A photograph of First Presbyterian Church, which still stands as part of the University of Delaware’s Trabant Student Center. The photo is overlaid with a hand-drawn map of New Ark at the crossroad of Lenni Lenape trails.
Celebrating Newark’s Founding and Development
By David Cardillo, Digital Initiatives and Preservation Department
Newark officially became a recognized city on April 13, 1758 – then known as “New Ark” – when it was chartered by King George II. Originally located at a crossroads of two Lenni-Lenape trails, New Ark was a village of farms, mills, churches and other industries that expanded over several years. It primarily consisted of English, Welsh and Scottish immigrants.
New Ark’s fairly rapid expansion was due partially to the relocation of the New London Academy from New London, Pennsylvania, to Newark. The school was founded in 1741 by Francis Alison, who eventually took a position with the Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and turned the school over to Andrew McDowell. It was McDowell who moved the Academy to Newark in 1761, located on what is now Academy Street.
The school eventually was named Newark Academy and then Delaware College, which became the University of Delaware in 1921, and merged with the Women’s College in 1945. As the University of Delaware has expanded, its impact on the city of Newark has been significant.
At the University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press, we have digitized many collections that reflect the connection between the city of Newark and the University of Delaware. Several of our digital collections focus on specific groups or people who lived, worked and otherwise contributed to the growth and development of the city of Newark.
From personal journals to economic records to civic meeting notes, the following collections in UDSpace showcase local primary source material:
- Diary of Joseph Cleaver Jr.: This is a typed transcript of a diary kept by Delaware College student Joseph Cleaver from 1853-1854.
- Mary J. Evans Notebook: This item reflects brief, sporadic notes taken by Newark resident Mary J. Evans from 1904 to 1906.
- Samuel M. Donnell Account Books: Spanning from 1852-1880, the account books encompass Donnell’s real estate concerns as well as his farming and household interests in Newark.
- John Herdman’s Day Book: This is a daybook from a Newark hotel and tavern that belonged to owner John David Herdman Jr.
- Wilson Family Papers: These papers preserve materials from four generations of a prominent family who lived in England, Philadelphia and Newark.
- David N. Lilley Letters: These letters from Delaware resident David N. Lilley were written to his sister Annie during his period of service in the Union Army during the Civil War.
- Digest of Town Council Minutes Newark, Delaware: This collection consists of abstracts of town council meeting minutes held in Newark between 1866 and 1900.
We also have oral histories from people who lived and worked in Newark at various points in time that give a firsthand account of what life was like. These collections have been made publicly available in Artstor with accompanying transcripts available separately in UDSpace:
- Transcripts and audio files of the New London Road/Cleveland Avenue Oral Histories and Research Materials: This collection contains 22 oral history interviews that provide a wealth of information on the history and culture of the largely African American New London Road/Cleveland Avenue community in Newark.
- Transcripts and audio files of the Friends of School Hill Oral Histories and Images: This collection consists of oral histories and images collected at the event “Preserving the Past: Gathering History and Mementos of the New London Road / School Hill Community” from 2017; and images collected at the event “A Celebration for the New London Avenue School, One Hundred Years” from 2022.
- Chrysler Corporation Newark Assembly Plant Oral History Collection: This collection contains audiovisual material, publications, photographs and other material from the Chrysler Corporation Newark Assembly Plant publicity office.
- HIST 268 Oral History Interviews: African Americans and the University of Delaware Collection: The oral history interviews in this collection were collected by the students in Roger Horowitz’s HIST 268 class, “Oral History: African Americans and the University of Delaware,” in the fall semester of 2021.
Historical images related to Newark can also be found in Artstor through both the Historic Map Collection and the Postcard Collection.
With the recent financial support of the Friends of the University of Delaware Library, the Library, Museums and Press remains committed to digitizing additional material that focuses on Newark and the University of Delaware.
The collections highlighted above are available within Special Collections, and many items from each are publicly available via Artstor and UDSpace. Those with research interests related to local history, culture and politics; African American studies; and Delawareana may find these resources especially useful.
For a concise account of Newark’s found and history, check out Newark by Theresa Hessey, which ties together many of the themes and events found within the materials in our collection.