings. But I found it interesting mainly for the flavor of its occupational content.


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